Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: March 5, 2004

Today's Report Includes:

Field Notes from Mexico by Dr. Bill Calvert
"It's spring in Mexico!" exclaimed Dr. Calvert this week. Flowers are mobbed with nectaring butterflies and mass mating has begun, signifying the last stage of the long, over-wintering season. The El Rosario colony has diminished to clusters on only 20 trees, presumably due to this winter's storm. Members of the group included forestry experts, who shared their views about the health of the forest. What three things did they see that suggest the Sierra Chincua forest is healthy?
 Photos courtesy of Dr. Lincoln Brower, Sweet Briar College

How Many Butterflies Trees?
Comparing Tree Counts

The El Rosario monarch colony was quite large in mid-winter. An estimated 4.5 hectares of trees were filled with butterflies. In his report, Dr. Calvert challenges you to compare that to the 20 butterfly trees now remaining. He says to assume there are 400 trees in a typical hectare of oyamel forest. So...

Challenge Question #8
"How many times more butterflies were at the El Rosario sanctuary in mid-winter than there are now?"

 Photos: Elizabeth Howard

Simplifying Monarch Math for Young Students
Here’s a worksheet to help young students visualize this math problem. It shows 400 circles, each representing a tree. Therefore, the page represents one hectare of forest. Use it to compare the population sizes in mid-winter and March. Students can copy, cut and paste the number of butterfly trees at both points in time--then answer the question above.

Virginia Teacher Delivers Surprise to Sanctuary Students
"My husband and I just recently returned from Angangueo after visiting the monarch sanctuaries," wrote Mrs. Nickels of Crestwood Elementary. "While we were there I was able to deliver 3 totebags filled with school supplies that my kindergarten children in Richmond, Virgina contributed. The bags contained writing tablets, pens, markers and 40 classic picture books in Spanish. It was a thrill to take these directly to the children."
Mariposa, Migratoria y Microclima: Vocabulary with Noemi
What do these words have to do with monarch butterflies? Mexican student Noemi de Jesus and her dad show you how to pronounce 28 words in Spanish. Can you translate them into English? Can you use each word in a sentence about monarchs over-wintering in Mexico?

Discussion of Challenge Question #6
How Does Rainy Season Help?

Last week’s story was about Maria Luisa and her family during Mexico’s dry season. She said nature makes life easier during the rainy season. First grade students in Vermont read the story carefully and discovered how:

"Before the rainy season starts, the family has to carry the water by hand to the fields and to their house. When the rainy season starts, the crops are watered by nature."

First Migrants in Texas?
Compare Your Thoughts to the Expert's
Exciting news arrived from Mike Quinn of Texas Monarch Watch: Two adult butterflies were reported in central Texas. Are these the first migrants of the season?

Try This! Predicting the Route of the Monarch’s Spring Migration
As the monarchs pour out of Mexico this spring, where do you think they’ll go?

List the states & provinces in the order in which you predict the butterflies will arrive. Form a hypothesis as to why the monarchs will travel as you predict. Revisit this question all spring as you watch the butterflies spread across their northern breeding range. Revise your predictions and hypothesis as you learn new information.

Discussion of Challenge Question #7

The migration map shows red triangles where monarchs were reported during the winter months. Challenge Question #7 asked you to speculate whether those butterflies will migrate. Iselin Middle School’s Grade 7 students shared their prediction:

"We think the butterflies that are spread out along the Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida, will migrate north this spring."

Nobody knows, but with enough reports the migration pattern may be revealed!

Monitoring Habitat While You Wait
Checklist for Spring Observations

Journey North is a study of migration and seasonal change. As spring moves across the continent, we watch the interrelationships in nature build anew.

Try This!
Long before the migration reaches you, record how the monarchs' habitat is changing. Monitor the same site regularly leading up to the monarchs' arrival. On each visit, look for milkweed and sources of nectar. Predict when you think milkweed will emerge, when the first flowers will bloom and the when the first monarch will arrive. Get ready to report your sightings!

My Monarch Habitat in...Secret Volunteers Needed for Challenge
We’re looking for volunteers who will send 3 photos of their local monarch habitat, along with geographical clues, for a future Challenge Question. Everybody else will have to figure out where in the monarch’s breeding range you’re located!