I was recently told that there are organizations, at least in the United States, that study migration of monarch butterflies by tagging them. The purpose, as in most animal migration monitoring, is to learn as much as possible about the animal, keep that animal population safe, and enable researchers to educate people regarding various species.

While banding and tagging of larger animals doesn't seem so difficult to me, I'm wondering some specific things about tagging a butterfly.

  • What does the tag look like?

  • What information does it contain?

  • How and where on the butterfly is it applied in such a way that the animal isn't damaged, either at the time or later, and so that it doesn't fall off?

  • 6
    git tag -a Butterfly -m "Found Butterfly" – Charlie Brumbaugh Aug 26 '16 at 3:05
  • 1
    Only the software nerds in here will get that @CharlieBrumbaugh – Liam Aug 26 '16 at 7:36
  • @CharlieBrumbaugh Liam's right! I have no idea what you said, but I think software nerds are cool anyway! My son is one. Growing up I called him "binary brain" but that probably shows my age! He's busy building cloud security systems, but he loves butterflies, and would probably like your comment!! – Sue Aug 26 '16 at 15:27
up vote 5 down vote accepted

This web site seems to cover the details quite well.

  • What does the tag look like?

enter image description here

Each tagged butterfly must have a tag code (three letters and three numbers) for this system to work. To insure that they do, we create a series of tag numbers using numbers and the alphabet. Each year receives its own unique series.


  • What information does it contain?

the web site doesn't go into a lot of details but basically a unique number to identify the butterfly and some contact details and the name of the organisation doing the tagging. I guess the idea is that people need to report them in if they're found.


  • How and where on the butterfly is it applied in such a way that the animal isn't damaged, either at the time or later, and so that it doesn't fall off?

We have adopted a tagging system in which the tag is placed over the large, mitten shaped cell (discal cell) on the underside of the hindwing of the monarch. ...

This method has proven to be very effective - the rate of tag recovery seems to be higher than for monarchs tagged on the wing margins (an older method). The discal cell position is closer to the center of lift and gravity for the butterfly and will not impede flight. More importantly, this tagging method appears to be less harmful to the butterflies.

enter image description here enter image description here

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