Tag Archives: New England Aster Alma Potchke

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

Monarch Butterfly Migration Through Gloucester Reader Question

GMG Reader Becky Edleman writes:

“Hello! I was emailing you to inquire about the monarch butterfly migration that comes through Gloucester. I recently moved to MA and was told that the butterflies migrate through that area, but have found little evidence as to when this usually occurs. After doing some googling I came across your website discussing the migrating monarchs many times. If you have any information for me as to when I should plan to come up and where to go I would really appreciate it! I love reading your articles and am eager to find out more about the migration pattern! Thank you!”

Monarch Awakening ç Kim Smith 2012

Hi Becky ~ Thanks for writing and wonderful to know you found us through a Google search! The Monarch Butterfly migration through our region is not an exact science. The “when” of the migration depends on may variables including the success of their breeding during July and August, air temperature, and wind flow. When I look back through my records, I would say, generally speaking, we have the greatest number of Monarchs migrating though Gloucester beginning around the second week of September through October 1st. The butterflies are are found in  gardens and wildflower fields and meadows throughout our region. You can often see clusters near the Eastern Point Lighthouse.

Do you have space for a garden? If so, and you would like to attract the migating Monarchs to your garden, plant nectar-rich flowers that are in bloom during their migration. Seaside Goldenrod, New England Aster, and Smooth  Aster are just three gorgeous Massachusetts native wildflowers that will attract the Monarchs to your garden.

I hope you’ll stop by the dock and get a GMG sticker when you are visiting!

Three Fragrant Beauties

Painted Lady Butterfly Nanho Purple Butterfly Bush © Kim Smith 2013

Last night I gave a talk on Fragrant Gardening at a sportmen’s club in Plymouth. In looking through images to update my presentation, I found two photos that had previously been overlooked. The first photo is of a Painted Lady nectaring at the sweetly scented butterfly bush ‘Nanho Purple,’ which blooms continuously throughout the summer. You can see she is a Painted Lady because of the four concentric circles, or “eyespots,” on the underside of her hindwing.

Monarch Butterfly Alma Potchke New England aster ©Kim Smith 2013

The second photo is of a Monarch nectaring at New England Aster ‘Alma Potchke,’ taken at a friend’s garden on Eastern Point. Our native New England asters have a wonderful spicy sweet earthy fragrance and are one the most potently fragrant asters found. New England asters bloom typically from late August through September.

American Lady Butterfly Korean Daisy gKim Smith 2013

The third photo I’ve posted before and it is of an American Lady nectaring at Korean Daisies. You can tell she is an American Lady by her two comparatively larger eyespots. Unlike hybridized chrysanthemums, which are usually bred for color, Korean Daisies are the straight species and are fabulously fragrant. Their period of florescence is from September through October, oftentimes into early November; only a hard frost stops their bloom power.

With just these three beauties, one could have a staggered and continuously fragrant garden in bloom from July through November–and create Mecca for butterflies on the wing.

Kim Smith Close-up Photography Workshop at the Arnold Arboretum

Monarch Butterfly Migration Gloucester Massachusetts 2012

Registration is still open however, my close-up photography workshop, Nature in Focus, is nearly full. The workshop will be will be held at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard, at the Hunnewell Building, on Sunday September 3oth, at 9:00 am.  I especially love teaching at the Arnold Arboretum. The facilities are beautiful, the staff wonderfully helpful, and September is a particularly gorgeous month to visit the gardens of the Arboretum. I hope you can join me!

Nature in Focus: Taking Great Close-ups  Kim Smith, Photographer and Filmmaker1 Session: Sunday, September 30, 9:00am–NoonLocation: Hunnewell BuildingLearn tips for taking great close-up photographs from celebrated butterfly and garden photographer Kim Smith. Through slides and hands on demonstrations, Kim will guide you in capturing the beauty of the flora and fauna found in nature. Bring your camera and questions, and a tripod if you have one. You will gain more from the class if first you familiarize yourself with your camera’s manual. (Note: This is not a macro-photography class.) See examples of Kim’s great images.Fee $40 member, $55 nonmemb

 Common Milkweed Seedpod (Asclepias syriaca)Asclepias syriaca