How to be a Butterfly Wrangler

Many years ago, I decided to get involved with the Monarch Watch Program based at the University of Kansas.


This program is dedicated to Monarch research and encourages volunteers from all over the United States to become citizen scientists.

Since I had already planted milkweed in my garden, the next step was registering my garden as a Monarch Waystation.

Monarch Waystation #301

Monarch Waystation #301

A Monarch Waystation is nothing more than a Monarch friendly habitat filled with many milkweed plants (for the eggs and caterpillars) as well as nectar plants (food) for the grownup butterflies.


Zinnia is a favorite nectar plant

Not long after I registered my garden, I read about and became interested in the tagging program for the Monarchs.

Tagging a butterfly is a way for scientists to track the migration path of the monarchs.  It is also useful for determining how weather plays a role in the migration process.  Each tag has a different set of identification numbers.  This information is recorded on a separate data sheet by a tagger (me in this case) when you place the tag on the butterfly.  When the monarchs leave my area, the data sheet is sent back to the university.

monarch tag

Monarch Tags

When the Monarchs make it to their winter home in Mexico, volunteers and local workers begin the process of looking through the thousands of butterflies and recording the tag data.

This weekend, my granddaughter and I noticed a few monarchs flying around in the garden.  I figured this would be a great time to teach her how to become a Butterfly Wrangler.

First, you need a net (this is different from the armadillo net)

hallie, butterfly

Sometimes Usually the cat distracts us so hang on just a second.

hallie, sheldon, butterfly

hallie, sheldon, butterfly

hallie, sheldon, butterfly

Ok.  Once the monarch is netted, we record the information from the tag on the data sheet and place the tag on the under side of the wing.

monarch, monarch tag

hallie, butterfly

Then we released our little friend to continue its journey.

This made her one little happy Butterfly Wrangler.

hallie, butterfly

This is a great project for kids, adults, schools, and any other organization that supports nature.  As you can see, a three-year old can be taught to handle butterflies and help with tagging.

Most of the butterflies I tag are raised from the caterpillar stage.  This weekend, I harvested some very small caterpillars to raise.  Will keep you updated on the progress.


About the blonde gardener

I'm an Arkansas girl born and raised. I garden in the beautiful Northwest part of the state (zone 6b or 7) surrounded by the Ozark Mountains. My favorite part about the area is we have 4 distinct seasons and are able to enjoy a variety of activities. My main passion is gardening but I also enjoy hiking, birding, 4-wheeling and motorcycle trips. Basically anything outside. Thanks for stopping by! Brenda
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24 Responses to How to be a Butterfly Wrangler

  1. How cool! I had no idea that you could tag butterflies without hurting them!
    Thanks for the tutorial, and the link. We’ll be looking into participating next year!


  2. ChgoJohn says:

    So glad to see this is being done. I haven’t seen a single monarch around here this year. I hope the tagging will lead to information that will help to at least stabilize their numbers.


  3. bhoyt10 says:

    I didn’t know you could tag a butterfly! That is really cool! Super cute help you have!


  4. Pingback: Monarch Caterpillar | Winged Beauty

  5. What fun! I should get off my butt and register as a monarch waystation.


  6. Veddy interesting. I had no idea. By the way, all three of my naked ladies bloomed!!!


  7. Pingback: Male Monarch Butterfly | Winged Beauty

  8. bittster says:

    Cool, and it looks like your helper loved it! I raised a couple cats the last few years, but this year they are so late in arriving I don’t know if I’ll even see any…. but at least I have even more milkweed settling in.


  9. Pingback: My Save The Monarch Project: We Have Caterpillars…. | Eileen Smith Anglin & The Path of the White Rose | Inspiring Angelic Messages

  10. Love this idea…One made it to my garden this year and this is so disturbing…


  11. Pingback: Caterpillar Cribs | The Blonde Gardener

  12. Pingback: Some days, you just need a butterfly | The (Urban-Wildlife) Interface

  13. I hope you don’t mind, but I just linked a new post to your post about the Monarch Watch Station. Thanks again for introducing us to the idea!


  14. Pingback: Monarch Butterfly Update | The Blonde Gardener

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