Category Archives: Creating a Butterfly Garden

WHERE DO ALL THE MONARCHS GO?

Monarch Butterfly and Seaside Goldenrod at Gooseberry Island, Westport

After departing the shores of Cape Ann in autumn, where is the Monarch’s next destination on their several thousand mile journey to Mexico? Our Cape Ann Monarchs join the stream of Monarchs that are migrating southward along the Atlantic Coast. They hug the coastline, crossing bays and ponds, and pausing at beaches to nectar and rest when caught in a headwind or during a storm. When weather and habitat variables combine to create a favorable year for the Monarchs, there may be tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of butterflies traveling along the Atlantic Coast beaches.

The Gooseberry Island old lookout tower is surrounded by a sea of Seaside Goldenrod.

The next major stopover is Westport in Massachusetts, at Gooseberry Island and Allen’s Pond Wildlife Sancturary. Here they find dunes and fields of nectar-rich wildflowers such as Frost Asters, Purple-stemmed Asters, Seaside Goldenrod, Knapweed, Red Clover, and more.

Monarchs drinking nectar from Red Clover at Allen’s Pond Middle Meadow

The sanctuary at Allen’s Pond is host to many species of butterflies during the Monarch’s fall migration, including Clouded Sulphurs, Orange Sulphurs, and Painted Ladies.  They, too, drink nectar from the Knapweed, Red Clover, asters, goldenrod, and Black Mustard in the sanctuary fields.

The Atlantic Monarchs next head to New York, traveling along the coast of Long Island, from the eastern tip of Montauk, southwest to Fire Island, and continuing to Coney Island. On the day of October 9th, because of a storm passing through, a batch of migrating Monarchs was “stuck” on Plumb Island in Brooklyn.  After the storm passed the following morning, tens of thousand of Monarchs were observed flying over the dunes and along the beach, resuming their journey south.

Monarchs in the gardens at Battery Park with ferry to the Statue of Liberty in the background. Liv photo and video (below).

Our daughter Liv reports that over the weekend of October 21-22, New York City was teeming with Monarchs. She observed hundreds at Coney Island on Saturday, and even more at the gardens at Battery Park on Sunday. Liv has even seen them in the NYC underground subway stations!

After departing the shores of Long Island and NYC, the next great stopover and roosting area is Cape May, New Jersey. The Monarchs pause along the way, stopping to drink nectar and rest on the barrier beaches of the Jersey Shore. Latest field reports suggest that the dunes and fields of Cape May are rife with Seaside Goldenrod that is still in bloom. I am on my way there today and will report all that I see.

From Cape May Point the Monarchs travel ten miles across the Delaware Bay, then journey along the eastern shores of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Some years the Monarchs converge by the millions at the Virginia National Wildlife Refuge waiting for the right winds to carry them across the Chesapeake Bay.

Some Monarch Butterflies travel to Florida, but most are funneled in through the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains, on into Texas and central Mexico.

If you would like to help towards the completion of my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, filmed in the wilds of Cape Ann and Angangueo, Mexico, please consider making a tax deductible donation here:

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

 

MONARCH MIGRATION UPDATE AND THANK YOU KIND DONORS FOR CONTRIBUTING TO MY DOCUMENTARY “BEAUTY ON THE WING!”

I AM OVERJOYED TO SHARE THAT WE HAVE RAISED OVER $2,500.00 IN THE FIRST WEEK OF “BEAUTY ON THE WING” ONLINE FUNDRAISER!!! MY DEEPEST THANKS AND GRATITUDE  TO NEW ENGLAND BIOLABS, LAUREN M., MARION F., ELAINE M., DONNA STOMAN, PEGGY O’MALLEY, JOEY C., CATHERINE RYAN, JOEANN HART, JANE PAZNIK BONDARIN AND ROBERT REDIS (BOTH FROM NEW YORK), NUBAR ALEXANIAN, PETER VAN DEMARK, PATRICIA VAN DERPOOL, FRED FREDERICKS, LESLIE HEFFRON, JIM MASCIARELLI, DAVE MOORE (KOREA), LILIAN AND CRAIG OLMSTEAD, TOM HAUCK, AND ANONYMOUS PERSONS FOR THEIR GENEROUS HELP.  
If you would like to help towards the completion of my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, filmed in the wilds of Cape Ann and Angangueo, Mexico, please consider making a tax deductible donation here:

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

Cape Ann Monarch Migration Update October 16, 2017

Monarchs roosting overnight in the old chokecherry tree.

We have had four beautiful waves of Monarchs pouring into Cape Ann. The first arrived on September 23rd and the fourth departed last Wednesday morning, on the eleventh of October. As there are reports of Monarchs still further north, we should be expecting at least one more wave, quite possibly this week. And, too, my friend Patti found several Monarch caterpillars in her garden only several days ago. These caterpillars won’t be ready to fly to Mexico for another week to ten days at least. If this warm weather continues, we may still yet have more batches coming through in the coming weeks.

What can you do to help the Monarchs, Painted Ladies, bees, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and all pollinators at this time of year? Don’t tidy up the garden just yet!  When you cut back remaining flowering stalks and sprigs, you are depriving winged creatures of much needed, and less readily available, nourishment. Bees, and migrating butterflies on the wing, especially Monarchs, need nectar throughout their journey to Mexico. Songbirds eat the seeds of expiring flowering stalks.

I keep my client’s gardens neat and tidy at this time of year by pulling out the occasional dead plant and trimming away dried out foliage. In deference to the pollinators, the very best time of year to plant bulbs and organize the garden for the following year, is after November 1st, at the very earliest. And even then, if for example my Korean Daisies are still blooming, I work around the plant. Usually in November and up until the first frost, it is covered in bees. I’ve had many a Monarch pass through my garden in November and the Korean Daisies were there at the ready to provide nectar for weary travelers.

I keep my client’s gardens neat and tidy at this time of year by pulling out the occasional dead plant and trimming away dried out foliage. In deference to the pollinators, the very best time of year to plant bulbs and organize the garden for the following year, is after November 1st, at the very earliest. And even then, if for example my Korean Daisies are still blooming, I work around the plant. Usually in November and up until the first frost, it is covered in bees. I’ve had many a Monarch pass through my garden in November and the Korean Daisies were there at the ready to provide nectar for weary travelers.

Patti’s Caterpillar, found in her garden on October 14th. He’s now at our home in a terrarium, happily munching away on Common Milkweed leaves. I leave him outdoors in a sunny location during the day but bring him indoors late in the afternoon because the air temperature is dropping considerably at night. Patti Papow Photo

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.

A SPECTACULAR PAINTED LADY BUTTERFLY IRRUPTION HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!

The sheer number of Painted Ladies migrating are stealing some of the Monarchs thunder!

Many readers have written inquiring about the beautiful butterflies with wings in a tapestry of brilliant orange, brown, black, cream, and blue. Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) are often confused with Monarch butterflies, especially during the late summer. Both are currently migrating and you will often see the two species drinking nectar side-by-side.

As do Monarchs, Painted Ladies depart from Mexico to begin their northward migration in springtime. Both Monarchs and Painted Ladies belong to the brush-foot family (Nymphalidae) and can only survive in warm climates.

Monarch Butterfly, top, and Painted Lady bottom. Note that the Painted Lady is about half the size of the Monarch.

Sightings from the midwest recorded large numbers early in the season, and 2017 has proven to be an outstanding year for this most successful of butterflies. The Painted Lady is also nicknamed the “Cosmopolitan” butterfly because it is the most widespread butterfly in the world.

Painted Lady drinking nectar from the Seaside Goldenrod at the Gloucester HarborWalk

One reason we may possibly be experiencing a Painted Lady irruption in North America is because a rainy spring in the south was followed by a fabulous bloom of dessert annuals that provided abundant food plants for the caterpillars. Unlike Monarch butterflies, which will only deposit their eggs on members of the milkweed family (Asclepias), Painted Lady caterpillars eat a wide range of plants. More than 300 host plants have been noted; favorites include thistles, yarrow, Pearly Everlasting, Common Sunflower (Asteraceae), Hollyhock and many mallows (Malvaceae), various legumes (Fabaceae) along with members of Boraginaceae, Plantaginaceae, and Urticaceae.

Common Buckeye and Painted Lady Nectaring at the Seaside Goldenrod at the Gloucester HarborWalk  

Much, much more remains to be discovered about the beautiful Painted Lady, its habits and how their behavior and seasonal distribution varies by geographic location.

Read More about Painted Ladies here:

DANCE OF COLOR AND LIGHT

Painted Lady Drinking Nectar from the Purple-stemmed Aster

Torn and Tattered Rare Visiting Swallowtail

Stopping by for only a few brief moments, a rarely seen and travel weary Spicebush Swallowtail made an appearance in our garden this morning. He drank nectar from the wildflowers, the native Heleniums and Phlox, before departing over the garden gate. We’ve planted a Spicebush just for these beauties, so begged him please come back Mr. Swallowtail, when you have a bit more time, and bring the Mrs. so she may deposit her eggs on the foliage of the Spicebush. They make the cutest caterpillars!

Faded Male Spicebush Swallowtail

The next two photos are courtesy WikiCommons Media and show how different a newly emerged female Spicebush Swallowtail appears, and a Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar.

CAMBRIDGE’S MARY PRENTISS INN URBAN POLLINATOR GARDEN!

All are welcome at The Mary Prentiss Inn, people and pollinators!

Pollen-dusted Honey Bee

We’ve planted the front dooryard garden with an array of eye-catching, fragrant, and nectar rich flora for both guests and neighbors to enjoy, and to sustain the growing number of bees, butterflies, and songbirds frequenting the garden.

Fabulously fragrant Oriental Lilies are planted adjacent to the front door to welcome visitors as they enter the Inn.

The Mary Prentiss Inn, from the pollinators point of view ~

The Mary Prentiss is a stunning twenty-room Greek-Revival style inn located on a quiet street minutes away from Harvard Square. Elegant, comfortable, and charming, with period architectural detail and decor, the Inn is outfitted with all modern amenities. Visit The Mary Prentiss Inn website for more information.

Enjoy a delicious made-to-order breakfast or afternoon tea at the Inn’s secret garden.

The Mary Prentiss Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the proud recipient of the Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Award for 1995.

The Mary Prentiss Inn is located at 6 Prentiss Street, Cambridge. Call 617-661-2929 or visit maryprentissinn.com

The Dance of Color and Light

Have you noticed the beautiful Painted Lady Butterfly flitting about your garden, in the meadows, along roadways, and even at the beach? I think we are having a Painted Lady irruption. The wave of Painted Ladies began appearing in large numbers this past spring, with reports of a dramatic increase in sightings in the midwest.

Seeing Double

The Painted Lady is the most successful butterfly in the world. It lives some part of the year on every continent except South America, where it is rare or absent. Despite the fact that the Painted Lady is the most widely distributed butterfly, not a great deal is known about its migration. In North America the annual spring migration is thought to originate in the northwestern region of Mexico, where they can be found all year round. Heavy rains in late winter in that region trigger an explosion of northward migrating Painted Ladies that establish the spring brood.

I watched this little torn and tattered Painted Lady fly south over the Essex River, from Crane’s Beach to Wingaersheek Beach. She rested briefly on a rock before heading to the wildflowers in the dunes.