Tag Archives: Monarch Butterfly

Report Monarch Sightings Here!

Monarch in flight ©Kim Smith 2014Monarch in Mid-Flight and New England Asters

Tip ~ This morning I ran into my friend Maggie and her husband who had just rescued a Monarch from the middle of the road. Butterfly wings don’t work very well in cool temperatures. If you find a Monarch in a seemingly quiet and weakened state, it could quite possibly simply be cold. Place the butterfly in a sheltered and sunny spot and it may very well revive!

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In 1975, in Angangueo, at the time when the butterflies winter grounds were first located by Mexican citizen Catalina Aguado and her American husband Ken Brugger, they not only discovered billions roosting on the limbs of the oyamel fir trees but also millions quietly at rest on the forest floor. Thinking that the butterflies were dead, some members of the discovery group brought the butterflies back to their homes. Later in the day, after the butterfly’s flight muscles had warmed, they awoke and began to fly. Today at the butterfly biosphere reserves it is against the rules to pick up or touch a sleeping butterfly.

Monarch Butterfly Nectaring Joe Pye ©Kim Smith 2012Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium)

In Sunday’s podcast, Joey made the super suggestion to create a place where GMG readers can report their Monarch butterfly sightings. I’ll repost this post every night for the next week or so. Please report any sightings to the comment section of this post, that way we can keep all sightings in one collective spot. You can send in a photo capture if you’d like, too.

Today as I was leaving our home, around noon time, I spotted a Monarch in our garden in East Gloucester. Let us know what you see. Thank you!

Monarch Butterfly Eastern Point Gloucester ©kim Smith 2012

 

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.

 

Thank You to Everyone Who Participated in This Year’s Cape Ann Milkweed Project!!!

Monarch Butterflies Pink New England Aster ©Kim Smith 2012Monarch Butterflies Nectaring at Pink New Enlgand Aster, Gloucester

Thank you so much to our most awesome community for participating in the Cape Ann Monarch Milkweed and Aster Project. Today was a huge and wonderful success and we were non-stop with folks dropping in to pick up their seeds and learn more about how they can help the Monarchs. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

And my most heartfelt thanks to Joey. He nudged me into doing the sale again this year by inquiring just about a month ago if we were planning a repeat of last year’s plant sale. Joey’s hospitality and interest in everyone who stops by makes Captain Joe’s a wonderfully fun place to have a community event!

Note to anyone who could not pick up their seeds or who was planning to have them sent via a self-addressed stamped envelope: You will recieve an email with information on where to send the check and order amount total. Thanks again to everyone!

Monarch Butterfly fur ©Kim Smith 2012Fun fact about butterflies: Butterflies do not grow fur. The fur-like structures that you see on butterflies are many single cells conjoined to form one long string.

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In case you misplace the instructions on how to prepare your milkweed seeds for spring planting ~

How to Vernalize Milkweed Seeds for Spring Planting

Seeds of most temperate plants need to be vernalized—in other words, exposed to cold temperatures. The best way to vernalize is by stratification, which means subjecting seeds to a cold and moist environment for a short period of time. By stratifying, the seed’s natural break of dormancy that occurs when the seed spends the winter in the ground is simulated.

#1 Method of Stratifying Milkweed

Open the bag of seeds and place them between very slightly moistened paper towels in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. After vernalizing for 3-6 weeks, the seeds can be planted out in the garden in warm 70º soil.

#2 Method of Stratifying Milkweed

Place ¼ cup of sand mixed with ¼ tsp. of water in a plastic bag. Add the seeds and mix again. Store in plastic bag in the refrigerator. After vernalizing for 3-6 weeks, the seeds can be planted out in the garden in warm 70º soil.

Prepare the planting bed in a sunny location. Scatter seeds, or plant in rows, and cover with no more than ¼ inch of soil.

For natural vernalization, sow collected seeds directly into a prepared bed in the fall and the seed will germinate the following spring.

Monarch Caterpillars Common Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2012Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars Munching on Milkweed

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

Our milkweed and New England aster seed pickup day is Sunday, May 18th, from 9:30 to noon, at Captain Joe and Sons. Come on down to pick up your seeds and learn the best way to plant asters and milkweeds. We’ll have coffee and doughnuts, too! 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. I am looking forward to saying hello to everyone!

Monarch butterfly explosion ©Kim Smith 2014Millions of milkweeds and nectar-rich wildflowers, such as New England Asters and Seaside Goldenrod, insures millions of Monarchs arrive to Mexico!

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

Female Monarch Egg Marsh Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2011Female Monarch curling her abdomen around to the underside of a Marsh Milkweed leaf (Asclepias incarnata) to deposit an egg. Photographed in Gloucester

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!

banksy-1Banksy Image Courtesy Bing McGilvray

Reminder: Monarch Milkweed and Aster Seed Pickup and Information Day is Next Sunday, May 18th, from 9:30 to Noon

male-female-monarch-butterfly-marsh-milkweed-2-c2a9kim-smith-2012-copy Male and Female Monarch Butterfly on Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Where are the Monarchs today in their northward migration? They have spread throughout the Great Plains and Southern States. Some have already been sighted as far north as Michigan and Wisconsin! Monarch Migration Map

Our Milkweed and New England Aster seed pickup day is next 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. Thank you so much to Joey for offering to host the event at the dock. See You There!

monarch-new-england-aster-c2a9kim-smith-2013Monarch Butterfly and New England Aster

Top Ten Tips for Attracting and Supporting Native Bees

Bees, butterflies, and songbirds bring a garden to life, with their grace in movement and ephemeral beauty.   Bee and Monarch Butterfly ©Kim Smith 2012Many of the plants that are the most highly attractive to butterflies are also the most appealing to bees, too!

Bees are also a “keystone organism,” which means they are critical to maintaining the sustainability and productivity of many types of ecosystems. Without bees, most flowering plants would become extinct, and fruit and seed eating birds and mammals (such as ourselves) would have a much less healthy and varied diet.

Native bees come in an array of beautiful colors, size, and shapes. Some are as small as one eighth of an inch and others as large as one inch. They may wear striped suits of orange, red, yellow, or white, or shimmer in coats of metallic iridescene. Their names often reflect the way in which they build their nests, for example, carpenter bees, leafcutter bees, mason bees, plasterer bees, digger bees, and wool carder bees.

Approximately 4,000 species of native bees have been identified north of Mexico. They are extremely efficient pollinators of tomatoes, apples, berries, pumpkins, watermelons, and many other crops.

Native Bee Pollinating Apricot Tree ©Kim Smith 2009Native Carpenter Bee and Apricot Tree

Listed below are what I have found to be the most successful tips for supporting and attracting native bees to your garden.

1). Choose plants native to North America. Over millennia, native bees have adapted to native plants. If planting a non-native plant, do not plant invasive aliens, only well-behaved ornamentals.

2). Choose non-chemical solutions to insect problems, in other words, do not use herbicides or pesticides.

3).  Choose plants that have a variety of different flowers shapes to attract a variety of bees, both long-tongued and short-tongued bees.

4). Avoid “fancy” plants, the hybrids that have been deveolped with multiple double frilly layers. This only confuses bees when they are looking for nectar and gathering pollen.

5). Provide a succession of nectar-rich and pollen bearing blooms throughout the growing season. Select plants that flower during the earliest spring, during the summer months, and until the first hard frost.

6.) Plant a clover lawn, or throw some clover seed onto your existing grass lawn to create a mixed effect.

7.) Bee Friendly–bees only sting when provoked. When encountering an angry bee, stay calm and walk away slowly.

8.) Plant lots of blue, purple, and yellow flowers, a bees favorite colors.

9). Provide a source of pesticide-free water and mud in your bee paradise.

The first nine tips are for any garden, large or small. The last is for people with larger land areas.

10).  Establish hedgerows, or clumps of native woody shrubs and trees, and wildflower fields. Contact the USDA NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Services) for available funding opportunities.

Tomorrow I’ll post our top ten native plants for attracting and supporting native bees.

Cornus alternifolia ©Kim Smith 2009One of the most elegant of all native trees is the not-widely planted Cornus alternifolia, or Pagoda Dogwood. Where ever I plant this tree of uncommon grace and beauty it becomes a magnet for all manner of bees and butterflies.

In Honor of Earth Day ~ Xerces Society Letter to President Obama

April 14, 2014

President Barack Obama The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture The Honorable Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior

Dear Mr. President, Mr. Secretary of Agriculture, and Madam Secretary of the Interior,

In light of the severe decline of both the eastern and western monarch butterfly populations that has occurred since the late‐1990s, we are writing to ask you to establish a multi‐agency monarch butterfly recovery initiative to restore the habitats that support the extraordinary migrations of this iconic species. We encourage you to direct the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), and Forest Service (USFS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of the U.S. Department of the Interior to develop a cooperative, landscape‐ level initiative with the many stakeholders willing to help foster significant monarch recovery.

These migrations can be saved for future generations by restoring to the landscape milkweeds, the host plants for monarch caterpillars, and nectar plants that sustain the adult butterflies. These habitats would support pollinators and a large number of other species as well. The federal agencies that incentivize conservation of wildlife habitat on private lands and that directly manage wildlife habitat on public lands can play key roles in this effort by targeting funding and technical support for such an initiative.

As you know, the eastern monarch population has been declining for more than a decade, and this year scientists observed the lowest numbers ever documented, representing a 90% drop from population numbers recorded in the mid‐1990s. Since then, there has been a significant loss of milkweeds in agricultural areas of the Midwest, which is directly correlated with the declining monarch population. Monarch habitat has also declined sharply in the West.

Monarch Migration Map

Paul Mirocha Illustration for Monarch Watch

Read more

Poignant Banksy Monarch Image Shared By GMG FOB Bing McGilvray

Banksy quote ~ “We don’t need any more heroes; we just need someone to take out the recycling.”

banksy-1

GMG FOB Bing McGilvray posted this Banksy Monarch painting on our GMG Community Group. THANK YOU BING!

Another Banksy quote ~ “Writing graffiti is about the most honest way you can be an artist. It takes no money to do it, you don’t need an education to understand it and there’s no admission fee.”

 

Super Fun Anthropologie Behind-the Scenes Making of the Monarch Store Windows Submitted By Our GMG FOB Mary McLoud Tucker!

Thank you Mary for sharing; this video from Anthropologie is so much fun!!!

Metamorphosis: The Making of Our
Earth Day Windows

It is awe-inspiring to think that the monarch butterfly, a species so small and humble, lays claim to one of nature’s greatest spectacles. And yet, their annual migration is considered just that—an age-old phenomenon of epic proportions and, as recent decades have shown, increasing peril due to their declining population. That’s why this Earth Day, we are paying tribute to the monarchs in our store windows, now home to swarms of handmade orange-and-black butterflies. Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at their making.

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

Love Letters to Gloucester

Love Letters to Gloucester features the Horribles Parade, friends, Greasy Pole “ladies,” Saint Peter’s ferris wheel, Schooner Festival, Nicky Avelis taking the flag, whimbrels, dragonfly migration, bees, llamas, butterflies, Thomas E. Lannon schooner, Eastern Point Lighthouse Monarch, and much more!

Originally posted on Good Morning Gloucester, October 18, 2013

New Film: Love Letters to Gloucester ~ Summertime 2013

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.

 

Monarch Butterflies in Crisis

Monarch Butterfly Overwintering Graph Journey NorthEach winter, since I began photographing the Monarchs in 2006, I compare this graph from Journey North to the number of butterflies observed on Cape Ann. As you can clearly see, this is the worst year on record, which corresponds to the near complete lack of Monarchs in our region this past summer.

Monarchs Gloucester 2012 �Kim Smith
Monarch Butterflies Eastern Point Gloucester

Many thanks to Kathy Chapman and our GMG Readers for forwarding the following New York Times update about the shrinking Monarch Butterfly popluation.

By Michael Wines

January 29, 2014

Faltering under extreme weather and vanishing habitats, the yearly winter migration of monarch butterflies to a handful of forested Mexican mountains dwindled precipitously in December, continuing what scientists said was an increasingly alarming decline.

The migrating population has become so small — perhaps 35 million, experts guess — that the prospects of its rebounding to levels seen even five years ago are diminishing. At worst, scientists said, a migration widely called one of the world’s great natural spectacles is in danger of effectively vanishing.

The Mexican government and the World Wildlife Fund said at a news conference on Wednesday that the span of forest inhabited by the overwintering monarchs shrank last month to a bare 1.65 acres — the equivalent of about one and a quarter football fields. Not only was that a record low, but it was just 56 percent of last year’s total, which was itself a record low.

At their peak in 1996, the monarchs occupied nearly 45 acres of forest.

The acreage covered by monarchs, which has been surveyed annually since 1993, is a rough proxy for the actual number of butterflies that survive the arduous migration to and from the mountains.

Karen S. Oberhauser, a conservation biologist at the University of Minnesota who has studied monarchs for decades, called the latest estimate shocking.

“This is the third straight year of steep declines, which I think is really scary,” she said. “This phenomenon — both the phenomenon of their migration and the phenomenon of so many individuals doing it — that’s at risk.”

Continue Reading Here

Request for Help from GMG Community and Monarch Film Update

Header Good FINAL FINAL

For the past three years I have been filming the life story of the Monarch Butterfly in backyards and along the shores of Cape Ann. My original intent was to tell the story of the butterflies primarily as it relates to their northern breeding grounds and specifically here in our community. Prior to filming, I wrote a children’s story about the Monarchs and during this entire time I have had an ongoing inner debate as to whether or not to travel to Mexico. While editing the film these past few months, I determined that capturing the butterfly’s story in their winter sleeping grounds as they are awakening in Mexico would only add to the film’s depth and beauty. To film in Mexico would be a dream come true.

If you listened to Joey’s GMG podcast yesterday, you heard that in February I am going to be filming the butterflies in Mexico!! This all has come about very quickly! I have to practice walking five miles a day, recall how to ride a horse, and learn enough Spanish so that if I am separated from my group or kidnapped by bandits, I can at least inquire as to where is the bathroom.

Does anyone know of a local outfit that gives lessons in trail riding? And does anyone have experience with a Spanish language lesson CD (basic)? If so, can you please recommend in the comment section. Thank  you!!!!!!!

Stay tuned for adventures from Mexico! Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly will premiere  in the summer of 2014.

Rather than wait until the film was complete, this weekend I made a new website for the film-in-progress. When you have a moment, I hope you’ll visit my website and read more about Beauty on the Wing here.

monarch-butterfly-milkweed-good-harbor-beach-c2a9kim-smith-2011Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at Common Milkweed ~ Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester

Beauty on the Wing celebrates the poetry and majesty of the uniquely North American phenomenon of the Monarch butterfly and its migration. There are no other butterflies the world over that travel this distance and it is a fascinating ecological link that connects Mexico with nearly every geographic region within the United States and Canada. How well the forested habitats of Michoacán are taken care of is as of equal importance to the Monarchs as how we in Gloucester conserve our habitats.

Setting the Table for a Regal Butterfly Comeback, With Milkweed

Monarch Caterpillar Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2013Monarch Caterpillar Eating Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) Foliage

Thank you GMG readers and Monarch Butterfly friends for forwarding the following article from the NY Times!

By Michael Wines

Published December 20th, 2013

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Bounding out of a silver Ford pickup into the single-digit wind-flogged flatness that is Iowa in December, Laura Jackson strode to a thicket of desiccated sticks and plucked a paisley-shaped prize.

It was a pod that, after a gentle squeeze, burst with chocolate brown buttons: seeds of milkweed, the favored — indeed, the only — food of the monarch butterfly caterpillar.

Once wild and common, milkweed has diminished as cropland expansion has drastically cut grasslands and conservation lands. Diminished too is the iconic monarch.

Dr. Jackson, a University of Northern Iowa biologist and director of its Tallgrass Prairie Center, is part of a growing effort to rescue the monarch. Her prairie center not only grows milkweed seeds for the state’s natural resources department, which spreads them in parks and other government lands, but has helped seed thousands of acres statewide with milkweed and other native plants in a broader effort to revive the flora and fauna that once blanketed more than four-fifths of the state.

Monarch Caterpillar milkweed -2 © Kim Smith 2012Monarch caterpillar hanging from a Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) leaf rib, in the characteristic J-shape, readying to pupate.

Nationwide, organizations are working to increase the monarchs’ flagging numbers. At the University of Minnesota, a coalition of nonprofits and government agencies called Monarch Joint Venture is funding research and conservation efforts. At the University of Kansas, Monarch Watch has enlisted supporters to create nearly 7,450 so-called way stations, milkweed-rich backyards and other feeding and breeding spots along migration routes on the East and West Coasts and the Midwest.

But it remains an uphill struggle. The number of monarchs that completed the largest and most arduous migration this fall, from the northern United States and Canada to a mountainside forest in Mexico, dropped precipitously, apparently to the lowest level yet recorded. In 2010 at the University of Northern Iowa, a summertime count in some 100 acres of prairie grasses and flowers turned up 176 monarchs; this year, there were 11.

Read the story here

New Film: Love Letters to Gloucester ~ Summertime 2013

Love Letters to Gloucester ~ Summer 2013 is a ten minute film compiled from butterfly films in progress and scenes from short films created for my community during the summer of 2013.

Special thanks to the Ciaramitaro Family and my Good Morning Gloucester friends and family.

Stay until after all credits roll to see a preview of films yet to come!

Cast In Order of Appearance:

Good Harbor Beach Surfers, Pat Ciaramitaro, Dante Holding, Amanda Mohan, Vanessa Linquata, Greasy Pole Walkers, Nicky Avelis, Sleepy Pallazolla Family, Crazy Hat Ladies Robyn & Amy Clayton, Alicia Cox, Chris DeWolfe, Joey Ciaramitaro, Bex Borden, Toby Pett, Ed Collard, Melissa Cox, Craig Kimberley, Brian M. O’Connor, Captain Heath Ellis, Captain Tom Ellis, Donna Ardizonni, Cathy Kelley, Lillian LoGrasso, Rick Doucette, Felicia Ciaramitaro Mohan, Barry Mohan, Hannah Kimberley, Ron Gilson, Joan Gilson, BJ Mohan, Eloise Ciaramitaro, Madeline Ciaramitaro, Kathy Ryan, Bob Ryan

Creatures in Order of Appearance:

Great Blue Heron
Good Harbor Beach Harbor Seal
Mama Kildeer Searching for Baby Kildeer
Pair of Whimbrels
Shivering Monarch Butterfly Found at Daybreak
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Llama
Donkeys Zack & Abe
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Luna Moth
Green Darner Dragonfly Migration
Eastern Point Light House Monarch

Links to Summer 2013 Film Projects:

Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly
Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Walking for Loved Ones ~ Sunday Greasy Pole Winner Nicky Avelis
Parade of Sails ~ Schooner Festival 2013
The Good Harbor Beach Seal PSA
Gifts of Gold Red Carpet Interviews
Good Harbor Beach Sunrise ft. the Great Blue Heron
Sunset Sail Aboard the Schooner Thomas E. Lannon
Happy Horribles
A Luna Moth Takes Flight

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

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