On the tagging of butterflies…

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  • #14256


    I have read the pdf, but still have a question though. When holding the wings in the scissor grip, in order to pick up and apply the tag, does one hold the butterfly suspended by its wings alone, or should one ensure the little beastie has adequate foot support?

    I hope to minimise the amount of distress that tagging might cause.

    (I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it – eventually!)

    Also, how does one know when the wings are suitably dry? Would two or three hours after hatching, when they do that slow fanning thing, be considered

    as dry at that point, or is the several hours (mentioned in the document) preferable?

    If all else fails I may try to sneak up on them while they rest for the first night, in the metabolically cool evening.

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  • #24541


    after a few difficult tags, we hit on an easy one this morning.Buttie seems to be very dainty and smaller than normal, so scissor grip didn’t look good. We left it on the stick it was sitting on, held a box of plasters behind it and with the tag just on the middle of the toothpick (they gave trouble getting them off the tip)popped the tag onto the wing using a cotton bud on the tag to ensure sticking. It also held the wing still and gave the least stress ever to the wee creature.



    Hey Kirby, ( and Im sure other folks too) theres a reallly cool place in Ngongotaha , near Rotorua called WINGSPAN where they rehabilitate injured birds of prey ; in particular our native species of falcon ~ the Karearea… ( have you ever seen one up close ??) and every day at 2pm they fly the birds and put on an info show ! Its a spectacular place to visit and take photos. Even if you cant get there though, check out wingspan.co.nz I TOTALLY recommend it ..



    Looks like we’ve just picked up the horrible heavy elephant soaking weather even as I type! Probably best they didn’t fly today.
    And cool, I’ll note their numbers when they finally fly the coop – er – twig.

    Re. things flying, for those of you who might also be interested in birds…
    I’ve been following this live camera feed – from eggs, to recently fledged owlets. (there’s night cam and day cam) – I know it’s not butterflies, but at least over there it is summer! 😀



    At the time they’re released, Kirby. It’s a HORRIBLE day today. I’m down the North Waikato, and I think I’ll go to bed (7.47pm). 🙂



    Well, I’ve applied tags to the first two butterbums! (so-called because they’re loitering 😉 )

    Should I log in the tagging on the day they are tagged, or the day they are released?

    (I’ve been trying to encourage them to be enthused about the weather – although it’s a shade unpredictable today.)



    Hi Kirby

    The butterfly will be testing its wings just prior to flight, opening them up and closing them again. I will have prepared a tag – got it ready on a toothpick. Written down the number – and watched to see if the butterfly is a female or male.

    I put my finger down in front of its head and it walks onto my finger… I then hold the wings in the scissor grip, and apply the tag. Yes, the little legs will be “struggling” as it’s unnatural not to have its feet touching something but it only takes a few seconds.

    If you don’t know if the wings are dry or not, you can flick or tap or poke them very gently, and observe if they’re still damp or are rigid. When they’re dry they’re rigid, when they’re damp, well, they behave as a wet teatowel would and the movement would be more of a wave.

    If they are too active, then, yes, it is relatively easy to cool them down in a dark, cool room.

    And personally I would not like to use cotton gloves as I find it restricts my feel/touch/sense. But it’s important to have clean hands, no make-up, no suntan cream, no cleansers residue on your hands. It would be easy to forget that.

    Hope that helps.




    I am also contemplating trying to coax the butterfly onto my thumb, so that it has a foot-rest while the fingers “scissor grip” above.
    Assuming they co-operate!

    And finally, another pedantic question. Soft cotton gloves? (as a former traditional animator, I have a surplus of these) – would this aid the protection of the wings or be more dangerous to them than the fingers alone? (I’m imagining that it makes no difference really, and suspect I’m just getting overly paranoid…)

    Danger! Danger! Cotton gloves! Flap for your lives! ;D

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