Migrating Monarch at Cape May Point State Park

Monarch on migration nectaring on Zinna
Monarch on migration nectaring on Zinna

On my weekend trip to Cape May, I went not just to observe the migrating hawks, but also the migrating Monarch butterflies.

Other butterflies overwinter as larva, pupae (in a chrysalis) or even as adults like the Mourning Cloak butterfly. The Monarch migrate because they can’t survive the cold in any form.

The wind was very strong last Saturday. And there were not as many grounded butterflies as I have seen in the past.

Monarch on Seaside Goldenrod on migration
Monarch on Seaside Goldenrod on migration

I mostly see them back behind the dunes where there is shelter from the winds blowing off the Atlantic Ocean a several hundred feet away.

The migrating Monarchs are often found on the native Seaside Goldenrod plants sipping the last of the nectar.  Cape May Point State Park has a butterfly garden right outside the classroom building. The last few Zinnas and New England Aster serve as last stop buffets.

Monarch on migration nectaring on Seaside Goldenrod
Monarch on migration nectaring on Seaside Goldenrod

The Monarchs here in the Eastern part of North America migrate to their winter home in the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico. The butterflies are found in the oyamel forests in the Mexican states of Mexico and Michoacan. The Monarch live there from October to late March. Then they make their journey northward back to our area.

The Monarch that we see leaving our area are not the same exact butterflies that return in the spring. Several generations of new butterflies have been born in the Mexican mountains and it is the great-great-great grand children that we see in the spring.

More information: Monarch Butterfly Fall Migration Patterns. Base map source: USGS National Atlas. http://www.fs.fed.us/monarchbutterfly/

The Monarchs fly along several different flyways in North America and converge and blend into one flyway in Central Texas. They travel during the day and roost at night. The monarchs often roost in conifer trees. I saw them roosting in cedar trees at Cape May.

back bay at Cape May State Park
back bay at Cape May State Park

This area behind the dunes is full of migrating Monarch. The butterflies gather on the Seaside Goldenrod and the cedars (conifers) growing along the trail. Monarch often choose pine, fir or cedar trees for roosting. They roost in conifers in their Mexican home.

Common Buckeye on migration
Common Buckeye on migration

You can also see migrating Common Buckeye butterfly there also.

Seaside goldenrod
Seaside goldenrod

A good way to help out the migrating butterflies, is to plant nectar-rich fall blooming plants.

Some late summer/fall-blooming nectar plants for butterflies include:
Goldenrods (there are hundreds of native species)
New England Asters (and other Aster species)
Sedums particularly Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’
Milkweeds species (for nectar and as larval host plants)

More information http://www.fs.fed.us/monarchbutterfly/migration/index.shtml

2 comments

  1. Jeff, thank you for your encouraging words. Knowing that you find my blog entertaining and informative keeps me writing.

  2. Thanks, Donna! Your “reports” from the natural world are always clear, concise, and offer enough information to satisfy the casual interest. Your photos are gorgeous (and look to be well thought out). Your links to further reading are appreciated. I've been reading your posts on facebook; I look forward to consulting your blog on a regular basis.Peace and Best Wishes!

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