Butterfly Migration (Part 1/2)

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Objective

Students will use the North American monarch butterfly migration as evidence of successful social interactions that help maintain species survival.

Big Idea

Occurring every year through the Central Flyway, monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico to survive the harsh winter.

What Students will Learn in this Lesson

1 minutes

Students will view a PBS NOVA video to better understand the unique migration of the North American monarch butterfly. This lesson is intended to introduce some information about the migration which will be followed by more scholarly works and websites on day 2. This lesson has been sectioned into chapters for those who will need to use two periods to view the video. Here is an overview of what students will learn today.

Hook/Check for Understanding

5 minutes

Ask students to draw the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.  (Note: For many students this will be a review as they will have learned it in elementary school.)

Have several students share their life cycles and allow students to correct their life cycles  as necessary.  Using this link, have students check their life cycle. 

Using the Frayer method, have students define migration.  

 

Video: The Incredible Journey of Butterflies

90 minutes

Students will view the NOVA special: The Incredible Journey of Butterflies in its entirety.  After each chapter in the video, have students consider the following questions and record their answers of their viewing guide or students can complete a fillable transcript and simply discuss the questions below.

First, students will view Chapter 1, A Butterfly is Born, (0:00-8:30) from The Incredible Journey of Butterflies

Have students consider the following questions:

  • How many molts do caterpillars undergo during their instar phases?
  • What changes occur to the caterpillar between molts?
  • What happens at the fifth molt?
  • How does the pupa differ from a caterpillar?
  • How long must a newly emerged butterfly wait before their wings are dry?
  • What "remnants" of the caterpillar are seen in the adult butterfly?

 

Next, students should view Chapter 2, The Most Special Generation, (8:31-14:30).  

Have students consider the following questions:

  • Trace the migration route of the first, second, and third generations of monarch butterflies. 
  • How long does each of these generations live as adults?
  • Trace the migration route of the fourth generation of monarch butterflies.
  • How long do these generations live as adults?
  • What are some of the needs of monarchs during their migration? 
  • What are some of the dangers/deterrents these monarchs face?

 

Next, students should view Chapter 3, The Journey South, (14:31-21:30).  

Have students consider the following questions: 

  • How many miles a day must a monarch travel in order to reach Mexico by winter?
  • Considering this is a 2,000-mile journey, how many days will it take them to reach Mexico?
  • How do butterflies use soaring to conserve energy?
  • What types of geographic hurdles must the monarchs overcome on their trip to Mexico?

 

After students watch Chapter 4, Living in Mexico (21:31-27:30). Have students consider the following questions:  

  • When was it first discovered the full extent of the monarch butterfly migration?
  • To how many specific sites do the butterflies return?
  • Describe the microclimatic conditions that help the butterflies survive the winter.
  • Since monarchs are found throughout the world, why do only North American monarchs migrate?
  • What are some theories that explain how the North American monarchs migrate?

 

After students watch Chapter 5, Monarch Watch (27:31-28:50).  Have students consider the following questions:  What is the purpose of Monarch Watch?

  • What is the purpose of Monarch Watch? 
  • What was the purpose of Dr. Davis' experiment in which Kansas monarchs were released in Washington, DC?
  • What was the outcome of the experiment?

After students watch Chapter 6, Problems for the Monarchs (28:51-35:03). Have students consider the following questions:

  • What are some potential problems that are affecting the monarchs' ecosystem?
  • What measures are being taken to prevent the destruction of the monarchs' ecosystem?

After students watch Chapter 7, The Journey through Texas (35:04-41:20) Have students consider the following questions:

  • To how small has the width of the migratory path been reduced?
  • How long have the butterflies been traveling from Canada by the time they reach Texas?
  • What other geographic obstacle do they face when they reach Mexico?

After students watch Chapter 8, Arrival in Mexico (41:21-49:14).  Have students consider the following questions:

  • What implications do butterflies have for the local economy in Mexico?
  • What would happen if the butterflies stopped their annual migration?
  • Where do butterflies overwinter?
  • What types of social adaptations do they use to keep from freezing?
  • When spring arrives, to where do the monarchs go?
  • How many fertilized eggs will each female lay?
  • Where will the new second and third generations go? What will they do along the way?
  • Where is the special fourth generation of monarchs be born?

 

Putting it All Together: How Butterflies Work Together as a Group

15 minutes

Ask students to revisit their notes and highlight strategies that monarchs use to ensure the survival of the species by working together as a group.  

In their lab notebooks, have students create a two column chart with the headings survival strategy and importance. Guide students through the completion of this chart by asking them to think of instances in the film where being in a large group was beneficial for the butterflies.