Monarch Butterfly Update: May 10, 2012
Please Report
Your Sightings!
Report Your Sightings
"Very early!" "Way early!" "Ridiculously early!" This week's most commonly used word was early as weather conditions continued to deliver an early migration. Celebrate the monarch's arrival with free verse poetry. Look closely at caterpillar stripes in this week's slideshow.

This Week's Update Includes:

Image of the Week
Monarch Butterfly Larva
Stripes are a Clue
Image: Chuck Patterson

News: Record-breaking Butterflies
Surge in Sightings
The migration continued to surge northward during the past week. A warm front set the butterflies sailing on the first of May. Since that day, more than 200 people have reported their first monarch. That's 30% of this spring's total sightings. This graph shows how the sightings surged when the warm front hit. The temperature map depicts conditions on peak migration day, May 3rd. Warm air reached all the way to southern Canada.

Wave of Arrival
The monarchs hit the northern latitudes like a wave 1,000 miles wide, from South Dakota to New York. Our northernmost monarch has now reached latitude 46N. Many people witnessed that butterfy's arrival: "It flew by 50 students," reports the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center from Minnesota.

Early Spring
We're continuing to see the effects of this spring's unsually warm temperatures. Look at the animated comparison maps. This spring's migration is 2-3 weeks ahead of last spring's.

Especially Early in the Northeast
Northeastern states like New York and New Jersey are a long distance from Mexico. Compared to the Midwest, people see fewer monarchs of the 1st spring generation. In fact, sometimes monarchs go undetected until later in the summer, when the 2nd spring generation appears. People may not see their first monarch until July. Thus, Easterners are awestruck to see monarchs in early May:

"Earliest-ever monarch sighting in 22 years of monitoring the Upper Delaware River Valley! I never see adult monarchs here until Memorial Day, and seldom before July." Callicoon, NY

"This is the earliest I've ever seen a monarch in northern New Jersey. Don't usually see them until late June to early July. It's the 1st time since I began rearing monarchs in 2005 that I'll actually have monarchs in the classroom in May and June, before school lets out." Newfoundland, NJ

Student Showcase: Free Verse Poetry
With over 200 people reporting the monarch's recent return, it's a time of celebration. Transform observers' comments into free verse poems. As a pre-writing warm-up, underline descriptive words and phrases. You are welcome to send student work for possible publication.

Surge in Monarch Butterfly Sightings
Surge in Sightings
Warm temperatures
on peak migration day.
Monarch Migration Comparison Maps: 2011 and 2012
Comparison Maps
Hidden on Host Plant

Hidden on Host Plant

Image: Judy Molnar
Sample Poem
First monarch today
Floating high
Coasting by
Looking for milkweed
to lay her eggs
First monarch today
Slideshow: Look at Those Stripes!
What differences do you see when you compare the stripes of two monarch caterpillars? The stripes reveal a surprising survival strategy for regulating temperature:

Essential Question
How can monarch larvae adapt to temperature?

Look at Those Stripes!

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 February 23, 2012.