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Monarch Migration Update: May 10, 2000

Today's Report Includes:

First Monarchs Cross the Canadian Border!
This word just in--and not even in time to be included on our migration map:

* At 10 pm last night, Ontario teacher Rod Murray forwarded the big news we've been waiting for: The first monarchs of the millennium have arrived in Canada! (Two in fact, at Ontario's Point Pelee Provincial Park on May 6.)

* Similarly, Ontario naturalist Don Davis forwarded a report of 1 Monarch at Rondeau Provincial Park on May 6th, and another at Long Point on May 8th.

We'll add these international travelers to next week's migration map! Meanwhile, maybe you can find the locations in Ontario yourself, based on Don Davis' description:

"Rondeau Provincial Park is located on the north shore of Lake Erie not far from Point Pelee in extreme south-western Ontario, whereas Long Point Provincial Park and the Long Point Peninsula, also on Lake Erie, are much further east," says Don.

Monarchs Pour into Northern U.S. States
What a difference one week can make! Compare this week's migration map to last week's and you'll see a huge jump northward: (See WWW.)

Last Week

This Week

What Were Weather Conditions Last Week?

Students interested in weather should take a close look at this!

1) Visit the Weather Map Archives to investigate last week's weather conditions.

2) Count the number of days between May 2nd and May 8th that south winds were blowing from Iowa into Minnesota, for example.

3) Now look at the 30+ sightings reported last week from other northern U.S. States--and from the Province of Ontario. Can you find a correlation between the wind direction and sightings there, too?

Other Highlights Along the Migration Trail
  • A 1st grade student reported the first Monarch in Worchester, Massachusetts: "I was very excited. I got to announce it to the whole school over the loud speaker. My class has been keeping the school updated on the Monarch Butterfly's migration back to Worcester. I was proud to be the first in our school to see a Monarch."

  • Anne Marie of Griswold Middle School in CT, sent the first sighting from her state: "My friend saw a butterfly fly past her house. I was getting ready to ring her door bell when she said, 'Look a butterfly.' I went to see what kind. It was a Monarch Butterfly! That is why I am telling you about it!"

  • Very early monarchs were reported from Minnesota. Seven different observers spotted monarchs between last Friday and Sunday. From St. Mark's Catholic School in St. Paul, MN, teacher Mary Thomas wrote, "A sixth grade student called me tonight excited about the fact that she had spotted her first adult monarch this afternoon near her home." And from nearby Hutchinson, MN, "Two adult Monarchs were sighted flying around and landing on Bluebell plants in a flower garden belonging to the parents of one of my Science students," wrote Mr. Scheer from Hutchinson Middle School. "She was not able to tell if they were male or female. Her parents confirm the sighting."

  • And not to be forgotten, is the earliest sighting for the state of Minnesota, on April 24th by a fourth grader in Ms. MacNamara's class at St. Wenceslaus School. Monarchs don't usually arrive there until mid-to-late May, but when we wrote to question were assured. The student said she and her grandma, "are absolutely sure we saw a Monarch butterfly. We saw it at my Grandparent's farm near New Prague MN. I got a good look at the butterfly. It was by the field of alfalfa and wheat. My grandpa just planted. No there was no flowers in the area. It was sunny and hot. There was no wind at all. I am sure it was a Monarch."

A Second Migration is Now Underway
During the past week, many people commented about the monarchs' bright colors. The sighting of fresh monarchs reminds us: The children of the Mexican monarchs are now emerging in force. Watch carefully for these fresh monarchs and, when you report your sighting, please include notes about the condition of the wings.
Mapping the 1st Spring Generation
How far did the monarchs from Mexico go--and where are their offspring now being seen? As you place today's data on your map, you may want to distinguish between the 2 generations--perhaps with a differently shaped symbol.
Which Generation Will Go to Mexico Next Fall?
As you know, spring is the beginning of the monarch's breeding season. The monarchs that migrate north from Mexico in March are of a very unusual generation. They live to be 8-9 months old--and they do not breed until after they've survived two migrations and a long winter in between!

In contrast, during the summer breeding season, monarchs live for only 2-5 weeks. Several generations live and die each summer, and it's the final generation that migrates to Mexico in the fall. Using the worksheet below, you can figure out which generation migrates to Mexico.

Here is the question: Of the monarchs that spent last winter in Mexico, do you think next fall's migratory generation will be:

* their children?
* their grandchildren?
* their great-grandchildren?
* their great-great-grandchildren?
* their great-great-great-grandchildren?
* their great-great-great-great-grandchildren?
* have the idea, now see if you can calculate the answer!

If you live in the monarch's summer breeding range, you can use this chart to keep track of the generations that develop this summer where you live.

a) Watch for the first eggs on your milkweed plants.
b) Bring one or two inside, where they're safe from predators.
c) Count how many days it takes for the butterflies to develop. (Be sure to keep temperatures the same as normal outdoor temperatures, so the development time will be the same. A screened porch is ideal!)
d) Repeat this process all summer. How many generations were you able to raise?

Do Most Monarchs Migrate On Weekends?
Discussion of Challenge Question #23

Several weeks ago we challenged you to, "Make a list of all the ways that the observers might affect the results of our study. (First prize goes to the class with the longest list of examples!)"

We were only joking about a prize; the question was intended just for fun. But when we saw how hard Miss Bailey's class in Vero Beach, FL worked on this question we decided to send them a real prize after all!

Check out the 43 examples of human behavior that these students imagined. Included are some very funny--but all too real--ways people might affect the results of our study of migration. Human behavior is one of the variables we have to work with. And from this list, you can see how variable people can be!

"Here is our list of observer behaviors that might affect this study," wrote Miss Bailey:
  • The observer may go outside regularly to look for monarchs.
  • The observer doesn't go outside.
  • The observer might just watch TV all day so he doesn't see any monarchs.
  • The observer's computer crashes and he can't report the sighting.
  • The observer sees a monarch but doesn't report it.
  • The observer reports the same butterfly several times.
  • If the observer gets chicken pox he won't get a chance to look for monarchs.
  • And these 36 other reasons...

Journey North
Year End Evaluation
Please share your thoughts

Please Note: We will continue to track the monarch migration until the butterflies reach the end of the road in late June. However, we're asking for your evaluation of our program now, before the end-of-the-school-year rush. Thank you!

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