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.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


It's the first of September, day 1 for the 2012 field season for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project (MMP).  Monarchs are here, in fact we have a mix of two generations that we're seeing around Cape May right now, ones that have begun the long trek to the wintering grounds in the mountains west of Mexico City, and those of the last generation that will not depart for the tropics.

One of our favorite study sites is the Cape May Point garden of Bill & Edie Schuhl, who are great supporters of our project in many ways.  The "tagging bench" is back out for the season.  In the photo below, MMP Field Coordinator Louise Zemaitis and 2012 Intern Julia Druce are tagging monarchs while chatting with Bill & Edie.

Julia comes to the MMP with lots of experience working with lepidoptera in both field and laboratory settings, plus a very strong academic background.  But she has never tagged monarchs before.  It didn't take her long to learn, however.  Below she shows off the first monarch she tagged today; maybe this one will be found in Texas later in September, or maybe even on the wintering grounds in Mexico later on.

Autumn brings other butterflies into Cape May.  We're eager to watch for southern species that disperse northward in late summer and early fall.  This year we are already seeing many Cloudless Sulphurs (Phoebis sennae) and Little Yellows (Pyrisitia lisa -- older books called it Eurema lisa).  And today, in the Schuhl's garden, I saw my first Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus) of the fall; its photo is below.

And for those of you who like to enjoys butterflies AND birds, I'll mention that the annual hawk count also began today.  This Peregrine Falcon spent much of the morning on the water tower at the old Magnesite Plant near Sunset Beach.
Keep watching the blog for more updates!

Mark S. Garland
MMP Communications Director


  1. Nice post! Just thought you'd want to know--the monarchs don't overwinter in the 'tropics' of Mexico. The monarchs overwinter in the transvolcanic mountains in the state of Michoacan. This area is nowhere near the tropical parts of Mexico. The monarchs spend their days clinging to Oyamel fir trees at elevations of 9,000-10,000 feet.

    We enjoy reading your posts about the monarch monitoring project in Cape May. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks for your clarification. Indeed the mountainous areas where monarchs overwinter in Mexico are high and cool, but this area still qualifies geographically as tropical (between the tropic lines) and climatologically. We may often think of "tropical" as meaning "hot," but really it means no freezing weather. It is crucial for monarchs to avoid freezes, indeed this is why they leave the temperate zone.

      The overwintering areas are truly spectacular, I encourage all monarch fans to make a visit. Tourist dollars help protect the mountain forests in the provinces of Michoachan and Mexico where are migrating monarchs are headed.

      Thanks again for your kind comments and for your support of our research!