Two monarchs tagged at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden last fall were recovered in Mexico! One was a male tagged on Oct 2, 2017 and found on Feb 20, 2018 in El Rosario. The second, a female tagged on Oct 5, 2017, was found on Feb 10, 2018 in Sierra Chincua. The OKC Zoo Education and Horticulture teams dedicated many hours over a three week period last fall to tag 60 total monarchs. The total number of tag recoveries was 928. It’s amazing that two of those were from the OKC Zoo!
Monarch butterflies appear fragile but they are mighty, flying up to 3,000 miles during their fall migration from Canada and the upper Midwest of the United States to overwintering grounds in Mexico each year. We know a lot about monarch migration because of a long-term citizen science study run by Monarch Watch, which is based at the University of Kansas. The tagging program provides vital information about migration patterns and how variables like temperature, weather patterns and habitat conditions affect the migration.
Both locations are more than 1,200 miles from the Oklahoma City Zoo. Google Maps estimates that it would take an individual 427 hours to walk from Oklahoma City to Sierra Chincua, Mexico.
OKC Zoo staff have been tagging monarchs each fall for the last 21 years. It’s quite rare to have a recovery among the millions of monarchs that spend the winter in Mexico.
You can help monarchs and other pollinators by planting milkweed and a variety of nectar producing flowers on your property. It’s important to plant early blooming flowers that will be available in March and April when hungry monarchs fly north from Mexico. Late blooming flowers are also needed in September and October to fuel the journey south to Mexico and to provide enough fat stores for monarchs to survive their winter hibernation. Do not use herbicides or pesticides anywhere near these plants. Those chemicals are harmful to monarch butterflies, their caterpillars and other pollinators.
To learn more about monarchs and what you can do to help, please come to our Monarch Festival on Saturday, October 6. There will be fun butterfly crafts, butterfly garden tours, nature inspired artwork by local artists, storytelling and monarch tagging! More information is also available at Okies For Monarchs online.
-Rebecca Snyder, curator of conservation and science