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  • Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: April 1, 1997

    There are 25 five new monarch sightings to report this week! As you will discover, monarchs have now spread across Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. The forerunners have even crossed into North Carolina.

    How to REPORT:
    When you see your first monarch butterfly this spring, please report your sighting! On the left-hand side of this page you'll see an owl button. Simply press the button and a FIELD DATA FORM will appear. If you have any trouble using this system, send a message to our feedback form We'd be happy to help you!

    What to REPORT
    What should you look for when watching for monarchs? Here's a checklist which you can print and take with you in the field. When you report your monarch sightings to Journey North, please include as much of this information as possible in the "Comments" section of your Field Data Form.

    According to observers in the South, this has been an amazing spring migration. Texas Monarch Watch reported on March 31st:

    "This year they seem to be thicker than anyone can remember. They've been seen at rates of six to seven per day as far west as Hunt, and a few have been reported from Abelene and Tyler. Forty one passed by Temple in two hours, and 22 were seen between Paris and Mount Pleasant, so they are all the way to North Texas. The central prairie near Austin had many monarch females searching for milkweed. Reports of numbers larger than usual are still coming in from the coast. One to two per minute were seen flying the beach near Freeport. Corpus Christi continues to be a hotspot. Remember, spring monarchs are much less concentrated than fall monarchs, and a good spring count is no more than a few per day--this year is exceptional!

    Observers in Mississippi and Oklahoma reported a ravel of monarchs moving through their region last week:

    Tupelo, Mississippi

    "Hello! I live near Tupelo, Mississippi and I have observed numerous monarchs during the last two days. The monarchs are mostly moving northeast with a few moving in an easterly direction. Some near the ground and others at and above tree level. I have seen as many as 12 at one time. There have been more pass over my location during the past few days than I observed during the fall migration 96."

    Monticello, Arkansas

    "Today I tried to work in the yard, but monarch after monarch kept interrupting." Began Jim Edson of the University of Arkansas and Arkansas Monarch Watch. Edson got in his car and drove a 60 mile loop. He saw monarchs the whole way, all traveling from west to east. Near the town of McGehee, he reported wild plum trees in bloom and dozens of monarchs in the trees. "When I got home a teacher in Dumas, AK (a town about thirty miles ), said a crabapple tree in bloom in a friend's yard was covered with monarchs. She estimated a hundred or more."
    James E. Edson, Ph.D, Professor - Geology/Science Education Univ. of Arkansas at Monticello
    Monticello, AR
    33.35 N, 91.48 W

    Let's look back at the last week's weather. What conditions were present, and how might the monarchs' travels have been affected? We have collected a series weather maps from March 24th to March 31st for you to analyze. (If you happen to be a weather specialist, please send us your comments so we can share them here: Mail to: jnorth@learner.org)

    . Try This!
    • Find an Earth Science teacher or other person who can help you interpret weather maps. Look at the collection of daily weather maps and see if monarch sightings (and movements) are correlated with certain weather conditions and/or weather systems.
    • As you plot the monarch sightings on a map, note how they progress over time. Read the observer's comments. Are the number of monarchs sighted, the wind direction and/or other weather conditions mentioned?
    • What additional information from observers be helpful? Contact the observers by e-mail and ask questions. People often notice more than they mention in their reports, and could help you reconstruct the picture.
    Can You Solve This Monarch Migration Mystery?
    People who studied the spring monarch migration year after year began to notice a pattern. The wings of the earliest butterflies seen in Texas were warn and tattered. (These butterflies were observed in late March and early April.) In contrast the wings of butterflies seen later in the season in northern regions were in good condition (These butterflies were observed in late May and early June).

    Challenge Question # 8
    "How would you explain this mystery? What does the condition of a monarch's wings tell you? Why is it important to note the condition of a monarch butterfly's wings when you report your spring monarch sighting?"

    To respond to this Challenge Question please follow the instructions at the end of this report.

    Ideas You Can Try
    Here are some ways you can use the monarch migration data in today's report:

    • If you assume these butterflies have migrated from Mexico, which one has flown the greatest distance from Angangeuo, Mexico? How many miles has it traveled?
    • Imagine you are a news reporter. Describe the progress of the monarch migration since last week. (You may want to do this each week, and give an update on a school bulletin board or over the PA system.)
    • Where do you think the monarchs will appear next? Try to predict the date and state/province where monarchs will be reported each week. Do the monarchs seem to be moving straight north? Which direction do you think they are going? Why?
    • Younger students can count the total number of states where monarchs have been reported each week. Also, Maine teacher Sue Haines recommends plotting data by state rather than by city:
      "I was frustrated by having my 4th grade kids try to locate cities and towns. I compromised by just having the kids puts dots in the states indicated (obviously, not too specific for the big states), but it has served us pretty well. We have maps showing definite patterns of migration. This has the advantage that kids can do it quite quickly, so we can spend more time discussing the data and not plotting it. For 4th graders just learning the states may be an accomplishment."
      Sue Haines, Vassalboro, ME
    • Recommended Software for Lat/Long Lookup
      I use the computer program called "Encarta 96 World Atlas" to find the lat/long of each city. It really works neat.All I have to do is type in the beginning part of the city's name and it automatically brings up all the possibilities. There have only been a couple of places that I couldn't find and I suspect that is because of a typo in the names.... It is made by Microsoft.
      Bill Lee
      Winifred, MT

    Coming Next Week

    • A summary of March monarch sightings from 1995, 1996 and 1997, so you can compare the progress of spring migration from one year to the next.
    • A GIS migration map, showing all monarchs reported in March, 1997. (Since we looked up latitude and longitude for sighting, we will provide lat/long figures to you. Here's your chance to map the migration without looking up all the cities!)

    How to Respond to Journey North Monarch Challenge Question # 8

    1. Address an e-mail message to: jn-challenge-monarch@learner.org
    2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 8
    3. In the body of the message, give your answer to this question:

    Challenge Question # 8
    "How would you explain this mystery? What does the condition of a monarch's wings tell you? Why is it important to note the condition of a monarch butterfly's wings when you report your spring monarch sighting?"

    Don't Forget!
    Please include the name of your school and your location so we can credit you properly for your answers.

    The Next Monarch Migration Update Will be Posted on April 8, 1997.