Tag Archives: monarch butterflies

A Morning with Monarchs

Hopefully, you remember Katie Banks Hone, the homeowner from Massachusetts that gave us a tutorial on how to grow monarchs! She’s back this year shedding more insight about her successful monarch tagging program.

On a sunny, yet blustery, late September morning fifteen children and their families gathered at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Mass. to see monarch butterflies, learn about their migration, and send them on their way to their wintering grounds in the mountains of Mexico. Before we let the wind carry them away, they were all affixed with a tiny ID sticker. If these butterflies are found anywhere along their migration, or in their winter forests of Mexico, the information can be reported to Monarch Watch and traced back to being tagged at the refuge. This gives researchers information on individual monarchs and helps further our knowledge of these unique insects.

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A tagged monarch rests on a flower next to a happy observer!

Tagging monarchs is very easy. The sticker is simply stuck to the oval pattern on one of the lower wings. When I started tagging for the first time last summer even my four-year-old could do it. Many people ask if it affects the insect’s ability to fly and the answer is no. It’s similar to you putting on one sock.

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Monarch release!

After the children and I put tags on the monarchs we brought them out to the refuge’s native gardens and let them go one by one in the goldenrods and other fall nectar plants. A few of them took a sip of nectar then immediately took off, headed in a southerly direction. But others stuck around and even landed on the children making for some very nice photo opportunities for the families participating.

SAM_4855Of all the facts participants learned about monarchs that day what amazed them the most was how a tiny insect, weighing less than a paper clip, can make its way 3,000 miles to Mexico having never been there before. How they do it still remains mostly a mystery to us. But these children and their families are hoping our five make it and then return to Texas next spring to mate and start the cycle all over again.

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Katie teaches a migration lesson.

By planting native milkweeds, the only food monarch caterpillars can eat, you can help sustain this declining species. By planting native nectar plants you can also help sustain the monarchs fall migration and support other pollinators too.

How well do you know the monarch butterfly? Take this quiz to find out!

 

Campers at John Heinz Refuge help protect pollinators

As the monarch butterfly intern, it’s my mission to bring you all the latest monarch butterfly news and projects throughout the Northeast Region! What better way to start than right here at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge!

Last week was the refuge’s first week of summer camp and we had an entire day devoted to pollinators and learning about why they are so valuable. The 25 students enrolled in camp have the privilege to explore our trails and discover what the refuge has to offer to our pollinator friends.  Much of their camp experience involves learning  about land use through hands on activities, play, and crafts.

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During a hike, campers stopped to investigate different butterfly species!

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This Eastern Bumblebee rested on my hand for several minutes, giving kids a great opportunity to see the pollen stuck to its legs!

Pollinators can include animals and insects that help transfer pollen from one flower to another. This transfer is what allows the plant to grow and successfully produce fruit and seeds. Pollinators are needed by farmers to pollinate about 75 percent of our agriculture crops throughout the U.S. Honey bees alone are responsible for pollinating $10 billion worth of crops in the U.S each year. Not only are pollinators vital for humans, but wildlife and migratory birds depend on pollinated plants to survive. Due to habitat loss and population declines, our pollinators are in peril, but our campers learned how they can help!

Students learned to create new habitats, called bee bundles, out of natural materials that could be installed at home. They also participated in pollinator surveys and learned to identify pollinating insects. Creating “seed balls” to throw at home was a favorite among the kids and a great way to establish native plants!

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A camper learns to identify pollinators.

Getting youth interested in the outdoors while showing them ways to make a difference ensures they will connect with the environment and make sound decisions as adults. On the last day, parents were invited to come learn about the pollinators and their role in the environment. We shared ideas with families about how they can help at home to protect our busy bees and butterflies. I’d say, it was a success!

Helping monarchs when red goes green for Earth Day!

If you’re into pollinators and monarch butterflies like I am, and you were not in Philadelphia last night, you missed out! Actually, even if you aren’t, you still missed out. I joined staff from our regional office and from our John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Citizens Bank Park to celebrate Earth Day with the Phillies. The team has an environmental sustainability initiative, what they call “Red Goes Green,” in which they work to lead the way in sustainable practices at professional sports venues. They invited us out with other conservation agencies and organizations last night and we had a great time with the fans.

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You may have heard that the Service is working with partners to help save monarch butterflies, whose numbers have declined by approximately 90 percent in recent years, a result of numerous threats, particularly loss of habitat due to agricultural practices, development and cropland conversion. Thanks to the Friends of Heinz Refuge, we were able to help the cause. So many fans took the pledge to protect pollinators and plant common milkweed to help us save monarchs. Here’s a few:

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After taking the pledge and picking up the milkweed seeds, no one could get enough of the bug eye glasses so they pretty much made an appearance in every photo pledge. I love it.

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In a short time, we got some great support for our pollinating friends.

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If you missed last night, fret not; we’ll be participating in the Philadelphia Science Festival the next couple of weeks and we’ll be at Science Night at the Ballpark. We’ll be spreading more love for monarchs and showing off some animal athletes.

For more information about monarch butterflies and how you can help, visit www.fws.gov/savethemonarch.