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Archive for Tuesday, September 24, 1996

MONARCHS JUST PASSING THROUGH

September 24, 1996

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The monarch butterfly migration was in full force over the weekend.

If you were outdoors this weekend, you saw them -- orange and black monarch butterflies making their mysterious yearly migration to Mexico.

"Very few of my students didn't see monarchs this weekend. There were hundreds in Lawrence," said Ken Highfill, a biology teacher at Lawrence High School.

Highfill led his LHS Monarch Rampage Team out Sunday to the Baker Wetlands south of Lawrence, where they found hundreds of the insects roosting.

The team, which consisted of about five students Sunday, tagged about 350 monarchs, Highfill said. About nine students were out the previous weekend and collected and tagged 200 butterflies.

"We're hoping people, anyone from here to Texas, would find our tag," Highfill said. "What would be most exciting is if we had some found in Mexico."

Orley R. "Chip" Taylor Jr., a Kansas University professor of entomology, said the first real concentration of monarchs arrived Sept. 12 in the area.

"The weather conditions were not favorable for much movement until Saturday when they moved in large numbers," Taylor said.

A lot of butterflies were on the move Sunday, too.

"But the numbers migrating diminished because of the high temperatures and the stronger south winds," Taylor said.

Taylor predicted "a fair amount" of migration today because temperatures were expected to be in the mid-70s.

"The major portion of the population should move through the area by the end of the day," he said. "And then we'll still see some monarchs up until the second week of October."

The monarchs generally are through the area by Oct. 8-10.

"It varies a lot from year to year and it varies a lot from place to place," he said.

Taylor said most of the monarchs migrate south to the transvolcanic mountain range west of Mexico City. They go to about 10 locations on the tops of those mountains, where they form roost sites.

"Some of these locations will hold 20 million butterflies," he said. "They overwinter from November until March and they move north."

The spring migrants, which are a different generations from the fall migrants, can sometimes get all the way into Canada.

Five years ago, Kansas University founded a program called Monarch Watch, a major educational national outreach program, Taylor said.

More than 1,000 schools in the eastern part of the country are participating in the program this fall.

In Wamego, 60 miles northwest of Lawrence, high school students had tagged 7,000 monarchs as of Friday, Taylor said.

Several biology teachers in Lawrence public schools were out over the weekend collecting with their students.

"We caught over the weekend about 600 butterflies," said Justin Wood, ninth-grade biology teacher at Southwest Junior High.

"One kid in particular, Matt Collins, brought in 236 monarchs," Wood said.

Collins caught most of them in his back yard in the Alvamar area in western Lawrence, Wood said.

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