University course tracks butterfly migration

Margaret Ekblom, Staff Writer

The University’s General Entomology course has started a new tradition by participating in monarch butterfly migration tagging. Tagging monarchs is a way of monitoring the numbers that survive their travels and reach Mexico. Associate Professor of Biology Stephen Jordan and the class teaching assistant, graduate student Nikki King, have worked with students while nesting butterflies in their lab.

Each year, the number of monarchs that make it to Mexico drops significantly. At first the butterflies are developed in a chrysalis, a green cocoon-like shell. The day after it turns blue or clear shade, the butterflies are ready to emerge from the chrysalis.

“They feed on Gatorade and are relaxed in their netted area,” King said.

The class tags the butterflies on one of their wings with a small sticker identifying them with a number for tracking purposes. When someone in Mexico finds a butterfly, they can record which one it is by using the sticker.

Many students can relate to butterflies going back to elementary school when teachers would demonstrate a butterfly hatching from its chrysalis.

“I think it’s a great idea that Bucknell started monarch migration this year; it’s a great way to make a change and see how weather patterns affect animal life. The butterflies helped us as children and now we can help them,” Stephanie Lange ’16 said.

Because of climate change, tracking the butterflies as they fly south during their peak season is important; their journey is heavily dependent upon weather patterns.

“If the winter they encounter is too cold, they could never make it to Mexico. Also the weather in Mexico is another major weather factor, if the weather is either too cold or too hot it can greatly effect how many butterflies they find this year,” King said.

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