Monarch Migration Update: April 29, 2010
Please Report
Your Sightings!

It's the end of April and a time of anticipation. Why are observers watching butterfly wings closely? What information will the wings reveal? Also this week, find out what historical maps say about this spring's migration.

This Week's Update Includes:

Image of the Week

Photo: Raul Gonzalez

Magnified monarch wing!

News: Signs of the First Spring Generation?

A female monarch in Pretty Prairie, Kansas, was visiting lilacs and dandelions. "She didn't appear too travel-worn. Could she be a first generation butterfly?" Mr. Conkling wondered.

A butterfly was feeding in a backyard in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. "The monarch was a healthy adult with no tattered wings. I don't believe it's a returning monarch, but one of the first spring generation," said Ms. Hawkins.

Is the new generation here? Signs to watch for:

  1. Fresh-winged butterflies are young butterflies, and probably of the first spring generation.
  2. An increase in monarch numbers occurs when a new generation appears. An observer in San Antonio, Texas, saw two monarchs at once on Sunday. Multiple sightings like this could indicate an increase.
  3. The timing is right. It takes about a month—and a little longer in cool temperatures—for a monarch generation to develop. The monarchs from Mexico entered Texas over a month ago, so their offspring should appear any day.

Watch the Map: South winds are a-blowing!
Strong winds surged out of Texas on Wednesday and a northerly flow is predicted for six days. Conditions like these can set monarchs sailing to the milkweed fields of the north. In past years a few far-flung monarchs have even reached Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota by the end of April. Let's see if the migration expands substantially during the windy week ahead. Here's hoping the map will light up with monarchs!

Compare the Years, Predict the Future
Where should we expect the migration to be, based on historical records? Take a look at these snapshots of spring migration over the past four years. Each map shows how far the migration had spread by the 25th of April. Dr. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch says this spring's 'geographical footprint' of the monarchs returning from Mexico is the smallest in the last 11 years. What information do these maps reveal to you?


Photo: Elizabeth Howard

Some questions to ask as you look at butterfly wings.

Learn how to read the colors and symbols on a wind map.


Compare the Years, Predict the Future.

The Migration: Maps and Journal Page 



This year's small monarch population means spring sightings are especially important. Please help us document when and where monarchs and milkweed appear this spring.

Explore: Butterfly Wings: What Can You Learn by Looking Closely?
Slideshow and Teaching Suggestions

Monarch wings are strong. They can carry a monarch over a thousand miles. They can last over a hundred years in a museum. However, life can be tough for a butterfly. Wings that begin as fresh as a flower become faded, tattered, and torn over time. You can learn a lot about a butterfly by looking closely at its wings. Take a look!

Explore the science and wonder of monarch butterfly wings through informative and expressive drawing and writing. Use images from the Photo Gallery of monarch butterfly wings to invite students to share their discoveries.

Why Don't We Have a Billion Butterflies?

Year-end Evaluation: Please Share Your Thoughts

Will you take a few minutes to complete our Year-end Evaluation? With your help, we can we document Journey North's reach, impact and value. We need comments like yours to keep the program going and growing.

More Monarch Lessons and Teaching Ideas!

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on May 6, 2010.