Monarch Tagging at Cape May Point State Park

Posted on: October 1st, 2015by

October is here. And so is Monarch butterfly season.

 

Every fall millions of regal orange and black butterflies begin their long migration to the forested mountains of central Mexico.  Their path leads them down the eastern seaboard, including the New Jersey coast.  Cape May Point is a natural resting point before crossing the Delaware Bay.

 

Can you tell if this is a male or a female? We can!

Can you tell if this is a male or a female? We can!

 

Believe it or not, Monarch butterflies are actually caught, tagged, and released to keep a census of their migratory patterns every year.  This takes place three times a day – at 9:00 am, 12:00 noon, and 3:00 pm – from September 1st through October 31st.  While the vast majority of the monarchs tagged in Cape May will never see the mountains of Mexico, dozens of them will survive the 2,000 mile trek to the south.

 

Fun Fact: One Monarch butterfly tagged in Cape May on October 9, 2008 was found three days later all the way down in Harlem, Georgia.  That’s 558 miles away!

 

Small tags are placed on the Monarch's wing to track them on their journey

Small tags are placed on the Monarch’s wing to track them on their journey

 

Cape May Point State Park offers FREE Monarch Tagging Sessions.  Sessions are held a few times each week.  During the session, you will learn about:

  • The life cycle of a Monarch butterfly
  • How to tell the difference between a male and a female Monarch
  • Migratory habits of the Monarch butterfly
  • Why Cape May is a vital stop for the Monarch butterflies
  • What you can do to keep the Monarch population from dwindling
  • How a Monarch census is conducted
Actual equipment used for a Monarch census

Actual equipment used for a Monarch census

 

In addition, you will watch the census takers gather their information.  And, if you’re lucky (like we were), you may even get a chance to release a Monarch!

 

Not even 1 year old and helping with the butterfly release!

Not even 1 year old and helping with the butterfly release!

 

Click here for more information on the Monarch Monitoring Project.

No registration is required for the Monarch Tagging Sessions.  Each session meets at 2:00 pm at the pavilion between the bird observatory and the nature trails.  Monarch Tagging Sessions are open to all ages.  For more information, call the Cape May Bird Observatory at 609-861-0700.

 

This blog post was written by Melissa O. while she was a blogger for Jersey Family Fun.

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