Monarch Butterfly Tulips
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Monarch Migration Update: September 29, 1998

Today's Report Includes:

Monarchs Soar in Southeastern U.S. States

Locations of Migrating Monarchs Reported in September
At last, a clear wave of migratory monarchs moved through southerneastern U.S. states last week. One hungry monarch was seen resting in Georgia:

"The monarch landed on a large orange bush outside of an eating establishment. It was a Mexican Restaurant," reported Ms. Chamblee of G.P. Babb Middle School

Here is the flurry of reports we received from the southeast and other regions:

09/24/98 Busick, NC (36.05N, -82.19 W)
"I witnessed a significant migration of monarchs across the Blue Ridge in Western North Carolina on 9/24. In three 5-minute counts taken between noon and 2 p.m., I recorded 87, 67 and 55 monarchs passing a given point. A conservative estimate, I think, would be that I saw about 3,600 monarchs passing through that gap during the 6 hours I was there. The monarchs were riding the air currents, flapping occasionally, but having an easy time of it."
Elizabeth Hunter (

09/26/98 Rocky Mount, NC (35.95 N, -77.69 W)
"We spotted two to three monarchs per mile for a stretch of about five miles." (

09/26/98 Bedford, VA (37.32 N, -79.52W)
"Saw approximately thirty monarchs fly by, one every 30 seconds, and they seemed to be following the same line of flight heading S/SW." (

09/25/98 Rocky Mount, NC (35.95 N, -77.69 W)
Fourth grade students at Benvenue Elementary reported seeing four monarchs on the school playground. Another single monarch was sighted on Highway 4 between Rocky Mount and Raleigh. (

09/25/98 Unicoi, TN (36.18 N, -82.30 W)
At 2:00 pm 6-8 butterflies began to soar across the playground about 8-10 minutes apart - flying high. Their wings were not tattered looking. Flying toward Asheville, North Carolina. (

09/24/98 Smithfield, NC (35.48 N, -78.34 W)
Today finally I spotted a beautiful female monarch around our white butterfly bush in the courtyard of our school. I have not be able to detect any eggs on our milkweed yet but maybe soon now that the monarchs are coming through. Monarch sightings were very scarce this summer."

09/24/98 Sterling, VA (38.98 N, -77.45W)
In P.E. class we spotted an orange dot in the grass. When we gathered to look it was a Monarch !!! In fact, we saw three together. They flew around and up into the sky over the school. The weather was cool, sunny and a slight wind was blowing from the north. (

09/24/98 Sterling, VA (38.98 N, -77.45W)

At 10:00AM we went out for recess and spotted 5 monarch butterflies on the field behind our school. The students were able to get close enough to the butterflies to see the patterns on the wings. This is our first sighting. We are excited! (

09/23/98 Clarkesville, GA (34.68 N, -83.52W)
I sighted the first migrating Monarch of the year at our school, North Habersham Middle School. It was sunny, 85 degrees,with a wind of 15 mph and the butterfly was on flying near grass in a mowed area. When I saw that Texas had reported findings, I was worried that the Monarchs were missing us . My students will begin their watches, recording data for the project. (

Migration Builds in Central Plains States
In the Central Plains States, where the migration has been late this fall, there was finally an influx last Wednesday, September 23:

09/23/98 Lawrence, KS (39.00 N, -95.23 W)
The monarchs began to fly from the north into the Baker Wetlands near Lawrence, KS. We have a favorite collecting/tagging area near the western, center of the wetlands. This evening (23 Sept), we saw several roosts and an estimated 500 monarchs. We counted monarch butterflies in a row of elm trees that extended about 60 meters along the road. All the monarchs were roosting high in the trees on the north side of the road. The sunflowers are in full bloom; thus, the monarchs will have several days of feeding available on site. Normally, the monarchs arrive about the time the Bidens (Beggarticks) are in full bloom; however, with the unusually hot temperatures in Kansas, there has been a delay in the migration for northeastern Kansas."
Mr. Highfill's Students, Lawrence High School (

09/23/98 Shawnee, KS (39.01 N, -94.74W)
"Today we saw 6 monarchs in a one minute period of time. Winds are from the north and the butterflies are flying near our school building where they are more protected. We are so glad to finally be seeing some! We were unable to make observations due to our weather over the weekend and extending into Tuesday (9/22). We had almost 7 inches of rain so we saw no butterflies."
( )

09/27/98 Emporia, KS (38.55N, -96.17 W)
"Many Monarch butterflies in Emporia, Kansas swarming around pears that have dropped off pear trees," report students at Emporia High School (

Don Perkin's Visitor in Texas
Monarch Spends a Week in Texas

09/28/98 Seabrook, TX (29.75 N, -95.36 W)
Last week I reported one bedraggled monarch, its left wing about half gone. That little fellow stayed around all week, impossible to mistake for another with the major injury. It's kind of nice to be able to follow one butterfly by his build!
Don Perkins (

Northern Regions Watch for Last Monarchs of the Season

09/27/98 Livingston, WI (42.90 N, -90.45 W)
"We only see a few singles now. We think the end is near. We're looking for the one with 'the end' on its tail. Cory, a sixth grader, did report a large group of monarchs in his pasture Sunday. The heifers were going crazy chasing them he said." (

How Does Geography Affect Migration?
Discussion of Challenge Question #2

We challenged you to look at a map and answer this question: "Why do you think Cape May, New Jersey (38.94 N, -74.96 W) is such a good place to watch migrating monarchs?" Miss Bailey's second and third grade students at Citrus Elementary, Vero Beach, FL wrote:

"We learned that sometimes migrating monarchs will wait for a favorable wind on which they can glide to cross a body of water. This may be why so many monarchs can be seen in Cape May, NJ."

Sure enough, water and wind direction do affect the migration on Cape May. This week, Dick Walton, Director of the Monarch Migration Project reported:

"A cold front passed through Cape May early Monday morning (9/28/98) and the winds were from the north the entire day. There was a heavy in migration, resulting in our best daily totals for the season--263 monarchs per hour."

But wind direction is not the only factor. Migrating butterflies avoid flying over open water. So when they fly south from Canada and the New England States and meet the Atlantic Coast, they travel southward ALONG the coastline. As you can see from the map, Cape May is surrounded by water. So it's like the tip of a funnel, and butterflies from across the north pour through the small area.
The Value of Collecting Data Over Time
Because Dick Concord's Monarch Migration Project has been counting migrating monarchs at Cape May for 7 years, his data may tell us how low this year's monarch population actually is. He has offered to share his data with you--and this challenge:

Challenge Question #4
"Do you think the data collected so far at Cape May show there a fewer monarchs this fall than usual? Why or why not?" Include specific examples from the data to support your answer.

All data © Richard K. Walton and Lincoln P. Brower.

Visit the Cape May Monarch Migration Project
for daily update on this fall's migration!

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Try This!
1) Make a line graph using the data collected between 1992-1998. Show how many monarchs per hour were counted each week during each fall season. Use a different color of line for each year.
2) List the years in order, from strongest to weakest migration seasons.
3) To date, in which year was the monarch migration through Cape May the strongest?
4) In which year were the fewest monarchs seen?
5) Does the migration appear to peak during any particular week each year?
6) Do you think the Cape May migration data is an accurate tool for comparing monarch numbers from year to year? What factors might affect the counts, so that the monarch population might seem higher or lower than it actually is?

Special Butterflies Heading for Mexico
Monarchs have recently joined the migration, after being raised and released by:

Madoc Cub Scout Pack , Trenton, ON
Barbara Williams, Riverdale, MD
Dean S. Luce School, Canton, MA
Washington School, Richland Center, WI
Hillsboro-Deering, Hillsboro, NC
Grove Elementary, Montrose, Illinois
St. Peters School, Trenton, ON

Let us know when your monarchs are on their way!

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question
  1. Address an e-mail message to:
  2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 4
  3. In the body of the message, answer the question above.

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will be Posted on October 6, 1998.

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