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Monarch Migration Update: April 26, 2000

Today's Report Includes:

Highlights From the Migration Trail
Monarch Migration as of April 26, 2000

The monarchs are continuing to push northward! Just how far north do you think the monarchs from Mexico will go?

Among the newsworthy observations:

  • Students at Fredstrom Elementary in Lincoln, Nebraska reported the first monarch for their state.
  • Up north at latitude 41 N, Rock Island School District in Illinois wrote: "We observed a Monarch with very tattered and torn wings."
  • Also at 41 N, but in Rhode Island, 6th grade teacher Jennifer Davis saw the first monarch of the season. "I was thrilled," she exclaimed.

We cheer the monarchs on as they travel northward, but the first monarchs to arrive might find that their habitat is not ready for them. Last week we explored the...

Risks of Early Arrival
Discussion of Challenge Question #30

"Can you think of 3 reasons why it might be risky for a monarch to travel as far north as Connecticut this early in the spring?"

Mrs. Lodge's students in Hebron, CT thought about this carefully:

"My students discussed the problems of having the butterfly come up north this early.
  1. It is still too cold. We may have a sunny, warm day every so often, but for the most part it is still rainy and chilly.
  2. The milkweed isn't out yet. There will be no place for them to lay their eggs.
  3. We don't have enough flowers out yet for them to get a source of nutrition."

Are Monarchs Ahead of Their Milkweed?
Let's look back at some of the recent monarch sightings, and compare the timing to milkweed growth:

In Gainesville, GA, North Hall Middle School reported their first monarch on April 6th. On April 16, teacher Mark Barton sent these observations: "Most of our milkweed emerged April 4. Now most all of it has numerous eggs. One common milkweed has about 12 eggs on only 6 leaves. The plant is only 4 inches high."

Dr. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch saw the first monarch in Lawrence, KS on April 12. "In a few areas, particularly where the soil is warm, milkweeds are starting to make their appearance," he observed.

Monarch biologist Dr. Lincoln Brower wrote from Virginia: "Today (12 April) we have our first milkweed shoot coming up.....two tiny shoots about 1/2 inch, from the base of one A. syriaca. And much to my surprise, I saw a well-worn monarch that almost certainly was a female on the Sweet Briar College campus today. Pat Sutton of New Jersey Audubon, said she saw a monarch in the Cape May, NJ area on April 6. There is no question that these monarchs are ahead of their milkweeds."

According to students at Principia Lower School in St. Louis, MO, monarchs began to arrive on April 15th--and several more were reported a few days later. We had contacted Bob Coulter of the Missouri Botanical Gardens for a milkweed report: "As of Tuesday, April 11 nothing happening. Our on-site horticulturist checked the [milkweed] roots, and not much is going on."

In Monticello, Arkansas, where monarchs have been present for several weeks, Mr. Jim Edson made this observation: "Yesterday I caught a faded, worn female and put her in a cage with a couple of cuttings of milkweed _Asclepias curassavica_. By this afternoon, she had laid 87 eggs before I let her go."

Challenge Question #33
"Give specific examples from these observers' comments--and from what you know about monarch reproduction--that suggest that the early monarchs arrived before their milkweed was ready."

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

Please Report Your Milkweed Observations!
Take a moment today to go out and check your surroundings for milkweed. What do you see? As you watch to the south for the first monarchs to arrive, watch under your feet for the first milkweed to emerge.

Which will come first, the monarchs or the milkweed? Please let us know! Include notes about your milkweed when you report your FIRST monarch. Or, if you'd like to report now, record milkweed notes in the "Monarch (OTHER observations)" category.
Next Generation Soon on Its Way!
If you live in the north, where monarchs have not yet arrived, YOUR first monarchs of the season will probably be the children of the butterflies from Mexico. The next generation of monarchs is now developing. Depending on temperature, the time for development varies. But an estimated number of days the monarch spends at each stage of development is:

Egg 3-5 days
Larvae 9-14 days
Chrysalis 8-13 days
Total 20-32 days

Turn Your Migration Map Into a New One...
Look at your migration map for a minute and think about this: There were probably many, many monarchs in each place that one monarch was sighted. And what do you think the FEMALE monarchs were doing at all of those places? (Answer: Laying eggs--LOTS and LOTS of eggs!)

1. Print out a copy of Journey North's monarch migration map. Look carefully at the legend. Notice that the different colors show the range of dates when FIRST monarchs were sighted.

2. If we assume eggs were laid where these monarchs were sighted, when would the next generation of monarchs emerge in these places?

First Monarch Sighted Next Generation Should Emerge
Before March 15
Mar 15 - Mar 28
Mar 29 - Apr 11
Apr 12 - Apr 26

3. Let's assume that it takes 32 days for a monarch to develop from an egg into an adult. Now make a new legend for the map. Our goal is to show when we can expect monarchs to emerge at all the places where the monarchs from Mexico have now arrived. Now try to answer these questions:

Challenge Question #34
"What dates does your new legend show? What title would you give this new map?"

Challenge Question #35
"When might we expect monarchs to emerge in Arkansas?"

(To respond to these questions, please follow the instructions below.)

(IMPORTANT NOTE: In reality of course, monarchs are now at different stages of development all across their range. This is due to the differences in arrival dates, the different temperatures at each place, and other factors that affect development time. This question is only intended to help estimate the timing of monarch generations.)

How Long Have These Monarchs Been Alive?
Think back to when you came to school last fall. You may have raised your own monarchs and sent them on their way to Mexico. If your monarchs are still alive, how old would they be now? The monarchs that over-wintered in Mexico are now in their final days. They've been alive for a long, long time. Let's use this example to see how old they are:

Challenge Question #36
"Assume a butterfly emerged as an adult last August 26 in Maine. For how many days has the butterfly been alive as of April 26, 2000? For how many weeks?"

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 #33 (#34, #35 or #36).
3. In the body of the EACH message, answer ONE of the questions above.

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on May 3, 2000.

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