Tracking a butterfly

This monarch butterfly was tagged at the tagging event hosted at the Marsha Gunder Schnieder Preserve, located south of Circleville in Pickaway County over the weekend. The event was a partnership between Appalachia Ohio Alliance and Butterfly Ridge, a conservation organization.

CIRCLEVILLE — Area nature enthusiasts got up close and personal while helping with research information on the monarch butterfly.

Chris Kline, director at Butterfly Ridge Butterfly Conservation Center, the organization that was tagging the butterflies, said butterflies from this area travel down through the United States and end up settling northwest of Mexico City in Mexico. The butterflies were tagged at Marsha Gunder Schneider Preserve over the weekend.

“A lot of people are concerned with the monarch butterfly population right now,” Kline told The Circleville Herald. “The Appalachia Ohio Alliance has a real nice site there south of Circleville. It was neat to have two different organizations, the Appalachia Ohio Alliance and Butterfly Ridge working together on the same project. It was fun working towards that common goal of educating folks about the importance of the monarchs.”

Steve Fleegal, executive director for Appalachia Ohio Alliance, said the organization hosts events to provide opportunities for the public to learn about conservation efforts.

“We try to engage the community with hands-on activities, and the tagging event is one of those,” Fleegal commented. “We probably do 20 to 30 events a year on our properties.”

Kline said the tags are about a quarter-inch in diameter and are glued to the body of the butterfly.

“Here in the east we use monarch watch tags,” Kline added. “Each tag has a tag number plus contact information for those who find them. Since there’s no kind of tracking device, the technology is not quite there, it’s reliant on folks finding the tagged butterfly in Mexico, or along the way and reporting the information in.”

Fleegal said providing a space for pollinators like butterflies and bees as well as clean water for some aquatic creatures is a focus of the organization.

“We’re providing habitat as part of our mission along the Scioto River,” Fleegal continued. “We’re focusing on providing a flyway corridor and clean water and we also provide a pollinator habitat as well. Pollinators provide a critical service for all plants.”

Kline, who led the tagging and introduced about two dozen people at the event, said they captured and tagged two wild monarchs and tagged a few others that were hand-raised and brought to the preserve.

“The reason for the tagging is to track them,” he stated. “It helps figure out the timing of their flight and when they leave, how long it takes them to get there, the impact of the weather and temperature has on how much ground they cover.”

Kline said the event was successful.

“When you do this kind of stuff you hope to at least catch a few,” Kline continued. “The monarchs sometimes have other ideas in mind. What we experienced on Sunday was that once we got later into the morning the monarchs were flying much higher and faster and it was more difficult to get to them.”

Monarch butterflies cannot withstand the cold winters so they migrate south and west in October of each year, and sometimes earlier depending if the weather turns cold sooner than that.

The beautiful butterflies will spend winter hibernation in Mexico and some parts of Southern California where it is warm all year round.The monarch butterfly is the only insect that migrates to a warmer climate that is 2,500 miles away.

Monarchs normally migrate for two reasons: to withstand freezing weather; and also the larval food plants do not grown in their winter overwintering sites, so the spring generation must fly back not to places where the plants are plentiful.

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