By the Way

How does one track a butterfly?

People passionate about helping monarch butterflies make their annual migration from Mexico through the U.S. to Canada and back have come up with a way to follow the little fellows.

When they told me they tag them, images came to mind of little bitty, teeny tiny ankle bracelets, like we see on birds that have been tagged.

But no, it’s a sticker placed on the underside of the butterfly’s hind wing. As the butterfly makes its journey and is spent, it is collected and the information on the sticker is phoned or emailed in to a University of Kansas–based program.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, the tags weigh only 2 percent of the monarch’s weight, are placed on the strongest part of the wing and haven’t been known to hinder the colorful insects’ migration.

Each sticker or tag comes in a kit and has an all-weather adhesive backing with the Monarch Watch phone number, email address and a number unique to that butterfly.

Those who tag the long-distance flyers remove each tag from a sheet using a toothpick and apply carefully.