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.

FRIEND ERIC HUTCHINS’S LUSH MILKWEED PATCH

My friend Eric Hutchins sent along this snapshot of his wonderfully lush patch of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). He thought I would like to see how beautifully his milkweed has grown from seeds distributed at our milkweed sale several years ago. Thanks so much to Eric, love, love seeing this!

Plant for the pollinators and they will come 🙂 

OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVER CHICKS ARE TWO WEEKS OLD TODAY!

Two weeks ago today, four tiny Piping Plover chicks hatched at Good Harbor Beach. Nesting got off to a rocky start, with the mated pair first attempting to nest at the beach, then at the parking lot, but then thankfully, returning to their original nest site.

The relative peace on the beach, excellent parenting by Mama and Papa PiPl, cooler than average temperatures, vigilant monitoring by a corps of dedicated volunteers, outpouring of consideration by beach goers, as well as support from the DPW, City administration, and City Councilors has allowed the chicks to attain the two-week-old stage of maturity. With each passing day, we can see the chicks are gaining in strength and fortitude and listening more attentively to their parent’s voice commands. Adhering to Mama and Papa’s piping calls is an important milestone in their development. The parents continuously pipe commands and directions, warning of danger and directing the chicks to come to a stand still. The tiny shorebird’s best defense is its ability to blend with its surroundings when motionless.

The chicks spent the early morning warming up and foraging at the protected area. Afternoon found them camped out at the creek.

Snapshots from the morning

 

There was a group of young people stationed near the PiPl protected area enjoying the beach on this fine sunny afternoon. All was good though as the chicks were perfectly safe, foraging far down the creek. With gratitude and thanks to everyone who is helping to keep our PiPl family safe.

Snapshots from the afternoon

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

HIGHER NUMBERS GIVE HOPE FOR MONARCHS

By Kim Smith

January 31, 2019

The World Wildlife Fund Mexico and Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) announced on January 30th that this year the Monarch Butterfly population has increased significantly.

Each year the orange and black winged beauties return to the oyamel fir and pine tree forests, which are located in the heart of Mexico’s trans volcanic mountain belt. In December and January, Lepidoptera population specialists and citizen scientists measure the area the Monarch colonies cover at their over wintering sites. This year (2018-2019) the butterflies are blanketing 6.05 hectares (approximately 15 acres), up from an all-time low of only 0.67 hectares (1.65 acres) during the winter of 2013-2014.

Not since 2006-2007 has this great an area been covered by the butterflies, although the numbers are still quite low when compared to the numbers recorded in the late 1970s when the butterfly’s winter roosts were first discovered by Dr. Fred Urquhart.

I have been following the butterfly counts around the US as they were reported. The Monarch population has been decimated in California. This year only about 30,000 butterflies were counted, down from several million just two decades ago. There is the very real possibility that the Monarch butterfly will become extirpated (extinct from an area) on the West coast. The winter count is down drastically in Florida as well.

It was clear though that east of the Rockies–the Midwest and Northeast regions of the US, as well as southern provinces of Canada–there were many more Monarchs in gardens and on the wing than in recent previous summers.

Leading Monarch scientists are reluctant to become excited about the increase, and justifiably so. Last spring the weather was slightly cooler in Texas, which allowed more Monarch eggs to hatch, which in turn allowed more caterpillars to mature. A greater number of butterflies emerged and set the stage for a strong breeding season throughout the summer. That scenario, along with the overall good weather during the summer of 2018, also helped create ideal conditions. It was a true “goldilocks” summer, not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

In autumn of 2018, the Monarchs arrived to Mexico about a week later than usual, but once they began to arrive, a kaleidoscope of butterflies poured into their winter roosting grounds.

The 2018-2019 Eastern population count is a reprieve from the past ten years of heartbreaking news, but one good year does not change what the butterflies need most, which is protection for the Monarchs under the Endangered Species Act.

Monarch and Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia)

There is disagreement among scientists whether planting milkweed has any bearing on the health of the Monarch butterfly population. Does creating corridors of Monarch habitat help mitigate the death and destruction caused by climate change, modern agricultural practices, the devastating use of pesticides and herbicides, and the planting of GMO crops (corn, sorghum, and soybeans, for example) that were engineered to withstand the deadly poisons, but which wildflowers and caterpillars cannot?

Monarch Butterflies and New England Aster, Gloucester, 2018

The answer to that question is a resounding yes! Monarchs are a bellwether species. The love for this one butterfly has helped shape a consciousness towards all species at risk. An uncomplicated stand of milkweed and asters can make every public walkway, park, community center, church, school, and backyard a haven for Monarchs and together we can bring about a conservation victory for the pollinators.

SNAPSHOTS FROM PATTI PAPOW’S MAGICAL BUTTERFLY GARDEN

Photos from a recent visit to friend and East Gloucester resident Patti Papows delightful in-every-way butterfly and pollinator garden.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Although I was only able to visit for a few hours, it was wonderful to see all that she has planted for the pollinators, and as a result, all the pollinators drawn to her garden. You could spend a week in Patti’s garden and not see everything. The afternoon I was there, the deep magenta red butterfly bush was in full glorious bloom and was the star pollinator attractant of the day. Snowberry Clearwing Moths, Tiger Swallowtails, Monarchs, Catbirds, Robins, Bumble Bees, Honey Bees, and every other winged creature in the neighborhood was enjoying sweet nectar and the fruits from Patti’s blossoms. Bees and butterflies love variety and in a garden as richly planted as Patti’s, everyday is a party for the pollinators!

I am looking forward to returning to Patti’s garden when the Morning Glories are in full bloom 🙂

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.

THANKS TO A CANADIAN CHEMICAL ENGINEER, A VERMONT ACADEMIC AGRONOMIST, RISK-TAKING FARMERS, AND VISIONARY CLOTHING COMPANY FOR A FABULOUS NEW USE FOR MILKWEED

What’s old is new again!

Common Milkweed (Ascleipias syriaca) is the essential food plant for populations of the Northeastern and Atlantic coast Monarchs. During Colonial times, the silky floss found in the dried seed heads was used to stuff quilts and pillows. In the 1860s, in Salem Massachusetts, Common Milkweed silk was used as a mattress filling.

During WWII, Common Milkweed became the substitute for kapok, a soft cottony material from the kapok tree that was the preferred filling for life vests. Japan cut off the supply of kapok from Java, the main source of the material, and part of the wartime effort included children sent to fields to gather millions of pounds of Milkweed seed heads for the armed services.

 

 “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not been discovered.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

An innovative Canadian clothing manufacturer, the Quartz Company and Altitude Sports, has created the first modern insulated jacket using milkweed silk. Hundreds of acres of Common Milkweed have been planted in Vermont and Quebec. Particularly noteworthy is that the fields of Milkweed are not harvested until after the Monarchs have left.

READ THE STORY HERE  

Milkweed Silk and Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis

WWII Common Milkweed photos courtesy Google image search.

MONARCH CATERPILLAR JOINING OUR MILKWEED SEED POD DISTRIBUTION EVENT TODAY!

Patti’s Catty

While my friend Patti was collecting Milkweed pods for our event today she discovered this little Monarch caterpillar. He still has a few more stages to go through before pupating and won’t be ready to fly to Mexico for two weeks or so. I took him home and got the terrarium back out of the basement. I’ve never seen  Monarch caterpillar this late in the year but am hopeful (and excited, too!) #🦋

Patti

Patti’s Catty will be at the event today and I will be happy to answer any questions on raising Monarchs.

Captain Joe’s Dock

Sunday morning from 10:30 to noon.

Captain Joes is located at 95 East Main Street, Gloucester.

Patti Papow Photo

LOOK WHAT PATTI PAPOWS MADE FOR SUNDAY’S MILKWEED SEED DISTRIBUTION EVENT!!

Thank you to Patti Papows for putting together these utterly charming pouches of milkweed seeds for our event tomorrow. We also have loads of milkweed pods and Joe-Pye seeds to distribute so come on down to Captain Joe’s dock Sunday morning from 10:30 to noon. We hope to see you there!Captain Joes is located at 95 East Main Street, Gloucester.

To donate toward the completion of my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, please visit the film’s website at www.monarchbutterflyfilm.com

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.

 

Mass Audubon: A Good Year for Monarchs?

The following post was shared by my sweet friend and GMG reader Lois. Thank you so much Lois!

During the last week of August, Regional Scientist Robert Buchsbaum and several Mass Audubon naturalists and scientists took a field trip to Conway Hills Wildlife Sanctuary just west of the Connecticut River in Conway, MA. While there, they were pleasantly surprised by what they saw. Here’s Robert’s report:

“The initial goal of our exploration was to document the odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) that are present at this sanctuary. Conway Hills is a relatively new sanctuary for Mass Audubon so our records of species that occur there is still a work in progress.

While rambling through a big field in the center of the sanctuary, we couldn’t help but notice the large number of monarch butterfly caterpillars that were feasting on the milkweed plants in the field. Just about every one of the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) plants had a Monarch caterpillar on it, busily chewing on leaves.
This was very heartening to all of us, given how scarce Monarch butterflies were last summer and the overall concern about the future of this stunning butterfly.