Monarch Butterfly Monarch Butterfly
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Monarch Migration Update: April 23, 2004

Today's Report Includes:

Strong South Winds Blow Butterflies and Songbirds Northward
Though the numbers of monarchs are still down, the migration’s northward expansion has been incredible during the past week. Sightings have now been reported as far north as Pennsylvania, New York and possibly Maine! (We’re awaiting confirmation at the time of writing.) To date this year, only 125 monarchs have been reported, compared to 193 last year at this time.

Look at the collection of weather maps from last week. Count the number of days the wind blew from the south in Texas and points northward. Did this strong and sustained southerly flow blow monarchs northward?

Our songbird migration specialist said the past week was a terrific week weather-wise for northbound songbirds. He wrote on Wednesday, “Well, that front I talked about last week doesn't want to move. This means there have been southerly winds, which have allowed migrants--both new arrivals from the tropics as well as past arrivals continuing their migration--to stream northward.”

Still No Monarchs in Monticello, Arkansas
"At least I haven't seen any," said Dr. Jim Edson on April 22nd. In 7 years of keeping records, April 12th was the latest first sighting. And although he hasn't been able to watch every moment of every day, his milkweed plants have been standing sentinel. They still don't have a single egg. Female monarchs have an incredible ability to find milkweed, so the lack of eggs further supports the presumption of a very low population size this spring.
Can you see the milkweed?

Dr. Lincoln Brower Comments on Weak Migration of 2004
“There are practically no monarchs getting back into North Florida from Mexico this spring,” concludes Dr. Brower. He and his students have monitored migration at the same site in Cross Creek, Florida most years since 1981. The first adult butterfly, usually seen in late March, wasn’t sighted until April 10. Its fresh wings meant the butterfly had recently emerged. But the timing suggests it’s a Florida butterfly, not the offspring of a butterfly from Mexico.

Watch the Wings: A Photo Quiz for Practice

Butterfly wings become worn and faded over time.
Photo: Harlen Aschen

Every year at this time, we ask observers to carefully note the condition of a monarch’s wings. Most monarchs that over-wintered in Mexico are dead by the end of April. Fresh new butterflies­children of those that overwintered in Mexico-will continue the journey north. This year’s first sighting in Texas of a monarch in mint condition was on April 13. These photos show monarchs at various stages of wing wear. Try the quiz, and practice watching for wing-wear:

Journaling Question
What happens to a monarch that fades and damages its wings over time? You can probably answer this question yourself if you’ve been learning about monarchs since you came to school last fall. How many misadventures can you imagine in the day-to-day life of a monarch butterfly?

Photos Courtesy of Harlen Aschen

Which butterfly is the oldest? The newest? Try the quiz!

Story of a Life's Journey
If a monarch butterfly could talk, just think of the stories it could tell! Imagine a butterfly whose life began 8 months ago in the north, and write its life story.

You’re the Scientist: Challenge Question #16
What would you do if you saw a butterfly and you weren’t sure whether or not it was a monarch? An observer in New Jersey did just the right thing. She described the butterfly she saw in careful detail. Her verbal description is almost as good as a photo:

"The Monarch's wings had a black outline on the edge of the wings. It had black spots on the wings and the black spots were surrounded by a yellowish-orange color. Its antennae had a bright yellow dot on it."

Pull out a butterfly field guide, look carefully at the photos, and see if you can answer this question:

Challenge Question #16
“What kind of butterfly do you think the New Jersey observer saw? Which field marks helped you most in deciding whether or not this was a monarch?”

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

Humans or Butterflies? Conservation Perspectives Have Changed
Jordi Honey-Rosés
In this month’s Conservation Perspectives from Mexico, Jordi Honey-Roses describes a remarkable change. “In the 1990’s, the discussion often pitted conservationists against the local campesinos in a struggle over how best to use or protect the forest resource. Monarch butterfly conservation in Mexico was cited to illustrate the conflict between human needs and the protection of a species habitat: where local farmers pressured to continue logging and conservationists sought permanent protection of the Monarch’s habitat. Now conservationists and many local campesinos are united and working together for the same objective: to stop the illegal logging.”

Journaling Questions

  • What are the local people doing to stop illegal logging?
  • Why are they now united with conservationists in their view about how the forest resource should be managed?

Tip for Teachers: Reading Strategies for Primary Source Materials
These first-hand accounts of conservation work in Mexico provide compelling, primary-source material for students. For classroom use see:

Earth Day Ecological Footprint: Take the Quiz
If everyone lived like the average U.S. citizen, it would take more than five planets to support the world's population.
Current Temps Current Temps Current Temps Current Temps Current Temps

How do you measure up? Take the Ecological Footprint quiz and measure your impact on the planet.

How does your footprint compare to that of the typical child who lives near the monarch sanctuaries in Mexico? Gather information from these stories and estimate the size of a family’s footprint in Michoacan, Mexico:

Visiting the Sanctuaries With Grandfather Brower (Part 2)

What’s it like to visit the monarch’s winter refuge with a famous scientist? Thanks to Alex White for sharing the story about his recent trip to Mexico with his grandfather, Dr. Lincoln Brower. In today’s story, Alex

“When we arrived at the colony we rented horses and guides to take us up a very steep climb to the colony site. We were all still very tired from our previous day of hiking, so we decided to take it easy. Riding the horses up was actually very fun. I had only ridden a horse once before, but mine was quite mellow and I had a guide holding the reins anyway. There was a VERY steep path that we--well not really us because of the horses--had to climb to get to the colony."

Monarch Migration Updates for Sanctuary Area Schools
All across Mexico, the kids are back from Eastern break. in school after This spring, as the butterflies fly over your homes, schools and cities, we're sending the news back to the students in Mexico so they can track the migration too. Here’s the latest update. Try practicing your Spanish!

Noticias de la migracion de la mariposa monarca para las escuelas de la region de los santuarios

Year-end Evaluation: Please Share Your Thoughts!
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How to Respond to Today's Monarch Challenge Question

1. Address an e-mail message to:

2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #16

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

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 30, 2004

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