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Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: September 30, 2005

Today’s Update Includes

Latest Migration Maps
Make Your Own Map in the classroom!

Migration Sightings
Sightings of Overnight Roosts PEAK
Migration Sightings
Click for live maps and read what each observer saw!

Highlights From the Migration Trail

"Here they come!" one person called to the next as the monarchs moved with the wind across Oklahoma and into Texas this week. A strong cold front passed on Monday, the winds shifted and blew from the north, and the butterflies set sail.

Fourth grade teacher Teresa Jones of Perry Elementary, in Perry, OK, "received an email from a man in Ponca City, OK, who said more monarchs are headed our way." Her students counted 135 monarchs from 11:25 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. on Tuesday. The week before, they counted only 2 monarchs in ten minutes.

"Look out Texans, they're on their way!" sang Linda Schemmer from Kingfisher, Oklahoma, and the season's first big push did move into Texas:

"A beautiful sight to behold," exclaimed a woman in Olney, TX, when she discovered the monarchs in an elm tree on the south side of her house.

The north wind blew for the first time in over 10 days, noted observers in Rule, TX. Nearly 400 monarchs appeared in their trees where only 7 butterflies had been roosting each evening before.

"We had hundreds of monarchs arrive to our backyard Tuesday," said a woman in Graham, TX. "I was encountering 5 to 6 Monarchs crossing the highway per mile," said a Graham, TX, man who drove to Wichita Falls, TX, on Wednesday.

Monarch Wave Moves Down the mid-Atlantic Coast
"Finally, monarchs everywhere on the Virginia shore," wrote Randy Emmit who is counting monarchs every day at his post on Fisherman Island, VA. "I had 82 in 1.5 hours," he said on Wednesday.

While eating lunch with a pal near Roanoke, VA, just a few miles away, Ned Williams was counting monarchs for the first time in his life. "I would estimate about 200 or 300 in a 30 minute period," he said. "Never done this before and didn't have any plans of it. Was just a cool observation at lunch break."

About 200 miles to the north at the Monarch Census site in Cape May, New Jersey, Dick Walton had noted large numbers of monarchs arrive on Tuesday and leave on Wednesday. "These migrants are likely part of the same wave," he said.

Try This!
Write Your Own Migration Headlines and Highlights
Describe the migration news in your own words each week, just as we do. Draw original comments from our migration maps and database. Sum up the news in a paragraph with supporting details.


Journal Cover

Journal Page

Who Saw the Most Monarchs This Week? Migration-rate Math
Follow the link below to a few of this week's most dramatic observations. Read the comments and calculate the migration rate for each. Add your favorites to your own Migration Highlights Map.

How Fast Can Monarchs Migrate?
As monarchs pass over your head on their way to Mexico you may wonder how long their trip will take. Where will the butterflies be in a few hours, days, or weeks? How fast can monarchs migrate? A monarch that was tagged and recaptured on the Atlantic Coast reveals a clue:
  • How Fast Can Monarchs Migrate?

    Challenge Question #5
    "Based on the story of the monarch that was tagged in New Jersey and found in Virginia, how many miles can a monarch migrate in a single day? If a butterfly left your hometown today and headed for Mexico, what town might it reach by tomorrow?

  • To respond to this Challenge Question, please follow these instructions.

Discussion of Challenge Question #4: How Many Hours on a Tank of Fuel?
Last week we asked, "When flying its fastest, using escape flight, for how many hours can a butterfly fly before running out of fuel?" (Assume the butterfly has 140 mg of fuel, and burns 12.7 mg of fuel per hour during escape flight.)

"The monarch butterfly will have 11.3 hours to fly before it runs out of fuel. It's important to save fuel because then they can have more energy for later flights," reasoned Mrs. Robbins' 3rd grade class, Ashley Elementary School, in Vernal, Utah.

Exactly! This is why monarchs don't flap all the way to Mexico. They can glide for 1,060 hours on the same 140 mg of fuel. The migration patterns we saw this week show how monarchs use the wind to save energy. "The direction and strength of the winds largely determine the progress of the migration," says Dr. Bill Calvert. "Strong fronts tend to 'bunch' monarchs up into discreet pulses. Then, when the winds are northerly and strong, the monarchs fly far."

How to Report Your ObservationsReport Your Sightings
Put your monarch news on the map! Please send reports of monarchs flying, feeding, and resting. When you report your observations, include wind speed and direction. For instructions see:

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on October 7, 2005.


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