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Monarch Migration Update: March 8, 2000

Today's Report Includes:

The First Monarchs Are on Their Way!

First Migration Map of Spring, 2000

From the mountains in Mexico, Eligio Garcia sends the news we've been waiting for:

"Parece ser que la migracion al norte ya esta comensando. Observe varias mariposas volando hacia el norte y fuera de la reserva."

"It seems that the migration to the north is already beginning because I have observed several butterflies flying towards the north and outside the reserve."

On his weekly visit to Chincua last week, there were no longer any trees holding clusters of monarchs. The butterflies had all dispersed down the canyon. Meanwhile, far to the north in Saltillo, Coahuila, Rocio Trevino of the Correo Real monarch tracking project reported:

"Ya estan las mariposas Monarca pasando por Coahuila!"
"Already there are monarch butterflies passing by Coahuila!" (See the migration data and map below.)

The United States of Mexico
Since the migration is now beginning to pass through northern Mexico, you'll need to know the names of the states the butterflies cross. Today's migration data come from 3 different states, as you'll see below.

Challenge Question #12
"How many states are there in Mexico? How many can you name without looking at resource materials? Which states do you think the monarch migration passes through?"

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

Has the Migration Already Reached Texas?
Even further to the north, 4th grade students at Ben Milam Elementary in McAllen, TX (26.21 N, -98.23 W) noticed a sudden increase in eggs and larvae on their milkweed. Teacher Janice Merritt wrote last Friday:

"Every day for the past week, students have been finding larva and eggs. As of today, 12 larva have been found. The students stopped counting at 20 eggs. We have yet to see an adult Monarch. Our school is on the border of Texas and Mexico - we are wondering if a few Monarchs are starting northward!" (

How Can You Tell a Migratory Monarch?
Today's map includes migration observations, and also reports from places where monarchs were sighted all winter. As you can see, in some regions of Texas there were monarchs all winter. It makes you wonder:

Challenge Question #13
"Do you think migratory monarchs from Mexico have begun to arrive in Texas? How might a person be able to tell if the monarchs they see in Texas are:

  1. from Mexico, or
  2. from the Texas over-wintering population?"

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

Migration and Winter Sightings Data
Journey North observers reported monarchs in the places. After reading each observer's comments, we used February 26 as the cut off date to separate "winter" vs. "migration" sightings on our map.

Snowstorm in Mexico on Sunday
Writing from Irapuato, Guanajuato, where he saw the first migratory monarchs on March 6, Dr. Martinez-Soriano sent this weather report: "On Sunday night there was a really heavy snow/hail storm in the mountains of the State of Mexico. The monarch sanctuaries are very close to the critical area."

You may be surprised to know there are snowstorms in the sanctuary region. After all, don't monarchs migrate to Mexico to get away from snow? We asked Dr. Calvert how these snowstorms might affect the monarchs:

"After a snowstorm, I'd expect that most butterflies would survive, even many of those stuck in the snow. Miraculously, once the snow melts, I've seen them warm up and finally move off. They might even have been buried for a full week!

"However, in 1981 we happened to be monitoring mortality in the Chincua colony and documented tremendous mortality due a severe snowstorm. Our count was over 2.5 million dead. The storm had devastated the butterfly population!

Using the data Dr. Calvert collected, think about this:

Challenge Question #14
"Compare regular monarch mortality to that caused by the storm. Using numbers, describe how big an impact the snowstorm had."

Challenge Question #15
"On the basis of Dr. Calvert's mortality data, what could you conclude about the safety of the two positions within the colony? (That is, did more butterflies die when they were on the ground or up in a tree bough?)"

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

Life in the Sanctuary Region
The Indigenous Community of Mazahua

Now that the migration has begun, our last reports from Mexico will be posted in the next 2 weeks. We will also summarize the Challenge Questions that have not yet been answered, and provide the final personal interviews with people in the region. Here are today's stories:
  • Back in Time with Mala
    Mazahua is a the community of about 14,000 people that lived on this land before the Spanish came to what is now called Mexico. We still dress, prepare our food and talk as our ancestors did over 500 years ago.
  • Regresando en el Tiempo Con Mala
    Mazahua es una comunidad de 14,000 personas más o menos y hemos vivido aqui antes de que llegaron los Españoles a lo que hoy en día se llama México. Nos vestimos, preparamos comida y hablamos como nuestros antepasadoas hicieron hace quinientos años.

Get Ready to Track the Migration
Although it takes 3-4 weeks for all the butterflies to leave Mexico--and probably much longer to reach you--please sharpen your observation skills now. Print and review the checklists below so you'll be ready to make good field observations this spring:

How to Respond to Today's Monarch Challenge Questions|

question in each e-mail message!

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #12 (or #13, #14, or #15)
3. In the body of the EACH message, answer ONE of the questions above.

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on March 15, 2000.

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