Monarch butterflies are unique among butterflies because they migrate every year, traveling up to 3,000 miles. They travel to the warmer climate in Mexico because they cannot survive a cold winter. Part of their migration takes them through Texas. You can see their migration patterns at MonarchWatch.
For the past two months, Houston Zoo staff and volunteers have been taking part in field work here on Zoo grounds by tagging Monarch butterflies. If you have visited recently, you may have seen small groups walking through the Zoo with nets, searching for butterflies.
Tagging is something that is done with many kinds of animals. Tagging tells you where and when the animal was tagged, providing information about how and where the animal travels. This is important because if it is known where the animal has been, protection plans can be set up in those areas.
Tagging a Monarch involves patience and quick reflexes. It may surprise you to know that Monarchs have very good eye sight, they can see the net coming! Catching a Monarch involves creeping up slowly, while keeping the net very low, until you are close enough to catch it in the net. This can sometimes be a challenge if the butterfly is higher up on the plant. Not shying away from a challenge, Houston Zoo staff and volunteers tagged 23 Monarch butterflies this season!
This is 23 butterflies whose migration patterns can be tracked!
You can help pollinators like, Monarch butterflies, in your own backyard by planting native plants. Not sure what to plant? On your next visit to the Houston Zoo stop by the Conservation Stage, located to the right as soon as you enter. The Conservation Stage is lined with native plants and signs letting you know what each plant is! Simply take a picture of the sign and bring it with you when you go to the nursery to buy your plants!