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Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: April 30, 2004

Today's Report Includes:

Monarchs Advance Up East Coast, Ahead of Midwest

It's been an interesting week! Sixteen new sightings have been reported since our last update. Fresh new butterflies are now being seen along with the old. These young butterflies are the children of those that overwintered in Mexico. Monarchs have been reported from 5 new states. How many states and provinces can now count monarch butterflies as part of their biodiversity? Where do you predict they'll appear next?

Most unusual this week were reports from the East Coast states, where the migration suddenly leaped northward. (All but one of these sightings occurred prior to last week's map, but were only reported in time for this week's map.) A sighting from New Hampshire puts the northernmost monarch at nearly 43N latitude. In contrast, the northernmost report from the Midwest is in Kansas, at only 39N latitude.

Challenge Question #17
"How much farther from the over-wintering sites in Mexico is the monarch sighted in New Hampshire than the one in Kansas? (Please send your answer in kilometers and miles.) Why do you think the migration is moving more quickly up the East Coast than into the Midwest?"

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

Last Week's Temperatures
(April 19-25, 2004)
Average Departure Mimimum

Inquiry Strategy: How Do We Know What We Know?
Here are some questions to help you consider evidence as you prepare to answer the Challenge Question above. First, describe the pattern that you see on the map. What questions does it raise? What generalizations can you make? Try to develop an explanation or hypothesis as to why the migration appears to have moved as shown.

At Last! First Monarch in Monticello, Arkansas
"Yea!!!!! My first monarch in Monticello," exclaimed Dr. Edson on April 28. "It was a faded, slightly tattered male. I was hoping to have a female visit so that I could start a colony of monarchs for the local schools. Maybe this will be a sign of things to come."

This is the 8th year Dr. Edson has been collecting "first monarch sighting" data. This year's first sighting is over 2 weeks later than his previous latest first sighting. (One important note: Dr. Edson had a family emergency and was out of town for a week during that two week time. Friends and colleagues watched for him but saw no monarchs.) Look back at Dr. Edson's data. How does this year's late sighting change his average? What does it show you about the importance of repeated trials?

Monarchs in Monticello Escape Dr. Edson’s View
Careful readers who review our database will notice an interesting twist. Another observer in Dr. Edson’s home town saw two monarchs, both before April 19!

Journaling Questions

  • If you were Dr. Edson, would you still consider April 28 the date of your first sighting in Monticello? Why or why not?
  • Think about the methods of our spring migration study, and describe them carefully. Who is involved? Where are they? Exactly what they are doing?
  • In what way are field observers one of the variables in this experiment?
    Describe how this human variable could be controlled for this to be a valid experiment.

All spring, keep questions about methods in mind as you interpret the results.

Fading Away, But Still Flying Northward
Look at the condition of the wings of Dr. Edson’s monarch! He sent this photo with his report on April 28. This monarch has been alive for a long, long time!

How Long Have These Monarchs Been Alive?

During the breeding season, monarchs live for only 2-6 weeks. How long does the over-wintering generation live? Think back to when you came to school last fall. You may have raised your own monarchs and sent them on their way to Mexico. If your monarchs are still alive, how old would they be now?

Challenge Question #18
"Assume a butterfly emerged as an adult late last summer, on August 30th. As of today, April 30th, how long has the butterfly been alive?"

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

Discussion of CQ #15: A Case of Mistaken Identity?
A few weeks ago (April 9), a monarch appeared unexpectedly on the migration map, way up in North Carolina. Monarchs hadn't been seen in nearby states so we asked how you'd interpret the observation. Should the sighting go on the migration map, we asked. Students at Glenwood School in Chapel Hill, NC held a class discussion and shared their thoughts in attempt to explain this unexpected sighting.

You're the Scientist: Discussion of Challenge Question #16
Last week, an observer in New Jersey described a butterfly she believed was a monarch. Her careful observations and written comments make it possible to identify the butterfly, almost as if she had taken a picture. We asked what kind of butterfly you think she saw, and what field mark helped most with identification.

Here’s the field mark that cautioned us that she had not seen a monarch: "Its antennae had a bright yellow dot on it."

Danaus plexippus
Photo Jim Gilbert

Painted Lady
Vanessa cardui
Peter J. Bryant

Do you think the butterfly pictured above is the one that she saw? Compare it to the verbal description. Also compare it to the monarch.

Symbolic Butterflies on Their Way!
On Wednesday afternoon, 44 boxes of butterflies were carried to the post office for the last leg of their migration. We’ve sent them in time for a Cinco de Mayo (May 5) celebration at your school. Watch your mailbox!
Sp04_046  Sp04_055  Sp04_047

Year-end Evaluation: Please Share Your Thoughts!
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In the coming year, Journey North will be fundraising to secure increased support from foundations, corporations and individuals. Your supportive comments will be a tremendous help. Thank you!

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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 #17 (or #18)

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

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on May 7, 2004

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