How might we better understand the epic multi-generational migration of the monarch butterfly? National Geographic Emerging Explorer Martin Wikelski and monarch butterfly expert Chip Taylor are hoping to learn more about the monarchs’ roundtrip journey — from Mexico in the winter up to Canada and the northeastern United States and back — by gently attaching .007 ounce electronic tags onto their tiny, delicate bodies.

“Butterflies are endangered. The problem is that they have only few habitat places. If those areas are destroyed, then there are no monarch butterflies anymore. They move all year and we see them at some point, but then they’re gone and we don’t know where they go.” By having a better grasp on where the monarchs travel, Wikelski and conservationists can advocate to protect the butterflies’ habitats and hopefully help the species bounce back.

Saving a species from extinction is more than enough reason to carry out his work, but as Wikelski points out, humans need butterflies too. “Butterflies are part of our pollinators, and most of what we eat depends on pollinators. Pollinators have an ecosystem service value of billions of dollars every year. If we start losing them, then this is really dangerous.”

Be sure to read more about how monarchs migrate here and here, as well as more about Wikelski’s tracking work in the video notes.

Next: See a Monarch Butterfly Metamorphosis in HD, visit a butterfly sanctuary in Mexico, and learn how to create your own monarch butterfly rest stop.

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