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How Much Space Does a Monarch Butterfly Colony Need?
Once it’s formed, the area occupied by a colony at any moment in time is very small. For example, in a typical winter in the Sierra Chincua sanctuary, the butterflies will cluster into an area only 1 to 1.5 hectares in size in mid-winter. (1 hectare= 2.47 acres.)
the monarch colony will not stay in the same place all season! In fact,
according to Eligio Garcia, former Sanctuary biologist, "If we consider
all the land the colony occupies--from the time the butterflies arrive
in November until their departure in March--it has been estimated that
a colony will utilize 60 hectares (148 acres)." This means that the
colony uses some 60 times more land during the season that it does at
any single time of the season!
The colony moves because, as the season changes, so does the climate. In order to survive, the butterflies must move to habitat that suits their ecological needs. They need to stay dry, warm enough to avoid freezing, avoid wind, rain, hail and predators, and have enough sunshine, water, humidity, etc.
3) Picture what would happen if a butterfly colony needed to move through this area during the over-wintering season. As a class, discuss how the school's neighbors might feel if a colony of butterflies needed their land. How do you think people might react?
4) As you learn more about the monarchs at the wintering sites, watch for the way the people in the region are affected by the monarchs. List the ways the butterflies help the people, as well as the ways the butterflies interfere with their lives.
National Science Education Standards
National Geography Standards
National Math Standards