The Monarch Monitoring Project is a long-term study on monarch migration through Cape May, NJ. It is a part of the New Jersey Audubon Research Department, and closely affiliated with the Cape May Bird Observatory.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Can't leave Cape May.

While most monarchs from eastern North America have completed the migration to Mexico, a few don't behave like the vast majority. This monarch, tagged in Cape May Point on October 26, was photographed by Will Kerling on November 14, still in Cape May Point. Eventually freezing weather will arrive, which will spell the end for PLA 834. Will that happen here in Cape May, or will he eventually start south? Keep watching for tags and let us know if you see this fellow somewhere along the way.

Mark Garland

Monday, October 31, 2011

2011 Season Comes to a Close...

Well, I hate to say it, but the 2011 Monarch season has come to a close for the Monarch Monitoring Project.  We had some great times from tagging thousands of monarchs, to teaching monarch biology, to talking about monarchs, mantids and more!  Don't forget our excitement with our two news crews, and other media coverage! Thank you SO MUCH to all our volunteers this year, including Patsy, Paige, LuAnn, Michael (to name a few), and all of those who maintain the wonderful butterfly gardens! And a special thanks to Bill and Edie for letting us traipse all across their yard hunting monarchs, and opening up their home for a place of refuge and relief (of the bladder). :)  Of course this project would not happen at all without our dedicated leaders Dick Walton, Louise Zemaitis, and Mark Garland!

And without further ado, here is our final figures for the season...

*Census is 5 days instead of 7 days.
Our last week still had some monarchs! A whopping 13.64 dpph for week 9, which is 5 days instead of 7! On this last day, October 31, monarchs still made an appearance for Halloween with an amazing 10 monarchs seen on the last census of the last day of the last month of this monarch migration season!

Before I bid you all farewell, the PHOTO OF THE WEEK!!!

The Black Witch made an appearance at the State Park, Friday before Halloween!!!
The black witch riled up the insect folk this friday, 10/28 with a sighting at the State Park.  Someone (from Georgia) had good eyes to spot this mega-sized moth on the bark of a cedar tree.  The moth is found usually in Central and South America, and is called the "harbinger of death" in Mexican folklore.    This moth will migrate northward, and occasionally be found as far north as Canada.  This was a nice surprise for me, and made a great ending to my time in Cape May. 

THANK YOU for supporting the Monarch Monitoring Project!! We couldn't do what we do with out you! And thank you for allowing me to be your 2011 MMP Technician! I had a great season, learned lots, and had fun playing with monarchs and meeting all of you!!

Keep your eyes on the skies!
~Rebecca Allmond~
2011 MMP Technician

Friday, October 28, 2011

Monarchs in Mexico

News from our friends at Journey North:

The first monarchs have reached their winter home in Mexico! Estela Romero wrote from Angangueo, after she and Karlita discovered their first monarchs of the season:

"Now that the first monarchs are here, children in Angangueo and its communities declare ourselves ready to take over the reponsibility of keeping them safe in their Mexican land until next spring!"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The End is Near...Census Week 8

Today completes the last FULL week of monarch censuses for the Monarch Monitoring Project.  We reduced our census frequency from 3 times per day to 2 times per day on October 17.  And in 5 short days, censusing for monarch will cease altogether.  BUT, I feel we are going out with a BANG, er BOOM? er, POP? Um, what I mean is we are experiencing our third wave of monarchs!! Tori and I have been tagging like crazy the past few days, trying to catch our latest arrival of monarch migrants! Remember that the season started late, and so we are still experiencing some of the migration that has been bottled up north of here.  It has been a great couple of days for monarchs, but I'm still not finding any roosts even though the monarchs are swirling and clustering around any available butterfly bush or nectar source.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed for more monarchs, especially with our last three DEMOS this weekend: Friday, Saturday, Sunday 1pm at the State Park!  Here are the current figures:

As you can see we are still declining from the peak of week 6.  

Ok, so, I HAVE to share with you my photo pics for the week... there are TWO.  First I'll share my runner up:
Female Cabbage White on Yellow Iris

I really liked this photo for it's color qualities, and so I wanted to share it with you.

Monarchs Mating
We like to say that monarchs don't mate during fall migration, but the truth is I SEE it happening, and today it was VERY frequent. Now, I don't know if these mated males and females make it to Mexico, or if it is one last ditch effort to breed and take their chances.  BUT I have seen some very battered males mating and attempting to mate today. In fact one male was EXCEPTIONALLY aggressive and I snagged and tagged two females from his grasp today. But when I came back to check the bush again I found my GRAND PRIZE WINNINNG Photo of the Week!!!!

This is a very frisky male monarch (bottom) trying to mate with a RED ADMIRAL. YES! It's TRUE! The male had this admiral in its grasp and the admiral was trying desperately to get away!  Of course I did not have my real camera with me, and this photo is taken with my cell phone :/ so it is not good. But you can clearly see the admiral on top, and the monarch underneath. The admiral did get away by the time I came back with my other camera.  But GEEZ monarch male: EPIC FAIL for your species I.D.!

male Monarch attempting to mate with a Red Admiral
...and that's my photo of the week!

Keep your fingers crossed and your eyes on the skies!!

2011 MMP Technician

Thanks to Rebecca & Tori.

It's the last week of the official 2011 season for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project, and there are still some monarchs lingering in the local gardens and flying along the dunes. We do want to take a moment to thank the two members of our seasonal staff before they head out for their next adventures. Rebecca Allmond (above) and Tori Pocius (below) have been great workers and wonderful ambassadors for our traveling butterfly friends.

We hope that both will join the ranks of MMP alums who regularly migrate back to Cape May to enjoy another monarch migration spectacle! It's even okay with us if you want to come and enjoy those other winged migrants that are sometimes seen around these parts. Once Cape May gets into your blood, it's there forever. But I probably don't need to tell you that if you follow this blog.

Mark Garland,
MMP Communications Director

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Cape May Recovery!

All season long we have been busy tagging away around Cape May Point in the hopes that we would receive word that one of our Monarchs had been spotted along the migration route. Today we got our wish! The first recovery of the season!!!! A male monarch PLA 141 tagged by our field coordinator Louise Zemaitis was spotted by another monarch enthusiast as he refueled on a butterfly bush in a yard along the Nanticoke River in Tyaskin, MD.  He was tagged here in Cape May on October 9th! He has journeyed about 80 miles south of Cape May Point! Safe travels on the rest of your trip! We're all rooting for you to reach a Mexican Roost! 
 Fingers crossed for more tag recoveries!
See you around the Point!
2011 MMP Intern

Sunday, October 23, 2011

They're STILL HERE?!?!

That's the reaction I've been getting the past couple of days, and YES! They ARE still here. And you know WHAT? There are still NEW ones coming through Cape May Point.  Every day I go out and mange to easily find monarchs that have no tags.  So this tells me that monarchs are still migrating, even this late in the season. Boy is it late in the season. But our NW winds are working their magic, bringing us the last steady stream.  They really like our lantana and yellow butterfly bushes, since the white butterfly bushes have all gone to seed. So if you hop on over to Whilldin and Harvard you'll see them nectaring there.  And if you drive down Harvard, they have been hanging out in a garden with lots of Zinnias.  Even today I saw monarchs steadily in the State Park.   It's a Beautiful day and will be getting warmer over the next few days, so COME ON DOWN to Cape May!!!

See you 'round the point!

2011 MMP Technician

Friday, October 21, 2011

Favorable winds are coming

The forecast looks promising for the weekend, but it's getting late in the season. Will we get one more surge of monarchs? Only time will tell, but if you're in the neighborhood, stop by to see.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Monarch Update Week 7

Now 7 weeks have passed since Tori and I first started our monarch census.  It has been an interesting 7 weeks.  We've seen Cape May go from 1 or 2 monarchs to monarchs in the hundreds, even thousands  gliding through Cape May Point.  The rainy day today didn't scare all the monarchs away as I found a handful sailing through the air through out the day.  Monarchs are still around and that in itself is surprising since in years past they have all moved on to southern latitudes.  So at the end of week 7 we are still proudly able to show a dpph of 89.9, which is still SOOO much better than all of September. Here's this week's graph:

Freshly tagged monarch.
Really Fat abdomen, and crinkled wings
As you can see the dpph is lower this week than the last two weeks, but still significantly higher than the first four weeks of the season.  And the monarchs that have chosen to stick around are turning into fat & happy monarchs. (Can a monarch be a 'butterball'?)  If you came to our demo you may have heard us mention butterfly gardens and nectar plants for monarchs (and other butterflies).  Right now these gardens are producing quality nectar blossoms of Aster, Jerusalem Artichoke, Butterfly Bush, Cosmos, Zinnia and Marigold.  The last few days have evidently proven profitable for our monarchs because just about every monarch I tagged today was FAT, either a 4 or 5 or 5+ on our scale of 1-5 for fat content ("1" being skinny and "5" being fat).
This monarch was so fat, I gave it a "5+"
This fat content stored in their abdomens is very important for the Monarch.  It uses the fat as stored energy to aid itself on it's 2000-3000 mile journey to Mexico.  When the fat reserves get low, the monarch must stop and find nectar to replenish it's fat stores. Without nectar plants along the monarch's route to its over-wintering destination, the monarch would starve to death.  One of the ways you can support the monarch migration is by planting your own butterfly garden, filled with nectar sources for hungry butterflies.  The residents of Cape May Point have contributed greatly to the success of the monarch migration here in Cape May by planting and maintaining these nectar plants for the monarchs. Click the link for more information on how you can start your own backyard garden for butterflies.

As a side note, here are a few more things I found throughout this week:

Not all monarchs emerge from the chrysalis in a pristine manner. If something happens during eclosion and they are not able to full extend their wings to dry, they can become crippled, like this butterfly.  This male monarch is able to fly, but his hindwings are obviously curling at the base.  Though this may be due to some disease or parasite, more likely it is a result of the monarch not properly emerging from its pupa.  One thing we would like to know is if a monarch like this one will make it all the way to Mexico.

This larva was reared in our tank at the CMBO.  Unfortunately, it has contracted a disease and when it tried to pupate, it died.  The result is a partial pupation, which starts at the head.  You can see the green lump behind the caterpillar's eyes. That is the emerging chrysalis. The caterpillar has actually begun to split it's skin at the head, which is indicated by its limp antennae, and the split down the front of the face.  It died like this, and while it is sad because it will not become an adult monarch, I find this is still an amazing tribute to how complex monarch biology truly is. The metamorphosis process is still like magic to me, and a glimpse into this magic process is AWESOME!
This caterpillar may look similar to a monarch larva, but in reality is the larva of a sphinx moth.  This was found by the hawkwatch last friday.  It got stomped on, sorry to say, but I rarely get to see these caterpillars.  My newly purchased "Caterpillars of Eastern North America" guide (that I got at the CMBO) suggests that this little guy is actually a Snowberry Clearwing.  The adult moths are commonly referred to as "hummingbird moths".  They fly just like humming birds, and even have the body shape of a hummingbird, but are smaller, and are not birds at all!! I've seen a couple of these while in Cape May. You have to have quick eyes to see it and even quicker reflexes to photograph it!

LAST but not LEAST, I leave you with my photo of the week! I was hunting monarchs on Coral Ave, and this thing sped by me like brown lightning.  Who IS this mysterious little lepidoptera? I knew instantly that it was NOT anything that I'd seen round these parts before.  I cursed at it as I ran for my camera, which was conveniently in the car.  I hoped it would stick around long enough for my return. And I cursed at myself for being such a butterfly freak that I was going to be late for my monarch census! I found it again.  I waited patiently for it to settle down, and carefully stalked my flighty brown prey.  Despite it's elusive manner I managed one poor photo before it took off.  This brief encounter was enough to deduce it's true identity: a Horace's Duskywing! A butterfly I've never seen before!
Hoarce's Duskywing, Erynnis horatius

That's all for now! 

Northwest winds predicted for this weekend. So keep your eyes on the skies, and your hopes high for one last monarch migration through Cape May!

2011 MMP Technician

Request to taggers

If you tag monarchs and choose to tag some in Cape May, we simply ask that you send us the tag numbers of the ones you tag here, along with your e-mail address or another way to contact you. That way, when we find ones you have tagged, we can send you the information right away and you can let us know when you tagged the monarch. An important part of our study in Cape May is learning how long individual monarchs may stay in Cape May to rest and refuel before continuing their migration.

Many thanks!

Rain in Cape May, calm on the monarch front

It's a rainy Wednesday morning in Cape May, good for our gardens and good for a chance to catch up on everything. There are still some monarchs in Cape May, though they'll be hunkered down in whatever shelter they can find while the rain falls.

The last few days have seen modest numbers of monarchs around Cape May, but just about every garden has had a few hanging around and nectaring. The season isn't finished; we will see monarchs trickling through Cape May throughout October, and another good surge of late migrants could arrive with the next cold front, due to arrive shortly after this rainy system goes away. Stay tuned!

Mark Garland

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Monarchs in Popular Science!

Hi Everyone!
      Just wanted to get this article on the blog for everyone to read.  Evolutionary biologist Jaap de Roode of Emory University studies how monarch butterflies use plant-based medicine to thwart parasites. It's pretty amazing that an insect could be self medicating! Cool! Link to Popular Science!  

Have a wonderful weekend and remember to keep your eyes peeled for more migrating Monarchs!

See you around the Point,
2011 MMP Intern

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monarch Census Week 6!

So here we are at the end of another monarch week. (A monarch week for us is Thursday through Wednesday).  It has been an exciting week full of news crews, demos with 150 attendees, census with over 300 monarchs seen and lots and lots of tagging!  MMP Intern Tori is currently our tagging queen with over 700 monarchs tagged!!  This week we also welcomed back Jenny, the 2010 MMP Technician who is visiting for a few days. She has been out and about tagging monarchs with her mom and even helped with today's demo!  But we also said "good bye for now" earlier this week to MMP Founder Dick Walton and long term volunteer Pasty.  We miss them already! COME BACK SOON!!!

The highs of the week have landed with a thud today as a cold, windy, sunless day sent monarchs into hiding.  However as week 6 comes to a close, we see that this has been our BEST WEEK YET this season with 260.97 dpph!!!!  Below is our updated graph of our 2011 census to date.

Our monarch migration may have started later than in years past, but we have had two spectacular waves of monarchs on Cape May Point.  The next couple of days look like rain, but we could be seeing some westerly winds over the weekend. So maybe we'll get another wave of monarchs!?

The last few days have had no substantial roosting either at the State Park or around the Point.  Tonight, however, I did observe 50-80 monarchs roosting in the dunes above the Whilldin and Harvard intersection.  I checked all the other usual spots along Cape Ave, Harvard Ave, Lincoln Ave and the State Park, but found no other roosting monarchs.   I think the nightly temperatures are not cold enough, so the monarchs here do not need to roost in the pines.

Though the monarchs don't feel that it's cold enough to roost, I sure wanted to at the demo today! Despite the cold and blistery winds, today's demo had 25 eager visitors who got to see Mark, Jenny and I tag monarchs! Boy it was cold, so THANK YOU for showing up and listening to us talk and demo!

And last but not least, I'm going to share with you my favorite photo of the week. This was shot at Bill and Edie's garden, a magical place that has been filled with monarchs, skippers, sulphurs, whites, and buckeyes.  This was a lucky shot, and is of an white form orange sulphur female quickly departing the lantana as I lean over to take a picture.
Orange Sulpur, Colias eurytheme

Thanks for all of your support! Don't forget to adopt a monarch, or purchase a monarch magnet for your car to support monarch migration and the Monarch Monitoring Project! These are available in Cape May at the Cape May Bird Observatory!

Ta-Ta for now! And Keep your Eyes on the Skies!

2011 MMP Technician

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Moderate numbers of monarchs were in Cape May last weekend, but warm temperatures kept them from forming communal roosts, and many just settled into the gardens around Cape May Point and along the beachfront in Cape May city. The seaside goldenrods that thrive on our dunes are in full bloom right now, and monarchs not only love the nectar, but on warm evenings they often form small clusters at the tips of the flowers.

Monday saw a modest influx of monarchs into Cape May Point during the midday hours, and while some left for Delaware today, good numbers still remain in the gardens and goldenrods. Rain is forecast for tomorrow, so I doubt many monarchs will be on the move, but those which are here in Cape May can be expected to be active and feeding during dry periods.

Below I'm posting a small gallery of photos of monarchs taken over the past 2 days.

Mark Garland
MMP Communications Director

Monday, October 10, 2011


News flash: Lots of monarchs arriving into Cape May Point today. Don't know if this will turn into a huge influx or just a big one, but it's fun either way.

Mark Garland

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Busy weekend

ABC News in Philadelphia wasn't enough, so NBC 10 in Philly also sent a reporter down to show our monarchs to a wide audience. We love the coverage! Check it out at:!/news/local/Butterfly-Invasion/131366043

Perhaps thanks to all the great press, we had record attendance at our tagging demos this weekend, with over 100 people on Saturday and more than 150 on Sunday! Thanks to all who have come to Cape May Point to enjoy the magic of monarch migration. Photo above is Seasonal Technician Rebecca Allmond describing our research to the crowd at Saturday's demo. Below, a young-at-heart volunteer releases a newly tagged monarch.

See you at the Point!

Mark Garland

Columbus Weekend Monarchs

Just a quick update:  Numbers were high last week with the highest census count in the 300's.  Over the last few days monarchs have been flying over the bay back to mainland and the census counts have been below a 80.  This morning monarchs were scare BUT things are picking up again! All along HARVARD Ave on Cape May Point you can see them swirling in the air as temperatures rise into the 70s today.  Noon census count is just shy of 100,  with West to North West winds and predicted to be so all day.  If you are thinking of coming down to Cape May, now is a good time as the weather is forecasted to turn to showers wednesday and thursday.


2011 MMP Technician

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cape May Monarchs Make the News!

To check out our Cape May Monarchs on TV:

To read about MMP and the Migration in Cape May check out:

That's all for now!
See you around the Point,

Monarch Madness!

Hi Everyone! It's been another great day to see Monarchs and get some serious tagging done around Cape May Point.  This morning, I got to witness a mass exodus of Monarchs flying across the bay to Delaware about 500 Monarchs a minute close to 8am.  It was amazing to see so many Monarchs in the air! 
Clarke catches a Monarch from a butterfly bush!
Samantha hunts for Monarchs!
     On the tagging front, today was amazing! I spent my morning tagging Monarchs landing on zinnias along the street close to the dune. I was able to tag and release over 160 Monarchs today! Luckily, I had lots of help from Samantha, Clarke, and Colin who are visiting Cape May on vacation. The three of them were able to catch an astounding 94 Monarchs at the way station located at 400 Coral Ave. 

Clarke, Colin, and Samantha have caught Monarch Madness!

Colin gets ready to release "Leaf" his tagged Monarch!

Tagging Team!

 More Monarchs to Come!
See you around the Point,

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Monarchs Week 5

This week was truly monarch mania and had all of us here in Cape May glued to the skies swirling with black and orange splendor.  Even the birders couldn't ignore the plethora of plexipus!  The census has reflected this influx of monarchs with a whopping 210.0 dpph (Danaus plexippus per hour).   I must also note that last week's dpph has changed due to a calculation error, which has now been corrected. Here is the updated graph:

PSSSSSSSST!!!--- If you are looking for Monarchs roosting, check out the pines along the dunes of Lincoln & Cape Ave.  Also, tonight  I found several small roosts of monarchs in Cape May Point State Park along the trail by the dune. Look for them in the bayberry there.

Keep your eyes on the skies (and in the bushes)!

2011 MMP Technician

It's a beautiful day for some Monarch tagging!

Monarchs beginning to roost in Cape May
Hi Everyone! Today was a great day for Monarchs here in Cape May and Stone Harbor too! I was lucky enough to reach the roost site early this morning before our butterfly friends warmed up and started to move. The roosts broke up around 8:30 and then the tagging began! I was able to tag 120 Monarchs from 8:45-12:15! I was super excited to break 100 tagged in a day! Thank you to those who visited us at Cape May Point State Park today for  our tagging demonstration! It was great! 
Fingers Crossed for another great day tomorrow! 
See you around the Point,
MMP Intern

Remnants of the Stone Harbor Roost early this morning

Not just Cape May

Just a few of the monarchs seen at Stone Harbor Point on Tuesday afternoon, 10/4/11. We focus most of our attention on Cape May Point, but there are a few other monarch hotspots in southern New Jersey. The best roost at Stone Harbor Point is usually west of Third Ave. between 118th and 122nd Streets.

Mark Garland

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Monarchs, Mantids and More?

Today was another exciting day as monarchs are still roosting along Cape May Point!  Tori counted a total of 320 monarchs on the census, while I tagged 60 monarchs today and talked with about a dozen curious onlookers! Thanks for stopping and inquiring what I was doing! Tagging monarchs is fun, but tagging monarchs with an audience is even MORE fun!
Monarchs Roosting this afternoon at Cape & Lincoln Ave

 I also got to talk about monarch predation today as well.  This morning I saw a Praying Mantis eat a monarch. It was SO COOL. Yes, I love monarchs, but I also love biology! I've seen some monarchs caught in webs around town too. Since most people know that birds do not eat monarchs due to the monarch's toxins, I get asked: What is the monarch's predator?  Well, Insects and Spiders are the top two! There are alot of Praying Mantids in Cape May, and I saw two stalking butterflies in the Buddelia around town!  Someone also told me a story of how they found butterfly wings all over their back yard I think this is the work of a hungry mantid too!

This praying mantis has caught its morning monarch meal
The mantid did not eat the abdomen...

...or the wings

This is the first mantid I saw today... a portent?
Or monarch revenge?

Spiders also find monarchs a tasty treat!
This monarch was fortunate and got away!

...AND MORE....

Here are a few other critters I saw today!

Carolina Saddlebags, Tramea carolina

Common Buckeye, Junonia coenia, Larva

Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes, Larva

That's all for now!

Keep your eyes on the skies, 'cause that's where the monarch flies! And keep your eyes on the ground, 'cause that's where caterpillars crawl around!

2011 MMP Technician 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monarchs are here indeed.

Here's another picture of Saturday evening's monarch roost. All of us on Team Monarch have been waiting for the first significant push of monarchs -- September simply refused to bring much to us. Our two energetic seasonal technicians, Rebecca and
Tori, must have been wondering if our beloved butterflies were ever going to arrive. Still, there have been monarchs around, always enough for our lively tagging demos.

Below, Rebecca takes Tori's photo as
Tori shares monarch info with one group.

We've also been tagging away. If you see a tagged monarch, try to read the 3-letter, 3-digitcode and report that information to us or directly to Monarch Watch by calling 1-888-tagging or by sending an e-mail message to You can often read a tag by taking a digital photo and then enlarging the image on your computer.

At right, a young
volunteer provides the launching pad for a newly tagged monarch at one of our tagging demos.

See you in Cape May!

Mark Garland