We have recently been seeing very good numbers of Monarchs around Cape May, and reports suggest that this is true throughout southern New Jersey. Good news for fans of our favorite bug! These butterflies aren't migrating however, these are members of the last pre-migratory generation of the year. Their offspring will be the ones migrating to Mexico, and we expect the first of the migrants to emerge from their chrysalides later this month.
Our friends are all telling us, "It's going to be a great year for Monarchs in Cape May." Our reply? Maybe. Migratory Monarchs that emerge in Cape May will be gone quickly. The numbers we see migrating through Cape May are dependent on how well the Monarchs are doing to the north, combined with how the weather pushes the migrants. More good news, however, is that we have received anecdotal reports from the north suggesting that number are high in many parts of the eastern U.S. But if we see a long period of sustained east winds, as has happened in several recent autumns, many Monarchs will migrate further west and will miss Cape May entirely. So we are cautiously optimistic, but only our daily censuses will tell us how this year's migration compares to previous years.
Our census work begins on September 1 and continues through October 31. We are hoping that the numbers are up this year in Cape May and throughout the eastern U.S., but if that's the case, we can't conclude that the Monarchs are no longer in jeopardy. Our census data (see graph, below) show that Monarch numbers can fluctuate wildly from one year to the next, and this is true for the entire migratory population. We'll need several good years in a row before we can even suspect that conservation efforts are succeeding. But you can't get several good years until you've had the first one, and we're hoping that 2017 will prove to be a great year for Monarchs in Cape May.
If you come to Cape May this month, you'll find plenty of other butterflies in addition to the Monarchs. Comment on our blog and let us know what species you find. Painted Lady, Spicebush Swallowtail, and American Copper, shown below, are just three of the many butterflies currently being seen in and around Cape May.