Monarch Butterfly Migration

Monarch Butterfly Migration
By:  Carly O'Keefe 
Williamson County, IL -- Monarch butterflies have begun their annual migration south for the winter, and over the next couple of weeks they'll be fluttering all over the Heartland.
Saturday volunteers at Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge helped track the migrant monarchs by catching and tagging them.
"Once they land I kind of sneak up on them and I put my net over them and hold the net in a ball," said Ten-year-old Tinaya Fudge who was among the one hundred butterfly chasers.
Once the butterflies are caught, they are tagged with a small numbered sticker and released. 
"We have to write down whether they're male or female, and we actually raise some here so we have to tell whether they're raised or wild, and what day they're caught," said Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge Park Ranger Karin Magera.
The monarchs' visit to southern Illinois will be brief as another 2500 to 3000 miles stands between the Heartland and their winter destination in the Fir Forrest in the mountains of central Mexico.
"The butterflies themselves are so unique in that they migrate and they migrate as far as they do, here's this delicate little insect that travels all this way," said Magera.
In their travels, the small stickers are a passport of sorts, telling researchers where the monarchs have been and where they end up.
"I usually tag 250 and I've had two come back, two per year," Magera said.
While tagging will continue at Crab Orchard for another couple of weeks, it's unlikely volunteers will see the same set of wings twice. 
"We very rarely catch tagged butterflies, so a lot of them will move through the night and we'll have all new butterflies the next day," Magera said.

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Monarch Butterfly Facts
  • The Monarch is a common poisonous butterfly that eats poisonous milkweed in its larval stage and lays its eggs on the milkweed plant.
  • Monarchs have a wingspan of 3 3/8 - 4 7/8 inches (8.6 - 12.4 cm).
  • Male monarchs have a dark spot on the hindwing and have small claspers at the end of the abdomen. Females have thicker wing veins.
  • The Monarch is a poisonous butterfly. Animals that eat a Monarch get very sick and vomit, but generally do not die.
  • Monarchs are found all around the world in sub-tropical to tropical areas. They are found in open habitats including meadows, fields, marshes, and cleared roadsides.
  • Some groups of Monarchs migrate for over 2,000 miles during August-October, flying from Canada and the USA to overwinter in coastal southern California to the transvolcanic mountains of central Mexico; this was determined by the Canadian scientist Dr. Fred A. Urquhart in 1975.
  • The life span of the adult Monarch varies, depending on the season in which it emerged from the pupa and whether or not it belongs to a migratory group of Monarchs.

Source:  Enchanted Learning