ST. CHARLES, Mo.—Using mysterious powers rivaling a GPS, they navigate a landscape more vast than the span of the continental United States. With instinct alone as their guide and in perfect sync, thousands journey through the air each autumn to one particular mountain range in Mexico. It’s a specific roosting site custom-made for their needs.
They’re not birds. They’re butterflies.
Monarchs, showy and familiar orange and black butterflies, are the only species of insect that makes this amazing migration. The route of this incredible trip goes through the Show-Me State, and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are celebrating the monarch migration with a special event. The Monarch Tagging Event takes place Saturday, Sept. 10 from 10 a.m.—3 p.m. at the DOE Weldon Spring Site Interpretive Center in St. Charles. The event is free and everyone in the family is welcome.
Though monarchs are the front liners, the Monarch Tagging Event will celebrate all pollinating creatures that help our plants thrive. The event will offer an interactive and fun way to learn about pollinator declines and what people can do to help.
Butterfly tagging and releases every two hours are the headline activities. Visitors will get to tag monarchs themselves and become citizen scientists as they learn about butterflies hands-on.
The Monarch Tagging Event will also feature native gardening demonstrations with gardening experts, an observation hive of live honeybees as well as a beekeeper to answer questions.
Other activities will include hikes on the site’s 150-acre restored Howell Prairie, educational stations, games, and crafts including seed bombs full of native wildflower seeds.
Visitors are welcome to bring their own food and soft drinks and enjoy a picnic lunch on the interpretive site grounds.
As monarchs flit from plant to plant in search of food, they spread pollen crucial to the reproduction of their host plants. More than 75 percent of the Earth's flowering plants depend on pollinators. It’s a relationship vital to the survival of each—and us. One out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of pollinating insects.
Pollinator decline in the recent past is a source of concern among scientists. It’s estimated that in the last 20 years, monarch populations have gone from more than 1 billion to less than 60 million. Dwindling habitat for these colorful butterflies is believed to be the source of the drop.
Though the numbers for monarchs may seem grim, people can do something to help. Planting backyard butterfly gardens can help monarch populations recover. Establishing milkweed and nectar plants will also give them a boost on their long journey. The Monarch Tagging Event will help visitors learn how they can make a difference.
The Weldon Spring Interpretive Site is located at 7295 Highway 94, approximately two miles south of I-64/40. For more information, call 636-300-2600.