OGDEN -- Ron Hellstern's Advanced Placement environmental science class successfully launched an experiment Friday.
The students, ranging from sophomores to seniors at DaVinci Academy of Science and the Arts, tagged little stickers on the beautiful wings of monarch butterflies, then set them free in hopes that the colorful insects would reach Southern California.
The DaVinci students hope students at partnering schools in Southern California will find the tagged butterflies so their migratory progress and data can be tracked and recorded.
The class released a handful of butterflies Friday.
The stickers placed on the wings are encoded with numbers and letters identifying the location and name of the tagger.
"If someone finds a red mark on the sticker, it will be our butterflies. They can call the 800 number on the tag and we can record the miles the butterfly traveled," Hellstern said.
He said monarch butterflies are unable to survive Utah's cold winter. Instead, they spend the winter in roosting spots.
Typically, monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains travel to small groves of trees along the California coast.
Chelsee Boehm, a junior, was a little nervous handling the delicate wings of the butterfly. It was necessary to remove the scales in order to place the tag, she said.
"I don't even know people tagged butterflies and tracked them," she said. "As I did it, I felt bad, like I might be hurting it."
Senior Nolan Williams said he learned a lot from the project.
"I learned a lot about the life cycles and migratory patterns of the butterfly," he said.
"I also gained a lot of appreciation for the creature and niche in the world."
In order to survive and thrive, butterflies need a plant called the milkweed, Hellstern said.
Monarch larvae feed on exclusively on milkweed. His class is helping to plant a garden in hopes that butterflies will be attracted back where the DaVinci students can find them.
For more information about monarchs and their migration patterns, visit www.monarchwatch.org.