Tag Archives: Monarch Butterfly
Thank you Elizabeth and Morgan for sharing!!
I enjoy your posts on GMG! I am sending along a monarch I just saw on a buddleia at Wolf Hill this afternoon. The first I’ve seen this season.
I now have the good fortune to ‘live’ with one of your gardens as I joined the staff of Pathways in November. The garden here is spectacular! And much appreciated by staff, children and families.
Thank you to my friends Dawn Sarrouf and Michelle Barton Anderson for sharing their Monarch sighting. Dawn snapped the photo at Michelle’s home. The butterfly is drinking nectar from a milkweed plant in Michelle’s garden from our milkweed plant sale several springs ago. So very excited to see!
The butterfly summer season is getting off to a slow start this summer. Please send in your Monarch sightings and photos. We would love to share them. Thank you!
What is a Monarch Butterfly explosion? The butterflies migrate to Mexico to keep from freezing to death in northern climates. The air is cool and moist in the trans-Mexican volcanic mountains, cool enough to keep them inactive and in a state of sexual immaturity, called diapause, but not so cold that they will freeze. As spring approaches and the Earth’s temperature begins to rise, the butterflies sleeping in the oyamel fir forests need to get out of the hot sun. Millions explode from the trees, drink water from nearby mountain streams, and move to a cooler, shadier spot on the mountain.
I hope you’ll come join our program Thursday night at 7pm at the Sawyer Free Library. We’ll be talking all things Monarchs including the current status of the butterfly’s migration, habitat destruction here in our own community, and most importantly, ways in which we can all help the Monarch possibly survive the warming of the earth.
We will be premiering the trailer for my forthcoming film about the Monarchs, too (also titled Beauty on the Wing). I hope to see you there!
Please join us at the Sawyer Free Library on Thursday November 12th at 7:30 pm for my Monarch butterfly program. I am especially, especially excited to present to our community. I hope to see you there! Please note that this is my photo and lecture program, not the new film, which will be coming soon.
For more information visit my website Kim Smith Designs.
Special thanks to Valerie Marino at the Sawyer Free for creating the program flyer!
Thank you so much to my friends Charles and George Ryan and Mom Catherine for helping with my Monarch film project.
Nature’s Compass ~ My current group of nine Monarchs are synchronized, all lined up on a north-south axis and pupating within moments of each other.
From the moment a caterpillar emerges, internally it begins to form the adult parts of its body. Adult Monarchs have magnetic receptors along the inner margins of their thorax, which help guide them on their south to north, north to south migration. I wonder if the magnetic receptors are here at work in the caterpillars north-south pattern of pupating.
All nine hung in a J-shape on the north-south axis as well. Since I took this photo three more have also pupated on the north-south axis. In the above photo, you can see the center caterpillar and caterpillar to the far left are in the midst of changing from a caterpillar to a chrysalis (pupating).
An integral part of the Monarch film is to show the connection between wildflowers and caterpillars. Emma, Pilar, Atticus, and Meadow were fantastic with the caterpillars and a huge help with the project. We are so blessed to know these bright and curious kids, and their incredible parents!
Butterfly Days are Here!
I am looking for Monarch eggs and will travel! Monarch eggs are found on the upper leaves of milkweed plants. The eggs are tiny and dome-shaped, only as large as a pinhead, and are a pale golden yellow color.
Monarch Butterfly Egg
Waring Field supports myriad species of pollinators and is simply a fantastic place to explore. Although I didn’t find any eggs on my search on the leaves at the Common Milkweed patch at Waring this morning, I did see four adult Monarchs, three male and one female, along with fritillaries, a Common Ringlet, a bevy of Pearly Cresentspots, Blue Azures, and Yellow Sulphurs. The Monarchs, Ringlet, and Sulphurs were nectaring at the great field of Red Clover and the Pearl Crescents at the milkweed.
Female Pearl Crescent Nectaring at Marsh Milkweed
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment in the comment section if you have Monarch eggs you’d like to share. Thank you!
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Emerging from the woods onto the sunny lower field, I startled a small herd of White-tailed Deer foraging. If you click on the photo to enlarge, you can see the male deer antlers are covered in velvet. Antlers are true bone structures and are an extension of the skull. The velvet provides blood flow that supplies nutrients and oxygen.
Kim Smith Event for Essex County Greenbelt, Thursday March 5th: Planting An Essex County Pollinator Garden
Please join me at the Essex County Greenbelt’s Cox Reservation headquarters on Thursday, March 5th, from 6:30 to 8:30. I will be presenting my pollinator garden program. The event is free.
RSVP to email@example.com.
I look forward to seeing you!
Painted Lady Butterfly and New York Ironweed, Gloucester HarborWalk Butterfly Garden
From the ECGA website:
Our second session to our pollinator film/lecture series will feature local designer, writer, filmmaker and gardening expert Kim Smith. Kim specializes in creating pollinator gardens, as well as filming the butterflies that her plants attract. She will present a 90-minute slide show and lecture about how to create a welcoming haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Native plants and examples of organic and architectural features will be discussed based on their value to particular vertebrates and invertebrates. Kim will also discuss specific ways to be sure your gardening practices are not harming pollinators. There will be time for questions from the audience about particular problems and quandaries they may have with pollinators and their gardens.
To learn more about Kim Smith’s work, visit her website here. This lecture will take place at our headquarters on the Cox Reservation in Essex, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Light refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cape Ann Milkweed and Monarch Habitat, Eastern Point
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering adding Monarchs as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. A one-year review is underway to monitor the butterfly’s status. Since the 1990s the population has plummeted from about one billion to approximately 35 million. That may seem like a substantial number, but the Monarchs need stronger numbers to be resilient to other threats such as harsh weather.
The reason for the decline is primarily because of loss of milkweed habitat in the agricultural heartland of the United States. With the development of Monsanto’s Roundup and Roundup Ready (glyphosate resistant) seed, farmers are now able to spray glyphosate directly on their corn, soybean, and sorghum crops. Roundup also destroys milkweed. Secondly, with the push for ethanol, farmers have begun to plant corn on conservation land.
If the Fish and Wildlife Service determines that the Monarchs are threatened, they will set aside land for milkweed.
You can read more about the the Monarch Butterfly Endangered Species Act here:
You can learn more about the Monarch migration and the loss of Monarch habitat from Professor Tom Emmel here ~
When watching, know that the first two minutes of the film were shot in Gloucester. I think you will be dazzled by the sheer numbers of Monarchs that travel through Cape Ann’s backyards and meadows during the peak of migration.
I began photographing the Monarchs in 2006, which was a year when we had an extraordinary number of Monarchs visiting our shores. At that time, I became determined that if ever again this phenomenon were to occur on Cape Ann, I was going to have the ability to document on film, rather than only through still images, this beautiful event for my community. It’s hard to imagine without observing and here you can see what I have wanted to share.
A Flight of Monarchs begins on a September day as first one and then passels of Monarchs begin to arrive to the fields and meadows of Cape Ann, carried across Massachusetts Bay on a tailwind. By the early evening light they begin to pour into the surrounding trees, clustering to stay warm in the branches furthest away from the prevailing breezes. The following morning as the sun begins to touch their wings, they alight from the trees, seeking the freshest wildflowers from which to drink nectar to help build their lipid reserves for the several thousand mile journey south. They drink and drink until the last of the sun’s rays dip below the tree line. As they arrived on a tailwind, they again depart, and are carried to the next gathering area. For coastal Monarchs, Allens Pond, which is located in Westport, Massachusetts is often the next stop.
In the next scene, the butterflies have arrived to the sacred oyamel fir forests of Angangueo, Michoacán, deep in the heart of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. It’s early morning and the butterflies are suspended in great primordial branched clusters that may become so heavy from the weight of so many butterflies the boughs of the trees bend to the breaking point. Later in the day, as the sun begins to warm their wings, the butterflies begin to stir. During the winter, it is imperative that the Monarch’s body temperature remains relatively low. They leave the sunniest branches in search of shade and a drink of water from nearby mountain streams. Occasionally in late February, as the air temperatures begin to warm with the coming springtime, for a short period during the day, the butterflies leave the trees all at once. This phenomenon is called a butterfly “explosion,” and is a truly magnificent event to observe.
A Flight of Monarchs is set to the evocative and tender “Fields of Blue,” written and performed by composer and guitarist Jesse Cook and his band, to which permission was granted by the artist for the purpose of this short film. Here is a link to Cook’s website. I highly, highly recommend attending a live performance of Jesse Cook and Company. As was I, you will be completely taken by their gorgeous music, exquisite artistry, and with Cook’s songwriting, will travel in beautiful melodies inspired from around the world.
I am currently editing my feature length documentary, Beauty on the Wing, which after months and months of organizing and editing three years of footage, is currently running at approximately twelve hours in length. At eleven hours too long, I have a great deal of editing to accomplish in the coming winter months!
A Flight of Monarchs presented here is the shorter version of the film that I created for the Berkshire Museum’s “Butterflies” exhibit. The first version is six minutes long and played on a continuous loop in the main gallery of the exhibit hall. The longer version will soon be posted on Vimeo.
Maggis Rosa submits this photo from The Scientist Magazine, which was their Image of the Day and was shot by Luna Sin Estrellas at El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, where the butterflies are arriving earlier than usual and in greater numbers than last year.
Ed Note: Nancy Dudley writes, “The photo in the post w/o a caption was at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. We are seeing a couple a day this week. Thanks! I am looking for the milkweed seeds I got from you to plant in my marsh soon!”
After taking a break during the rain of last week (butterfly’s wings don’t work very well in foul weather), the Monarchs are again moving through our region. Check the comment section to see all the recent sightings in our community. The above photo was taken yesterday, Monday, October 6th on Eastern Point. The photo below was shot last week, before the rain’s onset.
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.
In Sunday’s podcast (September 21st), 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!
Three very interesting articles were shared this past week by friends and GMG FOBs. Thank you!!! I love reading what you send and below are the links to share with readers. Again, thank you!
Frieda from Again and Again forwarded this from Nature:
“The monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, is famous for its spectacular annual migration across North America, recent worldwide dispersal, and orange warning colouration. Despite decades of study and broad public interest, we know little about the genetic basis of these hallmark traits. Here we uncover the history of the monarch’s evolutionary origin and global dispersal, characterize the genes and pathways associated with migratory behaviour, and identify the discrete genetic basis of warning colouration by sequencing 101 Danaus genomes from around the globe.” Link to Nature article.
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Our Catherine Ryan forwards from the New York Times:
“Why Some Monarch Butterflies Are Marathoners”
Monarch butterflies can be found throughout the world, but only in North America do they make a spectacular mass migration, annually flying from as far north as Canada to winter in Mexico.
Now, by sequencing genomes of 90 monarch butterflies from around the world, researchers have discovered a gene that plays a critical role in determining whether monarchs are migratory, along with new details about their origins, migratory behavior and coloring.
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Josh Dickinson from the University of Florida in Gainseville forwarded the following:
“A Strange Cloud Over St. Louis Turns Out to Be an Enormous Swarm of Butterflies”
Late last week, meteorologists in St. Louis noticed a cloud acting peculiarly: It was beating a path toward Mexico while changing into a variety of odd shapes. Was it a radar glitch? The debris signature of a south-moving tornado?
The answer was more heartening—and bizarre. After analyzing the reflections,the National Weather Service concluded they showed an immense swarm of Monarch butterflies migrating to their winter home in the Mexican mountains:
Here’s how it technically arrived at that conclusion, for the weather geeks out there:
Keen observers of our radar data probably noticed some fairly high returns moving south over southern Illinois and central Missouri. High differential reflectivity values as well as low correlation coefficient values indicate these are most likely biological targets. High differential reflectivity indicates these are oblate targets, and low correlation coefficient means the targets are changing shape. We think these targets are Monarch butterflies. A Monarch in flight would look oblate to the radar, and flapping wings would account for the changing shape! NWS St. Louis wishes good luck and a safe journey to these amazing little creatures on their long journey south!
Once 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.
This 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 email@example.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!
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!
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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.
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!
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!
Reminder: Monarch Milkweed and Aster Seed Pickup and Information Day is Next Sunday, May 18th, from 9:30 to Noon
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!
Bees, butterflies, and songbirds bring a garden to life, with their grace in movement and ephemeral beauty. Many 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.
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.
One 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.