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Cape May Garden Journal: Butterfly Season

By Jane Kashlak
Garden Editor

August 29, 2005 - We have loads of Painted Ladies this year, and no, I'm not talking about those pretty Victorian homes in Cape May.

Our Painted Ladies have black and orange wings and sip nectar all day long from our garden. (see photo on left.)

monarchs

We also have tons of Monarchs this year and yes they are very regal looking indeed - even when they've just emerged from their chrysalis (left)

Truth be told, I can't remember a summer when we've had so many butterflies in our garden.

We always look to Labor Day as the start of the butterfly migration season - but I get the feeling these guys are locals, not tourists passing through.

Louise Zemaitis, with the Monarch Monitoring Project, says a mild winter in Mexico meant most Monarchs over wintering there survived and returned to the US. The wet spring and summer produced a bumper crop of milkweed - Monarchs' favorite food.

Which means a bumper crops of Monarchs.

But Monarchs aren't the whole story. There are Red Spotted Purples, and Swallowtails - both the Yellow and Black varieties. Hummingbird Moths that look like overgrown bees and delicate Fritillaries and tiny black Sooty Wings take turns at the same flowers.

Small Skippers dart all over the place. And American Ladies - a close cousin of Painted Ladies - are also abundant this year.

The wet spring helped more than just the milkweed. And now, every walk in the garden turns into a mini-adventure.

You can visit local butterfly gardens on Pat Sutton's annual Cape May Bird Observatory Butterfly Garden tour September 9 and 10th. Click here for more info on the tour.

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