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Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: November 11, 2005

Today’s Update Includes:

Latest Migration Maps
Make Your Own Map in the classroom!

Migration Sightings
Sightings of Overnight Roosts PEAK
Migration Sightings
Click for live maps and read what each observer saw! Also See
Week-by-week Migration Animation

Mass Arrival at the Sanctuaries Last Saturday
As thousands upon thousands of butterflies reached the El Rosairo sanctuary last Saturday, Dr. Carlos Galindo-Leal snapped the spectacular image below.

“Ontario! Ohio! Quebec! Minnesota! Maryland! Michigan!” we would hear, if each butterfly could name its home state or province as it completed the long migration.

How many monarchs can you count in this single patch of sky? Maybe your own butterfly is pictured here! Or one that you saw flying overhead during migration.

Click photos to see huge images!
Photos courtesy of Carlos Galindo-Leal, World Wildlife Fund-México
  How Many Monarchs in a Single Photo? (Let's Estimate!)

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
There is much to learn by looking closely at a single photo. What do you notice? What do you wonder? Dr. Lincoln Brower has been studying monarchs for over 50 years. Here’s what he saw, and what he wondered:

“You can see monarchs dotting the sky in lines...I have seen this before.....I am convinced they follow each other during the fall migration.....How they do this is a grand question......,” Dr. Brower wrote. His writing trailed off the way his mind follows questions about monarch butterflies.

Here are Estela Romero’s parting words:

Will My Butterfly Be OK? Exploring Over-wintering Habitat in Mexico
Why do the monarchs migrate to this region in Mexico? What is so special about it?

When Journey North begins again next February, we’ll take a close look at the monarch’s over-wintering habitat, and how the butterflies are able to survive there.

Meanwhile, explore these maps and pictures. Consider the key components of habitat: Food, water, shelter and space. Make a class list with a column for each habitat component. Record all of the questions your class has about the monarch’s winter habitat. Try to answer your own questions, and form theories as to how the monarchs are adapted to survive.

  • Send your questions to us and we'll try to answer them next February! (click here)
The monarch's winter refuge is located deep in central Mexico in a mountain range called the "Transvolcanic Belt." (Click on map to enlarge.)

The monarch sanctuaries are found only at high elevations, where the oyamel fir forest grows. Note how little oyamel forest habitat exists in Mexico. (Shown in black on map.)

Volcanic mountains in the monarch sanctuary region rise to high elevations. The mountain town of Angangueo is pictured here.


 Monarchs cluster by the millions on the trucks and branches of "oyamel" fir trees. They rarely, if ever, eat during their five-month stay in Mexico.

Try This! Monitor the Climate of the Over-wintering Region 

Frost, dew, sunlight, shade, temperature, moisture, elevation, and exposure are key variables in the climate of the monarch’s unique winter habitat.

To prepare for this winter’s study:

  • Predict the weather conditions you’d expect to find at the overwintering sanctuaries.
  • Then look at the actual weather data from the region.
  • Once each month, record your predictions and the actual data each month on this chart. (html ) (doc)

Today's Weather
Link to Forecast for Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico

Data Sheet
for recording predictions and actual weather
(html ) (doc)

Just For Teachers: Suggestions for Assessment
Now that the fall monarch migration is drawing to a close, it's a good time for students to reflect on what they have learned during the journey. The following activities and journal pages will help you assess how your students' understanding has grown.

The Geography of Monarch Migration

Illustrate the monarch's incredible journey!

  • Show the path the monarchs take from your hometown to their winter home in Mexico.
  • Name and label the states and provinces they pass through.
  • Mark the best places to watch this fall’s migration.

Follow the checklist as you add these and other features to your map.

Checklist Map
Illustrate the monarch's incredible journey!

Traveling With a Monarch: Tell the Story of Fall Migration
As you've traveled with monarchs on their 2,500-mile journey, you've surely learned a lot along the way. Use your new understanding to tell the story of this amazing survival tale.

Ways to Tell the Story:

  • Write and illustrate a book.
  • Make a "travel brochure."
  • Create a poster or display.
  • Develop a lesson to teach younger kids.

Here's a checklist for your project...and a map you can draw on.

Checklist Map

Habitat and Migration
This fall, we've watched as millions of monarch butterflies left their breeding grounds in the north and traveled across the continent. They had to fly up to 2,500 miles to a winter home in Mexico in order to survive. What did you learn about habitat and migration?


Habitat is the place where all of an organism’s needs for life are met.

Food, water, shelter and space are parts of an organism’s habitat.

What did you learn about habitat and migration?

Breeding Habitat
How has habitat changed?

Fall Migration Habitat
What do monarchs need?

See You When Journey North Begins Next February!
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 weekly updates from the monarch sanctuaries beginning Friday, February 4, 2006.

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


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