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Monarch Migration Update: April 6, 1999

Today's Report Includes:

First Monarchs Reported in Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina!
The big news this week--monarchs have traveled much further to the north and east:

Dr. Lincoln Brower has monitored the arrival in north Florida, near Gainesville (29.65 N, -82.33 W), for years. On March 22 his student wrote: "The Monarchs have arrived! I recorded the first two eggs yesterday-so they were probably laid by a founding female."

When Theresa Evans reported a monarch in Taylors, SC (34.98 N, -82.33 W) on March 29 we could hardly believe it, so wrote for confirmation. "Yes - absolutely it was a Monarch Butterfly!" she responded. "Just one - and I must say I was also surprised. It was flying around my red flowering azalea bush."

This morning, while trying to finish today's update, this exciting e-mail
arrived from Unicoi, TN. (36.18 N, -82.31 W): "Yesterday at 4:15 I saw the first Monarch which appeared to be flying from the West down the highway toward our county."

Challenge Question # 22
"Do you think the South Carolina and Tennessee monarchs came all the way from Mexico? Why or why not? Is there any way we could tell?"

Challenge Question # 23
"Assuming these monarchs DID come from Mexico, how many miles has each butterfly traveled?"

(To respond to these questions, please follow the instructions below.)

Migration Spreads North of Texas and the Gulf Coast States
The first reports arrived from Oklahoma this week, and the migration seems to be picking up in Arkansas. Notice how the number of monarchs increased over the past week:

"Greetings from southwest Arkansas. The first monarch we saw visiting our outdoor classroom was a female and she stopped by on Thursday, March 25 to feed on some red verbena. On Saturday, March 27 we saw three more monarchs - all headed east. This past weekend we counted over 20 on April 3, and another 20 or so on April 4. Hope we get bigger numbers after all these storm fronts move through. We are on the edge on one of the major migration routes and don't get large numbers, but we appreciate the ones we do get. Let us hear from your part of the U.S. The students are very excited about seeing the monarchs return and are eagerly awaiting the return of the symbolic monarchs."
Anita Brisco, Texarkana, AR
Write Your Own Newspaper Column
Monarchs in the News

Tell your community that the monarchs are on their way! Ask to be a reporter for your local or school newspaper. Students at Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School wrote their own weekly news column called "Nature Track" for their community newspaper. February to June, the students captured highlights from Journey North News to include in their column.

Suggestions for Your Weekly News Reports
  • How far north and east has the migration progressed?
  • Each week, find the latitude and longitude of the sightings furthest from Mexico. Also, keep track of the wave of migration that arrives after the first monarchs arrive.
  • How many miles from Mexico has the migration traveled?
  • Assuming all sightings are of monarchs from Mexico, measure the distance each week of the sightings furthest from Mexico. People will be impressed to know how far these small butterflies have traveled!
  • When Do Monarchs Typically Return To YOUR State or Province?
  • You can use records from Journey North's online database to answer this question. Record the dates the 1st monarchs were spotted in your state/province in past years, then see what the average date of first return seems to be.

To Access the Data
From any WWW page, hit the owl button as if to "Report Your Sightings". On the bottom of the page, go to "Visit the Journey North Archives". You'll find the monarch migration records there, organized by month.

Discussion of Challenge Question #17
Also on March 23 we asked, "According to Eligio Garcia's estimate, what percent of the monarch population has departed from El Rosario?"

Here's how Mrs. Sgalippi's Monarch Group at Simmons Elementary in Horsham, PA figured their answer: "We first subtracted 25 from 740 to determine the number of trees that were empty. We then divided that number (715) by 740 and multiplied by 100 to get 96.6%. We estimate that between 96% & 97% of the butterflies have departed El Rosario."

Discussion of Challenge Question # 18
In our March 23 update, Bill Calvert was concerned about reports of drought and asked, "How do you think drought in northern Mexico and Texas might affect the migrating monarchs?"

Mrs. Thornton's fourth grade class in West Carthage, NY figured, "No water for the butterflies could effect their drinking sources, also no water would mean the Milkweed cannot grow healthy for the butterflies long journey North. Some butterflies die of hunger, others of thirst, and some from both." (

Students in North Albany, Oregon had another concern: "Drought would mean there would not be as many flowers. Not as many flowers would mean not enough nectar for the monarchs. Not very much nectar would mean not enough food, which means some monarchs would die." (

When he returned to Texas, Bill Calvert was relieved to find monarchs arriving in good condition. "In drought years we expect 2 things," he said. "1) The monarchs will find fewer milkweeds than normal and 2) There will be less nectar available for them, so the butterflies will be more emaciated than they are in normal years."
How to Respond to Today's Monarch Challenge Questions

IMPORTANT: Please answer ONLY ONE question in each e-mail message!

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 22 (or Challenge Question # 23)
3. In the body of EACH message, answer ONE of the questions above.

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 13, 1999.

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