Monarch Butterfly Monarch Butterfly
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Monarch Migration Update: October 4, 2002

Today's Report Includes:

Field Notes from the Monarch Sanctuary Region in Mexico
No monarchs yet, say Estella Romero and German Medina who are waiting patiently at the monarchs’ finish line. People in the area say it's been raining too much for the butterflies to approach but they believe it won't be long. Hurricanes Isidore and Lilly have even stirred up the weather in the central part of their country and the weather “certainly won't improve within the rest of the week--least of all in Angangueo, which is considered a particularly rainy location,” they say. Here’s the full report, in both English and Spanish:
The United States of Mexico: Challenge Question #6
It’s time to pull out your atlas! Soon the migration will pass through northern Mexico. Do you know the names of the Mexican states?

Challenge Question #6:
“How many Mexican states are there? Through which states do you think the monarchs will travel? (Note that the sanctuaries are located at 19 N, -100 W.)”

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Highlights Along the Migration Trail

Migration reports arrived this week from points across the monarch’s eastern range. People in the north say they’re surprised to see monarchs this late, those as far south as Texas say numbers are beginning to build. Here are some of the week’s highlights:

0/29/02 Willington, CT
Chris Higley of Willington, CT shared an AMAZING monarch story. She tagged 38 butterflies last Tuesday and sent them on their way. Sunday, while on a picnic with her family 50 miles from home, what do you suppose they found?!

09/29/02 Point Pelee, ON
"There was a massive migration of Monarchs in progress at Point Pelee, with hundreds leaving the tip of the peninsula on a constant basis." Point Pelee is a sand spit stretching 10 km into Lake Erie and is world famous for its seasonal migrations of birds and monarch butterflies.

09/30/02 LaGrange, KY
"Monarch sightings have been very slow this fall. Today my class made symbolic monarchs and when we went outdoors for our recess time, we watched a monarch butterfly for about 15 minutes. It used our butterfly garden and fluttered about the school campus before going over the roof of our building and out of sight!"

10/02/02 Decatur, GA
“Today my Nature Club kids and I saw the first monarch butterfly we have seen in the three years we have been participating in Journey North. It was feeding on a zinnia in our community garden and then flew on to feed on some Mexican sunflowers. Today we started our session on migrations and what a surprise! We had almost given up hope!”

What Does Migration Look Like?
An Observation of Soaring Flight

Monarchs riding in a thermal
Angangueo, Mexico

On Sunday in Maryland, a bald eagle and a red-shouldered hawk were riding the rising air currents of a thermal while Rudy Benavides watched. In the same thermal, a monarch butterfly caught his eye. He watched it rise silently and effortlessly, higher and higher, until out of sight.

“What really surprised me was that as long as I watched it, it never once flapped its wings,” he observed. “It just soared, and after awhile, went completely out of sight.”

Adaptations to a World in Which Warm Air Rises

Heated (red) molecules rise above cool, slow, more dense (blue) molecules. Thermals form when hot or sunny ground is near cool water or shady ground.

An "adaptation" is a physical or behavioral feature that evolved in response to an organism's environment, due to pressures for survival. How a species looks (its anatomy), as well as how it behaves (how it moves, obtains food, reproduces, responds to danger, etc.) are examples of adaptations.

When we think about animals' adaptations, we sometimes overlook the invisible forces upon them. Can you find ways monarch butterflies and bald eagles are similarly adapted to the fact that warm air rises?

  • Draw and compare the silhouette of a monarch butterfly and a bald eagle. What adaptations do they both have for soaring flight?
  • How does their anatomy compare to that of a hummingbird, a bird famous for its powered flight? (One biologist speculates that powered flight uses twenty times more energy than soaring flight, in eagles!)

Up, Up and Away: Thermals and Updrafts
Imagine being able to float in the sky, circling higher and higher, into the clouds, held up by nothing more than rising air. Here is information about thermals, and some activities you can do:

Photo by Laura Erickson

Photo by Laura Erickson

These feathers are hanging
above a cold stove

These feathers are hanging
above a hot stove

Migration is Not for Babies
Discussion of Challenge Question #5

Last week we asked, "How would you explain to a person who's new to tracking monarch migration why it's impossible to see a baby monarch migrating?”

Bobby Pogoloff's second and third grade class in Crested Butte, Colorado say they’re following the migration closely:

“We haven't seen many Monarchs because we are too high (9,00ft) for milkweed, but many valleys just below us have it so we are very excited,“ they said. “We thought about how to explain the impossibility of a baby monarch migrating and here are some of our answers:

  • Jackson M., Ayla C., Marissa L. and Cal F. noticed that a baby monarch is a caterpillar and it would not be able to migrate very far onthose short legs.
  • Olivia B., Morgan O., Billy F., Alex A., and Ali S. noticed that a baby monarch has no wings so it is unable to fly.
  • Mikayla says there is no such thing as a baby monarch that can fly.

Mrs. Lodge's Science classes in Hebron, Connecticut raised and released 7 monarchs this fall:

“From our studies of the life cycle, we learned that the butterfly is the adult stage of the monarch's life, so it is impossible to see a baby monarch migrating,” they concluded.

“It is impossible to see baby monarchs migrating because a baby monarch is a caterpillar and they don't migrate,” added Miss Bischof's first grade class in Cleveland, Ohio.

Symbolic Migration Reminder: Deadline is October 11

The countdown continues, with only 7 more butterfly-making days until the October 11th postmark deadline.

Buy Your Butterfly a Tourist’s Ticket!
When you send your symbolic butterflies, please enclose a donation to support monarch conservation at the overwintering sites. Pictured here are real entrance tickets for visiting the Sierra Chincua sanctuary. It costs 10 pesos for a child to visit, and 15 pesos for an adult.

UCC Currency Converter 
Check the current exchange rate for Mexican pesos

magine buying a ticket for your symbolic butterfly’s winter-long visit. This financial support would help give real butterflies a safe place to spend the winter.

Challenge Question #7:
“How much does it cost to visit the sanctuary, in your own country’s currency? With your answer, compare this to the cost of going to a movie.”

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line write: Challenge Question #6 (or #7)
3. In the body of the message, answer the question above.

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on October 11, 2002.


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