By University Relations Student Journalist Olivia Tucker
VINCENNES, Ind. – Monarchs are beautiful butterflies with brilliant colors and vibrant wing patterns. The majestic insects in Knox County took center stage on Saturday.
Vincennes University annually sponsors a popular event that tags Monarch butterflies as they make their way to Mexico during the cold seasons.
Community members of all ages participated in Monarch Madness at Fox Ridge Nature Park on September 24 during a warm fall day. The event of tagging butterflies allows the community to learn about not just the Monarchs, but other species of butterflies and insects as well.
VU Biology Laboratory Supervisor Philip Schadegg helped community members mark the monarch butterflies, gender them, and get a sample from the abdomens of the butterflies for the parasite OE, a protozoan ectoparasite. The parasite can be detected from the presence of small spores on the outside of infected butterflies, said Schadegg.
The samples are sent to Project Monarch Health to check for the presence of a spore that indicates the butterfly is infected with OE, which can weaken caterpillars and cripple adult butterflies.
While gendering each Monarch butterfly when a female was confirmed, Schadegg told each individual that they have a scent gland to let all the other butterflies know that the female is a Monarch butterfly to attract males.
Schadegg said, “The data we collect from the Monarchs we tag on (September 24) is going to be shared with two different data collectors. Firstly, we will send data regarding the date, location and gender of each monarch we tag alongside the tag number itself to Monarch Watch, an educational nonprofit that maintains a number of stations that monitor where tagged monarchs are recovered. Allowing us to see if any monarchs that we tag end up in Mexico.”
According to Schadegg, two of the Monarchs tagged at last year's Monarch Madness made it to a Monarch Watch station in Mexico.