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Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: May 2, 2001

Today's Report Includes:

Highlights From Along the Migration Trail
Monarchs have now been sighted in 20 states, including 4 new ones this week--Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and West Virginia. This week's map shows a few scattered sightings from points north of those last week, but no clear wave of advance, suggesting the population is quite small in the north.

To view both maps simultaneously, open two windows of your browser (Netscape, Internet Explorer, etc.).

This Year
May 2, 2001

Last Year
May 3, 2000

But people are watching intently, and are making some remarkable observations!

This butterfly few 1,550 miles from Mexico to Iowa!

* A 3rd grader in Iowa reported the first butterfly from her state on April 26th. Could it truly be a monarch, we wondered? Whenever an unusual sighting is reported, we write to the observer for more information.

"The monarch was found at a student's farm yard, probably 8 miles into Iowa," responded teacher Susan Graeser. "This family has milkweed in their barn yard. The student brought the monarch to school and I took pictures of it." And a monarch it is! (See photo.)

* And in Burkesville, Kentucky, another 3rd grade student took a digital picture of the monarch he sighted and brought it in to school. Way to go! What careful scientists!

* Missouri was added to the migration map this week, thanks to students in Florissant, MO: "Three students saw monarchs this weekend, one on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectfully...We have tagged and studied monarchs, so the first thing out of their mouths this morning was that they saw their first monarch of the spring."

* "No adults spotted yet," writes Bill Wells from Summersville High School, but the students have proof that monarchs have arrived. "The class found multiple eggs on newly emerged common milkweed on school grounds."

* At a latitude of 42N, the farthest north yet, Holt County School District #53 in Nebraska reported, "Monarch butterflies have been spotted in our school yard at 22 miles north of Atkinson, NE this week."

Torn, tattered and faded, this monarch was found in late April in Arkansas by Jim Edson

* Tattered and faded wings were noted by many observers: In McLean, VA, Lawrence saw a monarch flying northwest with faded wings. A warn, old female, very transparent but not "bedraggled" was reported in Suffolk, VA. And "a very tattered looking monarch" was reported in Annapolis, MD by Peabody School.

The monarchs from Mexico have been alive for a long, long time! That's why we asked last week...

How Long Have These Monarchs Been Alive?
Answer to Challenge Question #24

"Assume a butterfly emerged as an adult last August 25 in New York. For how many days has the butterfly been alive as of April 25, 2001? For how many weeks? And for how many months?"

Answer: 243 days (or 32 weeks, or 8 months)!

  • Click here for a worksheet that walks you through the calculations

How Far North Do the Monarchs from Mexico Travel?
Today's map probably shows how far the monarchs from Mexico will travel this year. As the generation from Mexico dies, we can expect to see a drop in sightings from the north. People there will have to wait for the first spring generation to emerge in the south and then migrate northward.

Next Generation Soon on Its Way!
A New Way to Look at Your Migration Map

Last week we suggested a new way to view your map. If you assume that:
  • Eggs were laid at all the places where monarchs were sighted, and
  • It takes 32 days for a monarch to develop from an egg into an adult.

The "Migration" Map Becomes....

A New Map!
"Next Generation" Map

On the right is the new map! It shows when and where we can expect the next generation of monarchs to emerge. Note how the dates of the legends changed:

Monarchs Sighted
(Legend of "Migration" Map)

The Next Generation
Should Emerge
(Legend of "Next Generation" Map)

Before March 15

Before Apr. 16

Mar 15 - Mar 28

Apr. 16 - Apr. 29

Mar 29 - Apr 11

Apr 30 - May 13

Apr 12 - Apr 25

May 14 - May 27

Apr 26 - May 9

May 28 - Jun 10

Predicting Emergence of 1st Spring Generation
Answer to Challenge Question #25

Challenge Question #25 asked, "When might we expect monarchs to emerge in Arkansas? In North Carolina?"

Answer: Using the map and legend above, we can predict that the first monarchs will emerge in Arkansas between Apr 30 - May 13, and in North Carolina between May 14 - May 27. Let's see if monarch sightings increase noticeably in those areas at that time!

Record Flight by a Monarch Tagged in New Brunswick
Don Davis of Toronto, who's tagged thousands of monarchs, wrote with exciting news yesterday. A monarch that was tagged last fall on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada was recovered in the sanctuaries this winter! He received a letter from Dr. and Mrs. Urquhart in which they said:

"This is the longest record by far of all the flights of migrating monarchs that we have ever recorded. We have always wondered where the monarchs from the eastern coast of Canada migrated and this is our first record."

How Far From New Brunswick to Mexico?
Challenge Question #26

Challenge Question #26
"How far did the monarch fly? Measure the distance from Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick (44.50 N, -66.75 W) to the sanctuaries in Mexico (19 N, -100 W)."

Story of a Life's Journey
If a monarch butterfly could talk, just think of the stories it could tell! Imagine a butterfly whose life began 8 months ago in the north, and write its life story:
  • Describe all the places this imaginary monarch has been--the different habitats and biomes it has traveled through, the seasonal changes it has experienced, and the many changes its body has undergone.
  • Imagine all this butterfly has had to do to stay alive! What challenges has it had? Any narrow escapes? Where did it find food, water and shelter?
  • Imagine the different people this butterfly might have seen, and the languages it overheard. Maybe it's even looked down on people you know, who live in different states, provinces or countries! In what ways are people working to help the monarch butterfly?
  • What will happen next, now that its journey is over? How will the story continue, even though the butterfly's life is coming to an end?

Please share your stories with Journey North! We'd love to know what you and your imaginary butterfly have learned during this school year.

Noticia de la migracion de la mariposa monarca: 1 mayo de 2001
As the butterflies fly over your homes, schools and cities, we're sending the news back to the students in Mexico so they can track the migration too. Here is this week's report in Spanish, with an English translation:

Please report the FIRST MILKWEED to Emerge This Spring!

Journey North
Year End Evaluation
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How to Respond to Today's Monarch Challenge Question:

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #26
3. In the body of the your message, answer the question above.

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on May 9, 2001

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