Since 2005, the Saint John Naturalists’ Club has had a special interest in research and conservation of the Monarch butterfly, a Species at Risk in Canada. Volunteers assist with the tagging of Monarchs at the observatory as the butterflies migrate south toward Mexico during August and September each year.
What is Monarch Tagging?
Tagging a Monarch Butterfly involves catching the butterfly in a net, carefully handling it following specific instructions, placing a small identification sticker on the wing and then releasing the butterfly back into the wild.
The purpose of tagging monarchs is to associate the location of original capture with the point of recovery for each butterfly. The data from these recaptures are used to determine the pathways taken by migrating monarchs, the influence of weather on the migration, the survival rate of the monarchs.
Where do we find Monarch Butterflies?
The area directly around the Point Lepreau Bird Observatory (PLBO) appears to be the most important migration stopover site for migrating Monarchs in all of New Brunswick.
It’s coastal location funnels the travelling butterflies out to the tip of the Point where several hectares of wildflowers bloom profusely during late August and much of September. That is the exact time the butterflies need flower nectar for energy during their long southward migration. Once at the tip of the Point, the Monarchs stop, feed and replenish their body resources before continuing on their way.
Data on migrating Monarchs is shared with Monarch Watch, a research project of the Entomology Department at the University of Kansas, dedicated to the protection and preservation of the Monarch butterfly.
Sightings of tagged Monarchs along their southward routes help researchers plot major migration routes so those corridors can be protected from further development and their habitat enhanced.
Over the years, our Club has done many presentations on the Monarch’s life cycle to NB Power staff, local school children, members of the Wolastoqiyik and Mi’kmaq First Nations and the general public.
Monarch presentations and tagging activities have also involved two Lieutenant Governors of the Province, along with their respective staff members.
Learn how you can support our work and volunteer
Visitors voluntarily assist with Monarch Butterfly migration research during several weeks each fall at the Point Lepreau Bird Observatory. Our tagging season runs from August 15th until approximately September 15th.
Security Clearance Required
The access road to the Point Lepreau Bird Observatory passes through property owned and controlled by NB Power’s Point Lepreau nuclear generating station. Therefore, anyone visiting PLBO must have security clearance in advance. This process could take several weeks. It involves a criminal record check by local police authorities. However, once a criminal record check has been done, a volunteer does not have to repeat that process and can continue to visit in future years.
If you’re still looking to learn more information, you can watch the video below which features a presentation by Jim Wilson on the life cycle of Monarch Butterflies as well as our Monarch Tagging project.