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Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: October 8, 1997

Rocio Trevino
Founder of the Correo Real Monarch Education Program

Rocio Trevino and her family moved to Saltillo about 20 years ago when her children were young. Every fall, thousands of butterflies would swarm through their town. Assuming the butterflies were invading insects, the children made a game to see how many they could hit with tennis racquets. As Senora Trevino remembers, her children held contests to see who could make the biggest pile!

Much later, she came to realize that these were the same, famous monarchs butterflies that spend the winter in the mountains of Michoacan and Mexico, over 400 miles to the south. Her town of Saltillo, she realized, lay along the route monarchs travel from as far away as Canada.

Senora Trevino became concerned that uninformed people, like her own children, weren't aware of this and were killing them. So began the Correo Real Monarch Education Project. Senora Trevino coordinates students' reports of monarch butterflies from across Mexico. Today's sightings were made by these students.

The first reports of monarchs "south of the border" have arrived! Sightings from Coahilla, Mexico were reported last week, thanks to Rocio Trevino of Mexico's Correo Real project and the translation services of Jon Dicus of the Blake Schools.

These monarchs may be resident, rather than migratory, butterflies. However, according to Senora Trevino's records from previous years, these would be right on schedule. The first big wave of monarchs usually reaches Saltillo between October 10-15. Numbers then drop off a bit, and another peak occurs around the 5 of November. Here are the locations of the monachs reported:

Monclova, Coahuila
Teacher Olga Sauceda writes that on Sept. 12 and 13 she observed one monarch flying.

Piedras Negras, Coahuila
Student Renato García Santillan from Piedras Negras, Coahuila saw, on the 23 of Sept., one flying monarch and one dead monarch on the road.

Saltillo, Coahuila
On the 26 of Sept., Alicia Gutierrez and Carlos Carrera saw one monarch flying in Saltillo.

Allende, Coahuila
On Sept. 27 Cecilia Ochoa saw one monarch every 8 km. while driving from Rosita to Allende, Coahuila.

Cuatrocienegas, Coahuila
Ruperto Zapien saw one monarch flying on Sept. 27 near Cuatrocienegas, Coahuila. He also many "Reina" butterflies (Danaus gilippus).

Masses of Monarchs Collecting in Texas
Meanwhile in Texas, monarchs from points across the U.S. and Canada have been collecting and are poised to move south. Biologist Dr. Bill Calvert of the Texas Monarch Watch Hotline reports: "Large numbers of monarchs (100's to 1000's) are traversing areas much further west than previously reported. Since October 1, thousands of monarchs have been accumulating in Ector, Midland, Crane, Dawson and Pecos Counties. Warm weather with southerly winds have held them in place for several days. If they continue to the south or southwest, they will soon strike the Davis Mountains or the Mountains of Big Bend National Park. Following these mountain chains will take them rapidly into Coahuila, Mexico where they are expected to continue on a south-southeasterly course."

October 7
Brenham, Texas
"Students are having a blast monitoring the migration of the monarch," says Ms. Schultz of Brenham Middle School. "While at the deer camp last weekend, Wiley spotted 27 butterflies. He really never noticed them before, but this project has made him aware of the migration. Mannise spotted 12 at her grandmother's home. She used to catch them, but now she lets them fly to Mexico." (kays@brenham.isd.tenet.edu)

Calvert has received reports of monarchs being eaten by birds at their roosts. He also received concerning news about pesticides being sprayed in the vicinity of monarch roosts in Midland, TX. He expects the butterflies to begin to move out as the next northerly reaches the state. At the time of writing, the wind is still from the south. However, there is a cold front to the west of Texas. Watch for the cold front to approach Texas--and watch for more sightings to appear from Mexico soon.

Today's Weather Conditions
(Click on face of maps for a full-screen imgage.)

Location of Fronts
Map: Purdue University

Wind Direction
Map: San Francisco State University

News from the Atlantic Coast
Monarch biologist Dr. Lincoln Brower reports from Virginia's Sweet Briar College: "Here in central Virginia, the monarchs seem to be held back by the warm air pushing northeastwards up from the Caribbean. It seems like the jet stream is not getting far enough south to let the cold fronts pass southeastwards."

In fact, monarchs in New Jersey were reported yesterday to be flying to the northwest according to observations made by Gayle Steffy on October 7. Dick Walton's observers on Cape May sighted an average of "only" 42 monarchs per hour. This compares to last week's 152 monarchs per hour. Will the numbers increase as the weather conditions Dr. Brower describes break?

Visit the Monarch Migration Project WWW site for details.

Monarchs Still Flowing From the North
Twice yesterday, students from the far north reported monarchs. From a latitude of 47 N: "I took my class out today to enjoy the unseasonably warm fall weather. We spotted a straggler in good health," reported Linda Wangsness of The Greenway Schools (lwags@northernnet.com) in Coleraine, Minnesota. "Hello from Blue Hill, Maine," wrote Martha Malinowski of Blue Hill Consolidated School at 44 N. "You might be surprised to hear that we still have monarch butterflies." (bhcslib@bluehill.u93.k12.me.us)

Many Monarch sightings are arriving every day, and to include them all would require more space than we have. Be sure to visit the WWW where you can read all observers' full comments.

Visit the Journey North Monarch Migration Database

Special Butterflies Heading for Mexico!
"We were quite attached to our monarchs, but we knew it was time to let them begin their journey," reported Cheryl Little from Shady Side Academy in Pittsburg, PA. Special butterflies have also recently joined the migration, after being carefully raised and released by:

St. Peter's Elementary Trenton, ONT (62 butterflies!)
York Middle School York, NE
Horne Street School Dover, NH
Blue Hill School Blue Hill, ME
Branksome Hall Toronto, ONT
St. Mary Academy Dover, NH
Taft Elementary Washingtonville, NY
Penn Wynne Elementary Wynnewood, PA
Barstow Memorial School Chittenden, VT
Herbert Mills Elementary Reynoldsburg, OH
Barnet School Barnet, VT
Interlochen Community School Interlochen, MI
Shady Side Academy Pittsburgh, PA

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will be Posted October 14, 1997