Tag Archives: Monarch Butterfly

YET ANOTHER BAD BREAK FOR THE MONARCHS

monarch-butterfly-gloucester-ma-2-copyright-kim-smithAmerica’s growing demand for avocados is fueling the deforestation of central Mexico’s forests. Avocado trees grow at the same altitude as do the sacred oyamel fir forests in the mountains of Michoacán, the only state in Mexico permitted to grow the fruit.

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, the Monarch’s unique winter habitat, is located in Michoacán and the state of Mexico. The area of deforestation is beginning to encroach on the butterfly’s sanctuary. Unfortunately the region is one of desperate poverty and avocado farming is extremely lucrative. Additionally, the avocado trees and chemicals used to maintain the farms are putting a tremendous strain on the crystalline mountain waters on which people, the butterflies, and myriad species of wildlife depend.

For more information, see links below:

http://www.fronterasdesk.org/content/9945/avocado-orchards-mexico-compete-forest-land

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/9176bc7479e048508203f10a68da6fa7/mexico-high-avocado-prices-fueling-deforestation

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DIA DE LOS MUERTOS PAPEL PICADO

I love the designs of the Papel Picado, especially the Dia de los Muertos skeletons doing everyday things. I found some at Nomad in Cambridge. Deb Colburn, the owner, curates gorgeous folk art for her shop from all around Mexico, and from all around the world. She’s a very sweet person to stop in and visit with, and is also very knowledge about Mexican culture. Nomad is located at 1741 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge.

LEARNING ABOUT DAY OF THE DEAD TRADITIONS

There is a beautiful ofrenda at the Peabody Museum at Harvard, which is where I learned about the Mexican Purépecha indigenous people’s name for the Monarch butterfly, the “Harvester.” The altar is part of the Museum’s permanent collection and is on display year round.

dayofthedeadaltar1_webFrom the Peabody Museum at Harvard’s Dia de los Muertos exhibit.

The Peabody Museum’s exhibition of a Day of the Dead ofrenda or altar is located in the Encounters With the Americas gallery. The exhibit features pieces from the Alice P. Melvin Collection of Mexican Folk Art and represents the Aztec origins of the holiday and the Catholic symbols incorporated into the tradition, from skeletons to plush Jesus figures.

The altar is contained within a box covered with panels that were decorated by local students and regional and international artists. The altars were designed by the Peabody exhibitions staff and Mexican artists Mizael Sanchez and Monica Martinez.

Originating with the Aztecs, the Mexican Day of the Dead is a unique blend of Mesoamerican and Christian rituals. The holiday, which is celebrated on November 1, All Saints’ Day, is usually dedicated to children; November 2, All Souls’ Day, is dedicated to adults.

Traditions vary from region to region, but generally families gather at cemeteries to tend and decorate the graves of their departed loved ones and remember them by telling stories, eating their favorite foods, and dancing in their honor. Many families build altars at home, decorated with flowers and food, especially pan de muerto or “bread of the dead.” A festive and social occasion, the holiday welcomes the return of those who have died and recognizes the human cycle of life and death.

The Peabody’s permanent altar features items from the Alice P. Melvin collection of Mexican folk art. To see these items, click here.

Curated by Davíd Carrasco, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America and Mexican artist Mizael Sanchez.

To watch a video interview with Mizael Sanchez, click here.

CELEBRATING DIA DE LOS MUERTOS

marigolds-flor-de-muerto-copyright-kim-smithThis morning when I stopped by to say hello to ELise and Tucker at Cedar Rock Gardens they were hard at work planting a humongous field of tulips, planned to bloom for next Mother’s Day. Elise generously shared pots of fresh marigolds dug from their fields, not in good enough shape to sell, but perfect for our first ever Day of the Dead altar, Ofrenda de Muertos.

The vibrant colors and fresh citrusy scent of marigolds lure the spirits–marigolds are strewn about and placed around the altar so the souls can find their way. There is a wild version of marigolds that blooms in October and the Spanish name for the flower is flor de muerto, or flower of death.

The altar, or “offering to the dead,” is a sacred Mexican tradition where those who have passed away are honored by the living. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, on the 1st to honor the souls of children and on the 2nd, to honor adults. I became fascinated with the tradition after learning that Monarchs arrive in Mexico about the same time as Dia de los Muertos is celebrated. In Mexican folklore, butterflies represent the returning souls of departed loved ones. In the native language of the Purépecha, the name for the Monarch is the “harvester” butterfly. The Purépecha are a group of indigenous people centered in the northwestern region of the Mexican state of Michoacán, the very region to where the Monarchs return every year! 

There is a beautiful ofrenda at the Peabody Museum, which is where I learned about the “Harvester” butterfly. The altar is part of the Museum’s permanent collection and is on display year round. Here is a link to the exhibit.

altarmarigolds

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 716cca8662eab19228a8cb0bd3060dc3Images courtesy google image search

3D Flight of the Monarch Butterflies hosted by Kestrel Educational Adventures

One show only! 5PM tomorrow, Saturday, October 15th. Flight of the Butterflies is featured as part of the 7th annual Doctober Fest Documentary Film Festival at Cape Ann Cinema and is hosted by Kestrel Educational Adventures. “This screening marks the debut of the Cinema’s XpanD 3D system”

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LEND ME YOUR EAR

Sometimes they just don't want to leave home🌻#monarchbutterfly

A photo posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

I couldn’t resist taking a selfie with this newly emerged Monarch after she at first fluttered onto my shoulder, flew to my hat, and then decided to stay for a bit on my neck.

Butterflies have sharp crochet-like hooks at the bottom of their tarsi (butterfly name for feet) and it feels a bit pokey when they land on your skin. The hooks enable the butterfly to grip securely to surfaces. During a strong wind, the hooked tarsi are all that is keeping the butterfly grounded.

Thank you Nicole Duckworth for the photo caption🙂

PLANTING MILKWEED WITH CAMILLA MACFADYEN AND THE SARROUFS!

img_4947img_4937Thank you to Dawn and John Sarrouf for sharing their milkweed planting photos. They are visiting their friend Camilla at her family home in Small Point Maine, which sounds like, from Dawn’s description, a gorgeously beautiful location, and ideal Monarch habitat. There are fields of wildflowers, and Seaside Goldenrod grows just as easily in the rocky outcroppings there as it does on Eastern Point. After looking at maps, it appears as if you could draw a virtual straight line from Small Point to Eastern Point. Dawn and friends spotted about ten butterflies yesterday. Perhaps we’ll be the next stop (after the predicted rainfall).

img_4946Camilla collected milkweed seed pods and enlisted the Sarroufs to help plant.

DAWN SARROUF PHOTOS

PLEASE REPORT YOUR MONARCH SIGHTINGS HERE -THANK YOU!

There have been few Monarch sightings this summer but I have been hoping for a strong fall migration. The migration is peaking in Kansas and we are always a little bit behind. Please let me know if you see a Monarch, and where. Thank you very kindly!

Monarch stretching wide its wings in the morning sun #monarchbutterfly

A video posted by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Monarchs are emerging daily in my garden, from eggs collected at my friend’s field in Salem. This too would be an indication that we may be seeing them soon.

newly-emerged-monarch-butterfly-copyright-kim-smith-jpgThis newly eclosed Monarch is clinging to its chrysalis case. Within moments of emerging, the two-part Monarch proboscis must zip together to form a siphoning tube. If the two parts do not join, the butterfly will not be able to drink nectar. In this photo, you can see the proboscis is not yet fully zipped. Note its wet, crumpled wings.

ELIZABETH REDMOND AND MORGAN FAULDS PIKE SHARES THEIR MONARCH SIGHTINGS!

Thank you Elizabeth and Morgan for sharing!!

Hi Kim,

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.

Elizabeth Redmond

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Hello Kim,

The first monarch appeared yesterday. Today there were two flying around together!
I was starting to worry about the milkweed taking over my gardens.
Not anymore!
Cheers,
Morganunnamed

MONARCH BUTTERFLY SIGHTING FROM DAWN SARROUF AND MICHELLE ANDERSON!

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!

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BEAUTY ON THE WING ~ TONIGHT! THURSDAY NOVEMBER 12TH AT THE SAWYER FREE LIBRARY!

Monarch Butterfly Exposion -2 ©Kim Smith 2014 300dpi copy

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!

For more information, visit the Programs page of my website and the Sawyer Free Library Facebook page.

Monarch Butterfly Explosion -1 ©Kim Smith 2014 300dpi copy

Kim Smith Monarch Butterfly Program at the Sawyer Free Library

Dear Friends,

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!

KimSmith1

MONARCH CATERPILLAR NONUPLETS

Thank you so much to my friends Charles and George Ryan and Mom Catherine for helping with my Monarch film project. 

Charles and George Ryan Monarch caterpillars ©Kim Smith 2015

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.

Monarch caterpillars north south ©Kim Smith 2015JPG

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.

Monarch caterpillars J-shape, pupating ©Kim Smith 2015All 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).

 

 

 

 

CRAZY ABOUT CATERPILLARS!

Atticus Monarch caterpillar ©Kim Smith 2015An 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!Pilar Atticus Meadow Emma monarch caterpillar ©Kim Smith 2015

Pilar Atticus Meadow Emma monarch caterpillars ©Kim Smith 2015Thank you Pilar, Atticus, Meadow, and Emma for all your help filmmaking!

Meadow monarch caterpillar ©Kim Smith 2015 copy

MONARCH BUTTERFLY HELP NEEDED!

Butterfly Days are Here!

Monarch Butterfly Female -2 ©Kim Smith 2015Female Monarch Butterfly Necating at Red Clover, Waring Field, Rockport

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 ©Kim Smith 2015

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.

Pearl Crescent  Butterfly Female Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2015

Female Pearl Crescent Nectaring at Marsh Milkweed

Common Ringlet Butterfly Waring Field Rockport ©Kim Smith 2015Common Ringlet

Monarch Butterfly Female -3 ©Kim Smith 2015Newly Emerged Female Monarch Butterfly

Please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com 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.

Waring Field Deer ©Kim Smith 2015

White-tailed Deer

Kim Smith Event for Essex County Greenbelt, Thursday March 5th: Planting An Essex County Pollinator Garden

Catbird eating Pagoda dogwwod fruits ©Kim Smith 2014. Catbird Eating Dogwood Fruits

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 alice@ecga.org.

I look forward to seeing you!

American Lady Butterfly New York Ironweed ©Kim Smith 2014

 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 alice@ecga.org.

monarch-butterfly-c2a9kim-smith-2012-1Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at New England Asters

Harbor Walk Butterfly Garden ©Kim Smith 2012Gloucester HarborWalk Butterfly Garden

Monarchs Eyed for Possible Inclusion Under US Endangered Species Protection

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:

FAQs on the Monarch Butterfly Endangered Species Act Petition

Monarch Butterfly Wildflower Joe-pye ©Kim Smith 2012Monarch Butterfly Drinking Nectar from Native Wildflower Joe-pye Weed

You can learn more about the Monarch migration and the loss of Monarch habitat from Professor Tom Emmel here ~ 

New Film: A Flight of Monarchs

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.

 

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