Tag Archives: Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Lovely Article by Shelby Macri – Salem State University Keynote Speaker Spotlights Plight of the Monarch Butterflies

Salem State keynote spotlights beauty, plight of monarch butterflies

Smith, who spoke on campus Thursday, April 12, makes nature films and contributes to the daily blog Good Morning Gloucester. She also helps communities and individuals build gardens specifically aimed at attracting butterflies, bees and beneficial bugs.

On behalf of the Earth Days Planning Committee, Carol Zoppel, a campus librarian and co-chair of Earth Days Week, presented Smith with the Friend of the Earth Award.

“Salem State University’s Earth Days committee would like to recognize Kim Smith for her artistic and advocacy work on behalf of wildlife through her films, photo, gardens, and writings,” said Zoppel. Smith received her award and a framed poster of her program.

READ COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE

 

…Smith also reflected on our involvement with these creatures.

“I think compassion for all living creatures is really important,” said Smith. “Right here in our own backyards and beaches we have small winged creatures like Monarchs and Piping Plovers that are struggling to survive.”

She added, “Our actions and how we chose to live our lives has tremendous impact.”

 

$34,900.00 RAISED FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING DOCUMENTARY! AND MONARCH BUTTERFLY MIGRATION UPDATE

$34,900.00!!! RAISED FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING DOCUMENTARY! THANK YOU GENEROUS DONORS!!!!!!!!!!!
WITH THE GREATEST APPRECIATION FOR OUR COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS AND SPONSORS, I AM OVERJOYED TO SHARE THAT TO DATE WE HAVE RAISED $34,900.00 FOR THE DOCUMENTARY FILM “BEAUTY ON THE WING” ONLINE FUNDRAISER, with a recent grant awarded in the amount of $10,000.00.

Friends of the Monarch Butterfly: If you would like to help towards the completion of the documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, please consider making a tax deductible donation here:

DONATE HERE

Donors contributing over $5,000. will be listed in the credits as a film producer.

For more information, visit the film’s website here: Monarch Butterfly Film

For an overview of the film’s budget, please go here: Budget

Thank you so very much for your help.

With gratitude,

Kim

MY DEEPEST THANKS AND APPRECIATION TO LAUREN MERCADANTE (PRODUCER), SUSAN FREY (PRODUCER), NEW ENGLAND BIOLABS FOUNDATION, JOHN HAUCK FOUNDATION, BOB AND JAN CRANDALL, MARY WEISSBLUM, SHERMAN MORSS, PETE AND BOBBI KOVNER (ANNISQUAM AND LEXINGTON), CLAUDIA BERMUDEZ (LEXINGTON), JAY FEATHERSTONE, MIA NEHME (BEVERLY), CHICKI HOLLET, JUNI VANDYKE, ERIC HUTCHINSE, KAREN MASLOW, MARION F. (IPSWICH), ELAINE M., KIMBERLY MCGOVERN, MEGAN HOUSER (PRIDES CROSSING), JIM VANBUSKIRK (PITTSBURGH), NANCY MATTERN (ALBUQUERQUE), DONNA STOMAN, PEGGY O’MALLEY, JOEY C., CATHERINE RYAN, JOEANN HART, JANE PAZNIK BONDARIN (NEW YORK), ROBERT REDIS (NEW YORK), NUBAR ALEXANIAN, PETER VAN DEMARK, PATRICIA VAN DERPOOL, FRED FREDERICKS (CHELMSFORD), LESLIE HEFFRON, JIM MASCIARELLI, DAVE MOORE (KOREA), LILIAN AND CRAIG OLMSTEAD, JOHN STEIGER, PAT DALPIAZ, AMY KERR, BARBARA T. (JEWETT, NY), ROBERTA C. ((NY), MARIANNE G. (WINDHAM, NY), PAULA RYAN O’BRIEN (WALTON, NY), MARTHA SWANSON, KIM TEIGER, JUDITH FOLEY (WOBURN), PATTI SULLIVAN, RONN FARREN, SUSAN NADWORNY (MELROSE), DIANE LINDQUIST (MANCHESTER), HEIDI SHRIVER (PENNSYLVANIA), JENNIFER CULLEN, HOLLY NIPPERUS (BROOKLYN), HILDA SANTOS (SAUGUS), TOM HAUCK, AND ANONYMOUS PERSONS FOR THEIR GENEROUS HELP.

MONARCH MIGRATION UPDATE

The Monarch migration of 2017 was the latest ever recorded and the butterflies are continuing to arrive!

The region where the Monarchs spend the winter is confined to a narrow altitudinal band across twelve trans-volcanic mountaintops in central Mexico. This narrowest of overwintering habitat is only 73 miles wide. What allows the Monarchs to survive in these these twelve habitats? The sites are at a high elevation of 10,000 to 11,000 feet, where the temperature hovers around freezing at night and warms during the day to about 50 to 60 degrees. The towering cathedral-like Oyamel Pine Trees contribute to creating the perfect microclimate to meet the butterflies needs by providing shelter from harsh winds and when the Monarchs cluster together high up on the Oyamel boughs they maintain a cool temperature, which conserves the fat that they stored on their southward migration.

During the month of December, the all important work of counting the butterflies takes place. Several years ago a late migration occurred (not as late as this year’s) and the scientists counted the butterflies a bit too early. I hope they wait until much later in the month to begin the count.

If you would like to learn more about how to count Monarchs, go to this to link to an interview that I conducted with Thomas Emmel, the Director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Museum of Natural History of the University of Florida, Gainesville. Dr. Emmel is a butterfly population specialist and has been counting the Monarchs since 1980. The interview took place at Sierra Chincua Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Angangueo, Mexico.

WHEN A WEED IS NOT A WEED and Why Joe-Pye is So Darn Lovable!

A bodacious beauty possessing the toughest of traits, Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium) is the stalwart star of the eastern native plants garden. Large, airy dome-shaped flowerheads blooming in a range of shades from pink to lavender to purple provide food, by way of nectar, foliage, and seed heads to myriad species of bees, butterflies, and songbirds. Beginning in mid-July and continuing through mid-October, pollinators on the wing can find sustenance in a garden planted with Little Joes and Big Joes.

Joe Pye, the person, is thought to have been a North Carolina Native American medicine man who used these wildflowers to cure many ailments, including typhoid fever. The plants became know as Joe Pye’s weed.

A name changer from weed to wildflower would be a game changer for numerous species of native plants. Why do so many native wildflowers have the suffix weed? Because when the colonists arrived from Europe, they wanted their crops, as well as European cultivated flowers, to grow in their new gardens. Anything native that interfered with their plans was deemed a “weed.” Examples of beautiful and invaluable North American native pollinator plants with the name given weed are milkweed (Asclepias), sneezeweed (Helenium), ironweed (Veronia), and jewelweed (Impatiens capensis).

Three favorite and fabulous species for the New England landscape are Eutrochium purpureum, E. maculatum, and E. dubium. Joe-pye grows beautifully in average to moist soil, in full sun to light shade. Plant Joe-pye in the back of the border. E.purpurem grows five to seven feet tall, while Little Joe grows three to five feet. With their beautiful blossoms, robust habit, winter hardiness, and disease resistance, these long blooming members of the sunflower family are treasured for their ability to attract an array of butterflies, bees, and songbirds to the garden during the mid- to late-summer season.

Just look at this sampling of the different species of Lepidoptera finding noursihment from the blossoms of Joe-pye!

Tiger Swallowtail

Painted Lady

Black Swallowtail

Monarch

Joe-Pye does especially well in a coastal native plants garden.

 

If you enjoyed reading this post, I hope you will consider donating to the completion of my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. Every contribution is tremendously appreciated. For more information on how you can help, please visit the film’s website at www.monarchbutterflyfilm.com

 

 

 

SAVE THE DATE FOR MY UPCOMING PROGRAM “BEAUTY ON THE WING: LIFE STORY OF THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY”

On Thursday, May 4th at 7pm, I am giving my lecture with photos, “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly,” along with several short film screenings, for the Salem Garden Club. For more information, see the events page of my website. I hope to see you there!

Newly Emerged Monarch Butterfly and Sunflower, Gloucester

Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

The Monarch’s life story is one of nature’s most incredible examples of adaptation and survival. But the Monarch migration is in great peril. Learn how you can help. Through photographs and discussion, Beauty on the Wing tells the life story of the Monarch Butterfly, the state of the butterflies migration and why they are in sharp decline, and the positive steps we can take as individuals and collectively to help the Monarchs recover from the devastating effects of habitat loss and climate change.  (1-1.5 hours).Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis and Marsh Milkweed
Monarchs Awakening

MONARCHS WEAPONIZE MILKWEED TOXINS

Monarch Caterpillars Common Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2012Milkweed Munching Monarchs

Although scientists have long known that the toxic sap that flows through milkweed veins, called cardenolides, can make a bird very sick if it attempts to eat a Monarch caterpillar, it was unclear whether the butterfly’s acquired adaption to the toxicity was a side effect that allowed the caterpillar to eat the milkweed or had developed separately as a defensive mechanism against predators. A Cornell University study recently published in Proceedings B of The Royal Society Publishing reveals that they have indeed evolved to weaponize milkweed toxins! Thank you so much to Maggie Rosa for sharing “The Scientist” article and you can read more about it here. 

“Monarch butterfly caterpillars have evolved the ability to store toxins known as cardenolides, obtained from their milkweed diet, specifically to make themselves poisonous to birds, as has at least one other species of milkweed-munching caterpillar, according to a study published Wednesday (November 4) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“This finding is fascinating and novel,” Stephen Malcolm, a professor at Western Michigan University who studies cardenolides but was not involved in the new research, wrote in an email to The Scientist. “It is exciting to have evidence for the importance of top-down influences from predators.” Continue Reading

Please join me Thursday evening, November 12th, at 7pm at the Sawyer Free Library for my illustrated talk, Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Meadow monarch caterpillar ©Kim Smith 2015

Meadow Anderson and Monarch Caterpillar

FAREWELL MONARCHS

Cape Ann Monarch Butterfly Migration Update

Monarch Butterfly bougainvillea ©Kim Smith 2015Female Monarch and Bougainvillea

Monarch Butterflies Daisies ©Kim Smith 2015Methuselah Monarchs Heading to Mexico

Our last batch of Monarchs emerged from their chrysalides, dried their wings, and caught the tailwinds to Michoacán. I hope they arrive to their winter roosting sites at the trans-Mexican volcanic mountaintops safely!

Although not many migrating Monarchs were reported on the shores of Cape Ann, a great batch was seen migrating over Lake Erie in late summer. Cape May, which is 400 miles south of Cape Ann, also had a strong showing. Keep on the lookout though because on Election Day in 2007, I photographed a Monarch refueling at Korean Daisies.

The Monarchs are counted by the Mexican scientists in December and the numbers released in January. Last year a tiny increase from 2013 was noted (2013 was the year the lowest numbers were ever recorded). Lets keep our hopes up that the population will continue to improve.

Monarch Butterfly sunflower ©Kim Smith 2015

Last Sunflowers of the Season

Monarch Butterfly daisy ©Kim Smith 2015Monarch Butterfly pink bougainvillea ©Kim Smith 2015

“Discovered: The Monarchs Mexican Haven” from National Geographic, August 1976

National GeographicBecause of the current stretch of rainy weather there will be few Monarch sightings at this time. Butterfly’s wings don’t work very well in the cold and rain. We can hope that if the warm weather returns there will be a greater number of butterflies migrating through our region than the passel of last week. In the mean time, I thought I’d share one of my most treasured possessions, which is the August 1976 issue of National Geographic. I purchased this copy when I began doing research for my Monarch film and children’s book. If I remember correctly, it was $2.50 on eBay–lucky me to find a copy!!

The issue tells the story of the “discovery” of the Monarchs by scientists. I have reservations in writing the word discovery because it is difficult to imagine that the native peoples living in the region did not know of their existence long before westerners. As a matter of fact, the woman who led the discovery, Catalina Aguado, was  born in Michoacán, the Mexican state that is home to the butterflies wintering grounds. Catalina is the only living member of the original team featured in the 1976 National Geographic article.

The complete article is available to read online here.

There have been three interesting and noteworthy Monarch stories in the news recently, forwarded to us by our GMG FOBs. Stay tuned for a post tomorrow with summaries and links to all three articles.

 

 

 

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

Farewell Monarchs

Inquiring minds want to know, “Where do the Monarchs go?” I am often asked this question, not by children, but by adults. Most children have studied, or are studying, the butterfly life cycle and the have some degree of knowledge about the Monarch migration. The reason the majority of adults never learned about the Monarch butterfly migration is because the great mystery of their winter destination was only discovered as recently as 1975! The Monarchs that are journeying through Gloucester at this time of year travel approximately 2,000 miles to the transvolcanic mountaintops of  south central Mexico, near the town of Angangueo. I have the National Geographic issue from 1975 that tells the tale of one man’s determination, including all the scientific intrigue that goes with great discoveries, and I will try to post more about this fascinating story in the coming weeks.

As everyone who reads GMG probably knows by now, I am in the midst of shooting my Monarch film. What you may not know is that I have written and illustrated a book that tells the story of this most exquisite of creatures and its extraordinary journey. I am hoping to find a publisher. If anyone knows a friend of a friend of a friend, or has a suggestion for a very high quality publisher or top-notch agent, please let me know. Thank you.

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.