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Monarch Migration Update: September 6, 2000

Today's Report Includes:

Welcome to Journey South's Migration Season!
The monarch migration takes place without a single sound--all the way to Mexico--but it creates a great stir of excitement in the hearts and voices of people who witness it. Over the next weeks, we'll forward highlights of this fall's migration, as reported from people along the monarchs' path. Please send your own observations and help track the monarch's trip to Mexico. (See instructions below.)

Latest Migration Map

Monarch Migration Routes

Mexican Monarch Sanctuaries

Highlights from the Migration Trail
Reports of aggregating and migrating monarchs arrived as early as August 6th this year from Minnesota, and the big pulse seems to have already moved south of there--but not without notice! Here are comments from observers at points in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota--and the first sightings from Iowa.

08/15/00 Brooklyn Park, MN (45.00 N, -93.33 W)
"We counted 58 Monarchs traveling through our yard between 3:00 and 4:00 this afternoon, many times in groups of 2 or 3--every 30 seconds or so. Some came down to the lawn sprinkler for a drink!" Dave Kust, Breck School (

08/16/00 Kimball, MN (45.35 N, -94.31 W)
"I have hundreds of monarch butterflies in my backyard. They started appearing on the 16th of August. It's a heavenly sight! They hang from the trees like leaves and fly whenever I walk by them and darken the sky. After 2 weeks time (Aug. 30) they are still here, but have grown smaller in numbers." (

08/17/00 Brooklyn Park, MN (45.05 N, -93.21 W)
"The day was an exciting one. We had about 75 butterflies spend the night last night. Our neighbors had 300-400." (

08/20/00 Fargo, ND (46.92 N, -96.84W)
"It was totally awesome. It was about 4:30pm on August 20, 2000 and my family and I were looking at our garden. We happened to notice all of the butterflies hovering around 2 of our trees in the backyard. We have never seen anything like this before." (

08/28/00 Sioux Falls, SD (43.54 N, -96.72W)
"We are getting hundreds, yes, hundreds of phone calls from people, telling us about monarchs in their yards. I would say Monday the 28th was the correct date of the first big influx." The Outdoor Campus received sighting of hundreds of monarchs in dozens of South Dakota towns, plus many from across the border in IA and MN. The Outdoor Campus (

09/05/00 Algona, IA (43.06 N, -94.23 W)
"Students have reported seeing groups of 20-50 butterflies gathered in low hanging bushes and trees. Our temperatures have been very warm, but have cooled over the weekend. We expect to see more butterfly activity this week." Lucia Wallace Elementary (

"Enjoy the spectacle south of here," says Billian Johnson of Little Falls, MN. "It was magnificent!"

When Will the Migration Reach You?

Fall 1999 Migration
(Click on map to enlarge.)

Look at last fall's monarch migration map, and find your state or province. When did the migration peak last year where you live? Notice that all of the sightings are color-coded, according to week. Based on the number of sightings of each color, you can estimate when the migration peaked. The timing of the migration tends to be quite constant from year to year, so this map will help you anticipate the butterflies' arrival:

Challenge Question #1
"According to the Journey South migration map for Fall 1999, between which dates did the Monarch Migration peak in Ontario, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Texas last fall?"

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

Four Ways to Watch for Migrating Monarchs
Method #1: Stationary Count
Go outside, lie down on your back, and simply look up at the sky! Keep track of the time you begin and end, and keep a tally of the monarchs you see. At the end of your observation period, add up the total number of minutes you were watching. Then calculate the number of monarchs observed per minute.

Try to put aside 10-15 minutes each day, at the same time each day, if possible. By making your observations on a regular basis, you can compare the pace of the migration from one day to the next. When you submit your report, please include comments such as this: "Every day for the past week we've watched for monarchs for 10 minutes. Today was the strongest migration, with 2 monarchs per minute passing through."

It's equally important to keep track of monarchs you are NOT seeing. (Even though not nearly as much fun!) Record your daily observations and look for trends.

Coming in next week's update:

  • Method #2: Road Census
  • Method #3: Count of Monarchs at Aggregation, and
  • Method #4: Count of Nectaring Monarchs

Please Report Your Sightings
Our goal is to track the peak migration, so whenever monarch activity is high report your sightings! Simply press the "owl button" on any page and and a Field Data form will appear.

Which Way to Mexico?
Monarch butterflies are born knowing the way to Mexico--do you? Guess which way they should fly and--on the count of three--point in that direction. (Have each person put a "Post-it note" on the wall, to mark the direction of their guess.)

Now take out a globe and find Mexico's monarch sanctuaries. (The sanctuaries are west of Mexico City, at 19N, -100W.) Then use this lesson to see which way you think the monarchs should fly from your hometown to Mexico:

Students in Mexico Watching and Waiting
Will the monarchs accomplish this incredible feat once again this year, and find the sanctuaries in Mexico? Remember, they're flying to a place they've never been before! Students who live and go to school beside the actual monarch sanctuaries will let us know. Journey North staff just returned from a visit there, and prepared 6 schools to monitor the monarch's arrival. The schools have promised to let us all know when the first butterflies reach their destination. In the meantime, try your prediction skills:

Challenge Question #2
"When do you predict the first monarchs will be sighted in the sanctuary region this fall? (Please tell us the reasoning behind your answer.)"

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

Reminder: EARLY Symbolic Migration Deadline--October 2nd
Don't be late! Butterflies received after the postmarked deadline cannot migrate!
When your students bid good-bye to their symbolic butterflies this fall, please help them explore the symbolism of the journey. Our purpose in coordinating the Symbolic Migration is to help children understand the international cooperation that's necessary for the survival of migratory species. These five new lessons are now available to help teachers reinforce these concepts, and to keep students' expectations in line with what Journey North can provide:

Lesson 1: Monarch Butterflies as a Shared Natural Resource
Lesson 2: All Countries Make Their Own Rules
Lesson 3: What is an Ambassador?
Lesson 4: What to Expect Next Spring
Lesson 5: Looking for Parallels

How to Respond to Today's Monarch Challenge Questions

IMPORTANT: Please answer ONLY ONE question in each e-mail message!

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #1 (or 2 ).
3. In the body of EACH message, answer ONE of the questions above.

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will be Posted on September 13, 2000

Copyright 2000 Journey North. All Rights Reserved. Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to our feedback form

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