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Monarch Migration Update: September 27, 2000

Today's Report Includes:

Highlights Along the Migration Trail

Bienvenidas a Mexico!
Las Primeras Mariposas Han Cruzado La Frontera

The first monarchs have crossed the border into Mexico! So if you can't read Spanish, it's time to find a friend who can. As they continue their migration, we're thrilled to provide news from south of the border, thanks to Senora Rocio Trevino. Senora Trevino is the director of "Correo Real" (Royal Mail), an education program based in Mexico that tracks migration in schools, like Journey North. Here's the news:

09/25/00 Ciudad Acuna, Coahuilla

"Con diez dias de anticipacion, en comparacion a las migraciones de 1998 y 1999, cruzaron la frontera las mariposas Monarca. Hoy en la tarde recibi llamadas de Ciudad Acuna, Coahuilla, en donde los participantes del programa Correo Real avisan que las mariposas estaban viendose por la ciudad, volando bajo y buscando donde percharse para pasar la noche. Contaron un promedio de 8 mariposas por minuto en vuelo y 15 mariposas formando racimos en los arboles. El clima es fresco 23 grados centigrados y nublado. !Bienvenidas a Mexico!" Rocio Trevino, Proyecto Correo Real (

Challenge Question #7
"Can you translate Senora Trevino's message? How many monarchs per minute did the students count? How early did the monarchs arrive this year?"

Important Note: We must remove Spanish characters from the text because the characters do not come through properly over the Internet. Therefore, some of the words are NOT spelled correctly.

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

Cold Fronts Bring Monarchs Into Texas
And 10 days earlier than normal, according to Dr. Bill Calvert. Here are comments from the migration trail:

Drought and Monarch Migration in Texas
Drought Conditions
Click to view larger map.)
National Drought Mitigation Center

"Because of very scant rainfall since June, an extreme drought was evident over much of Central Texas," reports Dr. Calvert. (See map showing extent and severity.) "The Hill Country (Edwards Plateau) was reduced to conditions that must be like the Kalahari Desert. At the very few watering spots fed by the remains of springs, coons, possums and ring tailed cats congregated at night, and white tailed deer and feral pigs could be flushed almost anytime. The only viable nectar sources were there. One of the plants most severely affected by the drought is frostweed (Verbisina virginica). In past years, this species has served as a major nectar source for migrating monarchs. Its blooming always seemed to coincide with the passage of migrant monarchs and monarchs always seemed to gain weight during their passage through the region. What's the cost of migration through a drought stricken area?"

Migration Picks Up Pace in the East
During the past week, observers from the U.S. East Coast states finally sent the news we've been waiting to hear:

9/25/00 Tyngsboro, MA (42.54 N, -83.28 W)
"We saw 150 Monarchs resting on the bark of a tree. It was truly an amazing sight! They were obviously preparing for the big journey South." Lakeview Elementary School (

09/26/00 Assateague Island, Virginia (37.56 N, -75.18 W)
"At last! Monarchs finally began migrating through this morning -in the rain!" reports Denise Gibbs from Virginia's Chincoteague Monarch Monitoring Project. "Most are migrating right over the ridge of the primary dune and throughout the interdune area. An average of today's site counts and road surveys thus far yielded between 60-70 Monarchs per hour." Denise Gibbs, Chincoteague Monarch Monitoring Project

Monarch biologist Dr. Lincoln Brower wrote from Virginia last week:

09/20/00 Sweet Briar, VA (37.56 N, -79.05 W)
"Migrant monarchs finally have arrived in Central Virginia. Both in my home garden and at Sweet Briar College, there is the first evidence of fresh migrants on the move." Lincoln Brower (

On the same day students at nearby Peabody School, in Washington, D.C. spotted monarchs in their butterfly garden.

Weekly Report from Cape May, NJ
For those of you graphing the weekly migration count at Cape May:

Monarchs Win the Olympics, But Other Butterflies Migrate Too
The gold medal for butterfly migration goes to monarch butterflies, as the world's longest-distance migrant with an annual, multi-generational journey. But there are other migratory butterflies and moths. In fact, Mr. Clyde Kessler monitors butterfly, moth and dragonfly migration in the Appalachian Mountains, on Rocky Knob in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. There they commonly see 12 different species of moths and butterflies migrating by--plus four species of dragonflies! Mr. Kessler's questions about these migrations sound so similar to the questions people had about monarch migration, before tagging and the discovery of the monarch's over-wintering sites in Mexico. Listen:

"Insect migration fascinates me very much. Most of the answers about this amazing phenomenon are still hidden. Mostly I have questions. Where do all these butterflies head? I see them fly southwest in late summer and in fall along the Blue Ridge. I see them fly north east in the spring. I don't know where they go." (

Three Cheers for the Ones That Spend the Winter!
As incredible as those migrations are, other butterflies and moths are incredible in the fact that they do NOT migrate! Instead, they have evolved the ability to tolerate the cold by timing their development. Each survives the winter in a life stage that is more compatible with winter's temperatures. This winter, when you're freeeeeeeezing cold, think about the moths and butterflies that stick around for the winter. How do they do it? Find out about these three species and let us know: How Do These Survive the Cold?

Challenge Question #8
"In what stage of their life cycle do these butterflies and moths over-winter?"

1. Viceroy

2. Black Swallowtail

3. Sphinx Moth

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

Migration is Not for Babies: Discussion of Challenge Question #6
Challenge Question #6 asked, "How would you explain to a person who's new to tracking monarch migration why it's impossible to see a baby monarch?"

Shanon, a fourth grade student, shared her knowledge of butterfly life cycles to answer this question:

"I would tell the person that it's impossible to see a baby monarch because if you see a baby monarch you would see a caterpillar. Before it becomes a butterfly it is an egg, then a caterpillar that changes into a chrysalis. And then it comes out of the chrysalis as an adult butterfly."

"It comes out as a full grown monarch butterfly," added Ms. Dempsey's Second Grade students in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Nice job! Butterflies are not like humans, who grow in size as they mature into adults. When an adult monarch butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, it emerges at its full size and its wings do not grow larger. While there is some variation in the sizes of adult monarchs, they measure around 10 centimeters from wing to wing. So if a person sees a butterfly that is much smaller, it is probably not a monarch--and it is certainly not a baby, as these students explain.

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 each message write: Challenge Question #7 (or #8)
3. In the body of the message, answer ONE of the questions above.

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on October 4, 2000.

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

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