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.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Monarch and Milkweed Update

Many monarchs can still be seen fluttering around the gardens of the Cape May Point.  The fall season may have one more push of monarchs in store.  This coming Saturday and Sunday call for sunny conditions, and are forecasted to have northwest, and west northwest winds.

The Monarch Monitoring Project has a tagging demo during Autumn Weekend, but our team is always happy to talk about tagging and monarch migration while working in the field.  We love when people have questions, and are always happy to do an impromptu demo.

A small male monarch - 48mm forewing length.

Fall is the season when milkweed naturally goes to seed.  If you have wanted to add a small milkweed patch to your garden, now is the perfect time.  The seeds need to be exposed to the cold of winter in order to grow in the spring, so now is the opportune time to plant.  The milkweed seeds don't need to be planted deep into the soil.  It is actually best to place the seeds on top of loose soil, and then lightly cover them with grass clippings or fine dirt.  

Photo Credit: Karen St. John - Common milkweed seed pods

Aside from serving as the host plant for monarch caterpillars, the milkweed plant has a fascinating history on its own.  During World War II, the white floss that is attached to the seeds was collected and used to stuff life jackets. The floss from milkweed plants is six times more buoyant that cork, and proved to be the perfect life vest filling.  

Bedding is also another use for milkweed floss.  Hummingbirds often use the floss to line their nests, and because the floss is a better insulator than goose down, it has been used by humans to stuff mattresses and pillows.

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