To celebrate the annual migration of monarch butterflies, the Wildlife Department is hosting monarch tagging and roost watches at Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area Sept. 30 through Oct. 3.
“Monarchs have begun their extensive journey south. These amazing butterflies travel up to 3,000 miles to overwintering sites in Mexico,” said Cheyenne Gonzales, biologist with the Wildlife Department. “We will be tagging monarchs in the mornings, and quietly watching the butterflies roost in the evenings.”
Weather conditions, including strong winds, rain, and temperature, can impact the timing and path of the monarch’s migration. The scheduled events will be held regardless of the number of monarchs migrating through Hackberry Flat WMA. Email updates will be sent to registered participants before the event.
Registration is required for both the morning and evening events, and participants must be at least 10 years of age. Registration for each event will close when the participant count reaches 20. Pets are not allowed during the programs.
Morning Tagging – 9am-11am — After a brief discussion of butterfly basics, monarchs collected from the area will be tagged as a group. Meet at the William H. “Bill” Crawford Building for this hands-on activity.
Morning activities for Monday, Oct. 2 and Tuesday, Oct. 3 will be reserved for school groups.
Tagging activities will be limited to the number of butterflies available at the roost site.
Evening Roost Watch – 6:30pm-8pm — Convoy to a longtime monarch roost site within the management area to watch as the butterflies arrive and settle in for the night. Bring a collapsible chair and light jacket for your comfort. Meet at the William H. “Bill” Crawford Building for this viewing event.
To get to the William H. “Bill” Crawford Building, from the south side of Frederick, take U.S. 183 south for one mile, then go east on Airport Road for three miles. Follow the blacktop road south and continue six miles. Watch for signs. (Coordinates for the building are 34.277642, -98.963945.)
Last year more than 90 visitors and 90 schoolchildren participated in Hackberry Flat’s Monarch Watch.
Monarchs will be making their way through Oklahoma soon, as they utilize cold fronts to get an extra boost on their migration south. Here are some interesting facts about these beautiful butterflies from Monarch Watch:
· Hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies migrate from eastern North America to Mexico each fall to overwinter.
· The largest wintering population stay in the high elevation Oyamel fir forests of the Transvolcanic Range of central Mexico.
· Most of the monarchs joining the migration each fall are 3-4 generations removed from those that made the journey the previous year.
· The migration begins in mid-August in the north and in September at mid latitudes
· The migration progresses at a pace of 25-30 miles per day.
· Some monarchs will travel more than 1500 miles to the overwintering sites.
· It will take some individuals more than 2 months to complete.
· Migratory monarchs that survive the winter in Mexico are 8-9 months of age and may be the longest lived of all butterflies.
· Monarchs travel in such large groups at times that they appear on Nexrad radar.
· Cardiac glycosides, toxins from their diet, give monarchs protection from most predators.
· The strongly contrasting black, orange, and white coloration of the monarch adult and the bright black, yellow, and white coloration of the monarch larvae serve as a warning to would be predators.
Keep up to date with the Monarch migration by checking the Friends of Hackberry Flat Facebook page. Reports will be posted beginning Oct. 1. They will also report the numbers of monarchs using the WMA.
To get to Hackberry Flat Center, from the south side of Frederick, take U.S. 183 south for one mile, then go east on Airport Road for three miles. Follow the blacktop road south and continue six miles. Watch for signs to the Center.