Experience Audubon State Park’s Monarch Migration Mysteries

Imagine going on a trip with no luggage; no food, water, map or compass; abandoned by your family; en route to a place that you’ve never been to. Now imagine that you’ll never live long enough to complete your round trip. Your children and grandchildren will never live long enough to finish your trip, but perhaps your great-grandchildren might live to see your ancestral wintering grounds if they survive all of the life-threatening obstacles along the way. Now, you’re beginning to experience life as a monarch butterfly.

This month you can join Audubon State Park staff for four tagging opportunities. Programs on Saturday September 18 and Sunday, September 19 begin at 8:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. and last about 2.5-3 hours. During an informative presentation you’ll learn everything you need to know to identify and catch monarchs. We’ll then drive out to the Sloughs Wildlife Management Area for the weather dependent butterfly tagging portion. Since most of the program is outdoors, long pants and closed-toe footwear is encouraged. Be prepared for potentially marshy conditions.

These annual butterfly tagging programs attract families, scout troops, as well as interested community members looking to spend an afternoon away from the hustle and bustle. Tagging events like these help the community connect with nature and broaden the base of understanding surrounding these winged wonders.

During mid-September, monarch butterflies are passing through this area on their journey south in search of warmer weather and more favorable wintering grounds. At the end of their journey they’ll congregate almost exclusively on 12 mountain peaks located just west of Mexico City, Mexico – almost 1500 miles away. There, nearly all of the living North American monarch butterflies come together for a breathtaking spectacle as the Mexican trees and shrubs literally drip with these colorful creatures.

Although monarchs migrate every year, there is still so much we still don’t know about these magnificent insects. Monarch Watch, an educational outreach organization, developed the tagging stickers to track the monarch’s journey progression and to answer some of the mysteries surrounding these unique butterflies. The sticker tags, placed on a monarch’s hindwing, each have a unique identification number, a reporting e-mail address and phone number so that tagged butterflies can be reported as recovered.

This past winter was a rough one for monarchs. According to a Monarch Watch blog, many millions of the overwintering monarchs perished over the winter months in Mexico – perhaps as many as 50% of the Mexico monarch population. Rain, freezing temperatures, landslides, and hail hit the overwintering grounds this past January and February. Naturally that means less monarchs returning to the U.S. to reproduce. Fortunately, the monarchs that survived found favorable conditions in Texas helping them on the long road of rebuilding the numbers of those lost.

Join us at John James Audubon State Park in Henderson, KY Saturday, September 18 and Sunday, September 19 at 8:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. as we learn about these remarkable insects.

For more information about this program, contact Julie McDonald at juliea.mcdonald@ky.gov or 270-826-2247. For more information about the park, visit: http://www.parks.ky.gov/findparks/recparks/au/ or call 270-826-2247.

Submitted By: Julie McDonald, Audubon State Park Naturalist