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Jim Gilbert

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Monarch Butterfly Update: February 24, 1998

Today's Report Includes:

Reports of Over-wintering Monarchs
Monarchs have been reported from Texas, Louisiana, Florida and California. If you live in any of the Gulf States, please be sure to report your monarch sightings now, before the migration begins.

How to Report to Journey
Simply click on the owl button and a Field Data Form will appear. Remember, we can't track the migration without you!

The Monarch Migration Begins in March
As you wait for the migration to begin, it's time to sharpen your observation skills. Please review this checklist so you'll know what to watch for and include in your report:

Challenge Question #5
"Why is it important to note the condition of the butterfly's wings when tracking monarch migration? (That is, whether the wings are fresh or faded and tattered.)"

To respond to this question, please follow the instructions at the end of this report.

Field Report from Dr. Calvert's Monarch Trip

Principal Monarch Over-wintering Sites in Mexico

Ten teachers are now visiting the monarch sanctuaries in Mexico. Today they are visiting an ejido school near the Chincua sanctuary, where some of the paper butterflies have landed. Watch for a first hand report for next week. Here's the latest news from Mexico:

"On Saturday, February 21 high westerly winds swept through the Transvolcanic area. In Mexico City, this cleared away the smog leaving almost crystal air and fine views of the volcanoes Popocatepeti and Iztaccihuati. Elsewhere these winds swept away clouds leaving clear, dry weather.

The affect on the monarch butterfly colonies was astonishing. At the Herrada colony, butterflies poured off the mountains and crossed over or flew along the road as we traveled. In several places we saw them puddling by the thousands taking water from open sources or from mud in the road.

"At the Herrada colony we encountered tens of thousands, perhaps millions flying down through the woods to the east of their normal channel--the Arroyo de Las Palomas. This indicates that the colony was on the eastern end of the Cerro Herrada. Very little nectaring was observed.

"Viewing this behavior opened up one of the major unanswered questions in monarch biology: Why then do so many of them fly in warm weather?

"The dogma is that monarchs migrate to Mexico and should spend their overwintering days in a state of dormancy to conserve their lipids for the return migration. Not many butterflies were drinking, and even fewer nectaring. I will leave this an open question!"

Responses to Challenge Question #3
"Who do you think is responsible for protecting monarch habitat in Mexico? Do you have ideas for ways in which you can help?"

"It is a hard decision because we want the monarchs and the people need food and clothing," said Brittney of Ellington School in Quincy, Illinois. "You don't know whether to take care of your Family or a whole bunch of Monarch butterflies," adds Amanda. (

As many classroom discussions concluded, no one has the answer to this truly challenging problem. Here are thoughts from many of the people who responded. To read their complete comments--or to participate in the discussion yourself--visit the Challenge Question Archives.

Who is responsible for this problem:

  • The president of the United States of America
  • The Government of Mexico
  • We think that the U.S.A and Mexico should be responsible.
  • Dr. Lincoln Brower, and NAFTA and the Trinational Committee on Environmental Cooperation
  • The whole world is responsible

Suggestions for what can be done:

  • A joint program sponsored by Canada, US, Mexico, to introduce other means of earning money for the families that now log the area.
  • The government protects all the Oyamel fir trees and all the not protected can be cut down
  • Plant more fir trees in the protected area so they will fly to those trees when they come over.
  • Every time they cut down a tree, they have to plant a couple.
  • Make the trees that the Monarchs stay on national and put tree seeds by poor people.
  • I think there should be park rangers to protect the Monarch habitat.
  • Put a fence around the Oyamel Fir Trees then no one could get to them except the Monarch butterflies.
  • The loggers should cut-down the other trees, not the Oyamel fir tree in the mountains where the monarchs go.
  • The people get their jobs of cutting down the trees, but every time they cut down a tree, they have to plant a couple.
  • Maybe there could be a high penalty imposed on the companies that buy the lumber.
  • Limit the amount of trees the loggers can cut and raise the prices of lumber.
  • Try to divide the forests in half. Save one half for the monarchs and one half for the people who are poor.
  • The people should try to get new jobs.
  • Maybe us, the governor, the mayor, or the president could send them money.
  • Help them improve their crop plantings so that they aren't so undependable.
  • Plant bigger gardens and sell half of the crops for money.
  • Con la afluencia turistica incrementaran las actividades economicas indirectas tales como el comercio y los servicios e interesando en ellas a los pobladores en lugar de acabarse los bosques de
  • la Monarca.
  • I think the Mexican president should do more to save the monarchs but do more to help the Mexicans that are poor.
  • The only way I seem to be able to help is to educate and inform people.
  • I think that you should write e-mail or letters to the mayor or the president.
  • We could sign a petition and send it to the Mexican president, Ernesto Zedillo.
  • The wealthy countries should donate to the poorer countries to help save their animals and environment.

Many people said the government should give people money. As a class, consider this adage:

"Rather than give a poor man a fish, give him a fish hook so he can catch his own."

Discuss the difference between these two ways of giving. Which economic solutions suggested are similar to giving a fish? A fish hook?

Thanks to the following people for contributing their thoughts to this discussion:

  • Fourth grade students from Richland Elementary School of Quakertown, PA
  • Jenna Smith, 12, Lincoln Elementary School, CA
  • Mr. Terry Smith 2nd/3rd Grade Class of Ellington School Quincy, Illinois
  • Sandy Roggow's class in Wisconsin
  • Ms. Dubielzig's Class of Madison, WI
  • Jennifer Le 6th Grade of Aldrich Middle School in Beloit, WI
  • Third grade class at Kanawha School in Davisville, WV.
  • Mrs. Hayes' first grade, Tenafly, NJ

How to Respond to Challenge Question # 5

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 5
3. In the body of the message, give your answer to this question:

Challenge Question #5
"Why is it important to note the condition of the butterfly's wings when tracking monarch migration? (That is, whether the wings are fresh or faded and tattered.)"

The Next Monarch Butterfly Migration Update Will be Posted on February 24, 1998.

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