KIM SMITH MONARCH BUTTERFLY PROGRAM FOR KIDS AT THE SAWYER FREE LIBRARY

Come join us Wednesday morning from 10am to 11am at the Sawyer Free Library where I will be sharing Monarch fun with young people. We have art activities, as well as eggs, caterpillars, chrysalides, and possibly a butterfly or two emerging on the day of the program. I hope you can join us!

The program is held in conjunction with the Cape Ann Reads exhibit currently on view at the main floor of the Sawyer Free.

2019 has been an amazing year for Monarchs. We got off to a very early and fantastic start, but then with a wave of cool rainy weather the Monarch movement slowed considerably. Despite the slow down, we’ve had at least two subsequent waves come through for a total of three broods this summer. Hopefully this will translate to a great 2019 migration followed by strong numbers at the Monarch butterfly’s winter sanctuaries at Michoacán and the state of Mexico.

The eggs we see now on milkweed plants are the super generation of Monarchs that will travel to Mexico.

The photos show the Monarch caterpillar becoming a chrysalis. When ready to pupate, the caterpillar finds a safe place and spins a silky mat. He inserts his last pair of legs into the silky mat and hangs upside down in a J-shape for about a day. Biological developments that began when the caterpillar first emerged are in high gear now. The caterpillar’s suit, or exoskeleton, splits along the center line of the thorax and shrivels as the developing green chrysalis is revealed. The last photo in the gallery shows the moment when the old skin is tossed off.

MONARCH EGGS UPDATE

Dear Friends,

There has been more interest than anticipated in Monarch eggs. Thank you to everyone for writing!

At present, Jane has over 100 caterpillars in her kitchen terrariums. These will become butterflies within the month, and each female that emerges will lay between 300 to 700 eggs. I’ve compiled a list of everyone who left a comment. We are thrilled and grateful readers are so interested in helping raise Monarchs this summer. I will contact all as soon as Jane has a new batch of freshly laid Monarch eggs.

In the meantime, I am going to type up some FAQs. I also suggest using a glass rectangular fish tank/terrarium, with a fitted screen top, for rearing the caterpillars. If you don’t have one, they are available at our local pet stores. Also, a package of cheese cloth. Along with a plentiful supply of milkweed, that’s all you will need.

Thank you again and we’ll be in touch. ❤

 

 

MONARCH EGGS FREE FOR THE TAKING

A friend with a lovely garden just loaded with milkweed would like help this summer raising Monarchs. She is located in the Annisquam area. Last year Jane had so many eggs and caterpillars, she had a real time of it trying to take care of all. This year promises to be as good as, if not better than, last year.

If you would like Monarch eggs and information on how to take care of the eggs and caterpillars, please comment in the comment section, and we will provide you with Monarch babies!

Raising Monarchs with kids is the best!

Quick snapshot of Jane’s garden

MONARCH BUTTERFLY FILM UPDATE

A very brief update to let all our Friends know that work is progressing on my documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. The new footage from this year’s magnificent migration in Mexico has been added. My amazing team, Eric and Kristen, are plugging in the newly recorded voice over.

For the next several weeks, I’ll be planting my client’s pollinator gardens and getting them underway for the summer. After mid-June, we’ll be back in the editing studio with Eric and Kristen finessing the color correction and audio, with plans for a mid-summer release.

Happy Butterfly Days!

Tree top view – standing at the top of the mountain looking down into the valley below. All the orange bits and flakes in the trees are Monarchs.

In early March, the native wildflower White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) was in full bloom at Cerro Pelon and the Monarchs couldn’t get enough of it!

So many Monarchs this early in the season portends a possibly great summer for butterflies in our meadows and gardens. Monarchs have already arrived to the Great Lakes region. This is the perfect time of year to plant Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seeds and many of our local nurseries carry Marsh Milkweed  (Asclepias incarnata) plants. These two species are the most productive for Monarch eggs and caterpillars in our region.

Monarchs mating in a patch of Common Milkweed.

Monarch drinking nectar from Common Milkweed florets.

Female depositing egg on Marsh Milkweed foliage.


The milkweed we grow in the north supports spectacular migrations such as the one that took place this past winter of 2018-2019.

MORE MONARCH BUTTERFLIES SPIED AROUND CAPE ANN!

Monarch Butterfly on native Buttonbush blossoms

David Rhinelander had one two days in a row at his garden on Pine Street, Heather Hall spotted a Monarch at the Hamilton Library, Jennie Meyer had one in her garden and sent along some photos, Donna Soodalter-Toman had one in her yard, Jen in Rockport has them, and Susan Donelan Burke saw a Monarch in Magnolia. This is very early and thank you so much to Everyone for writing!

Keep your eyes peeled for Red Admirals and Painted Ladies, too.

Red Admirals nectaring at lilacs. The last time we had so many Red Admirals in our garden in May was in 2012 and that was a banner year for butterflies of many species.

Painted Ladies

In the above photo compare the Monarch to the Painted Lady. If you see a “small” Monarch, it may be a Painted Lady or a Red Admiral.

 

AMAZING!!! MONARCH BUTTERFLIES HAVE ALREADY ARRIVED TO CAPE ANN

There are Monarchs on Cape Ann, and they are laying eggs!!! Check your milkweed Friends! This is nearly a month earlier than usual.

Jane Danekis had a female several days ago in her garden on Revere Street and she deposited over 100 eggs on shoots of newly emerging milkweed.

Michele Del Vecchio saw a Monarch at Good Harbor Beach today, too!

Please let us know if you have seen a Monarch recently, and take a snapshot if you can. Thank you 🙂

A Monarch egg is pale golden yellow in color and shaped like a tiny ridged dome. The egg is no larger than a pinhead.

Morgan Faulds Pike spotted a female Monarch nectaring on her lilacs. Photo courtesy Morgan

BEST MILKWEED TO PLANT FOR MASSACHUSETTS GARDENS, MEADOWS, FIELDS, AND DUNE RESTORATION

Friends often ask, and I cover this topic extensively in my Monarch programs, “What is the best milkweed to plant in our region?” Without a doubt, the two most important and productive are Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).

Marsh Milkweed also goes by the name Swamp Milkweed, but Marsh sounds so much more appealing, don’t you think? Milkweeds already have the suffix weed attached to their names. To some folks, any wildflower that includes the word weed seems invasive, and we don’t want to frighten people from planting our sweet native wildflowers by inferring they are a swamp dweller, too.

Gallery of Marsh Milkweed

When a weed is not a weed  – It’s unfortunate that so many of our native beauties end in “weed.” Ironweed, Joe-pye Weed, Sneezeweed, Thimbleweed, Butterfly Weed, and Milkweed are just some examples. Why were these native wildflowers at one time long ago named “weed.” Because the earliest colonists brought from their home countries flowering plants that were beloved and familiar to them, delphiniums and larkspurs, for example. In their new American home gardens, these treasured European plants would have been easily overtaken by our more vigorous American wildflowers.

To return to the topic of milkweed, Common Milkweed spreads both underground and by seed. It’s ideal for dunes, meadows, and fields. Marsh Milkweed is more clump forming and stays relatively close to where you plant it. You can control how much it spreads by deadheading, or not, before the seed heads turn to fluff and sail away. I grow both Marsh Milkweed and Common Milkweed side-by-side. In our garden, the female Monarch does not discern the difference between the two species of milkweeds, she will flit from one to the other, and back again, depositing her eggs all along the way.

Gallery of Common Milkweed

By the way, both A. syriaca and A. incarnata are also the easiest milkweeds to grow in Massachusetts.

A ten-year nation-wide study was recently published. Across the country, Marsh and Common proved to be the most productive, in other words, more eggs were laid on these two species than on any other species of milkweed.

The map provided below is somewhat helpful; I write somewhat with a word of advice. If you click on Massachusetts, for example, not only are Common and Marsh Milkweeds listed but also Purple Milkweed (A. pupurascens), Fourleaf Milkweed (A. quadrifolia), Butterfly Weed (A. tuberosa), Poke Milkweed (A. exaltata), Whorled Milkweed (A. verticillata), and Clasping Milkweed (A. amplexicaulis). We grow a nice patch of Whorled Milkweed and I have never, ever seen a Monarch once visit the foliage or flowers. Purple Milkweed can be very challenging to get started, and Butterfly Weed is not as hardy in our region as are Common and Marsh.

Milkweeds are the only food plant for Monarch caterpillars and also provide nectar to a host of pollinators including many, many species of butterflies, bees, beetles, and even hummingbirds. Plant for the pollinators and they will come.


This is an image from my recent adventure to Cerro Pelon. I am dying to write about the trip, but have had a very full schedule finishing up my film, organizing landscape jobs for the season, and hoping to get the PiPls settled in. The Monarchs in the photo are mud-puddling. Tens of thousands leave the butterfly trees during the heat of the day, sucking up water and much needed nutrients from the mud at nearby mountain streams

THANK YOU COURTNEY RICHARDSON AND THE CAPE ANN MUSEUM KIDS!

We had a super fun morning at the Cape Ann Museum Kids program. Courtney Richardson and her helpers Sarah and Nick set up a long table in the auditorium where the caterpillars, art supplies, plants, and pods were arranged. The kids were wonderfully curious, as were the adults. Many thanks to Jan Crandall for supplying the caterpillars. Thank you to Courtney and to the Museum for the opportunity to share about Cape Ann Monarchs!

 

MONARCH MADNESS!

Four Monarchs eclosing and nineteen caterpillars becoming chrysalises, all in a day! And we have a new batch of caterpillars, just in time for my program tomorrow morning at the Cape Ann Museum. I hope to see you there!

Many thanks to my friend Jan Crandall for the caterpillars. She has a gorgeous butterfly garden and this morning there were dozens and dozens of caterpillars on her Common Milkweed plants.

Velvet wings drying in the morning sun.

Monarch Conference

CATERPILLAR CONDO

Caterpillar Condo

Several readers have written to ask how do I manage to have so many Monarch Butterfly caterpillars and chrysalises. The answer is very simple–because we have planted a wonderful little milkweed patch! We grow both Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) side-by-side. Our milkweed patch is planted near our kitchen. When washing the dishes, I can look out the window and watch all the pollinators and fabulous activity that takes place at the milkweed patch.

Several weeks ago, a Mama Monarch arrived and I watched as she gently floated from leaf to leaf, and bud to bud, ovipositing one golden egg at a time. She went back and forth between the Common and Marsh, depositing eggs on both the tender upper foliage as well as the more sturdy lower leaves. I waited for her to leave, but not too long (because the eggs are quickly eaten by spiders) and collected the sprigs with the eggs. I thought I had scooped up about eight eggs and you can imagine our surprise when 19 caterpillars hatched, all within the same day! Female Monarchs like to deposit eggs around the tiny buds of Marsh Milkweed and many of the eggs were hidden within the buds.

Here’s a video of a Mama depositing eggs on Marsh Milkweed buds. Charlotte was with me that day and we were dancing to the song “There She Goes” as the butterfly was depositing her eggs and it was too perfect not to include in the video clip.

Our garden is postage stamp size, but I have managed to fill it with a wide variety of songbird, butterfly, bee, and hummingbird attractants. The great majority of plants are North American native wildflowers and shrubs, and we also include a few nectar-rich, non-native, but non-invasive, flowering plants. Plant, and they will come 🙂

I am super excited to give my children’s program at the Cape Ann Museum on Saturday morning. The program is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

CRAZY WITH CATERPILLARS!!!

Dear Kim,
When I was gardening this evening I discovered that there were monarch caterpillars all over our butterfly weed- so many that we stopped counting at 35! Not sure if you are interested in caterpillar sightings in Gloucester as well as monarchs themselves, but thought we would share this info (and photo) with you.
Kelsey McNiff and family

A FLOOD OF MONARCH SIGHTINGS, SOME SHARING THE BEST THEY’VE SEEN IN YEARS!!!

GMG Reader Leigh writes,
I just took this pict today (Tuesday July 17) and then saw your post tonight about sharing monarch picts. Spotted this one in my backyard in Rockport— on a zinnia, but near the swamp milkweed.
I enjoy your blog!
 Pamela shares a recent sighting of a Baltimore Checkerspot at Appleton Farm.

Sharon M saw one at Wingaersheek, Catherine M at Niles Pond, M.J. in her Gloucester garden and one in Lanesville, Aurelia Nelson is seeing tons at her milkweed patch in Beverly, Beverly M saw one at Riverdale, Whitney C in East Gloucester, Peggy A at Old Garden Beach Rockport, Lisa W at Magnolia Avenue, Ellen A Beverly, Betty L Pasture Road Rockport, Nancy L at her milkweed field in Salem, and Patti Papows adds that hers are coming daily to her milkweed patch not by the ones and twos, but by the threes and fours! 

Today at my presentation in Beverly Farms, the North Shore Garden Club ladies report seeing tons in their gardens, and today I saw them in my garden, and while checking on the Piping Plovers, they were in the dunes at Good Harbor and on the beach at Revere. If this warm weather continues, 2108 could prove to be a promising year for the Monarchs. Please keep your Monarch (and other butterflies, too) sightings coming. Thank you! And feel free to email us photos of sightings: kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com

PLEASE SHARE YOUR MONARCH SIGHTINGS!

My friends Lauren from Manchester, Patti P from East Gloucester, Eric from Rockport, Cheryl from West Gloucester, and DB from Essex have all reported seeing Monarch butterflies and caterpillars in their gardens. Please keep your Monarch sightings coming (and any other beautiful butterfly or moth you may see)!

Patti shares photos from her garden –

Monarch and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Patti Papows ever expanding patch of Common Milkweed attracts a bevy of pollinators.

Eric Hutchins shares a photo of a Monarch on his Common Milkweed, grown from seeds he purchased at our milkweed seed sale a few years back.

COMMUNITY MILKWEED SEED POD PROJECT FOR THE POLLINATORS SUNDAY OCTOBER 15TH AT THE DOCK!

MILKWEED SEED COLLECTION AND DISTRIBUTION PROJECT SUNDAY OCTOBER 15TH

Collect ripe milkweed seed pods (only Common Milkweed and Marsh Milkweed please). Place in a paper bag, not plastic, as plastic can cause the seed pods to become damp and moldy.

Bring seedpods to Captain Joe and Sons on Sunday morning between 10:30 and noon. Captain Joes is located at 95 East Main Street, East Gloucester.

If you’d like to distribute seeds, meet at the dock between 10:30 and noon and I will show you what to do.

NOTE: It is easy to tell when milkweed seedpods are ripe. The seeds inside turn brown. Do not collect the pods when the seeds are white or green. If you pick them too soon, they will never be viable. You can check the seed pods by slitting the pod a tiny bit and peeking inside.

Any questions, please comment in the comment section or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you and I hope to see you Sunday morning!

WE HAVE SOME JOE-PYE SEEDS TO GIVE AWAY, TOO!!!

We are excited to share that in addition to milkweed pods, I have seeds of an especially gorgeous, and fabulous pollinator-attracting variant of Joe-Pye to share at our Milkweed Seed Pod Distribution event. 

 

To learn more about how you can help fund the documentary Beauty on the Wing and the Monarch Butterfly Film Online Fundraising event, please visit the film’s website at monarchbutterflyfilm.com.

SUPER FUN COMMUNITY MILKWEED SEED POD PROJECT FOR THE POLLINATORS!

Monarchs Mating in a Milkweed Patch, Good Harbor Beach Dunes

Recently, Good Morning Gloucester reader John Steiger gave me a large bag filled with ripe milkweed seed pods collected from his garden. I had a total blast throwing the seed pods around on my early morning walk, tossing alongside the road where ever I thought milkweed might have a chance to take hold (which is easy as milkweed even takes root in sidewalk cracks).

I’d like to do more of this and Joe had the great idea to ask folks to make it a community project as we did several years ago with the milkweed and New England aster seeds and plant sales. He has again very generously offered the dock on Sunday morning after the podcast, between 10:30 and noon. If you have ripe milkweed seed pods in your garden, please bring them Sunday morning. Anyone who wants to distribute the seeds, stop by the dock and we’ll arm you with seed pods. I’ll also be collecting Joe-pye, goldenrod, and aster seeds later this fall when these wildflowers go to seed. If we get more folks dropping off bags of pods than wanting to distribute, that will be okay. I know tons more places that need milkweed and I will be happy to do the distributing. These are areas that probably at one time had milkweed and other wildflowers growing there, but they have been mowed over or taken over by bittersweet and phragmites. As people are learning more about the importance of wildflowers and pollinators, I am hoping the wildflowers will have a better chance of becoming reestablished.

Female Monarch Depositing Eggs on the Undersides of Milkweed Leaves

MILKWEED SEED COLLECTION AND DISTRIBUTION PROJECT SUNDAY OCTOBER 15TH

Collect ripe milkweed seed pods (only Common Milkweed and Marsh Milkweed please). Place in a paper bag, not plastic, as plastic can cause the seed pods to become damp.

Bring seedpods to Captain Joe and Sons on Sunday morning between 10:30 and noon. Captain Joes is located at 95 East Main Street, East Gloucester.

If you’d like to distribute seeds, meet at the dock between 10:30 and noon and I will show you what to do.

NOTE: It is easy to tell when milkweed seedpods are ripe. The seeds inside turn brown. Do not collect the pods when the seeds are white or green. If you pick them too soon, they will never be viable. You can check the seed pods by slitting the pod a tiny bit and peeking inside.

Any questions, please comment in the comment section or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you and I hope to see you Sunday morning!

Milkweed is not only the Monarch caterpillar’s food plant, the florets are a very important source of nectar for myriad species of pollinators.

To learn more about how you can help fund the documentary Beauty on the Wing and the Monarch Butterfly Film Online Fundraising, please visit the film’s website at monarchbutterflyfilm.com.

 

#POLLINATORHERO

Bees and butterflies, as we all know, pollinate flowers, but did you know that bats, songbirds, hummingbirds, wasps, beetles, moths, flies, midges, and even nasty mosquitoes also deliver pollen from plant to plant?

Flower pollinating Green-eyed Wasp drinking nectar from Common Milkweed florets.

The eyes of the male Green-eyed Wasp are larger than the females, all the better to see her, and predators. Green-eyed Wasps are also known as sand wasps because females excavate burrowing nests in sand (as well as soil).

Male Monarch Butterfly flitting about our garden and drinking nectar from the Marsh Milkweed florets. Notice the mass of orange Milkweed Aphids in the background. Lady Beetles are another pollinator super hero because they help milkweed plants by eating aphids.

MONARCHS HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE PART TWO AND PLEASE CONTINUE TO REPORT YOUR MONARCH SIGHTINGS

The title of the post could just as easily have read Monarchs, Eggs, and Caterpillars Here, There, and Everywhere. I haven’t seen this much Monarch activity on Cape Ann in over ten years and hope so much the number of Monarchs seen in gardens, meadows, and dunes indicates a strong migration.

Thank you to everyone who has written in with your Monarch sightings! The reports are tremendously informative and fun to read, so please, do continue to let us know. The rainy cool weather has temporarily put the kibosh on mating and egg laying, but they are here on our shores and just waiting for a few warm hours and the sun to come out to renew breeding activity.

Monarchs not only drink nectar from the florets of milkweed, it is the only species of plant on which they deposit their eggs. In the above photo you can clearly see the Monarch probing for nectar with her proboscis, or drinking straw. 

Look for the butterflies, eggs, and caterpillars wherever milkweed grows. In our region, they are most often found on pink flowering Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), as opposed to the orange milkweeds, A. curassavica and A. tuberosa.

Female Monarch depositing an egg on an upper leaf of Common Milkweed.

The eggs are typically laid on the underside of the leaf, near the top of the plant. Tiny golden domes, no larger than a pinhead, Monarch eggs are easily confused with the eggs of other insects.

Once the tiny caterpillar emerges, it will stay towards the top of the plant, venturing further to larger leaves as it grows.

Four Monarchs in One Photo!

I was trying to take a snapshot of two Monarchs flying but not until I returned home did I realize that resting on a leaf were a pair of Monarchs mating. Lara Lepionka had just sent a photo the day before of a pair mating in a tree above her garden. Typically Monarchs will begin mating on the ground, or the foliage of a lower plant plant such as squash or milkweed. They will join together abdomen to abdomen and, once securely attached, the male then carries the female to a safer location. A male and female Monarch will stay coupled together for four to five hours before releasing (see photo below of a pair of Monarchs mating, towards center left. 

Lara Lepionka cell phone photo of Monarchs mating in a tree.Monarch and Common Milkweed Good Harbor Beach

Not everyone has a gorgeous milkweed patch like Patti Papows. Don’t despair. You don’t have to go far! I am finding tons of eggs and caterpillars on the Common Milkweed that grows around the edge of the parking lot at Good Harbor Beach.

Patti Papows Common Milkweed with Monarch and Bee

 

MONARCH BUTTERFLY PRESENTATION TONIGHT IN SALEM

Learn about the life history, decline of, current status, and how the use of GMO Roundup Ready crops are killing Monarchs and pollinators. Learn how you can help the Monarchs breed in Massachusetts during the summer months and on their annual migration to Mexico in the fall. Lecture and slide presentation at the Salem Garden Club. For more information, email kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com

Female Monarch depositing egg on Milkweed foliage and buds.

DOWN THE GARDEN PATH

monarch-new-england-aster-coneflower-copyright-kim-smithThe New England Asters and Quilled Coneflowers blooming in our garden during the months of September and October were planted to provide sustenance for migrating Monarchs. Although both are native wildflowers, the bees and butterflies visiting gardens at this time of year are much more interested in nectaring at the New England Asters.

Plant the following four native beauties and I guarantee, the pollinators will come!

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens)

Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

monarch-butterfly-depositing-egg-milkweed-copyright-kim-smithFemale Monarch curling her abdomen to the underside and depositing eggs on Marsh Milkweed foliage.

HELLO MAMA MONARCH!

Plant and they will come!

Female Monarch depositing eggs -1 copyright Kim Smith

Alighting on the buds of our Marsh Milkweed plants, you can see in these photos that the female Monarch is curling her abdomen to the underside to deposit eggs. She will go from bud to bud and leaf to leaf ovipositing one egg at a time. A female, on average, deposits 700 eggs during her lifetime, fewer in hot, dry weather.Female Monarch depositing eggs copyright Kim Smith

Female Monarch Butterfly and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Butterflies do not “lay” eggs; we say oviposit or deposit. And you wouldn’t describe a caterpillar as hatched, but that it has emerged or eclosed.

Grow Marsh Milkweed and Common Milkweed and you most definitely will have female Monarchs calling your garden home!Female Monarch depositing eggs -2 copyright Kim SmithIn the above photo you can see how she is contorting her abdomen to correctly position the eggs