Monarch Butterfly Migration
By: Carly O'Keefe
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.