Monarch Migration Update: May 13, 2010
Please Report
Your Sightings!

Freezing temperatures swept across the north this week and held the migration back, but kids caught monarchs moving into new territory on Monday. A different species of butterfly was also migrating in large numbers. Can you distinguish a monarch from a look-alike butterfly?

This Week's Update Includes:

Image of the Week

Seeing Monarchs?

News: Kids Catch Monarchs Moving into Indiana

"Miss McDonnel, your butterfly is here!" The first graders were out for recess when they spotted it. They ran inside to announce the monarch's arrival at Arlington Elementary in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The same afternoon—about 25 miles away—students at St. Ambrose Elementary discovered their surprise: “A bright, beautiful monarch visited our milkweed garden this afternoon,” wrote Ms. Cole from Marleville. "We will be checking for eggs."

The very next day—and within 60 miles— two more Indiana observers spotted their first-of-the-year monarchs. Clearly, a wave of migration spread across Indiana this week and our observers caught it.

Where did the monarchs come from?
Although we can’t know for sure, the butterflies in Indiana probably came from Texas and had traveled at least 700 miles since they were born. By the end of May, few people will see monarchs in Texas and other southern states. Butterflies born in the south are heading northward, where summer temperatures will be cooler and robust milkweed fields await them.

  • What will happen next? In which new states and provinces will the migration enter this weekend, when temperatures warm up? Let's see!

Small Monarchs—or Red Admiral Butterflies?
Suddenly last week, over a dozen people reported butterflies they thought were monarchs. However, when people described them as "small monarchs" and sent pictures, we realized that a massive migration of red admiral butterflies was underway.

In Canada's capital of Ottawa, butterfly expert Ross Layberry said he had not seen a red admiral migration like this in eastern Ontario in 25 years, since May 1985. "Hundreds, probably even thousands, were noted every day by several observers in the Ottawa area - and they were still going strong in many areas today!" he wrote.

Did you know?

  • Red admirals can hibernate as adult butterflies.
  • One of the red admiral's host plants is the stinging nettle.
  • You can track the migration patterns of red admiral butterflies and related species on this research website.

Hot and Cold
Cold temperatures moved across the north this week and kept the monarchs from advancing northward.

Photo: Michael Lanty

Getting Ready to Leave
This picture was taken on May 3rd near San Angelo, Texas. Few people will see monarchs in Texas after the month of May. Butterflies born in the south will head northward.


The Red Admiral
This butterfly is migrating now, too.

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: Do You Know a Monarch When You See One?

Slideshow and Teaching Suggestions
Every spring and fall we rely on hundreds of observers to track the monarch's migration. These observers expand the eyes and ears of scientists in ways not possible before the Internet. But observations must be accurate in order for the data to be valid and useful. Can you identify a monarch from its look-alikes?

Students draw a scientific illustration of a monarch butterfly, compare and contrast two butterfly species, and discover key words and concepts related to butterfly identification.


Teaching Suggestions

Assessment Tools: Showcase Student Learning

The monarch spring migration wraps up in June. As the end of the school year approaches, think about a culmination project or presentation to wrap up your Monarch Migration unit. Have students create a product that showcases concepts learned and skills attained.


Send samples of student work to showcase on Journey North.

Contact us

Year-end Evaluation: Please Share Your Thoughts

Please 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 20, 2010.