MONARCHS AND PAINTED LADIES STILL ON THE WING AND WHY YOU SHOULD BE LAZY AND NOT TIDY UP YOUR GARDEN!

Monarchs, Painted Ladies, American Ladies, and Yellow Sulphurs are still migrating through Cape Ann–Massachusetts, New England, the mid-Atlantic states, and all along the East Coast for that matter. There isn’t much in the way of nectar plants available at this time of year. If you have anything at all blooming in your garden, even a Dandelion, it will help butterflies and bees on the wing.

This newly emerged Painted Lady was scrounging around at all the dandelions in and around Eastern Point. You can see why if the deadly herbicide Roundup had been applied to this lawn, there would be nothing for the butterflies.

The above Monarch butterfly was drinking nectar from what appeared to be a dried out stalk of Seaside Goldenrod. Although it may seem of no use to you and I, the Monarch was probing deeply into the florets and finding sustenance.

If you have to tidy up your garden, wait until after Thanksgiving, and go cautiously. Bees burrow into dried flower stalks, songbirds find nutrition in the seed heads, and the caterpillars of many species of butterflies, such as those of the Great Spangled Fritillary, winter over in leaf litter at the base of plants.

It is not beneficial to pollinators to invite them to your garden, and then decimate the over wintering species with zealous tidying-up. Take a break, be lazy for the sake of the pollinators 🙂

Monarch dispute over a Dandelion

NATURE RARER USES YELLOW

Day three of the October nor’easter so rather than post more photos of dreary gray skies and wind and waves, here’s a sunny yellow photo to lift your spirits. The photo was taken during this year’s historic Monarch migration. Loving this weather because it’s providing an opportunity to sort through the multitude of butterfly photos shot in September and October 🙂

Monarch Butterflies Seaside Goldenrod

KIM SMITH MONARCH BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION PROGRAM SATURDAY OCTOBER 5TH AT THE STEVENS COOLIDGE PLACE ANDOVER

These magical creatures never cease to amaze and surprise. Early one morning I went looking in the butterfly trees for an overnight roost. Instead I found them sleeping like a dream in a golden field.

The light was pure rose gold for a few brief moments, casting a pearly pink glow over the butterflies, too.

I’ve seen a small cluster of sleeping Monarchs on a wildflower branch before, but never a field full. The wind was strong; perhaps they felt safer roosting closer to the ground.

It was funny to watch them awaken. Some flew off, but most stayed in place and began drinking nectar. Bees do this, they sleep in flowers, but it was a first to see Monarchs sleeping in their breakfast.

Come join me Saturday morning at The Stevens Coolidge Place in Andover for all things Monarch. I will be giving my Monarch conservation program at 10:30. For more information go here.

Male (left) and Female Monarch Waking Up in Goldenrod Field

SAY WHAT! MONARCHS MATING IN SEPTEMBER???

This pair of Monarchs did not get the 411 that they are supposed to wait until next spring to mate!

Beginning in early spring, Monarchs depart Mexico. They lay eggs of the next generation and then perish. This next generation moves northward depositing their eggs on emerging milkweed. It takes four to five generations to reach the Monarch’s northern breeding grounds, of which Cape Ann is a part. The Monarchs that we see in the early summer only live for about four weeks.

The Monarchs that eclose at the end of the summer are a super generation of Monarchs. Another way to think about them is that they are also referred to as the ‘Methuselah’ Monarchs. This last brood of the summer lives for a very long time for a Monarch, about seven to eight months. The Methuselah Monarchs that we see migrating today will travel south all the way to the trans-volcanic forested mountains of central Mexico. They sleep through the winter in butterfly trees in a state of sexually immaturity known as diapause, then awaken in spring to move northward and deposit eggs of the next generation, thus completing the circle of the Monarch’s life.

So that brings us back to this atypical pair mating in the marshy meadow in September. Every year during the annual southward migration I see at least one pair of Monarchs mating. I wonder, will the pair survive and continue to migrate? Will their offspring survive and travel further south?

Please join me Saturday, October 5th, at 10:30 at The Stevens Coolidge Reservation in Andover for a Monarch Migration Celebration and for my conservation talk about the Monarchs. For more information, see here.

WILDLY BEAUTIFUL AND HISTORIC MONARCH MIGRATION OF 2019

Multitudes of silently beautiful brilliant orange flakes swirl overhead. Ontario, Chicago, the Great Lakes, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Texas–the list goes on and on–reports of record numbers of Eastern Monarchs are being shared throughout the country.

Monarchs are building their fat reserves by drinking nectar from wildflowers and garden flowers all along their migratory route. These migration pathways occur in urban areas such as Toronto, Chicago, Atlanta, and Kansas City; the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia and Virginia; the fields and prairies of Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska; and along the coastlines of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Great Lakes.

The Atlantic Coast travelers are typically a week or two behind the Monarchs that migrate through the central part of the U.S. There are still large numbers of Monarchs in the Northeast waiting for the right conditions to journey on.

Here on Cape Ann I have been following the migration and checking hotspots several times daily. Beginning September 8th, the migration along our shores really began to pick up steam. We have had a steady stream with many overnight roosts. The last wave that came through migrated during the morning hours, but rather than staying overnight, continued on their journey, helped by a strong northeasterly wind.

Many thousands of photos were taken this past month and I will share them in upcoming posts, along with helpful answers to some Monarch questions that I am frequently asked. In addition to the photos, I have of course been filming. While my Monarch documentary, Beauty on the Wing, is in the final stages of post production, some of the footage from this year’s historic migration will make it into the film.

Please join me this coming Saturday, October 5th, at 10:30am at The Stevens Coolidge Place in Andover where I will be giving a talk and slide presentation on Monarch Butterfly conservation. A whole wonderful day of activities is planned for the kids and adults.

MONARCH MIGRATION CELEBRATION

You spent the summer watching them flit about your gardens, now it’s time to wish them well on their trip down to Mexico – it’s the Monarch Migration Celebration at Stevens-Coolidge Place!

This celebration will kick off with a children’s pollinator parade around the property (costumes encouraged!) bringing all visitors to an afternoon of demos, crafts & stories, seed bomb making and gardening tips to bring these orange friends to your yard in the spring. Want to join in the butterfly tagging? Bring your flying friends with you and we’ll be happy to show you how! Butterfly release at 2:30PM

Trustees Member: $3
Trustees Member Child: $5
Trustees Family: $15

Nonmember: $6
Nonmember Child: $10
Nonmember Family: $25
Please help us plan for the day. Pre-registration is encouraged.

The STEVENS COOLIDGE PLACE

137 ANDOVER STREET

Monarchs, Common Buckeye, and Painted Lady

THE DANCE OF COLOR AND LIGHT – MONARCHS ON THE MOVE!

Monarchs were on the move over the weekend, not only on Cape Ann, but all over northern and northeastern regions of the country* very solid numbers of migrating Monarchs are being shared, from Ontario, to upstate New York, Michigan, and Maine.

Lets keep our hopes up for good weather for the Monarchs on the next leg of their journey southward!

*Ninety percent of the Monarch Butterfly migration takes place east of the Rocky Mountains.

If you would like to help support the Monarchs, think about creating a milkweed patch in your garden. The best and most highly productive milkweed for Monarch caterpillars is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), the milkweed we see growing in our local marshes and dunes. The seed heads are ripe for plucking when they have split open and you can see the brown seeds and beautiful floss.

For several of my readers who have expressed difficulty in germinating milkweed seeds, the following is a foolproof method from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

How to Germinate Milkweeds

MILKWEEDS (ASCLEPIAS SPP.) ARE NOTORIOUSLY DIFFICULT TO GERMINATE. But don’t despair. The Wildflower Center has developed and tested a protocol that results in good germination rates for a number of our native milkweed species. Follow this process and you’ll soon be on your way to supporting monarchs, bumblebees and tons of other insects that depend on milkweed plants. READ the complete article here.

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

Salem State keynote spotlights beauty, plight of monarch butterflies

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

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

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

READ COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE

 

…Smith also reflected on our involvement with these creatures.

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

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

 

MONARCH BUTTERFLIES AT SALEM STATE UNIVERSITY! -BY KIM SMITH

Please join us on Thursday evening at Salem State University for Earth Days Week celebrations and awards ceremony. I am giving the keynote address.

This event is entirely free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

I have been pouring through photos from this year’s past late great Monarch migration to create the new “Beauty on the Wing” program that I am giving Thursday evening at Salem State.

My favorite thing to do photographing butterflies is to capture them mid-flight.  Working on landscape design projects and film projects back to back I only had time to upload and didn’t have a chance to look through the film footage and photos daily. I discovered a bunch of photos that are worthy of adding to the presentation–a photographer’s idea of finding buried treasure–and these are two of my favorites.

HOW YOU CAN HELP FUND MY MONARCH BUTTERFLY FILM!

I AM OVERJOYED TO SHARE THAT WE HAVE RAISED 1800.00 IN THE FIRST TWO DAYS OF “BEAUTY ON THE WING” ONLINE FUNDRAISER!!! MY DEEPEST THANKS  TO LAUREN M., DONNA STOMAN, PEGGY O’MALLEY, JOEY C, ELAINE M., CATHERINE RYAN, JOEANN HART, JANE PAZNIK BONDARIN AND ROBERT REDIS (BOTH FROM NEW YORK), AND ANONYMOUS PERSONS FOR THEIR GENEROUS HELP.  

Dear Friends,

Today I am excited to launch the online fundraising campaign for my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.

This film—more than five years in the making—chronicles the extraordinary story of the Monarch butterfly. Tiny creatures, each weighing less than a paperclip, journey thousands of miles from their northern breeding grounds, of which Cape Ann is an integral part, to the trans-volcanic mountaintops of central Mexico. The most magical thing is that their story unfolds in our own backyards, marshes, meadows, and fields. Beauty on the Wing reveals the interconnection between the butterfly’s habitat and wildflowers and the importance of conserving their ecosystems. The film is unique in that every stage of the butterfly’s life cycle is recorded in vibrant close-up in the wild, both on Cape Ann and in Mexico.

The current goal is to raise funds to create a 55-minute feature-length final cut to distribute to elementary schools nationwide. My fundraising partner is the nonprofit Filmmakers Collaborative and donations are tax deductible. Please consider donating what you can. No donation is too small ($5, $25, $100) and every dollar helps get us one step closer to completing the film.

DONATE HERE

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

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

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

Thank you so very much for your help.

With gratitude,

Kim Smith

Pure magic in the marsh this morning! For one moment, there were eight Monarchs on this single spray of Seaside Goldenrod.

LEARN HOW YOU CAN HELP THE POLLINATORS THURSDAY NIGHT AT THE SAWYER FREE LIBRARY

Seaside Goldenrod for Bees and Butterflies

Come on over to the Sawyer Free Library Thursday night and learn how you can create a welcoming haven for birds, bees, and butterflies!

Plant Cosmos for the Birds, Bees, and Butterflies

Marsh Milkweed for the Butterflies and Bees

Male and Female Luna Moths

Zinnias for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Bees, and Butterflies

Mexican Sunflower and Bee

Monarch and Hibiscus

 

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.

Golden Reeds and Rods ~ Where Did Summer Go?

Niles Pond Swan ©2014 Kim SmithI am procrastinating in getting out the warm woollies in hopes that Indian Summer is just around the corner. Do you recall it ever feeling so fall-like, so early in September?

Niles Pond © 2014 Kim SmithSeaside Goldenrod © 2014 Kim Smith copySeaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) 

Top Native Bee Friendly Plants

Obedient Plant and Bee Physostegia virginiana ©Kim Smith 2013Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)

Below is a list of some favorite nectar- and pollen-rich bee-friendly North American wildflowers for attracting native bees and honey bees to your gardens. They are listed in order of bloom time, from spring through late summer, to provide your foragers with nourishment all growing season long.

Mexican Sunflower © Kim Smith 2013Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria viginiana)

Wild Blue Lupine (Lupinus perennis)

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Sunflower (Helianthus annus)

Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)

Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens)

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

New York Ironweed (Veronia noveboracensis)

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

Sailor Stan sunflower and bee ©Kim Smith 2011Sailor Stan Sunflower (Helianthius annus)

Eupatorium and Bee ©Kim Smith 2012Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

Ironweed Bee ©KIm Smith 2011New York Ironweed (Veronia noveboracensis)

Seaside Goldenrod in Autumn

Seaside Goldenrod in the Wind Good Ha ©Kim Smith 2013rbor Beach GloucesterSeaside Goldenrod in the October Wind and Mist ~ Good Harbor Beach 

Monarch Butterflies mating seaside goldenrodMonarch Butterflies Mating ~ Seaside Goldenrod in September

See Previous GMG posts featuring Seaside Goldenrod ~

How to Tell the Difference Between a Male and Female Monarch Butterfly

Where Are All the Monarchs?

Where Are All the Monarchs?

Monarchs usually arrive in our region by the first week in July and go through several brood cycles. This year, barely any arrived. The Monarch’s sensitivity to temperature and dependence on milkweed make it vulnerable to environmental changes. Since 1994, U.S. and Mexican researchers have recorded a steady decline in the Monarch population in their overwintering grounds, with 2012-2013 being the lowest recorded to date.

Monarch butterflies daybreak willow tree ©Kim Smith 2012

Temperature change and habitat loss affect breeding success and longevity. Dr. Chip Taylor, a leading Monarch researcher at the University of Kansas reports that the widespread adoption of GMO corn and soybean crops resistant to herbicides, along with with intensive herbicide use, coupled with the federal government’s incentivized expansion of corn and soy acreage for the production of biofuels have caused a significant drop in milkweed throughout the heart of the Monarch’s range. Lack of milkweed equals no Monarchs. “Monarch/milkweed habitat has declined significantly in parallel with the rapid adoption of glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybeans and, since 2006, the rapid expansion of corn and soy acreage to accommodate the production of biofuels,” Taylor wrote on May 29.

Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at Seaside Goldenrod ©Kim Smith 2011

Monarchs Nectaring at Seaside Goldenrod

What can we do? Encourage conservation organizations that conserve Monarch habitat, plant milkweed, plant nectar plants, and raise caterpillars. Hopefully the weather next spring and early summer will be more conducive to the Monarch’s northward migration and breeding success, and if and when the Monarchs arrive, they will find our milkweed plants.

Monarch Butterflies New england Aster ©Kim Smith 2012

Monarch Butterflies Nectaring at New England Asters

If anyone sees a Monarch, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com or leave a comment in the comment section.

Update #2: Reader Jude Writes the following ~

Hi Kim,

I have maybe 30milkweed plants in the front yard. I would be happy to harvest the seeds, are there places you know of that would be willing or have a large enough property to seed them? Can you harvest them as soon as the pods pop? I remember as a kid finding the most beautiful cocoon I have ever seen. I haven’t seen many butterflies at all and of the ones I have seen are not Monarchs.

My reponse:

Hi Jude, I am putting it out there in GMG Land that if anyone would like your milkweed seed pods to please contact me.

Yes, you can harvest immediately after the pods pop, as a matter of fact, I recommend doing just that and sowing your seeds in the fall. The easiest method is to lightly scratch the surface of the soil where you wish the milkweed to grow. Scatter the seeds and water. That’s it.

Thank you so much for writing. Hopefully, we’ll find a home for your milkweed seeds.

Update: For more information, see previous GMG posts on Monarchs and Milkweed:

How Exactly is Monsanto’s Roundup Ravaging the Monarch Butterfly Population?

News Release: MONARCH WATCH ANNOUNCES ‘BRING BACK THE MONARCHS’ CAMPAIGN

Cape Ann Milkweed Project

GloucesterCast Podcast 4/25/13 With Guest Kim Smith

Monarch Butterfly Migration Through Gloucester Reader Question

GMG Reader Becky Edleman writes:

“Hello! I was emailing you to inquire about the monarch butterfly migration that comes through Gloucester. I recently moved to MA and was told that the butterflies migrate through that area, but have found little evidence as to when this usually occurs. After doing some googling I came across your website discussing the migrating monarchs many times. If you have any information for me as to when I should plan to come up and where to go I would really appreciate it! I love reading your articles and am eager to find out more about the migration pattern! Thank you!”

Monarch Awakening ç Kim Smith 2012

Hi Becky ~ Thanks for writing and wonderful to know you found us through a Google search! The Monarch Butterfly migration through our region is not an exact science. The “when” of the migration depends on may variables including the success of their breeding during July and August, air temperature, and wind flow. When I look back through my records, I would say, generally speaking, we have the greatest number of Monarchs migrating though Gloucester beginning around the second week of September through October 1st. The butterflies are are found in  gardens and wildflower fields and meadows throughout our region. You can often see clusters near the Eastern Point Lighthouse.

Do you have space for a garden? If so, and you would like to attract the migating Monarchs to your garden, plant nectar-rich flowers that are in bloom during their migration. Seaside Goldenrod, New England Aster, and Smooth  Aster are just three gorgeous Massachusetts native wildflowers that will attract the Monarchs to your garden.

I hope you’ll stop by the dock and get a GMG sticker when you are visiting!