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Butterfly search at Lehigh Gap Nature Center turns up few Monarchs

  • Laylah McAfee of Walnutport tried to catch the many white cabbage butterflies and finally caught one. Here she just released it.
    Laylah McAfee of Walnutport tried to catch the many white cabbage butterflies and finally caught one. Here she just released it.
Published September 27. 2010 05:00PM

The Monarch butterfly tagging event at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center began with a children's event. Supplies were available for them to make their own colorful butterfly with a refrigerator magnet on back.

The event, held Sept. 18, also had a storybook session with the children's choice of "Monarchs and Milkweed," Monarch Come Play with Me" or "Waiting for Wings."

Corey Husic said the Monarchs make a 1,000 to 3,000 mile migration to Mexico.

By tagging them scientists find out exactly where they travel.

One Corey tagged was found in Mexico northwest of the capital after a 2,300 mile journey.

He demonstrated the technique for netting a butterfly. Get under them, lift the net and flip it over to close it.

A chrysalis was on the front of the building and the butterfly will hatch in about a week. The caterpillar stage liquifies and rearranges itself within the chrysalis to change into a butterfly.

Husic had a torn, papery chrysalis that is all that is left after the butterfly leaves.

The first butterfly caught during the hike was a Viceroy. It is much smaller but mimics a Monarch because the Monarch is poisonous from eating milkweed and birds do not bother them.

There were many Cabbage White butterflies and Laylah McAfee enjoyed trying to catch them and was finally successful. She was just as proud as she would have been with a Monarch. Her parents are Dayne and Kristine of Walnutport.

Another youngster, Zak Motter of Slatington, caught a Silver Spotted Skipper.

The children may be the next generation of Monarch taggers.

His mother, Debbie, said it was the first time they visited the LGNC and found it a great place.

They hadn't known it existed.

Doug Burton found a rare Pipervine Swallowtail, but still there were no Monarchs.

He suggested people keep their eyes down at least part of the time because some kinds of butterflies prefer flying low.

There were Spicebush Swallowtails and Red Spotted Admirals. An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was bright in yellow. Many of the butterflies were getting ratty and losing their color as the end of their season approaches.

A Red Spotted butterfly with white shows that it was the result of crossbreeding with a White Admiral. The two are nearly alike.

Several kinds of skippers were found during the walk. Husic said when they fly they seem to be skipping and people watched as the next one caught was released and saw what he meant by skipping.

Jewelweed was growing along the trail. When the seedpods are touched the seeds pop as far as two feet.

The June Poppy rattles when the seed heads are shaken. It is a Chinese plant but Director Dan Kunkle does not consider it invasive because it remains along the railroad trail.

The Red Admiral migrates to the southern regions of the United States.

And finally two Monarchs are seen but they flit from flower to flower as people climb the cliff and try to catch them.

Finally they get tired of the annoyance and fly away.

Kunkle said it must have gotten warm enough for the Monarchs and predicted some would be found on the return hike.

Burton made the only Monarch catch of the day. Husic checks for parasites by lightly rubbing the bottom of the abdomen with a sticker to get a few scales.

It is checked with a microscope at the Osprey House. The tag is number NGL325.

It is placed on the underside of the wing and is reported to Monarch Watch, affiliated with the University of Kansas, as is the presence or absence of parasites. People finding a tagged butterfly can call 888 TAGGING.

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