3 monarch butterflies tagged in San Antonio, Central Texas recovered in Mexico

The butterflies were tagged in honor of three men who passed away

Monarch butterflies are in the middle of their yearly migration (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – Three monarch butterflies that were tagged in San Antonio and Central Texas last fall to honor deceased loved ones have been recovered in Mexico.

The Texas Butterfly Ranch said that the butterflies — two tagged along the Llano River near London, Texas, and one tagged at the 2021 Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival in San Antonio — were among 901 recovered.

More than 100,000 butterflies in total were tagged in the 2021 season in order to track monarchs on their journey from Canada to Mexico, according to the ranch and Monarch Watch.

While it was amid a larger effort to learn more about the correlation between monarchs and climate change, it also had a deeper meaning for Dia De Los Muertos.

Because AESJ687, AESJ774 and UMA170 weren’t just names for these butterflies; these tags represented three loved ones who passed away, according to the ranch.

Butterfly AESJ687 represented 77-year-old Roger Vargas, who died of COVID in August, the ranch said.

Vargas was the father-in-law of San Antonio comedian and TV personality Cleto Rodriguez, who also battled with the virus.

Vargas passed away the day before Rodriguez was released from the hospital, the ranch said.

His butterfly was recovered at the Sierra Chincua preserve in Mexico, and it was tagged on Oct. 8 along the Llano River.

Another monarch tagged on the same day and at the same location was AESJ774, which honored Roland J. Sierra of San Antonio

Sierra was a former middle school teacher who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011. His wife, Linda, told the ranch that the butterfly was seemingly a continuation of his life.

“In a way, it didn’t surprise me that Roland’s butterfly made it because during his lifetime he was the type of person that was always there to lend a helping hand to everyone…this news reaffirms my belief that he is continuing his legacy in his afterlife,” she told the ranch.

His butterfly was found at El Rosario preserve in Mexico.

The third monarch, UMA170, was tagged on Oct. 16 during the annual Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival at Confluence Park on the south side.

That monarch represented Derek Nelson, a Utah man who loved the outdoors. He died in 2007 of colon cancer.

The ranch said that his daughter, Stephanie Collard, submitted his name to Forever Journey at the suggestion of a family friend.

“She thought it was the most beautiful tribute to loss she’d heard of and that it might help ease some of the sorrow/trauma I’ve been carrying all these years,” Collard told the ranch. “Just a couple weeks before the butterfly was found, I found a letter from him that I didn’t know existed–the only one he ever wrote to me. I never got a goodbye when he died, and it’s finally like there’s a little gift of peace from him.”

His butterfly was also found at El Rosario.

People who wish to honor a loved one with a butterfly through Forever Journey can sign up for the 2022 season. To learn more, click here.

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Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.