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FINAL Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: November 7, 2003

Today’s Update Includes:

Click Map to Read Highlights Along the Migration Trail

Highlights From the Migration Trail
As the curtain closes on this fall’s migration, monarchs are still migrating to Mexico from points far and wide. During the last week, monarchs were reported from 67 different locales, in these 14 states and provinces: Ontario, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi--and many, many reports from Texas. Find them on a map, and picture the migration flowing toward Mexico, like tail end of a 2 month-long parade.

Noticias del avance de la migración en México
In her update today, Rocio Treviño says monarchs also continue to be seen in northeast Mexico, even though the first butterflies are arriving at the sanctuaries. She received reports this week from Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Querétaro.

With peak migration passed, Rocio said that the local children and teens who will be participating in the Symbolic Migration are now waiting for the paper butterflies to arrive. They plan to take special care of the Symbolic Monarchs for the entire winter, she said, and send them back north in March.

Sanctuary Trees Beginning to Fill With Butterflies!
German Medina drove his truck up to the two sanctuaries surrounding his home town of Angangueo to collect the latest news. To date, he reports, there are now 90 trees full of butterflies in the El Rosario Sanctuary, and 150 trees full in the Sierra Chincua. Here are his words:

"En el Santuario el Rosario en le lugar a un lado del 'Carrisal' hay 90 arboles de mariposas y en la Sierra Chincua hay 150 (50 arboles en 'La Moneda' y 100 arboles en 'Lllano del Toro')."



Students Near Sanctuaries Now Counting Hundreds Per Minute
German asked the students to do 5 minute counts each day to monitor the pace of the monarchs’ arrival. Look how many butterflies were counted by students this week! It’s exciting to see the counts rise as more and more butterflies reach the end of their long journey.
Why Migrate to Mexico?
"My class would like to know why the monarch butterfly migrates to Mexico every year instead of some place else," wrote a student from Seagate Elementary School in Florida last week.

Millions of butterfly wings sound like soft rain. Listen...
(Video clip)

The Oyamel Forest Grows in Only a Few Places
Map: Lincoln Brower, Sweet Briar College

Why do you think the scientific name of the oyamel fir is Abies religiosa?

What a great question! Scientists have been asking this question ever since the overwintering region in Mexico was discovered.

First, it’s important to state that monarchs can be found in southern Florida every winter. (This population is not migratory.) And, some monarchs do appear to overwinter successfully along the Gulf Coast during warm winters. However, killing frosts during most years make this strategy a losing prospect.

  • So why do the monarchs go to Mexico, and why to this particular region?

Monarch butterfly overwintering colonies are found in Mexico's oyamel fir forest. The butterflies gather by the millions in tight colonies on the trunks and branches of the oyamel fir. The map on the right shows how little oyamel fir forest there is in Mexico. (It is labeled “bosque de oyamel” in the key.) When Journey North begins again next February we’ll learn about this unique habitat in depth. For now, discuss this question with your class:

Discussion Question
Why would a cool--but not freezing--forest be the perfect place for butterflies to live out the winter months?

Inquiry Strategy Spotlight: Supporting Productive Discussions
Discussing ideas, data, "ahas," and possible explanations is vital to inquiry-based learning and it reflects the way scientists work. Group discussions build community and allow students to explore ideas, clarify their thinking, consider different theories, challenge one another's views, and defend their assertions. As they do so, they begin to build coherent, shared understandings about data and concepts. Here are helpful strategies for teachers:

Monarchs and Microclimate
Integrating Meteorology and Journey North

Get your weather station ready! When Journey North starts in February, we’ll explore the key climatic factors that can mean life and death for monarchs in Mexico. Frost, dew, sunlight, shade, temperature, moisture, elevation and exposure are key variables in the monarch’s unique winter habitat. For a working understanding of these phenomena, make daily weather observations:

What is a Microclimate?
A “ microclimate” is the climate of a small, localized area in which the climate differs from the general climate due to the unique amounts of sunlight, wind and moisture this localized area receives.

See You Next February When Journey North Begins!
Thank you for helping to track the monarch migration this fall. We hope you'll be back next spring to track the northward migration, as you welcome the butterflies' return to your home town. Watch for the first weekly update from the monarch sanctuaries on Friday, February 6, 2004.

This is the FINAL Fall Monarch Migration Update. See You in February


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