Monarch Butterfly Migration

October 2, 2016 at 5:57 pm (Butterflies, Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography, Wildlife) ()

Female monarch butterfly

Female monarch butterfly

Oklahoma is smack in the middle of one of the monarch butterfly migration routes, and for butterfly enthusiasts, that’s a big deal. The town of Blanchard, southwest of Oklahoma City, held a Monarch Butterfly Festival on Oct. 1 at Lion Park, and monarchs were tagged with numbers written on white dots and then released.

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I’m not sure what kind of glue will keep the tags on the butterflies through all kinds of weather, and through thousands of wingbeats.

 

One of the volunteers got the mesh cage ready for the big moment.

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Another volunteer gets the honor of releasing these fragile insects, which will travel hundreds and hundreds of miles to their wintering site in Mexico. If a tagged butterfly is recovered, its migration habits can be documented. Read about this amazing migration here and here.

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Kids dressed for the occasion. They are looking at the chrysalis collection and the monarchs emerging from them.

Male monarch butterfly

Male monarch butterfly

Males are identified by the two black dots on their lower wings. Compare with the female (first photo.)

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Tag numbers for monarchs. Populations of these butterflies are decreasing due to habitat loss and monoculture farming with Roundup-ready crops, meaning the sole food for the caterpillars – milkweed – is becoming scarce. You can help by planting milkweed varieties suitable for your part of the country for the caterpillars, and nectar-rich plants for the adults.

Female monarch on blue mist flower

Female monarch on blue mist flower

Oklahoma was one of six states to recently sign a memorandum of understanding designating I-35 as the Monarch Highway. So the Department of Transportation adjusts its mowing schedule to avoid destroying milkweed and nectar plants during the critical migration times. It also planted a registered Monarch Waystation, a 20 foot by 40 foot plot containing five types of milkweed, and other types of wildflowers as well as native grasses.

Eastern tailed-blue male

Eastern tailed-blue male

Other butterflies were attracted to the butterfly garden at the park, too.

Skipper butterfly

Skipper butterfly

Silver-spotted skipper

Silver-spotted skipper

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

Unidentified

Celery Looper moth

I couldn’t ID the Celery Looper because the Peterson Field Guide to Moths shows it sideways. Grrrr…. I posted it on BugGuide.net and I got a very quick answer!

Orange woolly bear

Orange woolly bear

Most woolly bear caterpillars are black with orange bands. This one is all orange. It’s the larval stage of the Isabella tiger moth.

See what my friend Marilyn Kircus did this summer while volunteering at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine. She planted thousands of milkweed plants for the butterflies!  And here’s another article about the fifth generation of monarch that are migrating through Oklahoma now.

Save the monarch!

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