Monarch Butterfly
Jim Gilbert

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Monarch Butterfly Update: May 12, 1998

Today's Report Includes:

Latest Migration News and Data
We have 19 sightings to report today, and from a surprisingly broad geographic range. (See data below.) Although the migration continues to be slow, the next generation is now on the wing. "The Monarchs are on their
way! They are coming through daily," reports Diane McGowen from Ardmore, Oklahoma. (

Although looking hard, observers report they are still NOT seeing monarchs in: Toledo, OH, Pittsburgh, PA, Reading, PA, Annapolis, MD, Washington, DC--and in Virginia, they've even escaped being seen by Dr. Lincoln Brower himself (though his wife finally saw one last week).

In Smithfield, RI Cynthia Ripley continues to wait: "I haven't seen one monarch here so far this spring! Usually my students or my own kids will have seen them by now, too, but no such luck so far. Where are they? We have milkweed here that is about 4 inches high. I have been thinking that
I must be missing the sightings somehow, but it's never been this late before. Last year they arrived in sync with the forsythia which bloomed several weeks ago." (

Latest Migration Map
As of May 12, 1998

Challenge Question # 13
Interpreting Your Migration Map

Today's migration map almost seems to show 2 pathways: One along the East coast and the other traveling north from Mexico through the Central Plains states.

Challenge Question # 13
"Look at the areas where no monarchs have yet been reported. What might explain the lack of sightings there? How do you think the geography of North America might be affecting the migration? What other factors might explain this spring's migration pattern?"

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions at the end of this report.)

Few Monarchs Now in Texas
"Now I know how y'all felt all winter ... no Monarchs for 3 weeks Monarch eggs on any of the backyard milkweed for 3 1/2 weeks," wrote Harlen Aschen from Port Lavaca. "GONE NORTH!?! ... or they could be out in the pastures where the native milkweeds are, hanging around REAL milkweeds!" ( 05/08/98

Dr. Bill Calvert reported from Austin yesterday: "I've been seeing fresh, new adults of the 1st spring generation for about a week now (Link to discussion about monarch development rates), and the 2nd spring generation is underway. Larvae up to the 3rd instar are now being seen."

Calvert added that the 2nd spring generation in Texas is typically very small compared to the 1st spring generation. Perhaps 90% more larvae seem to be present in the 1st generation, offspring of the monarchs just arriving from Mexico. He wonders, are there few 2nd generation monarchs because the 1st spring generation butterflies head north as soon as they emerge--and don't bother to lay eggs on Texas milkweed? And/or is this just due to attrition. That is, very few of the eggs that are laid survive to the larval stages, due to predation by spiders, beetles, fire ants, etc.
Journey North on National Public Radio
Friday, May 15, 1998

In February, NPR's SOUNDPRINT producer Peter Aronson accompanied the Journey North teacher-trip to Mexico. The resulting program "Flight of the Virtual Butterfly" will be distributed to public radio stations all over the U.S. this Friday.

Check local listings for air times
or listen to the program on the WWW via

Program Description:
In Mexico in the early spring, millions of monarch butterflies are readying for their journey north to the eastern Rockies. This year, a group of lucky schoolteachers are witnessing the preparation. They'll take their findings home to their classrooms where their students participate in an internet-based curriculum called "Journey North". Producer Peter Aronson follows the butterflies and the butterfly followers as they take their digital pictures and swing their electronic nets from Mexico all the way north to Oregon. Be there with the school kidsas they encounter spring on the wings of a virtual butterfly.

The SOUNDPRINT Media Center, Inc. is a national non-profit production, training and educational center based in Washington, DC and Laurel, MD. The Media Center produces SOUNDPRINT, an award-winning documentary series, heard on public radio stations around the country.

Reminder: Your Monarch Observations are Important
Sightings this spring are down by almost half of what they were last spring. With your help, we can document substantial differences between the 1997 & 1998 seasons. This information is important in helping to monitor the eastern monarch population.

Please keep your eyes peeled. Remember: We need your help! We can't track the migration without you.

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question
1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 8
3. In the body of the message, answer the question above.

Journey North
Year End Evaluation
Please share your thoughts

The Next Monarch Butterfly Migration Update Will be Posted on May 19, 1998.

Copyright 1998 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.