Monarch butterflies are in full migration mode, and the David Traylor Zoo is helping the national tracking effort as the butterflies head south to Mexico.
Director Lisa Keith says butterflies are important to the ecosystem because of their place as pollinators. And like a lot of pollinators, their numbers have been quickly diminishing.
Over the past several days, zoo staff and volunteers have tagged over 150 butterflies. The tagging process includes some research into butterfly roosting points, determining whether the butterfly is male or female — males have thinner veins and small black spots on their hind wings — and then placing a small sticky tag on the butterfly’s lower wing. Keith says the butterflies can take off and fly as soon as they are tagged.
The zoo has been involved in tagging through Monarch Watch for close to a decade. It has been registered as a way station since 2016 as part of an effort through the University of Kansas. The butterflies are starting their journey from Canada, a roughly 3,000-mile trip, and Keith says there can be five generations of butterflies from spring to fall.