Ask the Professor
Ask the tvectors Discussion Group
A section for answering
questions encouraging discussion on topics related to long distance migration and
dispersal by butterflies
To Ask A Question:
1) Email the question to
2) FAX the question to 905 828 3792
3) Join tvectors and post the
question to the group (pictured above).
This section has two functions. The first function is to answer questions, stimulate
discussions, and encourage debate (through tvectors) about the process of long distance
migration by butterflies and other insects. The second function is to answer questions
relating to any problems or suggestions carrying out the research project.
With respect to the first function of the section, answering questions, stimulating
discussions, and encouraging debate, I am most comfortable with topics that relate to the
following topics: Cross-country soaring (e.g. what it
consists of, how to recognise it, what sources of lift are available, possible reasons why
all migrants don't do it etc.), Flight tactics involved in
soaring cross-country (e.g. how to get from here to there, what options are
available to handle favourable and unfavourable winds, what problems and opportunities are
provided by mountains, how long should a butterfly stay in a thermal etc.), Limitations and advantages of the butterfly design for long distance
migration (e.g.. airspeed and wind, crosswind compensation, temperature limits to
flight ceiling, energy expenditures required for long distance migration, the effect of
the extra mass consisting of lipid reserves on flight characteristics of the migrants,
methods used by butterflies to deter or escape aerial attack by predators, possible
increase risk of predation during high altitude, soaring, flight, the relation between
known butterfly sensory systems and long distance migration, the aerodynamic role of
scales, etc.), Soaring meteorology (e.g. conditions
that favor cross-country soaring, structure and organisation of thermals, conditions that
favor production of thermals, conditions that determine the maximum altitude that a
butterfly should climb in a thermal, ridge lift, wave lift, properties of the nocturnal
inversion, the significance of sea breeze fronts along the Gulf states, the relation
between clouds and lift, flying in clouds, the effects of wind, fog, haze, rain and
thunderstorms on available of lift, etc.), and Navigation (e.g.what
navigation is, whether its necessary for butterfly migration, how could butterflies
accomplish it, possible navigational mechanisms, possible navigational tactics). With
respect to the second function, questions about the research program, I will answer all
questions about field research and about the research program.
For any who are wondering what it must be like to ride a thermal to cloud base like
a soaring monarch butterfly, or a soaring hawk, I will happily participate in the third
function of the section, answering any questions about the sport of flying gliders.
Frequently asked questions include: What happens when the wind stops? What keeps them up?
Can you control where you are going? Do you need a parachute? How fast can a glider fly?
How high can a glider fly? Where can I go to get an introductory glider ride? How much
does a ride cost? Do instructors ride with you in the glider? How old do you have to be to
get a learners permit or a license? What is required to qualify for a glider pilots
license? How much do lessons cost? How long does it take to learn to fly gliders? Where
can I get lessons? What types of badges, records, and contests are available for glider
pilots? How much does a glider cost? Where can I get one? Can I legally build one and fly
it? Will it fit in my garage? How will I get my home- built glider to the glider port?
Where can I get more information?
There are three methods sending questions as listed above. If you wish to send questions
to me directly, use email or FAX. Because I am the only one at the keyboard, I will often
not be able to get back to you for a few days. I plan to refer questions on rearing
monarch butterflies and tagging to Monarch Watch. In some cases, even after checking my
reference books and walking down the hall to ask my colleagues, I will not have an answer.
To minimise these occurrences, I also encourage people to post questions to tvectors. The larger forum allows
those with greater knowledge in aerodynamics, meteorology, energetics, taxonomy, game
theory, foraging theory, sensory physiology, and more field experience, to contribute.
Because our ignorance about butterfly migration is vast, we need all the help we can get.
Finally, a discussion by a group of enthusiasts of an interesting and/or controversial
topic tends to introduce new ideas and provide new insights for all concerned.
NOTE: if you post your questions by email or fax, be sure to indicate if you prefer that I
not forward them to tvectors. I plan to do this whenever I think
that a question or comment would be interest to the group.