In this activity, students place small stickers (tags) onto caught or newly emerged monarch butterflies and release them into the environment. The tag number, information about the butterfly and its release location are entered into the Monarch Butterfly New Zealand Trust’s ‘Record a tagged butterfly’ release page.

By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

  • explain what tagging is and why tagging is used
  • describe the experience of tagging their own butterflies
  • record and enter data into the MBNZT online database
  • understand the relationship between releasing and recovering tagged butterflies
  • appreciate that citizen scientists work in partnership with scientists to answer interesting and relevant questions.

Download the Word file (see link above) for:

  • introduction/background notes
  • instructions on what you need and what to do
  • discussion questions.

Nature of Science

Scientists use tagging so they can monitor an individual’s behaviour in a natural setting. In this case, information about overwintering and population numbers can only be collected in the butterfly’s natural settings.

Useful links

Monarch Watch (USA) is an educational outreach programme that engages citizen scientists in large-scale research projects. It involves more than 2,000 schools, nature centres and other organisations in the US and Canada, and an estimated 100,000+ students and adults participate in tagging activities each fall.

Watch a citizen scientist tagging a monarch butterfly.

    Published 16 May 2010