Category Archives: Bees

PLEASE JOIN ME FOR A SPECIAL LIVE SCREENING OF BEAUTY ON THE WING!

TO REGISTER, GO HERE

For more about the Essex National Heritage Pollinator Week programs, go here.

CEDAR ROCK GARDENS REOPENING WEDNESDAY APRIL 13th!

CEDAR ROCK GARDENS Opening for the season: April 13th, 2022!
Starting Wednesday, April 13th we will be open for you to come shop the nursery for all the early spring – cold weather seedlings.

We have posted all the Flower, Herb and Vegetable varieties we are growing this year on our website for you to check out and get excited for!
Welcome Spring 2022!

We are very excited to be welcoming you back to shop with us for our 9th season. We have added some great new varieties of tomatoes, peppers and flowers to our growing list this year (including some bush varieties specifically for containers on your patio or deck) and we have a rockstar crew making sure all plants are happy, healthy and watered! We have already sent some Neptunes Harvest organic fish fertilizer through our hoses to the seedlings so they have the best possible start. We will be starting with cold weather seedlings on opening day even though this spring has proven to be about 2 weeks ahead of its self in terms of soil temperature and average day time temp – you can never be to sure in New England what next week will bring. They are alll currently hardening off in our unheated high tunnel before bring them outside today to start acclimating to the wind and elements.

We hope you are enjoying these longer days and taking some time to plan your garden layout we are always here to help with planning questions and any direct seeding questions you may have as you start to get into your veggie gardens. Right now we are direct sowing our sugar snap peas into the ground along with spinach. We are also direct sowing our arugula, mesclun mix and broccoli rabe under row cover for a little added protection from cold nights. We have organic seeds for sale and are happy to demonstrate how to get those going.

We look forward to seeing you and happy growing!

All the best,

Elise, Tucker, Fae and the whole Cedar Rock Gardens Crew

Covid 19 protocols:

We will be opening this season for you to come shop the nursery in person. Please continue to wear a mask if you don’t feel well while shopping with us at this time.

If you can not shop in person due to health concerns please call or email and we will happily facilitate you. We will not be accepting pre orders, all orders must be for plants that are currently available.
-Thank you for understanding

Mark your Calendars:

Warm Weather seedlings will begin to be available
May 18th!

This includes Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, basil, loads of flowers and so much more!

For everyone that wished us well in our endeavors as new parents, thank you! Fae is wonderful and loves being in the greenhouses with us so far.

THE BEE-SIZE BUTTERFLY

The most diminutive butterfly to visit our garden during late summer and early autumn is the American Copper. With its pale gray outer wings showing when in flight, it looks more like a tiny nondescript moth fluttering by. When the winged beauty lands and opens its brilliant coppery-orange hued forewings that’s when you’ll take notice. If you look closely at the open lower wings, you can see the brilliant flakes of iridescent copper for which the species is named.

Mostly we see them making swift sorties from one nectar source to another. This season it has been from the zinnias to the asters and back again, non stop throughout the warmest hours of the day. I also see them sunning in the sand at Brace Cove and nectaring at the wildflowers along the edge of the beach.

Their wingspan measures a mere 3/4 of an inch at the lower end, an inch and half at the higher side, making it one of the smallest butterflies seen locally. Spring and Summer Azure Butterflies are of a similar size.

The Bee-size Butterfly

American Coppers (Lycaena phlaeas) are Holarctic, covering northern and central America, Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. L. phlaeas may have been introduced to North America from Scandanavia during colonial times.

Only two host plants, sheep-sorrel (Rumex acetosella), and curly dock (Rumex crispus) are normally listed for Massachusetts.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go hereThank you!

If mailing a contribution, please include your email address and please address to:

Beauty on the Wing c/o Kim Smith

22 Plum Street

Gloucester, MA 01930

With thanks ad deep appreciation to the following contributors for their generous donations to bring Beauty on the Wing to a national television audience:

Lauren Mercadante, New England Biolabs, Jonathan and Sally Golding, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Joeann Hart and Gordon Baird, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), Heidi and John Shiver (Pennsylvania), Marty and Russ Coleman, Joy Van Buskirk (Florida), Lillian and Craig Olmstead, Suki and Fil Agusti (Rockport), Janis Bell, Nina Groppo, Nubar Alexanian, Marguerite Matera, Claudia Bermudez, Thomas Hauck, Judith Foley (Woburn), Jane Paznik-Bondarin (New York), Paul Vassallo (Beverly), Stella Martin, Liv Hauck (California), Julia Williams Robinson (Minnesota), Cynthia Dunn, Diane Gustin, John Ronan, Karen Maslow, Fernando Arriaga (Mexico City), Holly Nipperus (Arizona), Kristina Gale (California), Maggie Debbie, Kate and Peter Van Demark (Rockport), Mia Nehme (Beverly), Chicki Hollet, Alice Gardner (Beverly), Therese Desmarais (Rockport), Jennie Meyer, Kathy Gerdon Archer (Beverly), Melissa Weigand (Salem), Duncan Todd (Lexington), Catherine Ryan, Linda Bouchard (Danvers), Elaine Mosesian, Paul Wegzyn (Ipswich), Catherine Bayliss, Alessandra Borges (Rhode Island), Jan Waldman (Swampscott), Carolyn Constable (Pennsylvania), Nancy Mattern (New Mexico), Ian Gardiner, Judy Arisman, Tom Schaefer, Margaret Thompson, Edward DeJesus (Maryland), Kim Tieger (Manchester), Mary Weissblum, Nancy Leavitt, Susan Pollack, Alice and David Gardner (Beverly), Kristina and Gene Martin, Gail and Thomas Pease (Beverly), Carol and Duncan Ballantyne (Beverly), Sharon Byrne Kashida, Eric Hutchins and Julia McMahon, C. Lovgren, Joan Keefe, Linda Kaplan

 

Tattered and torn but still flying and drinking nectar

 

SCHOOL STREET SUNFLOWERS IS OPEN AND THE FIELD AND FLOWERS LOOKS MAGNIFICENT!

School Street Sunflowers will be in peak bloom over the next week or so, the field is dried out from all the rain, and there are armfuls of flowers to take home! For tickets (which include sunflower stems!) visit School Street Sunflowers here

School Street Sunflowers is located at 16 School Street in Ipswich.

 

HOVERFLIES EAT APHIDS! AND THEY ARE THE SECOND BEST POLLINATOR, AFTER BEES!

A beautiful female hoverfly (possibly Syrphus ribesii) spent the afternoon drinking nectar from the yellow florets of our Mexican Sunflowers. Also known as the Flower Fly and Syrphid Fly, hoverflies are members of the Syrphidae family of insects. As their name suggest, they hover over pollen-  and nectar-rich flowers.

Helicoptering hoverfly coming in for a landing

Hoverflies are a wonderful addition to the organic, pesticide-free garden. Hoverfly larvae are aphid eating machines and they are also the second best pollinator, after bees. Female hoverflies lay their eggs in the midst of aphid colonies. When the eggs emerge, food for the larvae is readily available. A single hoverfly larvae can eat 400 to 500 aphids during the two-week period before pupating into an adult.

When flies look like bees – Hoverflies look similar to bees, with large bulbous eyes and black and yellow striped abdomens. Their color and buzzing sound mimics many species of bees and wasps, which helps ward off predators. Hoverflies are perfectly harmless and neither sting nor bite. You can tell the difference between a male and a female hoverfly by looking at the eyes. The eyes of the male are holoptic, which means they touch, whereas the eyes of the female are separated.

We have a colony of aphids on our Whorled Milkweed. I hope she stopped by to deposit her eggs there!

To attract hoverflies to your garden, plant plenty of nectar-rich flowers. One study showed some species prefer white and yellow flowers. Although the ray flowers of the Tithonia are orange, the disc florets at the center of the flower from where she was drinking nectar are yellow. Native plants that attract hoverflies include Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Common Yarrow, and Purple Coneflower. Hoverflies also love blossoms of herbs such as oregano, dill, parsley, coriander, and fennel.

Image courtesy wikicommons media

 

YOUR DAILY MONARCH BUTTERFLY PHOTO AND WHY WE LOVE JOE-PYE WILDFLOWER!

With wonderfully exuberant pollinator friendly flower clusters atop 7 -12 foot tall stalks, what is not to love! Plant Joe-pye in a sunny location at the back of the border and enjoy the array of bees and butterflies that will flock to the nectar-rich blossoms.

More reasons to love Joe-pye is that it is low maintenance, attracts pollinators, is deer resistant, not flattened by rain, not bothered by diseases, blooms when Monarchs are on the wing, and is super easy to grow.

Coming in for a landing

 

SUPER EXCITING NEWS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING

Hello Monarch Friends!

I hope you are all doing well. It’s been a bit of a tumultuous past two weeks. Many of you have heard but I don’t want anyone to be surprised not knowing, so first the not-so-great-news is that I broke my leg. It’s going to take a number of months before I am back on my feet, literally, but not figuratively 🙂  Our darling daughter Liv is here visiting for what was supposed to be her vacation and she, our son Alex, and husband Tom are being fantastically helpful. I’ll soon be able to work from my desk and the forced confinement means that I’ll be able to get more work done on fundraising and beloved film projects.

The super exciting news is that Beauty on the Wing has been accepted to the 37th annual Boston Film Festival! The festival dates are September 23rd through the 27th. This year the film will be part virtual and part in person screenings. This is a fantastic festival and the organizers are simply a stellar group of people. When I have more information, I’ll let you know.

Have you been seeing more Monarchs in your garden and in meadows this past month? We have definitely been having a lovely influx, a greater number of Monarchs than in the past several years. It’s so beautiful to see. I’ve released a number of butterflies this past week, and currently have them in all stages in our terrariums, from the teeny tiniest newly emerged to chrysalides and adults.

A friend wrote to ask if these beauties we are currently seeing are the parents of the Super generation, or Methuselah Monarchs, the generation that flies to Mexico. They may very well be, but there could also be one more generation after this.

Monarchs don’t generally drink nectar from roses, especially hybridized roses. This variety is a very old Bourbon Rose that is divinely fragrant. The male was vigorously patrolling our garden looking for females and stopped frequently at the rose to rest before beginning pursuit again.

Please join me, along with the youngest members of your family. I have created a short film for Cape Ann young people for the Sawyer Free Library titled The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch – here is the link and more information: August 3rd – August 6th, Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 to 10:30. Children’s Services Summer Reading Program “Tails and Tales” presents Monarch Butterflies with Kim Smith! Kim created a short film and virtual presentation to share these beautiful creatures with children and families, and see how Gloucester is a part of their amazing migration journey! Register here and we will send you the link to enjoy this presentation throughout the week starting Tuesday August 3rd.

My deepest gratitude and thanks to all who are contributing to the second phase of launching Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of  the Monarch Butterfly out into the world, the world of Public Television. To date we have raised close to $18,000.00 toward our $51,000.00 goal. Thank you so very much to all these kind contributors:

Lauren Mercadante, Jonathan and Sally Golding, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), Joy Van Buskirk (Florida), Lillian and Craig Olmstead, Suki and Fil Agusti (Rockport), Janis Bell, Nina Groppo, Nubar Alexanian, Marguerite Matera, Claudia Bermudez, Thomas Hauck, Judith Foley (Woburn), Jane Paznik-Bondarin (New York), Paul Vassallo (Beverly), Stella Martin, Liv Hauck (California), Julia Williams Robinson (Minnesota), Cynthia Dunn, Diane Gustin, Heidi Shiver (Pennsylvania), John Ronan, Karen Maslow, Fernando Arriaga (Mexico City), Holly Nipperus (Arizona), Kristina Gale (California), Maggie Debbie, Kate and Peter Van Demark (Rockport), Mia Nehme (Beverly), Chicki Hollet, Alice Gardner (Beverly), Therese Desmarais (Rockport), Jennie Meyer, Kathy Gerdon Archer (Beverly), Melissa Weigand (Salem), Duncan Todd (Lexington), Catherine Ryan, Linda Bouchard (Danvers), Elaine Mosesian, Paul Wegzyn (Ipswich), Catherine Bayliss, Jan Waldman (Swampscott), and Alessandra Borges (Woonsocket RI).

Take care,

xoKim


 

 

 

MAKING A BEELINE FOR THE MILKWEED! and save the date for my children’s programs at the Sawyer Free Library

Dear Monarch Friends,

A joyful sight to see so many Monarchs in the dunes and in our gardens over the weekend! A female flew in and left us with another dozen or so eggs, deposited on the Common Milkweed. She briefly inspected the Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) and Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), but as usual, opted to only lay a batch on leaves and buds of the Common Milkweed.

Early Sunday morning on PiPl watch, several Monarchs flew in from across the bay and later that day, dozens and dozens were spotted drinking nectar and depositing eggs at the Common Milkweed growing at the Good Harbor Beach dunes. The milkweed has been blooming for over a month now and all this rain has kept the blossoms fresh and inviting.

Beeline for the Milkweed!

Save the dates to share Monarchs with the youngest members of your family. I have created a short film for Cape Ann young people for the Sawyer Free Library about the Magnificent Monarch – here is the link and more information: August 3rd – August 6th, Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 to 10:30. Children’s Services Summer Reading Program “Tails and Tales” presents Monarch Butterflies with Kim Smith! Kim creates a short film and virtual presentation to share these beautiful creatures with children and families, and see how Gloucester is a part of their amazing migration journey! Register here and we will send you the link to enjoy this presentation throughout the week starting Tuesday August 3rd.

My deepest gratitude and thanks to all who are contributing to the second phase of launching Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of  the Monarch Butterfly out into the world, the world of Public Television. To date we have raised over $17,500.00 toward our $51,000.00 goal. Thank you so very much to all these kind contributors:

Lauren Mercadante, Jonathan and Sally Golding, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), Joy Van Buskirk (Florida), Lillian and Craig Olmstead, Suki and Fil Agusti (Rockport), Janis Bell, Nina Groppo, Nubar Alexanian, Marguerite Matera, Claudia Bermudez, Thomas Hauck, Judith Foley (Woburn), Jane Paznik-Bondarin (New York), Paul Vassallo (Beverly), Stella Martin, Liv Hauck (California), Julia Williams Robinson (Minnesota), Cynthia Dunn, Diane Gustin, Heidi Shiver (Pennsylvania), John Ronan, Karen Maslow, Fernando Arriaga (Mexico City), Holly Nipperus (Arizona), Kristina Gale (California), Maggie Debbie, Kate and Peter Van Demark (Rockport), Mia Nehme (Beverly), Chicki Hollet, Alice Gardner (Beverly), Therese Desmarais (Rockport), Jennie Meyer, Kathy Gerdon Archer (Beverly), Melissa Weigand (Salem), Duncan Todd (Lexington), Catherine Ryan, Linda Bouchard (Danvers), Elaine Mosesian, Paul Wegzyn (Ipswich)

If you are interested in contributing to Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, please find more information here.

DONATE HERE

 

PLEASE JOIN ME TONIGHT FOR “THE POLLINATOR GARDEN” VIRTUAL PRESENTATION FUNDRAISER FOR MASS POLLINATOR NETWORK

If you are looking to be inspired by creatures and colors of the upcoming season, and what to plant to make your garden a welcoming haven for wildlife, please join me tonight at 7pm. I am super excited to be presenting “The Pollinator Garden” for the Mass Pollinator Network. Because it is a Keynote presentation, I was able to add and collage many more photos. The presentation looks great and is chock full of ideas for your pollinator paradise. I hope to see you there!

Please join me Wednesday evening, March 17th, at 7pm for “The Pollinator Garden” presentation, via Zoom, for the Massachusetts Pollinator Network.

From early spring through winter, I will take you on a journey of understanding the beautiful creatures found in your gardens and how you can create a welcoming haven by planting trees, shrubs, vines, native wildflowers, and non-invasive ornamentals. Some of the wild creatures covered include Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, moths and butterflies, bees, Baltimore Orioles, and much, much more.

This lecture is the second in a three part fundraising series. For more information and to register please go here: MA Pollinator Network: The Pollinator Garden with Kim Smith and please consider making a donation to MA Pollinator Network. Donations of any amount are welcome.

Thank you!

JOIN ME WEDNESDAY NIGHT FOR MY VIRTUAL POLLINATOR GARDEN PROGRAM TO BENEFIT THE MASSACHUSETTS POLLINATOR NETWORK

Please join me Wednesday evening, March 17th, at 7pm for “The Pollinator Garden” presentation, via Zoom, for the Massachusetts Pollinator Network.

From early spring through winter, I will take you on a journey of understanding the beautiful creatures found in your gardens and how you can create a welcoming haven by planting trees, shrubs, vines, native wildflowers, and non-invasive ornamentals. Some of the wild creatures covered include Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, moths and butterflies, bees, Baltimore Orioles, and much, much more.

This lecture is the second in a three part fundraising series. For more information and to register please go here: MA Pollinator Network: The Pollinator Garden with Kim Smith and please consider making a donation to MA Pollinator Network. Donations of any amount are welcome.

Thank you!

VOTE FOR BUTTERFLIES!

For all our winged wonders,

For the birds, the butterflies, the bees,

And mostly

For the future of the littlest human wonders that we so cherish.

Excerpt from Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

Music by Jesse Cook “Fields of Blue.”

VOTE the Blue Wave –

Vote for Science

Vote for the Environment

Vote for Racial Justice

Vote for a Woman’s Right to Choose

Vote for Wildlife

Vote for an Economy that Works for All

Vote for Fiscal Responsibility

Vote to End Voter Suppression

Vote to Educate All

Vote for Jobs

Vote for Infrastructure

Butterflies for Biden!

 

 

RAGWEED VS GOLDENROD – WHAT IS CAUSING MY SEASONAL ALLERGIES?

Migrating Monarchs and Seaside Goldenrod

So often I hear folks blaming goldenrod as the source of their allergy suffering, when they really mean to say ragweed. The three species of goldenrod that we most often see in our coastal north of Boston fields, meadows, woodland edges, and dunes are Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens), Tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissima), and Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis).  All three have beautiful yellow flowers, Seaside blooming a bit after Canada and Tall, and all are fabulous pollinator plants, providing nectar for bees, butterflies, and migrating Monarchs.

In our region, we most often encounter Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia), with Plain Jane tiny green flowers and raggedy looking foliage. Goldenrods and ragweeds both bloom at roughly the same time of year, in mid- to late-summer, but why is ragweed the culprit and goldenrods are not? The colorful showy flowers of goldenrods are attractive to pollinators and they are both insect and wind pollinated. The drops of goldenrod pollen are too large to fall far from the plant. Ragweed’s tiny flowers are not of interest to most pollinators and the plant has evolved to rely on the wind to disperse its pollen from plant to plant. Ragweed produces massive amounts of teeny, breathable pollen to travel widely on the wind.

Cedar Waxwing foraging in weed patch with Common Ragweed

Although many of us are fortunate not to be bothered by ragweed, I completely empathize with friends who are. If it is any consolation, I recently learned two good uses for Common Ragweed. Shetland sheep love to eat it and it is good for their wool. And I have been following a flock of  Cedar Waxwings for over a month. I often see in the morning the Waxwings descend on patches of mixed weeds, mostly Common Ragweed. Waxwings change their diet in summer to include insects and I think the birds are attracted to the plant for the host of insects it supports. So next time you are ragging on ragweed remember, it is a native plant and it does support a community of insects and birds.

ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SCENTS ON ALL OF CAPE ANN – ‘SAILOR’S DELIGHT’ SUMMERSWEET

Clethra alnifolia is more commonly known by its many descriptive names of Summersweet, Sweet Pepperbush, and Honeysweet. In an old book on fragrance, written by Louise Beebe Wilder, she writes that in Gloucester of old it was described as ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ During the 19th and early 20th century, as told by Wilder, the sailors entering the harbor on homebound ships would reportedly delight in its fragrance wafting out to see.

Much of Niles Pond road is to this day lined with great thickets of ‘Sailor’s Delight.’ Wild Clethra growing on Cape Ann blooms during the month of August.

The following is an excerpt from a book that I wrote back in 2004-2007, which was published by David R. Godine in 2009. The book is about designing landscape habitats for wild creatures and for people, titled Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities: Notes from a Gloucester Garden, and all that I wrote then, still holds true to day.

“Summersweet bears small white florets held on racemes, and depending on the cultivar may be shaded with varying hues of pink to rose-red. The tapering spires of fragrant blossoms appear in mid to late summer. Clethra has a sweet and spicy though somewhat pungent aroma, and when the summer air is sultry and humid, the fragrance permeates the garden, Summersweet is a nectar food attractive to bees and a wide variety of butterflies, notably the Silver-spotted Skipper.” See more at Oh GardenMyriad species of bees and butterflies, along with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, are attracted to Clethra for its sweet nectar, while American Robins, Goldfinches and warblers dine on Summersweet’s ripened berries.
Clethra fruits ripening

SUNFLOWER DREAMS

I am dreaming nightly about sunflowers. Thanks to the mystical beauty found at School Street Sunflowers, it’s no wonder why <3

Nature rarer uses yellow
Than another hue;
Saves she all of that for sunsets,—
Prodigal of blue,

Spending scarlet like a woman,
Yellow she affords
Only scantly and selectly,
Like a lover’s words.

Emily Dickinson

Don’t miss School Street Sunflowers while the field is in full, glorious bloom. There are still hundreds of buds yet to open. Pay online in advance to reserve a time – see below.

Paul Wegzyn is the genius behind School Street Sunflowers

With Paul’s Dad, Paul.

Sunflowers, freshly cut each morning, are for sale. Only $10.00 a half  dozen and they last a very good long while.

When you go -the sunflower trail is one way, which is great for avoiding mashups on the trail during the pandemic. Paul and his staff all wear masks, so please wear your mask as well. This year, the tractors are not available for playing on because they would need to be disinfected after each use. There are picnic tables and wonderful vignettes for family photos. I went with three year old Charlotte on a sunny morning and she led the way through the winding trail. Last year, Charlotte only ventured a few feet into the field; this year it was “COMEON, hurry up Mimi!”

Live in the Sunshine, Swim the Sea, Drink the Wild Air – Ralph Waldo Emerson

School Street Sunflowers is located on School Street in Ipswich, behind the high school. For more information visit –

Website: www.schoolstreetsunflowers.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/schoolstreetsunflowers

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/schoolstreetsunflowers

Live music with Paul’s friend and first year Berkeley College of Music student, Jade Hua

Sunflowers are heliotropic when they are young. By the time they mature, sunflowers generally face toward the East throughout the day. The scientific name for Common Sunflowers is Helianthus annus – helios for resembling the sun, anthos for flower, and annus for yearly.

View this post on Instagram

360 degrees of Sunflowers 🌻 #schoolstreetsunflowers

A post shared by Kim Smith (@kimsmithfilms) on

WHERE HAVE ALL THE BUTTERFLIES GONE?

In thinking about where have all the butterflies gone, I am reminded of the poignant song written by Pete Seeger “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” which although a song about the futility of war, sums up much about the environmental impact of habitat loss. Without wildflower habitat, there will be no pollinators of any sort.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago.

Buckeye and Seaside Goldenrod

Where have all the butterflies gone? Different species of butterfly populations fluctuate from year to year. For example, some years you may see far greater numbers of Buckeyes, the next year not so much. That same year you may hardly see any Tiger Swallowtails but will the following.

That being said,, everyone must realize that every year there are fewer butterflies than the year before. Butterflies thrive in meadows, the very same topography that is the easiest to build upon. Every time a new house or shopping mall is built on a meadow, we decrease not just butterfly habitat, but a whole community of wildlife habitat.

In the above photo you can see a Monarch with a Black Swallowtail flying overhead. This stunning patch of wildflowers and nectar plants was sited in Gloucester at a prime spot for Monarchs to rest and refuel after migrating across Massachusetts Bay. The new home owners ripped out most of the wildflowers and planted the site in a more formal style, with non-native perennials and shrubs. At this location, I would often see Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Painted and American Ladies, Sulphurs, and many other species. That is no longer true.

Tiger Swallowtail drinking nectar from Joe Pye-weed at the same wildflower patch, no longer in existence.

Butterfly and bee populations are declining overall, not only because of habitat loss, but because of the unbridled use of herbicides and pesticides in agriculture and home lawn care.

Butterflies are especially sensitive to fluctuations in weather, and also to overall climate change. This year we had a long, cold wet spring. The inclement weather is continuing, too, from a butterflies perspective, because although we are seeing some warmer temperatures the past few days, it has mostly been rainy, foggy, or overcast. Butterflies thrive during long stretches of sunny, hot weather. Their wings don’t work very well in the damp and cold. Because of global climate change, we have seen a seven percent increase in precipitation worldwide.

One of the best years I have ever seen for dozens and dozens of species of butterflies, including Monarchs, in the Northeast, was the summer and fall of 2012. That year, we had a warm winter followed by a warm spring, then a warm, dry summer, and a long, warm Indian summer. It was butterfly bonanza that summer and autumn!Adding to people’s concern is the fact that last year, there was an abundance of spring rain that in turn created an extraordinary wildflower bloom in Texas, which got all the butterflies off to a good start. In 2019, we were seeing Monarchs as early as early June, which was very unusual for Cape Ann. Folks are comparing this year to that of 2019, however, 2019 was not an average year.

Monarchs are a case unto themselves. Their spring and summer numbers depend upon a variety of additional conditions, including how successful was the previous year’s autumn migration, whether or not there were nectar providing wildflowers on their northward and southward  migrations, and wind and weather conditions from Canada to Mexico.

Note the bar graph in that the eastern population of the Monarchs plummeted by half, according to this year’s spring count by the World Wildlife Fund Mexico.

Particularly in the northeast, the wind patterns during the Monarchs spring northward migration matter tremendously. My friend Charmaine at Point Pelee, in southern Ontario, which is 49 degrees latitude (we are 43 degrees latitude) has been raising and releasing Monarchs for over a month now, while most of us on Cape Ann have only seen a smattering. The Monarchs moved this year in a straight northward trajectory. If the wind does not blow from west to east during some part of their northward migration, far fewer will end up along the eastern shores.Monarchs and Seaside Goldenrod

All is not lost. I am 90 percent certain we will soon be seeing some of our migratory and non-migratory local populations, we just need some good weather. They are later than usual, but not gone entirely.

For so many more reasons, I am hopeful for the future of wildlife and their habitats and see such tremendous, positive change. Despite the current administration’ s extremely harmful stance against the environment, many, many individuals and organizations are gaining a deeper appreciation about the importance of habitats and taking positive action. Many have made it their life’s work. These individuals and organizations are creating wildlife sanctuaries and conserving existing habitats. If the Monarch is declared an endangered species, that will surely bring an added awarenesses and increased federal spending for protecting and creating habitats.

How can you help the Monarchs, which in turn will help myriad species of other butterflies and pollinators? Plant wildflowers! Both Marsh and Common Milkweed for their northward migration, and lots of nectar-rich later summer blooming wildflowers for their southward migration, including New England Aster, Smooth Aster, Purple-stemmed Aster, Seaside Goldenrod, and Canada Goldenrod.Monarchs and New England Aster

MONARCHS AND PAINTED LADIES STILL ON THE WING AND WHY I ENCOURAGE YOU TO 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

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 centers 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.

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.