Monarch Radio Telemetry

The number of American Monarch Butterflies, like most insects worldwide, is in decline. Habitat loss, fragmentation, and the loss of their host plant, the Milkweed, has been a major contributor. They feed on and reproduce on the milkweed, so a decline in the Milkweed means that there is less food and few places for new Monarchs to spawn. To understand how to best restore their obligate host plant and the Monarch Butterfly, researchers from Iowa State University and the University of Memphis fitted both male and female butterflies with tiny high-frequency radio tags that researchers could use to track their collection of tagged butterflies. With just a simple antennae, they tracked each of the butterflies and researchers gained an understanding of how the monarchs moved from Milkweed to Milkweed. The tags weighed between 220-300 mg and rested on the thorax of the butterfly, with the researchers seeing little change in the movement of the butterfly. Results showed that the American Monarch Butterfly typically doesn’t wander more than 50 meters from it’s chosen area and that it does not move in a straight line from flower to flower. Their study, just published in 2020, indicates that tighter clusters of Milkweed could be the optimal arrangement in habitat restoration efforts for the benefit of the American Monarch Butterfly. It is worth noting that fitting butterflies with trackers may inhibit the tagged butterflies in ways that the researchers could not account for, and the overall impact on the health and performance of the studied butterflies could have been affected.This in turn would influence the accuracy of their results. 


Fisher, K. E., Adelman, J. S., & Bradbury, S. P. (2020). Employing Very High Frequency (VHF) Radio Telemetry to Recreate Monarch Butterfly Flight Paths.; Environmental Entomology, 49(2), 312-323

Fisher, K. E. (2019, March). Monarch butterfly movement ecology: Adapting automated radio telemetry to track monarch butterflies. In 2019 North Central Branch Meeting. ESA.


Biodiversity, Ecological Monitoring, Internet of Things, Monitoring