Monarch Migration on Virginia's Eastern Shore

In this video you will hear from Michael Ferrara, CVWO's monarch biologist, who will share insights into the unique geographic feature of the peninsula of the Eastern Shore of Virginia and how this super highway for monarch and raptor migration provides tremendous opportunities for CVWO, scientists and the public to encounter the butterfly and hawk migration in the fall.

butterfly research

Why It's Important

Observatory volunteers help manage butterfly gardens at Kiptopeke State Park, at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, and at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden. The observatory participates in the annual July Delmarva Tip Butterfly Count that is sponsored by the North American Butterfly Association (NABA). In 1998 it established a Monarch Butterfly Migration Program that conducts fall surveys and tags Monarchs. Monarch numbers are declining at an alarming rate, due to a variety of factors. Several tagged Monarchs have later been found at their winter roost sites near Mexico City.

The Observatory has documented more than 70 species of butterflies and skippers at the tip of Virginia's Eastern Shore, where little butterfly work has been previously conducted. Pictured above are two rarities, Gulf Fritillary at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge garden and Juniper Hairstreak at the Kiptopeke State Park butterfly garden. 

Other surprising finds have included White M Hairstreak, Great Purple Hairstreak and first Northampton County records for Zebra Swallowtail, Hayhurst's Scallopwing, Brazilian Skipper, Sleepy Orange, Crossline Skipper, Little Glassywing and Common Roadside Skipper. The Observatory's 15 mile diameter circle count area, for the Delmarva Tip July count, has recorded national high counts for the year for Spicebush Swallowtail, Cabbage White, Silver-spotted Skipper and Saltmarsh Skipper, despite the fact that a huge percentage of the circle is water!


Monarch Watch

Journey North

Monarch Joint Venture

Butterflies and Skippers Documented by CVWO in Northampton County on Virginia's Eastern Shore

Pipevine Swallowtail (rare)

Zebra Swallowtail (rare)

Black Swallowtail

Giant Swallowtail (rare)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

Palamedes Swallowtail

Cabbage White

Falcate Orangetip

Clouded Sulphur

Orange Sulphur

Southern Dogface (rare)

Cloudless Sulphur

Little Yellow (rare)

Sleepy Orange

Great Purple Hairstreak (rare)

Henry's Elfin

Eastern Pine Elfin

Red-banded Hairstreak

Juniper Hairstreak

White M Hairstreak (rare)

Gray Hairstreak

Eastern Tailed Blue

Spring Azure

"Summer" Azure (subspecies of Spring)

American Snout

Variegated Fritillary

Great Spangled Fritillary (rare)

Gulf Fritillary (rare)

Pearl Crescent

Question Mark

Eastern Comma (rare)

Mourning Cloak

American Lady

Painted Lady

Red Admiral

Common Buckeye

Red-spotted Admiral


Hackberry Emperor

Tawny Emperor

Little Wood Satyr

Common Wood-Nymph


Silver-spotted Skipper

Long-tailed Skipper (rare)

Northern Cloudywing (rare)

Hayhurst's Scallopwing (rare)

Juvenal's Duskywing

Horace's Duskywing

Wild Indigo Duskywing

Common Checkered Skipper

Common Sootywing

Swarthy Skipper

Clouded Skipper

Least Skipper

Fiery Skipper

Tawny-edged Skipper

Crossline Skipper

Southern Broken-Dash

Northern Broken-Dash

Little Glassywing


Delaware Skipper (rare)

Zabulon Skipper

Aaron's Skipper (rare)

Broad-winged Skipper

Dun Skipper

Common Roadside Skipper (rare)

Brazilian Skipper (rare)

CVWO Monarch biologist, Michael Ferrara tags a Monarch for the video, featured at the top of this pa

CVWO Monarch biologist, Michael Ferrara tags a Monarch for the video, featured at the top of this pa

How to create a butterfly garden

What To Plant

For more than 20 years, the Observatory has created and managed butterfly gardens for research, conservation and the enjoyment of visitors. If you would like to create your own butterfly garden, even a small one is helpful to many species. It just takes a sunny spot. Though garden centers have many good varieties, from our experience, here are some top butterfly garden plants that thrive in southeastern Virginia and are not particularly attractive to hungry deer:

Joe-Pye Weed ( Eutrochium dubium )

Bergamot ( many varieties of monarda )

Boneset ( Eupatorium perfoliatum )

Cup Plant ( Silphium perfoliatum )

Mist Flower ( Conoclinium coelestinum )

Mountain Mint ( Pycnanthemum muticum )

New York Aster ( Symphyotrichum novi-belgii )

Coreopsis (many varieties of coreopsis )

Goldenrod ( many varities of Solidago )

Butterfly Weed (many varieties of asclepias)

Lantana, not native, ( Lantana camara 'Miss Huff' )

Butterfly Bush, not native ( many varieties of Buddleia )

Abelia, not native ( Abelia grandiflora )



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