Come on over to the Sawyer Free Library tonight and learn how you can create a welcoming haven for birds, bees, and butterflies!
Please join me April 6th at 7pm, at the Sawyer Free Library where I will be giving my Pollinator Garden talk and screening several short films. The event is free and open to the public. I am looking forward to presenting this program at our wonderful Sawyer Free and hope to see you there!!
On Tuesday morning, October 4th, I’ll be at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Marblehead to give my lecture on “The Pollinator Garden,” at 9:30am. I hope to see you there!
No, That is Not a Monarch Caterpillar on Your Carrot Plant
By far the most popular post on my website is titled “No, That is Not a Monarch Caterpillar on Your Parsley Plant.” It has been the most trafficked post for several years, if you can believe it, and here is why.
Last fall, almost exactly to the day, through my office window I heard the sound of sweet voices on our front porch, well after dark, and wondered what our neighborhood dog walkers were doing out so late. It wasn’t dog walkers, but our neighbor Sharon and her son Treely, wondering what to do with what they thought was a Monarch caterpillar they had found in their garden. I sent them on their way with one of our terrariums and instructions on how to care for their little Black Swallowtail caterpillar.
Treely’s Black Swallowtail caterpillar turned into a chrysalis (in other words, pupated), spent the winter in the terrarium in a sheltered spot outdoors, and then emerged right on schedule this past spring. The Dowds returned the terrarium as it was needed later in the summer for our Cecropia Moth caterpillars.
Imagine how sweetly funny to get a call from my friend Michelle, wondering what to do with their newly discovered Monarch caterpillar. My first question to Michelle was did she find the caterpillar on her milkweed? No, she reported, it was found on carrot foliage. Michelle and her children, Meadow and Atticus, along with friend Sabine, stopped by this afternoon to learn about how to take care of their tiny little Black Swallowtail caterpillar and I sent them on their way with the ‘traveling terrarium.’
If you find a caterpillar in your garden, the first clue to identifying is to see on what food plant they are munching. Caterpillars that are actively feeding are usually only found on their larval host plant(s), the plant they have developed a distinctive coevolutionary relationship with over millennia. For example, female Monarch butterfly caterpillars deposit their eggs only on members of the milkweed family. Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat the foliage only from plants in the carrot family, which includes carrots, parsley, dill, fennel, parsnips, and Queen Anne’s lace. You may have noticed if ever weeding Queen Anne’s lace that the root looks identical in shape to a carrot, only it is white.
Chances are, you will never find a Black Swallowtail caterpillar on you milkweed plants and conversely, you will never find a Monarch caterpillar on your carrot plant (or parsley, dill, or fennel).
I am excited to hear from Michelle and the kids how their little caterpillar is developing over the next few weeks!
Here’s how you can help choose the Massachusetts state butterfly –
The choice is between the Black Swallowtail, the Great Spangled Fritillary, and the Mourning Cloak butterflies. All three are beautiful species of Lepidoptera, but as you know from my work, I am partial to the Black Swallowtail. I cast my vote for the Black Swallowtail and here is why. Both the Great Spangled Fritillary and Mourning Cloak are less commonly seen. I’d like children who are developing an interest in butterflies to have the opportunity to get to know their state butterfly easily. Black Swallowtails are widespread and very well-known. In a good year, Black Swallowtails will have two broods. The caterpillars eat plants kids can easily identify and plant, such as carrots, dill, fennel, parsley, and the common wildflower Queen Anne’s Lace. Black Swallowtails are typically on the wing throughout the summer, beginning in early spring through late summer.
On the other hand, the Great Spangled Fritillary caterpillars eat strictly violet plants. This butterfly is usually only seen for about a month, during mid-summer, and has one brood of caterpillars. In our region of Massachusetts, the Mourning Cloak may have a second brood, if we have an early spring, but I only see them in spring, near pussywillows, and again in the fall when they are getting ready to hibernate.
Black Swallowtails are found in backyards, gardens, meadows, marshes, and along the shoreline. They love to drink nectar from wildflowers, including milkweed (as you can see in the short film below) and many, many common garden plants such as lilacs, coneflowers, zinnias, and butterfly bush.
Please vote here: VOTE MASSACHUSETTS STATE BUTTERFLY
Please join me tonight at 7pm at the Sea Spray Garden Club where I will be giving my “Habitat Garden” workshop and screening several short films. This event is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!
I am looking forward to presenting the “Pollinator Garden” program for the Winter Garden Club of Marblehead on the morning of October 4th. On October 17th. I am the guest speaker for the Sharon Garden Club and will be presenting the lecture “Beauty on the Wing; Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.” For more information please visit the Events Page of my website.
I am currently booking programs for 2016-2017-2018 and would be delighted to present to your club, library, school, and private or public event. See the Programs Page of my website and feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Read what Mim Frost, the Program Chair for the Ipswich Town and Country Garden Club, had to say about the Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly film and program that I recently gave to her club:
How often does something you’ve looked forward to for a long time live up to your expectations? Not often. But last night at Ebsco your presentation, including your film, your comments and your Q&A were just about perfect in my book! I’ll smile as I remember the evening.
I liked having the trailer for the monarch film first. You gave the group something to look forward to. Jesse Cook’s music is an excellent choice, I think. I drum to his music often. I was pleased with the questions and with your answers. It’s obvious you’ve done a lot of research. The way you answered questions made the group comfortable. Very nice! And the film. What can I say. I’d seen clips, but seeing the whole thing was something I won’t forget. I especially liked your reference to other butterflies and your comparison of the swallowtail with the monarch. Liv’s voice was just right for the commentary!
I know from experience that the presenter is the harshest critic of the presentation. I hope you were feeling pleased with your work last night. I’d be happy to repeat the whole evening!
All the best to you,
Please join me tomorrow night in Nashua, New Hampshire for a screening of my film Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly. For more information visit the Events page of my website. I hope to see you there!
Next week I am giving programs in Brockton and Nauset however in early November I’ll be home, with a screening of the Black Swallowtail film for the Seaside Garden Club at the Manchester Community Center on the 10th, and on the 12th of November I am the guest speaker at the Sawyer Free Library!
Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly is a 45-minute narrated film that takes place in a garden and at the sea’s edge. Every stage of the butterfly’s life cycle is experienced in vibrant close-up, from conception to pupation to metamorphosis. The film is suitable for all ages so all can gain a deeper understanding of the symbiotic relationship between wildflowers and pollinators and the vital role they play in our ecosystem. Filmed in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Discussion and Q & A with the filmmaker to follow screening.