not quite ready to leave home

Last Friday, while out doing a bit of work in the garden, I noticed a Monarch butterfly resting on a Milkweed leaf nearby. I moved in closer to take a look, and sure enough, it was one of the butterflies that I had tagged the previous day. It seems that the little fellow wasn’t quite ready to leave home — at least not without feeding on some of the flowers around the garden. The butterfly that I mentioned the other day — the one with the slightly crumpled wings — has also been hanging around the front garden. I’m not sure if it will be able to begin migration as it doesn’t fly all that well, although I noticed a great improvement this morning when I saw it flying from clover to clover.

A quick update on the Monarch caterpillars, chrysalises, and the tagging. There are two caterpillars remaining, but both are getting ready to pupate. There are 9 chrysalises waiting to eclose. So far, we’ve released 35 butterflies. Of these, there were 19 males and 16 females. For awhile, the females outnumbered the males, but of the last 10 butterflies, 8 were males. I haven’t done any reckoning, but when you glance at the data sheets without getting into much analysis, it appears that the males and females come in batches. It’s happened a few times that most of what eclosed on a day were mainly one sex. I find that a little curious and will take a better look at this after the last of the butterflies eclose.

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7 Responses to “not quite ready to leave home”

  1. Lynne Says:

    I don’t suppose it does, but it seem that the weight of the tag would affect flight.

  2. Wayne Says:

    Bev – that’s what I get for having three hellish days in a row! Thanks for the update on the markings. Just by coincidence I’ve been working with students on their mark and capture experiments on several species of butterflies in our State Botanical Gardens. You’ve supplied more data than they have!

    And how do you tell males from females?

    I’m imagining without knowledge that there is great sensitivity about the effects of marking a butterfly and that these tags are extremely lightweight and do not interfere with flight, but I don’t know for sure. I do know that Bev wouldn’t be doing this without having ascertained that it wasn’t a problem. Tracking these guys is very important as climate is changing.

    I’m still looking for my first Bev-marker here! The ones who have already left home :-)

  3. Laura Says:

    Did you feel a little sad to see them go? Nice of this one to hang around for a while and let you know he’s one of *yours*!

    I wonder, could a person with binoculars read the numbers on the tag (as if a butterfly would hold still that long!) or would it be necessary to catch them?

  4. Ruth Says:

    My butterfly finally eclosed at the end of day 18! I was 500 km away, but my daughter photographed it for me. I do not know how to tell if it was male or female, but I am relieved it was not dead after it took so long to develop.

  5. hadel Says:

    hi, i also would like to know how to tell males and females apart… only yesterday my 2 butterflies emerged from their pupae…

  6. burning silo Says:

    tags are extremely small and lightweight, about the size of the hole in a sheet of 3-ring binder paper, adhesive backed and has a log number on it. It would be very difficult to read as it flew along but might be possible when it was perched and not moving its wings since the tag does go on the underside of their wing. Only one butterfly has emerged since Bev left on her trip and it was a male. On the upper portion of both lower wings, there is a round dot or enlargement of the vein structure near the lower inner edge on the male monarch. Sort of hard to describe but I think Bev posted a picture showing this at an earlier date. Don

  7. burning silo Says:

    Wayne and all — This is Bev doing some catch-up on comments (have a WiFi connection tonight, but probably not for much of the remainder of the trip). Here are answers to some of the questions.

    Lynne – As Don answered for me, the tags are extremely small – about the size of a paper punch hole in a sheet of paper. I’ve watched the butterflies flying away after I tag them, and they don’t seem to have any problems flying. Also, I’ve “re-found” a couple of my own butterflies flying around the garden and fields nectaring on flowers and they seem to be doing well. One thing I can tell you is that, on the MonarchWatch website, it mentions that 11,000 tagged butterflies have been recovered during migration, so that seems pretty good considering the small percentage of all butterflies that must be released. It seems to me that that must represent a good number of butterflies that “made it” over long distances, so they must be able to fly quite well.

    Wayne – I see that Don has supplied an answer to the question on IDing the male and female butterflies. The males have little “scent pouches” on the hind wings… Here’s a link to a photo of a male. The spot looks like a blurred section of the hind wing veins. The females have uniform veins, but they look kind of wide compared to the veins on the males.

    Laura – Good question! I’d say that I didn’t feel sad… it was more like “excited” as I saw each butterfly launch itself from my hand or from the tree branch where I usually release them. However, I also feel slight apprehension for them, especially if I see birds zooming around nearby, even though birds aren’t supposed to be much interested in monarch butterflies.