Tag Archives: Monarch Butterflies
In February of 2014 when I traveled to El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Angangueo to film the Monarchs, we encountered some difficulty locating the butterflies. Because of global warming conditions the Monarchs had roosted much further up the mountain than was typical. We needed to climb an additional 1500 feet, nearly to the top of the mountain. There was no place higher for the butterflies on this mountain and I wondered at the time, where would they go as the earth becomes increasingly warmer.
Butterflies are heliothermic, which means they gain heat from the sun. During the winter it is imperative that the butterflies remain relatively cool and in a state of sexual immaturity, called diapause. The sheltering boughs of the sacred Oyamel Fir (Abeis religiosa) trees and the cool temperatures at the higher altitudes of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Mountain Belt, in the past, have provided optimal habitat for the butterflies.
The butterflies currently roost at altitudes between 9,500 and 10,800 feet. Mexican scientists are planning to progressively move the trees higher up the mountainsides in a race to save the fir trees. Last summer several hundred seedlings were planted at 11,286 feet where habitat best suited to Monarchs is expected to be by 2030.
Excerpt from “To Protect Monarch Butterfly, a Plan to Save the Sacred Firs”
By Janet Marinelli
“While U.S. biologists urge gardeners to plant milkweeds to help restore the monarchs’ summer habitat, Mexican scientists are pinning their hopes on a plan to move the species progressively higher up local mountainsides in a race to save these firs and the butterflies that depend on them. “We have to act now,” says the plan’s architect, Cuauhtémoc Sáenz-Romero, a forest geneticist at the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo. “Later will be too late, because the trees will be dead or too weak to produce seeds in enough quantity for large reforestation programs.”
When the rainy season arrived last summer, a few hundred seedlings were planted at 11,286 feet, where habitat suited to oyamel fir trees is expected to be by 2030. By then, according to retired U.S. Forest Service geneticist Jerry Rehfeldt, who co-authored a paper with Sáenz-Romero on global warming’s effect on oyamels, temperatures in the reserve could rise above pre-industrial levels by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2030, and suitable habitat could shrink by nearly 70 percent. The scientists’ research further suggests that by the end of the century, habitat that meets the fir’s needs may no longer exist anywhere inside the reserve. Trees would have to be planted at higher altitudes on peaks more than 100 miles away from the monarch’s migratory home.
The sacred fir is a poster child for the plight of trees around the globe. Trees provide habitat for countless species and underpin ecosystems as well as human economies, but as a group they are highly imperiled. A diagram in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2014 Working Group II report shows that of all life forms, trees are least able to respond to rapid climate change. Rooted in place, they have not evolved for rapid locomotion. Many take decades to mature and reproduce.
The breakneck speed of current global warming dwarfs anything in the fossil record, even what Lee Kump, professor of geosciences at Penn State University, has called “the last great global warming” 56 million years ago during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. At that time, over the course of a few thousand years, global temperatures soared 9°F as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. By comparison, if carbon emissions are not slashed soon, scientists warn it’s possible we could witness that much warming in a matter of centuries, if not decades. Without human help, trees and many other plant and animal species most likely won’t be able to migrate fast enough to keep pace with rapidly changing conditions.”
So many thanks to my friend Eric Hutchins for forwarding this article!!
Enchanted by Monarchs! We had a fantastic day filmmaking, thanks to Emma, Pilar, Frieda, Annie Kate, Lotus, April, Elijah, Esme, Charlie, Atticus, and last but not least, Meadow. And an extra huge thank you to all the moms and dads for not minding the early morning wake up calls and texts to let the kids know the butterflies were emerging! I was tied up filming and so wish I’d taken more stills.
SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE Read more
A patch of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in bloom has a wonderfully sweet honey-hay scent. Look for it growing along the sand dunes, roadside edges, fields, meadows, and where ever there is a neglected patch. And keep your eyes peeled for Monarchs; the earliest arrivals (for the most part) are synchronized to the flowering of Common Milkweed.
Friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Vine. You can also subscribe to my design website at Kim Smith Designs, and film’s websites at Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Community Film Project, and Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.
The event is free.
RSVP to email@example.com.
For more information: Planting an Essex County Pollinator Garden
Monarch Butterflies Goleta Santa Barbara California
Thanks to the Dalpiaz Family and to Passages for forwarding several of the links!
How Butterflies Self-Medicate
On the second hour of WBUR’s On Point this morning at 11:00am, the show features several outstanding Monarch experts. Here’s the link: http://onpoint.wbur.org/2014/08/20/monarch-butterflies-migration-climate-change
So many thanks to Michele and Jane for letting me know!
“We love butterflies, and monarch butterflies are called “monarch” for a reason. They are grand. All that fluttering orange and black display on a winged scale built to impress. To charm. But monarch butterflies are in trouble. This year saw the smallest migration ever recorded to their winter retreat in the mountains of Mexico. And if you are looking this summer for monarchs, they’ve been hard to find. There’s a reason, and it goes back to genetically-modified crops, say my guests today. This hour On Point: monarch butterflies, beautiful and in trouble.”
– Tom Ashbrook
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent Posts on GMG about the Monarch Butterfly:
To read more about the life story of the Monarch Butterfly type in Monarch in the GMG search box.
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.
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.
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 Nectaring at New England Asters
If anyone sees a Monarch, please email me at email@example.com or leave a comment in the comment section.
Update #2: Reader Jude Writes the following ~
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.
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:
I am often asked the following question at my butterfly and pollinator garden design lectures. How exactly are Monsanto’s products ravaging the Monarch Butterfly population?
First, it is important to understand that all butterfly caterpillars rely on plant foods specific to each species of butterfly. For example, Monarch caterpillars only eat members of the milkweed family, Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat plants in the carrot family, and Heliconian butterflies eat plants in the passionflower family. Some caterpillars, like the larvae of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail eat plants from a wide range of plant families. That being said, it is worth repeating that Monarch caterpillars only survive on members of the milkweed family.
Imagine a farm with row upon row of corn. Growing amongst and around the edges of the cornfields are wildflowers of all sorts, including milkweed. The wildflowers draw to the fields myriad pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and birds.
Monsanto has genetically modified the seed of corn and soybeans so that it will withstand extremely heavy doses of its herbicide, called Roundup. Monsanto’s corn and soybean seed is actually called Roundup Ready. Roundup Ready plants can withstand massive doses of the herbicide Roundup, but the milkweed and other wildflowers growing in the corn and soybean fields cannot.
Each year massive amounts of Roundup are sprayed on the corn and soybean fields, killing everything in sight, except the Roundup Ready corn and soybean. Additionally, Monsanto’s Roundup contains the active ingredient glyphosate, which has been tied to more health and environmental problems than you can possibly imagine.
Now imagine you are a Monarch Butterfly, having flown hundreds of miles northward towards breeding grounds of milkweed. But there is no milkweed to deposit your eggs. The circle in the chain of life is broken.
Since the use of genetically modified Roundup Ready began, milkweed has disappeared from over 100 million acres of row crops, or a roughly 58 percent decrease. Milkweed is not only the Monarch caterpillar host (or food) plant, the nectar-rich florets provide nourishment for hundreds of species of bees and other Lepidoptera.
The Monarch Butterfly migration is one of the great migrations of the world. Climate change and the loss of habitat are also factors in the decrease of butterflies. The Mexican government and the people of Mexico have enacted policies to help protect from logging the remaining oyamel fur trees in the Monarchs winter habitat.
There are several steps that we in the United States can undertake. 1) Avoid as much as possible genetically modified food, especially corn and soybean products. 2) If you own shares of Monsanto stock, get rid of it (Monsanto also developed Agent Orange). Thirdly, we need to start a national movement to cultivate milkweed and to create awareness about the important role wildflowers play in our ecosystem.
Calling Everyone: Plant Milkweed! No matter how small or large your garden, give a spot over to milkweed and watch your garden come to life!
I wrote this post several days ago. Westport was hit very hard by Sandy.
This upcoming planting week for my newest project, The Mary Prentiss Inn, a beautiful inn in the heart of Cambridge (more about The Mary Prentiss Inn later) has been disrupted by Sandy. One of the nurseries I work with cancelled delivery and wanted to reschedule, but not until after the 5th of November. By that time I’ll be knee-deep planting Willowdale for the spring of 2013. I didn’t want to disappoint my clients and postpone work until later in November. What to do? Have Prius, will travel.
Much has been written about the super fuel efficiency of the Prius (saving me much, much $$$ over the eight years I have owned a Prius), but rarely do I see mention of it’s fantastic carrying capacity when the back seat is made flat. People look at me in disbelief when I tell them I have transported trees and (smallish) sofas in the back of my Prius so I thought you’d like to see.
Friends often tell me I need a truck or a van. Perhaps when an auto manufacturer designs a 22k truck or van that gets 45 miles to the gallon (when loaded to the max), I’ll consider. In the meantime-have Prius, can do!
Westport is one of the most exquisite New England towns you will ever see. The topography is such that the farmland runs to the ocean’s edge. Through community and conservation groups, Westport is earnestly endeavoring, and succeeding, in preserving its historic and agricultural heritage–as we know in Gloucester, it is very intelligent when communities work together to help protect and preserve their farmers and fishermen.
The Bayside Restaurant ~ Charming little spot to eat in Westport, across the road from Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. The Bayside offers a complete menu, including many delicious seafood entrees and Homemade Pies!
You can see why Sylvan is one of my top five nurseries, not only for their exquisite plant stock, but because they are located about a hundred yards down the road from Allens Pond Wildlife Santuary. In autumn, after the coastal Monarchs depart Cape Ann, they fly south and next congregate in the Westport area, in and around Allen’s Pond and Horseneck Beach.
Allens Pond ~ Hurry Monarchs and Get Going! October 26, 2012
From the Trustees of Reservations website, “In many towns throughout Massachusetts The Trustees of Reservations have worked in partnership with the state’s Department of Agricultural Resources to help preserve family farms. Nowhere has that work been more successful than in Westport, where the partnership includes the Westport Land Conservation Trust and the town. Together, the groups have protected 13 farms in Westport over the past five years, including two dairy farms, two Christmas tree farms, an organic fruit and vegetable farm, a beef cattle operation, and even a piggery. There are now a total of 28 preserved farms in Westport, encompassing over 2,100 acres.”
Walking on Shore Road on Saturday, it was amazing seeing this beautiful soaring butterflies all over the bushes.
Recently a design colleague wrote inquiring as to the best time to mow her client’s fields as she was concerned about disrupting the breeding cycle of the Monarch butterfly. I am often asked this question and it is well worth considering, not only for the sake of the Monarchs, but for the survival of the myriad species of butterflies, bees, and other pollinating and beneficial insects that find food and shelter in untilled fields.
Newly Emerged Monarch
I generally advise my readers and design clients that own similar untilled fields to alternately mow in stages–-half a field at a time. The Monarch is a large, charismatic butterfly with an easily observed life cycle. The typical field comprised of native (and introduced) wildflowers and grasses creates a rich biodiversity, supporting innumerable species of butterflies and beneficial insects. It is hard to know when exactly to mow for each different species and when to mow for even one single species because, from year to year, depending on many variables including temperature and air currents, the insects breeding times are somewhat variable. For example, this year I have had three broods each of both Monarchs and Black Swallowtails, when in a more typical year I may only have two broods.
Monarch Caterpillars Attached to Milkweed Leaf (Asclepias syriaca)
I think of not too long ago when we were primarily an agrarian society. Farmers then would have mowed different fields at different times during the growing season. A woman in our community, whose field is rife with common milkweed, always mows in late June or early July. Initially I thought that this was perhaps not good practice for the Monarchs, but the thing with Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is that when mown to the ground in early summer, it shoots right back up again. By the time the late July, early August Monarchs have arrived and are breeding in our region,her milkweed has re-sprouted, grown at least a foot, is lush and green, and flowering.
That your client is interested in caring for the flora and fauna that abounds in her fields is wonderful! We want weeds (wildflowers) growing in our fields–they provide food and shelter for benefiel insects and wildlife and also help retain moisture in the soil.
The single greatest threat to the Monarch butterfly is the use of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready genetically modified corn and soy bean seed, which are designed to tolerate potent does of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, however, Roundup kills all other surrounding plants and all beneficials insects and their larvae. Additional threats include the extreme weather condiitons caused by climate change, overdevelopment in the US, which has led to loss of habitat, and lastly, the unrelenting poverty in rural Mexican villages, which is leading to the deforestation of the butterflies habitat in Michoacán.
To Read the rest of Kim’s Post Check Out Her Blog Here-
I spotted our first female Monarch butterfly of the season.
She’s arrived a bit earlier than usual this year, or more accurately, the milkweeds in our garden are slightly behind in blossoming time-Marsh Milkweed won’t bloom for another half-week and Common Milkweed won’t flower for another two weeks (both milkweed patches are growing nearby the shower enclosure). However, she did not have nectaring in mind.
Dear Gardening Friends,
The attached article on common milkweed has been updated and I’ve added video footage filmed in our garden to my blog. Look for the “twin” caterpillars,” “twin” # 2 pupating, and a gorgeous Monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. The video of the caterpillar pupating goes a bit dark in the beginning because I was trying to capture the its exoskeleton splitting apart, just below the head.
My husband, Tom Hauck, was quoted on Sound Off in this week’s issue of Time Magazine. His quote can also be found on my blog.
Looking at our thriving patch of common milkweed, I am eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Monarch butterflies to our garden in Gloucester. It is difficult to reconcile the enjoyment we derive from life’s simple pleasures, as compared to feelings of sheer helplessness when looking into the faces of the victims struck by the unfolding tragedy in the Gulf Coast region—a tragedy for the nation. I hope and pray that the net result of this catastrophe will be a wake up call, and that we will all come together to fully realize the potential of non-polluting alternatives to our unsustainable use of fossil fuels.
With best wishes, Kim