Monarch Butterfly  Migration

Migration News: September 8, 2006

The migration to Mexico is underway! Here is the news from the migration trail:

A monarch refueling in Thetford, Vermont. How many more miles must this monarch travel?

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Highlights from the Migration Trail

The Migration to Mexico is Underway!
Fall weather continues to factor in to the monarch’s migration plans. As reported this week, winds out of the south put the migration on hold, but when they later blew from the north the monarch’s behavior changed. Watch the weather and predict what will happen next.

9/6/06 Bath, NY ( 42.35N, -77.34W)
It was one of the most magnificent things I have ever seen. We were watching a storm come in from the north. We noticed several monarchs flying and as we looked higher there were billions of them. It was a beautiful site… There were billions of them traveling the same wide path, following each other... it lasted for some time. Neither I, nor anyone I know have experienced anything like it.

8/26/06 Rochester, NY(43.17 N, -83.77W)
Counting a massive Cedar Waxwing flight in Rochester, NY, approximately 15,820 Cedar Waxwings moved through the area, but I did make an attempt to count the Monarchs as there were thousands moving that day also. I estimate over 20,000 Monarchs moved through; at any given time I could do a 360 degree scan and count 300+ Monarchs.

The migration may have already peaked across eastern Canada:

8/22/06 Thorton, ON (44.16 N, -79.43W)
This was the last day that I saw monarchs roosting in my maples. The week before was cooler than normal with winds out of the east and southeast. The butterflies changed their roosts to the north sides of the trees still choosing lower branches and clustering in groups of 10 to 200. When the wind returned to its usual west, north-west direction, the butterflies were gone. On Tues. Sept 5th there was a solitary butterfly around 6:30 pm, searching the regular roost sites, almost landing then moving on.

Reports from the Midwest show the migration is picking up:

9/3/06 Algona, IA (43.06 N, -83.77W)
Today, I have been sitting on the deck and watching Monarchs flying south, one about every 30 seconds to 1 minute.

9/3/06 Ada, OH (40.78 N, -83.77W)
There are literally THOUSANDS of Monarchs in a variety of trees in my aunt's orchard! They are beautiful! I first thought they were bats because they are so numerous. What an AMAZING sight to see!

8/25/06 Chicago, IL (41.88 N, -87.62W)
In downtown Chicago, I witnessed a large Monarch working its way south through the canyons of buildings at the 7th floor level. Throughout the entire weekend I witnessed a few hundred more, all individual sightings, meandering relentlessly through the concrete jungle. It was thrilling and inspiring.

9/3/06 Hannibal, MO (41.78 N, -92.10W)
Must have been 50+ monarchs, also noticed several through out the town and along the roadways- way more than I've seen in IA. They were nectaring on anything yellow and drinking water & sunning themselves on the brick of the splashing fountain. What are the chances that they migrate south via the Mississippi River, following all the tributaries that dump into the MS River?

9/3/06 Lyons, NE (41.96 N, -96.45W)
As of today, 9-5-06 they are still at our farm and we estimate them to number several thousands. They roost in the cedar trees and pine trees at night and when they get warmed up in the morning they fly. They have come to this farm for many years but this is the first time we have noticed so many.

9/4/06 Shawno, WI (44.79 N, -88.62W)
On Monday, September 4th, my wife and I spent 5 hours tagging monarchs. They were more plentiful, but not at peak migration yet. We walked a lot of miles up and down a large field of clover and alfalfa. The monarchs were all over, and we hardly had to walk at all. At one time I had 3 monarchs in my net waiting to be tagged. It looks like the migration in this area of Wisconsin is starting to heat up. It is about 1 week later than the past 5 years. We are going to have a cold snap this weekend (temps in the 60s) so it will be interesting to see what happens to the migration.

Let’s keep watching to see if the migration in the middle of the continent is later than normal this year as the reporter from Shawano, WI suggests. What’s happening in YOUR neighborhood?

What does monarch migration look like?

Take some time, have some patience, and GO OUT LOOKING! With just 2 hours we set out to look for them and came upon a field full aglow with sunflowers in Thetford, Vermont…

Here's how you can watch monarch migration:

We went out in search of something beautiful this afternoon and look what we found!

Silent monarchs nectaring for the long migration ahead.

Which Way to Mexico?

Right now, monarchs are marching down the map toward their winter home in Mexico. But how do they know which way to fly? What are your ideas?

Think about the problem for a minute: Monarchs must fly in different directions to get to the same place. For example, a monarch in North Dakota can fly due south but one in Maine must travel south and west.

  • Click on the map to the right. Consider what would happen if monarchs everywhere flew directly south! (Where would a monarch from your state end up?)

"The means by which monarchs navigate has mystified monarch researchers for over half a century and it remains one of the most intriguing questions of monarch biology," says monarch scientist Dr. Bill Calvert.

  • Discover what other scientists say. As you read their thoughts, underline all the factors that scientists currently think or once thought influence monarch migration. What questions do scientists still have? What questions do you have? >>

Flying in different directions to reach the same place.

Fly Like a Butterfly!
A monarch can fly all the way to Mexico from your hometown. What does the landscape look like along the migration trail?
See for yourself using GoogleMaps. It's like flying! >>

Teachers' Guide

The suggestions in this guide are provided to help teachers integrate Journey North's real-time program in the classroom.


The Next Monarch Butterfly Migration Update will be posted on September 15, 2006

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