Monarch tagging before butterflies make 1,700 mile journey to Mexico

ARLINGTON, Wis. (WMTV)-- Kids and kids at heart tagged monarch butterflies at the Goose Pond Sanctuary on Saturday.

8-year-old Mailee Holter catches a monarch butterfly as part of a citizen tagging project.

During peak butterfly migration season, Madison Audubon, a conservation education and advocacy group, invited community members to its wildlife sanctuary in Arlington. More than 200 people have tagged butterflies the past couple of weeks, according to executive director Matt Reetz.

“This little, very lightweight insect was very hard to study for many, many years because you couldn't tag individual monarch butterflies,” he said. “Now we have the ability to put a very small sticker that has a unique identifier number on it.”

The tags contribute to MonarchWatch.org, which is a large-scale citizen project that collects data and teaches people about monarch butterflies.

This migrating generation of monarchs leaving Wisconsin are heading south to Mexico, a journey of over 1,700 miles.

“They’re just a captivating species,” Reetz said. Monarchs weigh as much as four to five paper clips.

Once they reach Mexico, Reetz said the butterflies will not do much. “They don't do much nectaring. They don't do much foraging. They're overwintering. And then in the spring, February and March, they take off. They move to Oklahoma and Texas. There, they lay eggs and die," he said.

Reetz added that anyone can participate at home by ordering tags online.