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Social Butterfly

Monarch tagged at RHMS found in Mexico

For 20 years, the seventh graders at Rock Hill Middle School have taken part in a monarch butterfly project in conjunction with the Entomology Department at the University of Kansas through monarchwatch.org.

The project entailed collecting chrysalises, eggs and caterpillars from milkweed plants, raising them, tagging them and finally releasing them into the wild.

For the first time since the project began at the school in 1996, one of the monarch butterflies tagged at Rock Hill Middle School was discovered. The butterfly, tagged UHP519, traveled 2,456 miles, where it was found in El Rosario, Mexico.

“We order little sticker tags on the website, which we put on the underneath side of the hind wing,” seventh grade science teacher Kathy Gore, who’s in charge of the project, said. “Last year, we released 11 butterflies on Sept. 11, and the students gave them all patriotic names. Our butterfly was discovered on March 6 of this year.”

Part of the project is having the students raise the butterflies in science lab after collecting from milkweed plants. Gore said her classroom contains about 28 containers in all different stages of the butterflies, as well as a net containing milkweed plants. The butterflies are then released at about a day or two old.

On each tag contains a phone number and email address, which can be contacted if discovered.

“Monarch Watch does a posting of tag recoveries, and I compare that with our data sheets to see if any of ours were found,” Gore said. “This was the first one of ours found since we started doing this project.”

Gore said the population of monarch butterflies varies year to year, but this year has been very low.

“We’ve had anywhere from 50-175 a year,” she said. “But this year, we’re going to be lucky to have 30-40.”

Teacher Denise Fraley, who taught seventh grade science from 1996-2003, started the project before Gore took it over.