Monarch Butterfly Monarch Butterfly
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Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: September 26, 2003

Today’s Update Includes:

Highlights From the Migration Trail

Click Map to Read Highlights Along the Migration Trail

Migration reports arrived this week from points across the monarch's range. Migrating monarchs are now traveling across the land, from Canada all the way into Mexico. As monarchs continue to come down from the north, they'll funnel through Texas and beyond. We're still waiting for the first big push into Texas which should occur next week.

This map shows all reports received to date. Because it's questioned whether early (August to mid-September) sightings at southern latitudes are truly migratory butterflies, it's hard to know whether to include them on the migration map. For the record, all reports received to date are shown here.

Bienvenidas a Mexico!
Las primeras monarcas han cruzado la frontera

The first monarchs have crossed the border into Mexico! If you can't read Spanish, it's time to find a friend who can. The news arrived from Senora Rocio Trevino, founder of "Correo Real" (Royal Mail), a school-based program that tracks the migration in Mexico.

Septiembre 22
“Empiezan a llegar las primeras monarcas a México. Después de tres días de lluvia y nublados, salió el sol y vi a cuatro mariposas Monarca en dos horas.”
Ing. Juan Gpe. Garza Menchaca
Piedras Negras, Coahuila

Challenge Question #7:
"Can you translate the message from the Mexican state of Coahuila? How many monarchs per hour did the observer count? (For those who don't speak Spanish, this web-based translator is helpful: )”

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

Watching and Waiting at the Mexican Sanctuaries

Can you find the monarch sanctuary nearest to each school?

Like spectators at the finish line of a long marathon, students at two sanctuary area schools are watching the skies daily, waiting for the monarchs to arrive.

German Medina, who coordinates the Symbolic Migration there, is sending their weekly reports by FAX. This week came a big surprise: Three butterflies have now been spotted, by students who live high in the mountains near the Sierra Chincua sanctuary. Now what do you make of that? Do you think this is possible? The first migrants are said to arrive in mid-October. Discuss this with your class. Next week we'll share Dr. Bill Calvert's thoughts for you to compare with your own.

Monarchs riding in a thermal.
Angangueo, Mexico

Free Ride to Mexico--Glide Don't Flap
Discussion of Challenge Question #4

According to research by Dr. David Gibo, a monarch could either soar for over 1,000 hours or flap for only 44 using the same 140 mg of fat. Challenge Question #4 asked, "How many times more energy is burned during flapping flight than during soaring/gliding flight?"

Simple math reveals that more than 22 times more energy is needed to flap than to glide. Let’s take a closer look at flapping flight and see why it burns so much energy.

Flapping Flight: A Look at Flight in Slow Motion
Here’s a video clip of monarch flight in slow motion. The action is slowed down 50 times, to only 2% normal speed. In other words, each moment lasts fifty times longer than it did in reality. This means that the half second of monarch flight recorded here is stretched out to last 25 seconds.
FlightPowered10 FlightPowered11 FlightPowered12
Links to Video Clip and Still Images

During “powered” or “flapping” flight, monarchs flap their wings about 5 to 12 times a second, depending on how hard they’re trying to move. They flap at the slower rate when flying leisurely, such as during migration. The faster rate is needed when flying into a strong headwind, or when trying to escape from a predator, for example.

  • How many times does the monarch flap in the half second video? Count the number of full strokes the butterfly takes.
  • Do you think it was flying leisurely—or trying to get away from the photographer?
  • When watching slow motion flight, what do you see that you’ve never noticed before? Record all the new things that you see.

Challenge Question #8
“If a monarch flaps its wings 5 to 12 times per second, how many times per minute does it flap? How many times can you flap your arms in a minute? (Try it, and let us know.)”

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

Video Clips and the Scientific Process
Observation is the first step in the scientific process. Video clips provide an opportunity for students to make authentic scientific observations. Here are some suggestions for viewing video clips as a scientist:

Migration is Not for Babies
Discussion of Challenge Question #6

When people reported baby monarchs migrating last week, we knew there was a problem. So did Kentucky students Alante and Jacob in Mrs. McKinley's class, and they can explain why:

“We have raised monarchs in our classroom, and we can tell you from our observations, there isn't a ‘baby’ or child butterfly stage once the monarch emerges from its chrysalis.” The students explained that a monarch goes from egg to larvae to chrysalis. “After 10 days, a monarch butterfly emerges, fully grown, NOT A BABY! It is an ‘adult’ butterfly, ready to begin the cycle all over again.”

“Those smaller butterflies must be another species,” added Mrs. Brohammer's class in Georgia.

Monarch Life Cycle

Reminder: Symbolic Migration Deadline--October 14
Only 18 more butterfly-making days before the Symbolic Migration deadline. Don't be late! Butterflies received after the postmarked deadline cannot migrate. (See Details)
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How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question
1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of the message write: Challenge Question #7 (or #8).
3. In the body of the message, answer the question above.

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on October 3, 2003.

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