Butterfly Migration Update: February 20, 2004
Today's Report Includes:
Notes from Mexico by Dr. Bill Calvert
the sanctuaries with Dr. Calvert this week had a treat: as they drove, they
came upon monarchs streaming off the mountainside. So many butterflies were
crossing the road that traffic was slowed to a crawl. The only disappointment
of the trip: The colonies at the two biggest over-wintering sites were found
to be quite small after the January storm. Read and listen to the report
Dr. Calvert phoned in from Mexico:
Adventures of Dr. Brower and Grandson in Mexico
Dr. Brower and
his grandson, Alex (14), returned late last night from Mexico. Alex dropped
us a note first thing this morning. He’s now preparing a full account
of his trip which we’ll post here with pictures in March. Thanks Alex!
Colonies Move: Seasonal History of a Monarch Colony
report, Dr. Calvert said the mass movement they witnessed was probably the
first big flight after the cold winter. Back in December and January, when
the temperatures were the coldest, the butterflies were packed tightly on
the trees. As many as 15,000 butterflies can be on a single branch--so many,
that the branch actually bends under their weight! After mid-February the
huge clusters begin to break up, or "bud." The monarchs spread
down the canyons for nectar and water. Here Dr. Calvert describes the month
by month changes in monarch over-wintering behavior, from November through
Much Does a Bough-full of Butterflies Weigh?
It's hard to imagine butterflies heavy enough to break a branch!
"If the typical monarch weighs 500 mg in midwinter, how much would
a branch loaded with 15,000 butterflies weigh? (Give your answer in
kilograms and in pounds. Also name another object that weighs the same
amount, for comparison.)"
respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)
opening their wings in response to sunlight
This! How Many Paper Clips Bend a Branch?
A monarch butterfly weighs a little less than a paper clip. How many paper
clips can you string together to make a tree branch bend? Try it and let
Much Space Does a Monarch Colony Need?
Challenge Question #5
According to Dr. Calvert's estimate, the area of the Chincua colony now
appears to be only one half hectare. Many butterflies were killed this winter
due to the wind and cold. How large is a half a hectare? Measure the area
on your school grounds. Then consider the challenge of conserving habitat
for butterflies as they move during the season.
respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)
Perspectives: A View from Mexico
to Jordi Honey-Rosés for providing regular news from Mexico about
monarch conservation efforts there. He works on these issues daily in his
job with the World Wildlife Fund. We're fortunate to have his views about
the many challenges and possible solutions.
Can Be Done to Stop Illegal Logging?
In the first dispatch, Jordi notes that when reporters covered the story
of monarchs killed by this winter's storm, they also had questions about
illegal logging. After all, he says, "The organized and illegal extraction
of trees is probably the primary threat to the habitat of
the Monarch Butterfly in Mexico."
- What evidence
of logging did the officials see as they flew over the monarch's forest?
from efforts by the Mexican government, what 3 actions does Jordi say
others can take to stop illegal logging?
the Sierra Chincua Sanctuary. Sign reads, "Sanctuary of the Monarch
Butterfly. Protect Them."
down the mountain from the Sierra Chincua.
common to see logging trucks driving through Angangueo daily.
Butterflies and Giant Sequoias
Shared Greatness and Plight
Which are more important, people or butterflies? This is the question
conservationists are often asked when attempting to save habitat for monarchs
in Mexico. Here Jordi responds to that question with an historical perspective
by way of comparing two natural wonders.
- How many
similarities can you find between huge sequoias and tiny butterflies?
- How does
Jordi defend his position that logging isn't solving the problem of
local poverty? Who does he say benefits from the logging?
for Teachers: Reading Strategies to the Rescue
Today's first-hand accounts from Mexico provide compelling, primary-source
material for students. The reading strategies at the link below can help
even young students with difficult vocabulary and content:
in the Monarch Sanctuary Region: Video Visit to the Molino
While butterflies still sleep high in the mountains under a starry sky,
people in the valley below are already stirring. It's only 5 am when the
women begin to prepare for their hungry families. Many people grow their
own food in this part of the world. They take their corn to the mill where
it will be fresh-ground into masa for the day's tortillas. Come in from
the cold morning, hear the comforting chug-a-lug of the mill's engine, and
feel the warmth of community among these life-long neighbors.
From Scratch: Making Tortillas With Maria Luisa
Welcome to our home! It is small but humble. I invite you to stay awhile
and learn how a typical Mexican family, living in the country, makes tortillas.
We must start with an understanding of the seasons in our state of Michoacan.
These seasons determine the way we can grow corn and eventually prepare
of Challenge Question #3
Movies or Butterflies?
class read about the economic impact the Monarch sanctuaries have on
Mexico," said Mrs. Meeks 2nd grade class in Merkel, Texas. "We
were interested to learn the pesos converted to our U.S. dollars would
be $1.37 for adults and $.91 for children."
go to the movies here costs about $5.00 or $6.00 for a child. So we
think it would be less expensive to visit the monarch butterfly sanctuary
and it would be more fun than a movie!" added Mrs. Nunnally's second
grade class at Peter Woodbury School in Bedford, New Hampshire.
Migration and National Science Standards
The monarch migration study brings a wide range of U.S. National Science
Education Standards to life. Browse this Standards chart by content area,
then link directly to 125 activities and information that address your teaching
to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:
Answer only ONE question in each e-mail message.
an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge
Question #4 (or #5)
3. In the body of EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions
The Next Monarch Butterfly Migration Update Will Be Posted on February
1997-2004 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.
Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to our feedback form