Monarch Butterfly Update: April 19, 2012
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People are now seeing fresh-winged butterflies of the new generation. Meanwhile, the remaining monarchs from Mexico continue to travel and lay eggs. How many eggs can one monarch lay? See what a daily count reveals. If you're looking for an Earth Day project, support monarch habitat. They depend on it!

This Week's Update Includes:

Image of the Week
Monarch Butterfly
Chuck Patterson

Fresh Wings in Texas

News: Eggs in April—in New York!
According to our observers, the migration entered three new states this week, Indiana, Nebraska and even New York. We were amazed by Ms. McQuistion's report of an early monarch in New York. She even provided a picture to document her discovery:

"A faded female deposited eggs on the milkweed plants that are just coming up."

Assuming the monarch came from Mexico this spring, she flew more than 2,000 miles to this tiny plant where she laid her tiny eggs. She probably caught a free ride on the strong south winds that accompanied the warm air mass in the east this week.

A Massive Migration!
The same south winds brought a massive influx of immigrant butterflies all the way into Ontario, Canada. People reported hundreds and hundreds of orange and black butterflies. Most were red admiral butterflies. Like monarchs, they winter in the south and migrate north in the spring. Alan Wormington of Point Pelee National Park in Ontario tried to count them:

"I conservatively estimated 4000 for the park, but there could just as easily have been 10 times that many. It would be interesting to know the core source for these massive numbers of Red Admirals. I suspect it is probably the AR/LA area and adjacent sections of TX."

Counting Eggs
Observers were astonished to discover how many eggs monarchs were laying:

"I had just found my first egg, and was counting to see how many I had, when a monarch appeared. She laid 2 more eggs right in front of me. That brought the total to 14, with each egg on a separate plant." Carbondale IL

In Tennessee, seventh graders Rachel and Gwen collected the 16 eggs they found. They were worried how frost might affect the eggs. According to Dr. Lincoln Brower, killing frost is a risk for monarchs in springtime: "When monarch eggs hatch on damaged plants, the larvae can die of starvation."

Monarch eggs on milkweed in New York in April 2012
Judith McQuistion
Eggs in New York!
Question Mark Butterflies
Alan Wormington
Drinking Maple Sap

Counting monarch butterfly eggs
Tonya Van Hook
Counting Eggs

Monarch Math: How Many Eggs Can a Monarch Lay?
A monarch lays eggs in your garden. What happens next? Dr. Jim Edson of the University of Arkansas conducted an experiment. He found a female monarch one March and brought her into his lab. He gave her plenty of milkweed. Each day, he counted the number of eggs that she laid. After a monarch begins to lay eggs, she only lives a few weeks. Use the graph of Dr. Edson's data to explore:

Essential Question
How many eggs can a monarch lay during the remaining days of her life?

  • How many eggs did Dr. Edson's monarch lay?
  • What do the data reveal about what's happening to monarchs right now?


Graph: Monarch butterfly eggs: How many eggs can one monarch butterfly lay?

Conservation: Earth Day and Monarch Habitat
Support Wintering Habitat in Mexico
In honor of Earth Day, Dr. Karen Oberhauser asks Journey North participants to consider support for monarch habitat in Mexico. Just $10 buys 100 seedlings for a community or school-run tree nursery!

"For the last 16 years I have been involved with the Monarch Butterfly Fund. Building our network of supporters will allow us to continue our efforts helping the forests that host monarchs."

Support monarch butterfly conservation in Mexico: Monarch Butterfly Fund

Support Winter Habitat

Support Breeding Habitat at Home
If you're helping monarchs by providing habitat on the breeding grounds, post a picture to the habitat map.


(map/list of sites)
Milkweed: Spring 2011 vs. Spring 2012 Students Receive Symbolic Monarchs in Mexico
Ms. Scadron's 2nd grade class has a school butterfly garden at Waples Mill School.
Children's Garden at First United Methodist Church, at the Emerald Coast Center for Seniors.

Students at Churchill Road ES made a monarch sanctuary in their classroom, complete with an Oyamel tree and monarchs migrating across the ceiling.
The Migration: Maps and Journal Page
Let's find out when and where monarchs and milkweed appear this spring.
Monarch Butterfly Winter Sightings Map of milkweed emergence: Spring 2011 Worksheet: Journal Page
First Monarch
(map | animation | sightings)
First Milkweed
(map | animation | sightings)
The next monarch migration update will be posted on April 26, 2012.