The miracle of the monarch migration is in full swing here in Northeast Iowa. While monarch butterflies have graced our backyards and prairies since May, it is the late-August and September generation that is specifically geared for a spectacular migration. Having never been there before, this generation will make it to Mexico by November where they will roost in the oyamel fir trees where the conditions are just right for their survival.
Scientists have been fascinated with this migration for centuries. In just the past several decades, much more knowledge has been gained. Some of the credit for this knowledge can be attributed to people like you and me who contribute to the work of scientists by becoming citizen scientists. In 1990 I first began my journey as citizen scientist. While seeking a way to engage youth in outdoor activities, I read about the work of Canadian scientist Fred Urquhart. I contacted Urquhart and began “tagging” monarchs for him.
Each year since that time, I have continued the process and look forward to sharing with others to spread the word about active participation in real-world information that extends our knowledge of these insects. After Dr. Urguhart’s death an organization in Kansas, Monarch Watch, picked up the research and tagging efforts.
Today I introduced a new group of students to the magnificent migrating monarch! Brenner eagerly took the net and glided around the playground, not content until he netted one. As you can see by the smile on his face, it was well worth his time. You can see the tiny tag on the monarch that will allow others that may capture it on its journey an opportunity to communicate its whereabouts. You, too, can join in by observing monarchs in your area and reporting the information as provided on the tag.
To learn more about the project visit the Monarch Watch website or you may also touch base on the migration through Journey North/Journey South. Their current map of reported migration and roosting sites of monarchs can be found at Journey South.
May the magic of the monarchs mystify you this autumn! I know it is one phenological tradition I plan to continue the rest of my life.