Monarch Butterfly Update: March 3, 2011
Please Report
Your Sightings!

Early-bird butterflies are heading north by now, and soon millions of monarchs will leave Michoacán en masse. Mexico's dry season is one of the pressures that forces butterfly colony break-up. Monarchs must have water, and their habitat is bone dry. Estela Romero shows how local people experience the dry season. How do Amy, Karla and César say families can conserve water?

This Week's Update Includes:


Image of the Week
Monarch butterflies taking flight.
Dr. Lincoln Brower

The journey north is about to begin!

News: Angangueo's Farewell Celebration

"The monarch overwintering season is coming to an end. Almost daily, butterflies fill the sky over town and we wonder if some are beginning their migration," reports Estela Romero. "As a way to say farewell to the monarchs, Angangueo has a cultural festival every year." This week, Estela shares her front row seat.

Water is Scarce
"Basically the entire mountainside is as dry as a bone at this time of year, and the butterflies are forced out of the colonies to drink," explains Dr. Bill Calvert.

Why So Dry?
Central Mexico is in the tropics where there are two seasons, wet and dry. The dry season began when the monarchs arrived in November. Throughout the monarch's 5-month stay, there is very little precipitation as the line graph shows.

In Search of Water
"As the dry season progresses, the dry air dries out the forest and the butterflies. The wind, and the lack of moisture in the ambient air, dries them quickly. Dew is often no longer available now as it was earlier in the season. The monarchs have to go down to streams (and to nectar, if possible)."

Change is in the Air
Just as the overwintering habitat is reaching the point where monarchs can no longer be sustained, signs of change are appearing in the north. Winter is ending and the first native milkweeds are emerging. Several observers reported from Texas during the past week, where monarchs are expected to appear first:

"Native milkweed has sprouted in roadsides and pastures" said Mr. Harlen Aschen, from the midcoast of Texas.

The monarchs will be coming north soon. Get ready to track their journey north!

Monarch butterfly festival in Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico

Angangueo Says Farewell

Monarch butterfly festival in Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico
Conserving Water

Graph: LipidsMexico's Dry Season

Dry season in monarch sanctuaries
Dr. Lincoln Brower
A dry, dusty trip into the monarch sanctuary.

Journal: Reading/Language Arts Connection

On a morning in March
high in Mexico's mountainside sanctuaries
millions of monarchs
worn from winter
fly from fir trees
down dry dusty canyons
searching for water in seeps and streams.

Explore Alliteration to Write Descriptive Sentences
Alliteration is a descriptive writing strategy that uses a series of words that begin with or contain the same letter/sound. Give students an opportunity to summarize facts and feelings about overwintering monarchs by writing and illustrating alliterative poems.

Distribute the A-Z Pre-writing Chart. Have students work with a partner to fill the chart with words related to overwintering monarchs. Encourage them to revisit updates and slideshows to collect words related to monarchs during their winter stay in Mexico. Using the brainstormed words, invite students to write alliterative phrases that describe monarchs in Mexico. Create a class book of poems and provide time for choral readings.

Thousands of butterflies cover the ground.

A-Z Pre-Reading Chart

Explore Alliteration and other Instructional Activities.

Maps and an Invitation
Pre-migration map: Winter monarch butterfly sightings (January or February) Map of milkweed emergence: Spring 2011 Invitation
to Track Migration

Use this invitation letter to invite family and friends to track the spring migration. Let's find out when and where monarchs and milkweed appear this spring.

Ask the Expert: Now Open!

Special thanks to Dr. Karen Oberhauser for sharing her time and expertise again this year to answer readers' questions. What are you wondering about? You have until March 11th to prepare and submit your questions.



Dr. Karen Oberhauser

Dr. Karen Oberhauser

The next Monarch Migration Update will be posted on March 10, 2011.