Tag Archives: Monarch Butterfly Migration

Please Don’t Weed the Milkweed

Common Milweed Asclepias syriaca ©Kim Smith 2014Once established, native Common Milkweed grows vigorously and rambunctiously, making itself known even in the thinnest of sidewalk cracks. Here’s a patch growing along East Main Street. I think it beautiful! What do you think?

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If you caught Tom Ashbrook’s On Point broadcast on NPR this morning you heard Doctor Lincoln Brower, Karen Oberhausser, and Rick Mikula, three of the world’s leading butterfly experts, speaking about the disappearance of the Monarch and the main reason why–most notably because of the sterilization of the American landscape through the use Monsanto’s Roundup and GMO corn and soybean crops. The episode is airing again tonight at 8pm.

The following is a list of a few suggestions on ways in which we can all help turn the tide:

Plant milkweed and wildflowers. Teach members of your family and friends what milkweed looks like and why we don’t want to weed it out of the garden. The above patch of milkweed is growing next to a shop on East Main Street. About a month ago, I went into the store and, very, very politely inquired as to whether or not they knew that the plant growing outside their doorway was a terrific patch of milkweed. They had no idea. I explained what the benefits were to the Monarchs and have since noticed that the milkweed patch is still growing beautifully!

Ban GMO crops. Genetically modified seeds have been altered to withstand megadoses of Roundup. Millions and millions of tons of herbicides are poured onto Roundup Ready fields of crops, preventing any other plant that has not been genetically altered from growing (in other words, wildflowers). The application of Monsanto’s deadly destructive herbicide Roundup is creating vast sterilized agricultural wastelands, which will, over time, only need heavier and heavier does of their lethal chemicals to continue to be viable.

Don’t apply herbicides and pesticides in your own gardens.

Create wildflower corridors in backyards and highways.

Reduce salt wherever possible (and where it wouldn’t cause harm to human life). Large amounts of road salt, as was needed during this past snowiest of winters, is detrimental to wildlife habitats.

Monarchs at the HarborWalk Zinnia Patch!

Monarch Butterfly Gloucester HarborWalk ©Kim Smith 2014This past week while I am home enjoying a staycation (why would anyone ever want to leave Gloucester during the summer?), I have been working on HarborWalk butterfly garden improvements, alongside some outstandingly helpful volunteers. Imagine our delight when a beautiful Mama Monarch flew on the secene. After nectaring from the zinnias, I was hoping she would deposit her eggs on the Marsh Milkweed, strategically planted next to the nectar-rich zinnias, but no, not on her day’s agenda.

Many Hands Make Light Work ~ If you would like to join the Friends of the HarborWalk volunteers, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. You don’t need to be an expert gardener to join us; on the job-training is provided. We also need sweepers, trash-picker-uppers, and weedwhackers!

I understand from Matt Coogan, Gloucester’s Community Development Senior Planner, that there were over 800 people attending the free Summer Cinema on Wednesday night!! This coming Wednesday, a showing of Goonines is scheduled. I hope to see you there!

Monarch Butterfly Glucester HarborWalk Zinnia patch ©Kim Smith 2014The Monarchs we see in our gardens at this time of year are not the Methuselah Monarchs that travel to Mexico, but the parents of the generation that will.

 

Reminder: Cape Ann Milkweed Project Seed Pickup and Information Day is Sunday, May 18th, from 9:30 to Noon

Monarch Butterflies Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2006Eastern Point during the Monarch’s southward migration in late summer.

The first Monarchs of Spring 2014 have been sighted in Massachusetts (Kingston), as has emerging milkweed. For the past week, a weather pattern has been in place that is perfect for the Monarchs northward migration. Powerful south winds pumped warm air northward and in conditions such as these, Monarchs are carried from southern regions more quickly northward.

Below is a map from the Journey North website illustrating favorable wind patterns for Monarchs.

Our milkweed and New England Aster seed pickup day is this coming Sunday from 9:30 to noon at Captain Joe and Sons. Captain Joe’s is located at 95 East Main Street and you can find directions posted on their website here. Thanks so much to Joey for hosting the event at the dock. Looking forward to seeing everyone!

New Film: Monarch Migration Interview with Tom Emmel

Horses neigh, bugs crawl across the lens, and Monarchs flutter in the background —interview on the mountaintop and it was all beautiful! Video includes footage from my forthcoming film, Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.

Monarch Migration Interview with Tom Emmel, filmed at the summit of the Sierra Chincua Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Angangueo, Mexico.

This was Tom’s 40th trip to Angangueo to study the Monarchs. In this interview, he provides some historical perspective from those very first trips to the remote Oyamel fir forests atop the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Mountains. We learn how scientists count millions of Monarchs. Tom discusses the state of the Monarch migration today and why it is in crisis.

Tom Emmel is the Director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Museum of Natural History of the University of Florida, Gainesville. Additional footage shot at El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Reserve and at the base of Sierra Chincua.

A Huge Thank You to Everyone for Your Milkweed and Aster Orders!!!

Monarch Butterfly Explosion El Rosario Mexico ©Kim Smith 2014 finalMy Deepest Thanks to Everyone 

The above is a favorite photo from my trip in February to film the Monarchs. This week we will be bringing you the short interview film with Tom Emmel at the summit of the Sierra Chincua Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve!

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WOW and DOUBLE WOW!!! Today we totaled the excel spread sheet and placed the order for our wildflower seeds. I hope everything is fully in stock, and if all is, the seeds should be arriving by early next week! I thought everyone would be interested to know our amazing grand totals:

Marsh Milkweed Packets: 36 Marsh Milkweed 1 Ounce Quantity: 21 Common Milkweed Packets: 74 Common Milkweed 1 Ounce Quantity: 11 Pink New England Asters: 58 Purple New England Asters: 44

A HUGE THANK YOU to EVERYONE participating in the Cape Ann Milkweed Project!

Below are several GMG posts with lots more information about the Cape Ann Milkweed Project. For more posts, type in the search word milkweed or Monarch Butterfly.

ORDER YOUR MILKWEED SEEDS TODAY!

Cape Ann Milkweed Project Continues ~ Plant Milkweed Seeds to Save the Monarchs

Setting the Table for a Regal Butterfly Comeback, With Milkweed

Monarch Butterfly Explosion!

Monarch butterfly explosion ©Kim Smith 2014Monarch Butterfly Explosion!

I am back from Mexico and, although there for less than a week, there was much to take in. My most sincerest thanks to all our readers for your safe-travels well-wishes and kind thoughts!

The butterflies were dazzling and beautiful beyond imagination, but also very sad. This wondrous migration of the Monarchs, which has taken place for over a million years, is in serious peril. If changes are not made very soon, the migration will end. I’ll write more about my trip and the extraordinary scientist that I traveled with, Doctor Tom Emmel, this weekend after I am all caught up with design work and photography projects. Additionally, I interviewed Dr. Emmel at the top of the Sierra Chincua Monarch Colony, located in Michoacán at 10,000 feet above sea level, and will be bringing GMG readers the full interview!

What We Can Do to Help the Monarchs

Everywhere we turn this past month, there is a report in a major newspaper about the declining Monarch butterfly population. This forwarded from one of our GMG readers: “Monarch butterflies keep disappearing. Here’s why,” was published in the Washington Post on January 29th, 2014.

The author, Brad Plumer, interviewed Dr. Lincoln Brower, a professor of biology at Sweet Briar College and one of the nation’s leading authorities on the subject. I will be meeting Dr. Brower and interviewing him for my film while at the biosphere this month.

One of Dr. Brower’s suggestions on how we can help the Monarchs is along the millions of miles of roadsides in the eastern United States, if we cold get highway departments to plant for pollinators rather than cutting everything down and spraying herbicides. This would be of great help to the Monarchs, insects in general, and many species of birds.

I’ve thought a great deal about this and it is my foremost reason for creating butterfly and habitat gardens, such as the butterfly gardens at the Gloucester HarborWalk. I think too, of the many patches of unused city-owned land dotted about our community and how we could turn these little patches into habitats for all our winged friends. For several years I have wanted very much to organize this project however, I have my hands full with launching the film. Once the film is complete, my hope and plan is that it will become an inspirational and positive educational tool to help generate interest in community projects such as these.

In the meantime, as many of you may be aware, since 2007, I have been creating exhibits and giving lectures about the life story of the Monarch, on the state of butterflies migration, and how we can help the Monarchs, both as individuals and collectively. I purposefully do not publish a price on any of my lecture  listings because the cost of my programs are rated based on the size of your group or organization. No group is too small and I don’t want budget constraints to prohibit making the information available to all who are interested.

Here is a link to my Monarch program. If you and your organization would like to learn more about the Monarch Butterfly and how you can help, please contact me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com.

Monarch Butterflies Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2006Spangled Dawn Eastern Point Gloucester Massachusetts

Recent Posts on GMG about the Monarch Butterfly:

September 2013

Where Are All the Monarchs?

November 2013

The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear

January 2014

Monarch Butterflies in Crisis

Request for Help from GMG Community and Monarch Film Update

March 2013

How Exactly is Monsanto’s Roundup Ravaging the Monarch Butterfly Population?

To read more about the life story of the Monarch Butterfly type in Monarch in the GMG search box.

 

Where Are All the Monarchs?

Monarchs usually arrive in our region by the first week in July and go through several brood cycles. This year, barely any arrived. The Monarch’s sensitivity to temperature and dependence on milkweed make it vulnerable to environmental changes. Since 1994, U.S. and Mexican researchers have recorded a steady decline in the Monarch population in their overwintering grounds, with 2012-2013 being the lowest recorded to date.

Monarch butterflies daybreak willow tree ©Kim Smith 2012

Temperature change and habitat loss affect breeding success and longevity. Dr. Chip Taylor, a leading Monarch researcher at the University of Kansas reports that the widespread adoption of GMO corn and soybean crops resistant to herbicides, along with with intensive herbicide use, coupled with the federal government’s incentivized expansion of corn and soy acreage for the production of biofuels have caused a significant drop in milkweed throughout the heart of the Monarch’s range. Lack of milkweed equals no Monarchs. “Monarch/milkweed habitat has declined significantly in parallel with the rapid adoption of glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybeans and, since 2006, the rapid expansion of corn and soy acreage to accommodate the production of biofuels,” Taylor wrote on May 29.

Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at Seaside Goldenrod ©Kim Smith 2011

Monarchs Nectaring at Seaside Goldenrod

What can we do? Encourage conservation organizations that conserve Monarch habitat, plant milkweed, plant nectar plants, and raise caterpillars. Hopefully the weather next spring and early summer will be more conducive to the Monarch’s northward migration and breeding success, and if and when the Monarchs arrive, they will find our milkweed plants.

Monarch Butterflies New england Aster ©Kim Smith 2012

Monarch Butterflies Nectaring at New England Asters

If anyone sees a Monarch, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com or leave a comment in the comment section.

Update #2: Reader Jude Writes the following ~

Hi Kim,

I have maybe 30milkweed plants in the front yard. I would be happy to harvest the seeds, are there places you know of that would be willing or have a large enough property to seed them? Can you harvest them as soon as the pods pop? I remember as a kid finding the most beautiful cocoon I have ever seen. I haven’t seen many butterflies at all and of the ones I have seen are not Monarchs.

My reponse:

Hi Jude, I am putting it out there in GMG Land that if anyone would like your milkweed seed pods to please contact me.

Yes, you can harvest immediately after the pods pop, as a matter of fact, I recommend doing just that and sowing your seeds in the fall. The easiest method is to lightly scratch the surface of the soil where you wish the milkweed to grow. Scatter the seeds and water. That’s it.

Thank you so much for writing. Hopefully, we’ll find a home for your milkweed seeds.

Update: For more information, see previous GMG posts on Monarchs and Milkweed:

How Exactly is Monsanto’s Roundup Ravaging the Monarch Butterfly Population?

News Release: MONARCH WATCH ANNOUNCES ‘BRING BACK THE MONARCHS’ CAMPAIGN

Cape Ann Milkweed Project

GloucesterCast Podcast 4/25/13 With Guest Kim Smith

From Germany to Logan to Gloucester, for Butterflies!

I sent the following to the Boss this morning: Thought you would like to know–Last night at sunset I was filming B roll at the EP Lighthouse. A German couple was there, with binoculars, and they had just arrived from Germany. I asked what they were looking for and they said, “Monarchs,” because they had seen all the butterfly postings on GMG, not only mine, Donna’s, too, and all the comments. Sometimes I think I am posting TMI about butterflies, but I thought you would think this pretty funny, and amazing; straight away from Germany to Logan to Gloucester, for butterflies!

To the lovely couple from Germany that was at the Lighthouse yesterday: Come on down to the dock to get your GMG sticker and meet Joey C, the creator of Good Morning Gloucester. He’d love to meet you!  Captain Joe and Sons is located at 95 East Main Street.

Dogbar Breakwater Eastern Point, Gloucester

Monarch Flakes

Click the photo to view larger and you will see the little Monarch flakes heading into the cherry tree. The clustering Monarchs were well-camoflouged by the autumn foliage nonetheless, their silhouettes are clearly visible in the setting sun.

Another passel of Monarchs poured onto the Point last Thursday at dusk, carried in by the warm southerly breeze. Overnight the wind shifted, coming in from the northeast, and by day break Friday morning, the Monarchs had flown from the trees, carried to shores further south by the blustery tailwind.

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Dear Friends,

Recently I attended a lecture given by an expert in a field to which I am passionately involved. I was really looking forward to this lecture and I have on many occasions actively promoted this lecturer. To get to the point, I was stunned to recognize that the third photo into the slideshow was one of my own photos, and it was presented without acknowledgement. I sat stupefied listening to the rest of the lecture. I hoped that no other photos of mine were part of the presentation. Unfortunately that was not the case. One of the last photos presented was one of my best selling photographs and the audience was audibly moved by the photo. It would have been so simple at that point to say something like, “Thanks to Kim Smith, the photographer, who is here with us this evening.”

The following morning I wrote the lecturer a very polite email stating that I don’t mind sharing my work. I simply requested that he use any one of several photos that I attached for him, with my name discreetly added in the lower right corner. In reply I received a curt and condescending note from the lecturer stating he would delete my photos from his presentation and from his files.

I spent three freezing hours before a long workday in a windy wet field hoping to get that shot that the lecturer was using as part of his presentation. Taking credit, either by claiming it as your own, or by lack of acknowledgement is unethical, at the very least. I really empathize with people who experience more extreme cases of appropriation. Some may find this case to be relatively minor; I found it totally unnerving.

I love to share information and photos about wildflowers and butterflies—as my new friend Hannah says, “You are working for the butterflies.” I blame myself for not watermarking the photos, although I believe very sincerely that most people are honest, have integrity, and give credit when credit is due. For example, when Maggie Harper, the producer from the television show Chronicle, borrowed my Greasy Pole footage, they not only ran my name across the top of the footage, they also provided a link to my blog on the Chronicle website. Maggie had seen the footage on Good Morning Gloucester and contacted Joey, who graciously provided her with my contact information. From the Chronicle link, I received many thousands of hits on my own blog. As another example, when a non-profit national wildflower organization wanted to use several photos for their publication, I gladly said yes, and only requested that I receive a photo credit, which they did provide. I am honored and touched beyond measure that people enjoy my photos and films. My policy is the same as many artists in that I request that if someone wishes to use my work for presentation, that they would please let me know, prior to use.

Enough with all that. Many have written requesting information about this year’s Monarch Butterfly migration. I have been shooting daily hours and hours of video and still photos and will be sharing all. I have figured out how to add a watermark in photo shop, but am hoping to find a more efficient and faster method of adding a signature.

Monarch Butterfly Migration Gloucester Massachusetts 2012

Happy Last Days of Summer!

Many more photos from this year’s migration to come.