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Monarch Migration News: February 12, 2015
By Elizabeth Howard
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The monarch's winter home in Mexico is surprisingly cold. Temperatures often fall to freezing! Why do monarchs migrate to such a cold place?


Dr. Lincoln Brower     Sweet Briar College

News: A Critical Time is Passing
It's mid-February now and temperatures are starting to rise at the overwintering sites. Monarchs have survived the coldest part of the winter season.

"The really critical time for the monarchs is January and early February," says Dr. Lincoln Brower. "The lethal combination for the butterflies is to be wetted by a winter storm and then subjected to freezing temperatures."

Conditions have been favorable this winter. No severe winter storms have been reported.

"Monarchs have an excellent chance of getting through the winter in good numbers," says Dr. Chip Taylor.

Delicate Balance
Even though freezing is a risk during the winter, cool temperatures are essential for survival.

“Since monarchs are cold-blooded, they do not use much energy when they are in a cool environment,” says Dr. Karen Oberhauser.

Monarchs come to Mexico with fat stored in their bodies. They eat very little, if anything, during the winter months. Because of the cool temperatures, the monarchs can burn their food reserves slowly.

Microclimate is Key
A healthy forest habitat creates a microclimate that moderates temperature fluctations of surrounding climate. Outside of the forest, the temperatures rise and fall sharply between day and night. Inside the forest, the butterflies are protected from extremes.

Graph of annual temperature in the monarch region
Temperatures Rising
Dr. Lincoln Brower
 
Graph of annual temperature in the monarch region
Delicate Balance

 

Graph of annual temperature in the monarch region
Forest Microclimate
Conservation News
U.S. Pledges $3.2 Million for Monarchs
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a $3.2 million initiative for monarch conservation. About $2 million will restore 200,000 acres of habitat across the nation. The other $1.2 million will provide the first dedicated source of funding for projects working to conserve monarchs.

Monarch Conservation: Our Choices
Dr. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch outlines his views of the choices ahead, and says large scale public-private partnerships (P3s) are the best option.

How you can help monarch butterflies
Maps: Report Your Sightings
Monarch butterfly migration map Monarch butterfly migration map Map of milkweed emergence: Spring 2015
What to Report First Adult
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Milkweed
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First Egg
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Other Observations
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Next Update February 19, 2015
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