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Monarch Butterfly Update: May 3, 2012
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Your Sightings!
Report Your Sightings
What a week! Sightings lit up the migration map producing our biggest count of the season. With wings to the wind, butterflies flew swiftly into new territory. This week, look closely at the wings that carry monarchs so many miles. Discover how drawing and descriptive writing can enhance scientific observation.

This Week's Update Includes:

Image of the Week
Magnified monarch butterfly wing
Photo: Raul Gonzalez
Magnified Wing
News: Whoosh!
South winds sent the monarchs sailing across the Midwest this week. A strong pulse pushed into South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Sixty people reported their first monarchs this week. That's double the number reported two weeks ago. The new generation is out in full force.

"We saw our first Monarch at recess today! It flew right over our playground!" came the report from Indiana's Orchard View Elementary.

One Iowa observer saw his first monarch, followed by seven more, and 11 the next day!

"We saw a monarch butterfly swoop down in the middle of our playground. We all rushed after it! We think it was looking for milkweed," said 2nd grade students in Falls Church, Virginia.

Numbers Up
The number of monarchs people are reporting is also noteworthy. Many are seeing multiple monarchs the same day they see their first.

"This is a spring like no other," says Dr. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch. "Conditions have been consistently excellent for monarch reproduction for 6 weeks. Everything indicates that monarchs will rebound this year."

Only a Wing
Monarch biologist Dr. Lincoln Brower was visiting Iowa as the wave of monarchs moved in. He didn't see a monarch but he found a monarch wing.

"The wing was of a fresh male, and was found in grass in the prairie. There is no doubt that this monarch was snatched by a bird. The habitat adjacent to the prairie is a haven for birds. The fact that the wing was fresh indicates that it was born, likely in Texas, a week or so earlier."

Watch the Wings
A massive migration of red admiral butterflies has been underway for several weeks. People are seeing the small butterflies in "uncountable numbers." Be careful not to misidentify red admirals as monarchs. Both species are the same colors, but notice the differences in their wing patterns.

Monarchs Suddenly in the Southwest?
Notice how many sightings have appeared in Arizona during the past week. Why the sudden increase? Are more people simply reporting—or is there an outbreak of monarchs?

Monarch butterfly wings: wing-size and migration

Wings and Migration

Image: Andrew K. Davis
 
Monarch Butterfly Migration Map
What a week!
 
South Winds carried the monarchs into new territory.
South Winds
 
 
Watch the Wings
Sandra Mendoza Besler
 
Southwest Monarchs

Southwest Monarchs

Student Spotlight: Growing Milkweed in New Jersey
Students in Mary Lenahan's fourth grade class at Leeds Avenue School in Pleasantville, New Jersey are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first spring monarch. Their milkweed grew more than 10 inches in 10 days. "We will use the data to graph the milkweed's progress!"

Students in milkweed garden in New Jersey'
Slideshow: Butterfly Wings
Monarch wings are strong. They can carry a monarch over a thousand of miles. But life is tough for a butterfly. Wings that begin as fresh as a flower, become faded, tattered, and torn over time. The activities for this slideshow will strengthen students' observation skills as they explore this essential question:

Essential Question
How can descriptive writing and drawing enhance scientific observation?

Butterfly Wings
Slideshow

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: Pre-writing attribute chart
Journal
First Monarch
(map | animation | sightings)
First Milkweed
(map | animation | sightings)
 
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Journey North Annual Evaluation
The next monarch migration update will be posted on May 10, 2012.
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