Exchange Student from Arab Communities of Israel holding a butterfly net.

Fly on By, Butterfly

Every PAX exchange student who volunteers their time has an interesting story to tell. Zina, from the Arab Communities of Israel, is spending her year in Arizona, where they do Monarch butterfly research, and she was able to help.

The Monarch butterfly is probably the one most familiar to Americans. With vivid orange, black, and white markings, it is recognizable and quite large, with a wingspan up to four inches. Every fall, the Monarchs from the eastern United States and the southern part of Canada migrate south, flying thousands of miles to destinations in Mexico. In the western U.S, the Monarchs migrate mostly to southern California. The return migration in the spring is multi-generational, since Monarchs outside of winter live for only two to five weeks.

Facilities across the country track this amazing annual migration. Both scientific curiosity and concern over declining Monarch populations drive this tracking, and hosts of volunteers get the chance to help. Here is what Zina had to say about her experience with one of these programs in a national park.

I volunteered my time at a national park to help with a scientific study about Monarch Butterflies’ migration. By tagging the butterflies, we can know (when they’re caught) the path that they take to migrate, and keep track of the number of butterflies that migrate from here to Mexico in the winter.

My job was to look for Monarch Butterflies, catch them with my net, and call for someone to help me tag them. However, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. The butterflies were hard to see and even harder to catch, but it was so much fun that I would do it all over again. I caught two butterflies, one Monarch and one Queen. I tagged one butterfly, and I was so lucky to see a Monarch laying its eggs! I’m so happy I had the opportunity to have this unique experience and to learn about Monarch Butterflies and their migration.

 —Zina (YES, Arab Communities of Israel), hosted by the Hussey family (AZ)