Saturday, May 4, 2013

Fascinating and Beautiful Monarch Butterfly

The Monarch butterfly is a fascinating creation and it is the state insect of Alabama.  The monarch is the only butterfly that migrates both north and south as the birds do regularly, but no individual makes the entire round trip. The migration cycle takes an entire year but the life span of the monarch is much shorter.  Female monarchs lay eggs so the next generation can continue the migration cycle.  Their migration path takes them all over North America – even as far as Canada.  In the late fall most of the monarchs return to the Sierra Madre hills above the village of Angangueo in Mexico.

How do the monarchs return to the same spot ?   Scientists continue to study but they believe the monarchs observe the position of the sun in the sky and have a natural compass in their antennae which can sense the earth’s magnetic field. 

Monarchs can be found in a wide range of habitats, such as fields, meadows, prairie remnants, urban and suburban parks, gardens, trees, and roadsides.   Their main source of food is the milkweed plant.  Unfortunately, some chemicals (herbicides) used for controlling weeds at farms in the midwest have also killed millions of acres of milkweed.  The result has been a drop in the monarch population and changes to their migration paths.

Click on the links below to see excellent YouTube videos on the monarch butterfly!!

Think Like A Scientist and EARN A REWARD!!!!
Record your answers on a sheet of paper and give to Mrs D before the end of the school year to EARN A REWARD!!!
  1. List three experiments or observations you would conduct if you wanted to better understand the migration of an animal.
  2. Birds, butterflies, and whales all migrate from north to south.  List at least three techniques that they might be able to use to enable them to navigate.  (It is okay to guess - that is called a hypothesis!)
  3. Pretend you are working for a respected research scientist at Auburn University who has the following hypothesis:  Monarch Butterflies use the sun to help them navigate during migration.   She has asked you to conduct an experiment to see if her hypothesis is correct.  What experiment would you run?
  4. Sometimes inventions that are intended for good have side effects that create new problems.  This is true of the farming herbicides mentioned above.  Name at least two other inventions that created new problems.
  5. If you are a scientist working on a new invention or working to solve a problem, what steps would you take to be aware of any new problems you might be creating?
  6. Do some research on the internet to find the answer to this question…. How can you tell a male monarch butterfly from a female?

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