An extraordinary learning site, since 1997 Journey North has created annual and seasonal migration maps based on actual sightings of the Monarch Butterfly as it makes its way north and south with the seasons. With 20 years of reporting, these maps offer an easy way to see how migration patterns of the Monarch Butterfly have changed. Use their form to report live sightings and you will become part of the evolving story!
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October 30, 2017 by Elizabeth Howard
“A harmonious parade of monarchs were streaming across the sky. I have not seen such a massive arrival in years,” wrote Estela Romero on October 30th.
Follow along as contributors to the Journey North blog share this important rite of passage for Monarch Butterflies as they return to their winter sanctuaries in Mexico for the winter.
Millions of monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains make their 3,000 mile migration from Canada to Mexico every year. This sanctuary was discovered in 1975 by Frederick Urquhart, a zoologist. Fred and his wife, Norah Roden Urquhart, along with co-workers Catalina Trails and Ken Brugger, discovered where the butterflies spend their hidden overwintering months in Mexico.
What an exciting discovery for the World to see! On an eventful day in 1975, Catalina yelled… “I see them! I see them!” Soon the rest of the world would learn about the monarchs’ migration site in Mexico!
Check out this educational site from JOURNEY NORTH to learn more about the overwintering site in Mexico…Check out this educational site from JOURNEY NORTH to learn more about the overwintering site in Mexico…Learner.org
Thousands of monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains fly to several groves of pine and Eucalyptus trees along the California coastline.This amazing spectacle can be viewed in towns near Pacific Grove, Monterey, Pismo Beach, Santa Cruz, and San Diego, CA.
The Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, California celebrates this over-wintering event from October through February. They have been called BUTTERFLY TOWN USA, hosting many events each year for families and visitors!
Monarchs over-wintering in The Butterfly Grove at Pismo Beach are a site to behold! You can watch them cluster together!.They snuggle closely with theirs wings pointed downward-extended over each other like “shingles on a roof” ~ insuring more protection from the cold. Check out this link for monarch watching…www.monarchbutterfly.org.
Orley R. “Chip” Taylor
Founder and Director of Monarch Watch; Professor Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.
Trained as an insect ecologist, Chip Taylor has published papers on species assemblages, hybridization, reproductive biology, population dynamics and plant demographics and pollination. Starting in 1974, Chip Taylor established research sites and directed students studying Neotropical African honey bees (killer bees) in French Guiana, Venezuela, and Mexico.
In 1992, Taylor founded Monarch Watch, an outreach program focused on education, research and conservation relative to monarch butterflies. Since then, Monarch Watch has enlisted the help of volunteers to tag monarchs during the fall migration. This program has produced many new insights into the dynamics of the monarch migration. In 2005 Monarch Watch created the Monarch Waystation program, in recognition that habitats for monarchs are declining at a rate of 6,000 acres a day in the United States. The goal of this program is to inspire the public, schools and others to create habitats for monarch butterflies and to assist Monarch Watch in educating the public about the decline in resources for monarchs, pollinators and all wildlife that share the same habitats.
Lincoln Brower first began studying monarch butterfly biology in 1954 when he was a graduate student at Yale University. He currently is Distinguished Service Professor of Zoology Emeritus at the University of Florida and Research Professor of Biology at Sweet Briar College. He lives with his wife and colleague Linda Fink and two German Shepherds in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. His research includes conservation of endangered biological phenomena and ecosystems, the overwintering and migration biology of the monarch butterfly, chemical defense, mimicry, and scientific film making. He has authored and coauthored more than 200 scientific papers on the monarch butterfly. Since 1977 he has been deeply involved with conservation of the monarch’s overwintering and breeding habitats, and especially with the imperiled Oyamel fir forests in Mexico which he considers the Achille’s heel of the monarch. To track deforestation, he recently formed a Geographic Information Systems team including students and colleagues from the University of Mexico, NASA, and Sweet Briar College. He also has been involved with several conservation initiatives to educate and help local Mexicans in their quest to save the forests.
Monarchs by the Millions: Welcome to Butterfly Forest
The largest insect migration in the world ends each year in Michoacán, Mexico. Millions of monarch butterflies travel from the United States and Canada to pass the cold months in the towering trees of this beautiful forest. On their journey, the butterflies travel around 2,800 miles.
Sara Dykman – Coordinator and the ButterBiker of ButterBike
ButterBike is the fourth project of Beyond a Book, an organization that uses the experiences of real life adventurers to engage students and bring curriculum to life. ButterBike connects the monarch’s story to students though classroom presentations, field trips, videos, conservation and more.
Learn more about ButterBike and Sara Dykman on the Beyond a Book website.
Misplaced Monarchs: Clusters of butterflies stuck up north
Thanks to our unusually warm fall, Monarch butterflies, normally winging their way to Mexico for the winter by late September, were still in northern areas in late October. Scientists say tens of thousands of the butterflies are likely to be stranded far north of where they’d normally be this time of year because of the unusually warm weather and strong winds that have kept them from migrating south.
Read the article on the StarTribune website.
Dreamy Visit to Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Roosts
This timely post from the Texas Butterfly Ranch blog shares the adventures of Monika Maeckle and her husband Robert Rivard as they make an ambitious climb up Cerro Pelón to view returning Monarch Butterflies.
Read the full story.
Following the Monarchs in an Ultralight Airplane
Each year millions of monarch butterflies spread all over North America converge on small forests in the mountains of Mexico. In 2005, the butterflies had company — Francisco Gutierrez. He followed the monarchs’ migration in a 33-foot wide utralight airplane.
Read the article on the NPR website.
Across the USA monarchs soar and glide in the warm sunshine from March through October (depending where they are born), but what happens in the fall when the brisk cold winds set in and winter looms in the air?
Monarchs cannot survive cold winter temperatures of the northern states. So what does a monarch do to keep warm? It MIGRATES south and HIBERNATES! This means that it rests, with a very slow heart rate, just like bears in their hibernation caves. Monarchs east of the Rockies migrate 2500 miles to the Oyamel fir trees of Mexico. Monarchs west of the Rockies migrate to southern California to the eucalyptus trees of Pacific Grove and surrounding areas.
Oyamel Fir Trees in Mexico
Monarchs in Mexico PHOTO: Tom Pawlesh
The monarch’s flight to Mexico has been compared to the migration habits of birds flying south for the winter. It is the only insect that can fly 2,500 miles to a warmer climate. Their unique wing structure and yearly life cycle makes it possible for the fall generation monarchs to travel thousands of miles (on those amazing little wings) to the warm nesting grounds of Mexico and southern California.
Oyamel Fir Trees in Mexico PHOTO: Tom Pawlesh
Monarchs in Mexico PHOTO: Tom Pawlesh
The monarch’s amazing migration to Mexico is a scientific wonder and mystery to all who have studied and enjoyed its extraordinary story and discovery.
It all began in the early 1950’s with Dr. Fred A. Urquhart and his thirst for knowledge and dedicated passion for the monarch butterfly. Dr. Urquhart developed a unique tagging system for the monarch’s wing. He wrote an article called “Marked Monarchs” in 1952. This article caught the attention of twelve people who volunteered and assisted in the creation of the Insect Migration Association. This wonderful organization has evolved into the well-known, educational organization we know today – MONARCH WATCH.
The Discovery and all its Majesty!
In 1975, while working for monarch specialist Dr. Fred Urquhart and his wife, Nora, a Mexican scientist named Ken Brugger and his wife, Catalina, discovered over one million monarchs basking in the sun in the oyamel trees of Mexico. For over two years they had searched for this secret, overwintering site and on one momentous day, their discovery made history!
The next year, in August of 1976, the couple traveled with Dr. Urquhart and the photographer from National Geographic Magazine into the mountainous area.
“Unbelievable! What glorious incredible sight!” was written by Fr. Fred A Urquhart, Ph.D. in August 1976. It happened THERE – five minutes upon entering the secluded sanctuary, a branch laden with hundreds of monarchs broke and fell to the ground.
In a desperate attempt to assist, Dr. Urquhart discovered a TAGGED monarch ~ a tagged monarch from Minnesota! What were the chances, the coincidence of this happening, in the midst of all these millions of monarchs? This discovery was the PROOF! This monarch had traveled the unbelievable 2000-3000 mile journey, tagged by Jim Gilbert who lived in Chaska, Minnesota.
According to the magazine article, Mr. Gilbert later shared a photograph of the original field of goldenrod where the butterfly was tagged. It was as if the beautiful butterfly that glides and soars over vast areas of the United States, had somehow “come home” in a symbolic way to its place of origin.
The miraculous discovery of the monarch’s sanctuary in Mexico was credited to Fred and Norah Urquhart for making “one of the greatest discoveries in nature of our time.”.
I do not know of any species of insect that has aroused a greater interest among the populace in many parts of the world than the monarch butterfly. One of the great pleasures Norah and I have had in our studies of the monarchs has been receiving letters from children and adults alike, expressing their delight at being introduced to the study of nature through our program of monarch butterfly tagging and research. Studying monarch butterflies has been a source of great happiness for us.
– Fred Urquhart, 1987
Fred and Norah Urquhart founded the Insect Migration Association (known today as Monarch Watch), enlisting thousands of volunteers across North America to tag hundreds of thousands of butterflies in order to track their migration route. In 1975, this association ultimately helped Dr. Urquhart determine where millions of butterflies migrated – the remote Transvolcanic Belt of central Mexico.