The monarch butterfly is called the king of all butterflies, and their migration through east Tennessee has begun! Each year in September and October, these flying pollinators migrate south en masse to Mexico, where they reside during the colder months. Groups of nature lovers and hikers have popped up around town to become “citizen scientists,” catching, tagging and releasing these orange and black beauties to help better understand their migration and population status.

Anyone of any age can join in on this exciting activity, and some groups even supply the butterfly nets! Migration patterns vary, so you never know how many you’ll see, but the chance is worth just getting outside to play. On a good day, you could find shrubs or trees covered in the fluttering insects, and they’ve even been known to land on the friendliest observers!

This fun frolic takes place at Seven Islands State Birding Park every Saturday from 1-3 p.m. starting this weekend through Oct. 21. It begins with a brief lesson on the migration and leads into a short, easy hike, where you’ll tag as many monarchs as you can find along the way! A small donation for participation allows the State Park to further continue butterfly conservation through the Tennessee Butterfly Monitoring Network. Make sure to register online in advance!

Drive a little farther from town to join in on the multi-year tradition of tagging monarchs in Cade’s Cove. The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont hosts a group that meets at 10:15 to catch and identify monarchs and other butterflies and insects for about two to four hours. This experience also requires registration, and many of the dates are filling up fast!

Whether you make it out this weekend or later in the migration season, don’t miss your chance to run around a sunny field catching butterflies with friends and family. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Look for more chances to experience wildlife and other outdoor recreation events on our OutdoorKnoxville.com calendar.

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Written by Carol Evans
Get Out and Play info@legacyparks.org