NOTE: The following post ran in September of 2012, but warrants reposting today. Happy tagging!
One of the most common questions we get at the Texas Butterfly Ranch is how the heck do you tag a Monarch butterfly?
It’s pretty straightforward, really. You’ll need a butterfly net, a clipboard or mini notebook and a writing utensil to record your findings. You’ll also need tags issued by Monarch Watch ($15 for 25 tags). I recommend a hat and camera, too.
Before you go, apply sunscreen or insect spray if you use them, then wash your hands thoroughly. Monarchs and other butterflies are more resilient than we think, however, Deet, Paba and other chemical contact with their scales, wings and bodies should be avoided. There’s no need to sterilize your hands or wear gloves. Just wash your hands.
When should you go tagging? We only tag monarchs in the fall. Check the Monarch Watch website for peak migration time in your area. I like late mornings after my second cup of coffee. By then, the butterflies have had a chance to warm up their bodies and are out flying and nectaring.
Remember, butterflies won’t fly if the temperature is less than 60 degrees, so late mornings and afternoons on sunny days are ideal. Right before sunset is good, too, especially when they’re migrating. In the Hill Country in October, masses of
Monarch butterflies will often drop from the sky around dusk and look for roosting spots—usually in protected tree limbs and often near water sources.
Ready for some tagging? Here’s how to do it.