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.

Monday, September 9, 2013


"There are no monarchs this year."  We've been hearing the talk and seeing the comments on the internet; many folks seem convinced that it's a terrible year for monarchs.  Maybe it's true.  The census of overwintering monarchs in Mexico resulted in the lowest numbers since these studies began.  See this opinion piece by Dr. Lincoln Brower (our project's scientific advisor) and Homero Aridjis from the March 15, 2013 New York Times: NY Times op-ed.  The cool, wet weather in much of eastern North America last spring may have also had an impact, as outlined in this report from the great organization Journey North: Wisconsin census.

But the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project is based on science, not speculation.  For over 20 years we have conducted standardized censuses of the monarchs in Cape May, and we summarize the numbers on a weekly basis.  The first week of our census showed a low number of monarchs, 6.95 per hour, but four of the previous 21 years of study showed lower numbers in the first week.  So while these data show that, so far, it's a slow year for monarchs, it isn't the worst we have seen.  See our data summaries on our website's data page: MMP date page.

You can count on us to continue to count monarchs every day.  Our conclusion about the 2013 season will be based on data, not speculation.  And there's reason for hope.  We are seeing many monarch eggs and caterpillars on milkweed plants growing in the wild and in the many butterfly gardens around Cape May.  And there seemed to be a small influx of adult monarchs into Cape May today.  The photographs below were all taken in Cape May Point today.  So stay tuned, keep watching this blog, and come to Cape May if you can to watch the migration yourself.

Monarch egg on common milkweed leaf.

Small monarch caterpillar, probably second instar.
Fifth instar monarch caterpillar, just about ready for pupation.
Adult male monarch at private garden in Cape May Point.

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