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News & Events

First Monarchs Tagged!

(Diane De Luca)

We placed tiny Nanotags on migrating Monarch butterflies this month, as work continues on the Motus Project (link to website), part of a global migration tracking system that NH Audubon and many partners are expanding in the Northeast. Nanotags are lightweight radio-transmitters with unique signals that can be detected by receivers placed throughout the landscape.

The Monarch is a formerly abundant butterfly species that has experienced dramatic and widespread declines since the early 1990’s. Conservation efforts are underway across the US to understand and take action to stop this decline. Biologists have used adhesive paper tags to study Monarch migration since the 1940’s. Tagging in this way has yielded some information about migration routes, but the majority of the tags are recovered at the wintering areas in Mexico. The Motus tracking system, however, makes it possible to determine travel speeds and trajectories during the course of migration. Increased understanding of post-emergence behavior and migration travel of Monarchs can help to inform conservation efforts.

Just in…. a return on one of our tagged monarch butterflies!! Monarch #398 started the migration journey at Great Bay, flew directly east across New Hampshire, over the Green Mountains of Vermont, across the middle of New York State, crossed the tip of Lake Erie and was picked up at a MOTUS tower just off the lake in Ontario (see map above – link to website image here)! Wow!! Not the flight that was expected and very informative.

Photo: newly tagged Monarch showing the long transmitter (by Stephen Walker).