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Archive for Thursday, September 16, 1999

MONARCH MIGRATION TO PICK UP STEAM INTO WEEKEND

September 16, 1999

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Monarch butterflies are fluttering through Lawrence on their annual fall migration to wintering spots in Mexico.

The monarch migration will become readily apparent today and into the weekend as more of the majestic butterflies pass through the Lawrence area.

"I anticipate in the next three or four days large numbers of monarchs will be at the wetlands and other traditional clustering sites throughout the city," Orley "Chip" Taylor, professor of entomology at Kansas University, said Wednesday.

He said the best spot in Lawrence to observe darting monarchs is the Baker Wetlands, southeast of 31st and Louisiana streets. The key place in the state is along the Kansas River near Wamego.

Taylor takes special interest in the migration of millions of these butterflies as director of Monarch Watch, a project that enables more than 100,000 schoolchildren to participate in the tagging and recovery of monarchs as the creatures fly south into Mexico for the winter and return to the United States and Canada in the spring.

"We have people tagging butterflies in every state east of the Rockies," he said.

The purpose of tagging -- a circular sticker with an identification number is placed on a wing -- is to track movement of monarchs in migration.

A monarch tagging demonstration with officials from Monarch Watch will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Prairie Park Nature Center, 2730 Harper. The demonstration is open to the public and is part of the nature center's grand opening ceremonies.

Monarchs travel as far as 2,400 miles from September to November to arrive in forests of Mexico with the precise humidity and temperature to permit them to survive winter.

Monarchs rely on northwesterly winds to carry them south and often fly thousands of feet off the ground, Taylor said. In the evening, monarchs return to land to nest in clusters.

Taylor said participating in the capture and release of monarchs is a growing passion.

"It's great fun," he said. "There are a lot of people who like to go out and catch butterflies."

David Gibl of Toronto is in Lawrence for a week to observe the action with Taylor.

"I'm going to get binoculars to see if I can catch some coming down," Gibl said.

For more information about monarchs and the tagging process, visit Monarch Watch's Web site at www.MonarchWatch.org.

-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is tcarpenter@ljworld.com.

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