Lead by Kerry Jarvis and Melitta Smole of the Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores, the visitors learned how to catch Monarchs, determine their gender and then tag them before they begin their long journey to Mexico.
Care, commitment and dedication by volunteers has resulted in the endangered species increasing in numbers over the past two years. “We’ve seen more ‘roosts’ (name for Butterfly gatherings) this year,” says Jarvis. “One roost on Laird Lane here in Southampton, had upwards of 200 Monarchs.”
Before the group set off to find Monarchs, Jarvis demonstrated the proper netting and holding techniques so that the butterflies would be not be injured.
“Each butterfly caught is kept track of by date, gender and location,” explained Smole, who documents the details. “There is a 1-800 number that can be called by anyone who finds a tagged Monarch in Mexico and to provide an incentive to report, those who do receive $5. Last year, we received a confirmation that one of our Southampton tagged butterflies was, in fact, found.”
A small white circular ‘sticky’ tag is gently pressed on to the underside of the wing of a butterfly and it is then released.
The concept of tagging butterflies was started by Fred Urquhart, a Canadian Zoologist with the University of Toronto in the 1960s.
Once the explanations were made by Jarvis and nets were provided, it was time for the group to set off with their nets down Captain Spence Trail to see if they could find Monarchs and it didn’t take long.
The first Monarch was netted by Craig Selby, who also maintains one of the pods that is located in front of his lakeshore home.
Selby also invited the visitors to his garden to see first hand the Monarch caterpillars that have made their home on his ‘swamp milkweed’, before they chrysalise on their final step toward becoming a butterfly. For many of the visitors, it was the first time seeing Monarch caterpillars