Monday, October 22, 2018

Michael The Monarch Man

Hello, I’m Michael Ferrara, CVWO’s Monarch Biologist for this years fall migration.  I graduated from SUNY ESF in Syracuse, New York with a degree in Conservation Biology. Since then I have spent numerous seasons working with endangered shorebirds in the northeast and a few seasons working with the Southern Pine Beetle in New York. I decided to give Julia and Anna a break in order to give you an update on how the fall migration has been going. 

Me searching for Monarchs. Photo by Nancy Barnhart

It was a very slow start to the season, which was pretty discouraging but over the past week the migration has really picked up. To this point there have been 528 tagged Monarchs, with a peak of 87 Monarchs tagged on October 16th. I am hoping that the migration continues at that pace. Monarchs have been seen at the greatest densities around the platform, at Pickett’s Harbor and around the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge.  

Tagged Monarch in hand. Photo by Michael Ferrara
Foraging Monarch. Photo by Michael Ferrara


So far this season there have been a few uncommon observations. On his last visit, Brian Taber observed a Brazilian Skipper although he was unable to get a photo of it. There is only 1 previously recorded observation of a Brazilian Skipper in Virginia on record.  There have also been multiple Praying Mantis’ observed predating on Monarchs.

Praying Mantis feeding on a Monarch. Photo by Michael Ferrara


In the Kiptopeke Butterfly Garden we recently had Monarch caterpillars chowing down on the milkweed growing in the garden. Along with Monarch caterpillars; Common Buckeyes, Cloudless Sulphurs, Red-spotted Purples and Clouded Sulphurs have been some of the frequent visitors to the butterfly garden. Some of the other butterflies often seen around Kiptopeke include Question Marks, American and Painted Ladies, Cabbage Whites, Spicebush Swallowtails and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails. 

Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed. Photo by Michael Ferrara


Common Buckeye at the butterfly garden. Photo by Michael Ferrara
If you plan on catching the Monarch migration, it is not too late. Come visit us at the platform before the sun sets on the fall migration.

Sunset from the Platform. Photo by Michael Ferrara


-Michael