Students Support Endangered Butterflies Through Tagging, Way Station

Monday, October 1, 2018

Heathwood Early Childhood and Lower School students are helping an endangered species in its fight for survival through their work making Heathwood a Monarch Butterfly Way Station—and their efforts paid off in September, when they were able to tag and release some two dozen Monarchs on behalf of the Monarch Watch organization.

Famed for their annual mass migration from Canada and the U.S. to Mexico and California, Monarchs have become increasingly endangered as development and widespread use of herbicides have made the plants they feed on increasingly scarce. That’s where Monarch way stations like Heathwood’s come in. By planting milkweed and nectar plants for the butterflies to feed on, Heathwood students have created a habitat in which Monarchs can thrive.

This year, the students took their support of the Monarchs a step further by tagging butterflies as they emerged from their pupae. Tagging helps scientists track the Monarchs as they migrate southward, which in turn provides a better understanding of migratory patterns, of which habitats produce butterflies that are most likely to survive the migration, and much more. All of that information allows conservationists to make better-informed decisions about how to help the Monarchs survive.

Heathwood’s Butterfly Garden is located between the Early Childhood and Lower School office and the Robinson Center, just outside Lower School Science Teacher Natalie Ashenfelter’s classroom. There, by maintaining the garden, monitoring the Monarch caterpillars as they pupate, and tagging them as they emerge as adult butterflies, Heathwood students are making a difference for a species whose beauty and storied migration have awed us for generations—and hopefully will continue to do so for generations to come.


Learn more about the Monarchs and the role way stations and tagging can play in their survival at