Jim Gilbert
Monarch Butterfly

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Monarch Butterfly

Journey North News will be posted on Thursdays:
Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28, Mar. 7, 14, 21, 28, Apr. 4, 11, 18, 25, May 2, 9, 16, 23, 30...and weekly until the migration is completed!

Journey North News

  • Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: February 7, 2002

    A massive storm hit the Mexican monarch sanctuaries in mid-January, and a large percentage the entire population appears to have been killed by this single storm. On sabbatical in Angangueo, teacher Dave Kust witnessed the storm and carefully documented its effect. He knew the death toll would be high--but how could this be documented scientifically? What would you do?
  • Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: February 14, 2002

    A severe winter storm hit the monarch sanctuary region deep in central Mexico last month, killing over 75% of the monarch population in this single storm. Mexico's over-wintering sites harbor all of eastern North America's migratory monarch breeding stock. What long-term effect will this storm have on monarch populations, given such a high mortality rate? How did scientists make these estimates? How do you now if a butterfly is dead, or just paralyzed by the cold?
  • Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: February 21, 2002


    First, experience a quiet walk in the monarch's forest. What would you ask Dr. Calvert, if you he were walking beside you? Students traveling with him in Mexico witnessed a butterfly blizzard on Tuesday. Why would monarchs fly in such a frenzy, if their goal is to conserve lipids during the long overwintering months? How many millions of monarch butterflies are in a sanctuary? A surprise for scientists after the storm.
  • Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: February 28, 2002
    Why do monarchs fly after long periods of dormancy? How do they hold onto the trees when they're paralyzed by cold? Students and Dr. Calvert are back with the answers. Imagine surviving the winter without food, on body fat alone. Monarchs live off their stored lipids. Butterflies can be seen drinking nectar during the overwintering season, but find out what scientists learned about the condition of those monarchs.
  • Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: March 7, 2002
    Due to chilly temperatures in Mexico, Dr. Calvert predicts a late departure this spring. "We have witnessed no massive movements yet," he says. Take a look at camouflage in the colonies--and a closer look at monarch wings. How does the resting position of a monarch help to hide it in the oyamel forest? Brrrrrrrr....Have freezing temperatures in the monarch's breeding range affected milkweed? That's the plant that must be ready when the migrants arrive, so please report what you're seeing.
  • Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: March 14, 2002
    "Major monarch traffic overhead the last three days," reports Dave Kust from Angangueo. "Today seems to be the heaviest flow with 120 per minute at 11:45 am." Bill Calvert and company witnessed a predator feeding frenzy on Monday. Close inspection of a dead butterfly gives a clue as to its predator--can you tell who ate these butterflies? Meanwhile, 138 miles north of the overwintering sites came the first report from the migration pathway in Mexico--the monarchs are on their way!
  • Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: March 21, 2002
    What a week! A sudden wave of migration crossed into Texas, with over 72 new sightings to add to last week's three. Do you think monarchs follow the milkweed as they migrate? Make a prediction, then compare the weekly milkweed and migration maps. As spring moves across the continent, monitor the changes in monarch habitat while you wait for monarchs. Now tell us, why do you suppose it's so much easier to take pictures of monarchs on fall flowers than spring flowers?
  • Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: March 28, 2002
    Strong and steady, the migration continued across Texas during the last week, and the leading edge clearly appears to have expanded into the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and even Arkansas! But what about that sighting in North Carolina? Do you think that monarch came from Mexico? Find out why it's so much harder to take pictures of monarchs in the springtime.
  • Monarch Migration Update: April 4, 2002
    First sightings were reported last week from Georgia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. We even received a very early report from southern Kansas, 230 miles north of any other sighting. Will you include this one on your migration map? This worn-looking monarch has traveled over 1,100 miles from Mexico to Arkansas. Now in captivity, we'll watch as her offspring develop. Predict how many eggs she'll lay, how long she'll live, and when the next generation will be on the wing.
  • Monarch Migration Update: April 11, 2002
    It?s been a slow week with only a few new locations added to the migration map. This lull occurs each year, as the lives of the overwintering generation wane and the next generation develops. But from the tip of southern Texas, students witnessed what?s about to occur across their state. How many eggs does a single monarch lay? The famous female in Arkansas has now surpassed 200. What is an instar, and how do you know how old a monarch caterpillar is? Finally, how high were those monarchs flying that were seen outside of a skycraper window?
  • Monarch Migration Update: April 18, 2002
    The overwintering population still appears to be concentrated in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and will probably not travel much further than today's map shows. Fresh-winged butterflies will soon replace their parents, and continue the migration northward. "I think what happens in Texas/Arkansas/Louisiana is probably key. The entire population is essentially there," says Dr. Brower. How long does a butterfly of the over-wintering generation live? How many eggs does a single female lay? Some lessons were learned this week from the representative monarch in Arkansas.
  • Monarch Migration Update: April 25, 2002
    The migration has now clearly moved into Kansas, Missouri and points eastward at the same latitude. And warm weather brought on the milkweed! Of all reported since February, 36% was during the past 10 days. Time to watch for the fresh wings of the next monarch generation. Test your talent at aging monarchs using wing condition. In honor of Earth Day, imagine a world ruled by monarchs. Be the butterfly expert and decide, will Bt spray for Gypsy Moths affect monarchs?
  • Monarch Migration Update: May 2, 2002
    The migration has advanced very little since last week, with only 14 new sightings to report. The number of adult monarchs is now clearly at a low. We expect this to change soon. In past springs, sightings have more than doubled with the arrival of the new generation.** Mark your calendar: Homecoming for Symbolic Monarchs: May 15, 2002 ** The symbolic butterflies are almost ready for the last leg of their journey! Pictured here are your butterflies and the Journey North staf at our annual, outdoor spring packing day last Friday.
  • Monarch Migration Update: May 9, 2002
    Once again this week, the most significant news is how few migration sightings have been reported. We hit an all time low, with only 2 new sightings. As you watch for monarchs, the monarchs are on the lookout too--predators and parasites are on the prowl. Of all eggs laid, as many as 90-95% die before reaching the 5th instar. Explore the predator/prey interactions in your own backyard. Also take a look at milkweed ecology. Here are 8 animals that interact with milkweed, in one way or another.
  • Monarch Migration Update: May 16, 2002
    Other Journey North migrations have come to an end, but we'll continue to track the monarchs until they?ve expanded across their entire breeding range. The monarchs have now clearly moved into Iowa, and have almost reached latitude 42N in that state. No sightings have yet been reported from Illinois, Indiana, or Ohio and only a few from the East Coast states. There, early monarchs are as far as 40N. It's been a cool, wet week. "I was wondering, where do monarchs go when it rains?? asked a boy in Iowa.
  • Monarch Migration Update: May 23 2002
    Migration sightings picked up again this week, but only slightly. This spring's migration map now shows the most dramatic contrast from last year's. Notice the differences in both the abundance of monarchs and the advance of the migration. During the summer breeding season, monarchs live for only 2-5 weeks. Several generations live and die each summer. Can you figure out which generation will migrate to Mexico next fall?
  • Monarch Migration Update: May 30, 2002
    As predicted, a big surge northward occurred last week. An astonishing 64 people contributed new migration sightings!After essentially stalling for 2 weeks, the migration has now advanced much closer to its position last year. Congratulations to Sarah for spotting the first monarch in northern Michigan---32 miles out in Lake Michigan--and for beating this writer who was watching daily on shore!
  • Monarch Migration Update: June 6, 2002
    Monarchs have clearly advanced into the Great Lakes region, surrounding Lake Michigan and even reaching the tip of Lake Superior's Isle Royale. The northernmost report of the spring came this week from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Although sightings picked up in the east, the monarch population is clearly concentrated in the midsection of the U.S. When comparing migration maps of 2001 and 2002, notice how clearly the cool temperatures this spring affected the migration's advance into northern regions.
  • Monarch Migration Update: June 13, 2002
    The first sightings of the season have finally arrived from Maine! Monarchs reached the same latitude in the middle west more than two weeks earlier. The majority of this week's sightings occurred during the May 24-June 6 time period, reinforcing last week?s observation of a very strong northward pulse at that time. How much farther north will the monarchs travel? See this map of the monarch's breeding range in North America.

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