Monarch butterflies plentiful at annual Baker Wetlands tagging event

photo by: Ashley Hocking

A monarch butterfly pollinates a flower at the Baker Wetlands on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

Even when they were still in the parking lot of the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center, LeAnn Brungardt and her son William Sevy knew it would be a good year to see and tag monarch butterflies.

“It’s a lot better than last year,” Brungardt said as a monarch fluttered by. “And it’s a beautiful morning.”

The mother and son team have made an annual outing from Topeka the past three years for the Monarch Watch tagging event at the wetlands.

“He used to be interested in entomology,” Brungardt said of her son, a junior at Hayden High School. “He’s kind of moved on to chemistry, but he still has an interest in all things bugs.”

Ann Ryan, a research assistant with Monarch Watch, said Brungardt’s observation of the abundance of monarchs this year was correct. Cool weather in the northern plains kept monarchs in Texas during the spring, she said. There, this year’s first generation hatched and matured from their caterpillar stage before heading in large numbers to their summer destination in Canada. They started arriving in Kansas on their migration back to northern Mexico the past few days with the onset of cooler weather, Ryan said.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

From right, Samuel, Olivia and Ryan Clifford search for monarch butterflies to tag at the Baker Wetlands on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

“They don’t like to travel in hot weather,” she said. “They also like to migrate when the wind is out of the north like it has been in recent days.”

Once the wetlands warmed under the morning sun, the migrating monarchs left their overnight shelter in tree lines and started feasting on the nectar of the many flowers blooming along the water pools.

About 500 visitors signed up to tag the monarchs Saturday at the wetlands, Ryan said. In total, they netted and tagged 937 monarchs. The small tags placed on the insects’ wings help biologists study their migratory behavior and numbers.

“I don’t have historical data, but we had more tagged than in recent years,” she said. “We’re very pleased. It was a good morning for monarchs and people.”

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Justin King and Rachel Smith tag a monarch butterfly at the Baker Wetlands on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Angie Babbit demonstrates how to hold a monarch butterfly at the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Dena Podrebarac leads a demonstration on how to properly tag a monarch butterfly at the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Dena Podrebarac leads a demonstration on how to properly tag and identify a monarch butterfly at the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Four monarch butteflies rest in a netted cage at the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

A monarch butterfly pollinates a flower at the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Samuel Clifford searches for monarch butterfly to catch and tag at the Baker Wetlands on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Brently Parker smiles after catching his fifth monarch butterfly of the day at the Baker Wetlands on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

From left, Quentin Allen, Rayanna Otterholt and Kathy Littlebull tag a monarch butterfly at the Baker Wetlands on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

A monarch butterfly pollinates a flower at the Baker Wetlands on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

A monarch butterfly pollinates a flower at the Baker Wetlands on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

Dena Podrebarac leads a demonstration on how to properly tag a monarch butterfly at the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

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