Here's another picture of a monarch shortly after emerging. They will hang from the empty chrysalis shell for quite a while as they dry out and pump fluids into their wings and gain strength.
And here's the monarch we're going to tag and release today. As I was reaching into the ranch to retrieve her, she fluttered down to the bottom and sat there for a short while. This was good because I was able to see very easily that she is a female.
Here's the tagging kit I purchased from Monarch Watch (cost = $15). It consists of 25 tags and a tracking sheet for recording the butterflies you tag this season. You record the tag number, date it was tagged, male or female, reared or wild, and the city, state and zip code where the butterfly was tagged. Unused tags and the completed data sheet must be returned to the Monarch Watch folks at the University of Kansas by December 1st.All of the monarchs that I tag from the ranch are recorded as reared. If I have any tags left over and capture some butterflies in the backyard for tagging, they are recorded as wild.
The tags are really small and super sticky. I shouldn't have cut my fingernails so short the other day because it's nice to have a little bit of nail to stick them on to hold -- otherwise they have a tendency to get stuck to my finger and that's not good!
Here are the instructions and illustrations showing exactly where to place the tag on the monarch's wing.
As you can see from the above photo, she didn't like me holding just her wings--the legs are frantically scrambling for something to hold on to. So when I hold and tag them, I usually try to hold them so they can grab on to one of my fingers during the process. That seems to calm them down a little bit too and they're easier to hold then.
Here she is now with her tag stuck on. It's upside down, but I figured that really doesn't matter--you can still read the numbers, right?
After I finish tagging a butterfly, I take it out to the wildflower garden in my backyard and release them in a sheltered area on some of the flowers. That way they will have easy access to nectar right away too. Isn't she a beautiful sight?
So there you have it -- how to tag a monarch butterfly. Pretty simple actually. If you think you want to try it yourself, Monarch Watch has a beginner's kit that contains only 5 tags. You don't have to raise the monarchs from caterpillars either.......if you have a butterfly net and catch a monarch in your backyard, you can tag that one as a "wild" monarch.
This afternoon, right before supper, I had the rare opportunity to watch 2 caterpillars complete the process of transforming from a caterpillar to a chrysalis. It was the coolest thing ever! Their striped outside skin actually splits and the light green chrysalis emerges from what would have been the inside of the caterpillar. Needless to say, the supper preparations were a little bit delayed while I watched this miracle on my kitchen counter!