Since 1996, the numbers of migrating monarch butterflies stopping over at Peninsula Point, Michigan, have been monitored by volunteers during the fall migration with standardized daily counts. In this study, we describe this project and examine: 1) general patterns of migration and stopover of monarchs at this site, and 2) how environmental conditions influence monarch stopover frequency. We tested for yearly, seasonal, and diurnal variation in monarch counts within each season. We further combined these data with basic weather information recorded at the time of each count to explore the effects of wind direction and speed, temperature, and cloud cover on monarch stopover abundance. A total of 22,539 monarchs was counted over 7 yr, with yearly totals ranging from 757 in 1998 to 6,638 in 1997. Over the 7-yr period, an average of 29 monarchs was recorded per count at Peninsula Point. Interestingly, in the migration season immediately following a major population decline at overwintering sites in Mexico, the total number of monarchs counted at Peninsula Point was not significantly different from long-term average counts. The timing of the peak of migration was not consistent from year to year, and there were few consistent temporal trends within seasons. More monarchs were counted with walking transects during the day than with a roost count in the early morning. Furthermore, more monarchs were counted earlier in the season than later. Of the environmental variables we examined, wind direction had a significant influence on the number of monarchs recorded on each count with higher counts during north winds. Cloud cover also influenced monarch counts, so that the number of monarchs observed increased with temperature and decreased with cloud cover. Based on the large numbers of monarchs that stop there each fall, we suggest that Peninsula Point represents an important monarch stopover site, and thus has the potential to increase our knowledge of monarch migration and stopover ecology greatly.
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