Monarch tagging tracks butterflies on way to Mexico - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Monarch tagging tracks butterflies on way to Mexico

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by Danielle Wagner

BUCHANAN COUNTY (KWWL) Around August and September monarch butterflies begin leaving Iowa for Mexico.

At Bryantsburg Prairie near Hazleton, East Buchanan third graders helped Buchanan County Naturalist Sondra Cabell catch and tag monarchs.

The stickers are placed on the butterflies' wing to hopefully answer questions about the flight process south.

"We're trying to use this research to involve people with something they're familiar with and get them outdoors as well as finding out more about a process we just don't know all the answers to," said naturalist Sondra Cabell.

Cabelle said tagging started in 1992 at the University of Kansas as part of a program called "Monarch Watch."

Identifying stickers are placed on butterflies in the midwest before they head south for the winter months.

"Most of the tags are recovered in Mexico and the local people in the village near the colony in Mexico are paid by the University of Kansas for each tag they recover so it help their economy to allow them to suppor their family without cutting down the trees the monarchs depend on and it helps the research program by getting many more recoveries," said Cabell. 

Does a sticker actually survive the long trip to Mexico?

"Three years of research through the 3m Company which is the maker of scotch tape, they did three years of research in captive flight cages with butterflies with rain situations and snow situations all different weather conditions. It took them three years to come up with an adhesive that stuck and stayed on but now it works very well," said Cabell. 

Cabell said there are 80 million acres less of monarch habitat than 30 years ago. That includes less milkweed here in Iowa and illegal logging in Mexico. 

She said if the destruction continues, there's a chance Iowa could be monarchless in the future.

That's why tagging is important, to help identify problems for monarchs and fix them before it's too late.

To learn more about monarch tagging, click here.

Reporter: Danielle Wagner

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