Monarch Butterfly Monarch Butterfly
Today's News Fall's Journey South Report Your Sightings How to Use Journey North Search Journey North

Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: February 13, 2004

Today's Report Includes:

It's Ecotourism Time at the Sanctuaries!
Every year, the monarchs reach Mexico in early November and they leave in late March. And as the butterflies come and go, so do tourists.


To conservationists, ecotourism is often seen as a way to help protect a natural area. The reasoning goes like this: if local people can earn money from visiting tourists, they will have a reason to protect natural habitat instead of developing it for other uses.

Ecotourism in the Monarch Sanctuaries
How Many Pesos to Visit?

These are entrance tickets for visiting the Sierra Chincua sanctuary. How much does it cost to visit?
Currency Calculator 
Check the current exchange rate for Mexican pesos

Challenge Question #3:
"How much does it cost to visit the sanctuary, in your own country's currency? With your answer, compare this to the cost of going to a movie."

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Ecotourism Safari: How Many Examples Can You Find?
In these photos, how many ways can you find that local people are earning money from tourists? Do you see any ways that tourism might be bad for the butterflies?
ecotourism007 chincua0087 ElRosario0071
Dave Kust


A Walk in the Sanctuary With Guide Javier
Javier at the entrance to El Rosario
Some people earn income as tour guides. Here's an interview with "Javier," a guide at the El Rosario sanctuary. How does Javier feel about his work as a guide? Do you think this example of ecotourism is working well? List the problems and successes Javier mentions in his interview.
Try This! Interview a Grown-up About Seasonal Work
Share Javier’s story with an adult you know. Here are some questions you could ask to guide the discussion:
  • How would your life be different if your work lasted 5 months of the year, from November through March?
  • What if your work was only busy for 2 months, or only on weekends?
  • What are the challenges of having a seasonal business? What are the benefits?
  • How is Javier's example similar to those involved in ecotourism in our state or province?

Student Travels to Mexico With Scientist
What would it be like to travel to the monarch sanctuaries with a world famous biologist? Ask 12 year old Alex White. He’s visiting the sanctuaries this week with his grandfather, Dr. Lincoln Brower. Dr. Brower asked Alex if he’d be willing to keep a journal for Journey North. Alex responded,

"Hi Pop! I think that it sounds great. I can bring a notebook along and keep notes about anything that seems interesting. I'm going to go check out the Journey North website...Love, Alex"

Watch for an update from Alex about the various aspects and adventures of their expedition when he returns!

Meet Dr. Bill Calvert, Our Online Tour Guide

Meet Dr. Bill Calvert
Video Clip

Dr. Calvert heads for Mexico this Saturday, where he'll guide tour groups until March 20. We're looking forward to his first weekly dispatch from the field next week!

"I guess I'm a roving reporter for the monarch aspect of Journey North," says Dr. Calvert in this video clip, where you can see him walking in the monarch's forest surrounded by butterflies. (See video on web.) Dr. Calvert was one of the first biologists to study the monarchs at the over-wintering sites in Mexico, along with Dr. Brower. From 1976-1982, he spent nearly two months each year in the sanctuaries. He camped beside the colonies at 10,000 ft. altitude, and experienced the same cold, wet conditions that the monarchs endure.

How's the Weather in Mexico?
Discussion of Challenge Question #1

Everybody predicted warmer temperatures in Mexico, and was surprised by the cold! Here are some of the questions sent by students at Peter Woodbury School in New Hampshire, Iselin Middle School in New Jersey, and Citrus Elementary in Florida:

Q. How can the butterflies live in that weather?
A. The butterflies actually do well in cool, but not freezing, temperatures. When it's cool, they can burn the fat reserves they need to survive the winter slowly.

Q. Would they freeze in the weather if it was cold?
A. Yes, sometimes it gets too cold and the monarchs do freeze, as we read last week!

Locations of Over-wintering Monarchs
Reported to Journey North as of February 13, 2004

Q. Why do they go to Mexico if it's still cold?
A. As noted above, cool temperatures are what they need. The mountains in Mexico offer the ideal balance. However, the map to the right shows that all monarchs do not go to Mexico. Scientists want to learn more about butterflies that spend the winter in the places shown. They do know that the populations in those overwintering areas are relatively small, and that periodic freezes wipe them out entirely.

Discussion of Challenge Question #2
How Many Monarchs Remain?

Last week we learned that freezing temperatures killed up to 10 percent of the over-wintering monarch population, some 11 million monarchs! Challenge Question #2 asked how many would be left.

First Graders at Ferrisburgh Central School are studying monarchs this year. They are very interested in seeing the pictures of them overwintering in Mexico. Here’s how they did the math:

“If 10% of the butterflies were killed by a snowstorm, that means that 90% is still alive. We added 11 million nine times and came up with the answer that there would be 99 million butterflies still alive in Mexico. We can't wait for the butterflies to come back to Ferrisburgh, Vermont,” they said.

ElRosario0077 ElRosario0077 ElRosario0077

Monarchs in 1999 Snowstorm
Snow doesn't always kill monarchs. They can remain alive for days trapped or buried in snow. A few days after this storm, most of the butterflies that littered the forest floor were gone.

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 #3
3. In the body of your message, answer the question above.

The Next Monarch Butterfly Migration Update Will Be Posted on February 20, 2004

Copyright 1997-2004 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.
Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to
our feedback form

Annenberg Web SiteToday's News Fall's Journey South Report Your Sightings How to Use Journey North Search Journey North Journey North Home Page