Category Archives: Lepidoptera ~ Butterflies, Skippers, and Moths

THANK YOU COMMUNITY!

Thank you dear Community for coming last night! We had a wonderfully engaged audience and fantastic turnout, over 200 friends! It was especially wonderful to have some of the kids who appeared in the film in attendance  – a huge thank you to Meadow Anderson, Esme Sarrouf, Annie Kate Convey, Charlie Convey, and their families! <3 

We are overjoyed that Beaty had its live premiere with the Boston Film Festival at the magnificent Shalin Liu. The staff at the performance center are terrific. Thank you to Scott and Andy for their technical expertise and most especially thanks to Michelle Alekson for her seamless organizing.

Our deepest thanks to Robin Dawson, Executive Director of the Boston Film Festival, for creating this wonderful free film fundraising community event for Beauty on the Wing.

Thank you once again Butterfly Friends. I am so grateful for your continued support.

If you received an envelope with a request for a contribution to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public television and are so inclined, please feel free to email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com if you have any questions. Go here for more information and for online donations, please go here. Thank you!

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

BEAUTY ON THE WING TONIGHT AT THE SHALIN LIU!!

Tonight’s the Night!

Please join us for a free live premiere of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Shalin Liu on Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm. I hope to see you there! 

Masks are required to be worn at all times while in the hall. For more information go here. Presented by the Boston Film Festival and Rockport Music.

LEMONDROPS – MORE BEAUTIES ON THE WING!

Fresh drops of spritely lemon flitting from flower to flower, the Clouded Sulphur is another beauty often seen drinking nectar alongside Monarch’s during the M’s epic migration southward.

At this time of year, late summer/early autumn butterflies find nectar at native asters, goldenrods, and non-native Black Mustard, along with a variety of garden flowers that have an extended blooming period. Clouded Sulphurs have a special fondness for Zinnia elegans, the straight species, not the over-hybridized, overly ruffled variety, where they may have difficulty finding nectar in the obscured center of the flower.

Clouded Sulphur caterpillars eat Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), White Clover (Trifolium repens),sweet clovers (Melilotus spp.) and vetches (Viceia, spp.).

Please join us for a free live premiere of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Shalin Liu on Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm. I hope to see you there! Masks are required to be worn at all times while in the hall. For more information go here. Presented by the Boston Film Festival and Rockport Music.

SPUN SILK

My friend Lauren, who raises Monarchs, and who also creates beautiful and highly productive butterfly and songbird habitat gardens, shared this very cool photo of empty Monarch chrysalides. Thank you Lauren!

When a Monarch caterpillar is preparing to pupate, it first spins a silky mat from its spinneret. The silk is much like the texture of spider’s silk and extends over an area several inches in diameter. You can see in the diagram below where the spinneret is located.

Please join us for a free live premiere of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Shalin Liu on Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm. I hope to see you there! Masks are required to be worn at all times while in the hall. For more information go here. Presented by the Boston Film Festival and Rockport Music.

VIBRANT TANGERINE ORANGE BUTTERFLY ON THE WING!

Please join us for a free live premiere of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Shalin Liu on Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm. I hope to see you there! Masks are required to be worn at all times while in the hall. For more information go here. Presented by the Boston Film Festival and Rockport Music.

Orange Sulphur Butterfly on the Wing!

The vibrantly beautiful male Orange Sulphur Butterfly was spotted on our shoreline, flitting from flower to flower along a stand of Black Mustard. No other butterfly of New England flashes that beautiful shade of tangerine when in flight. The females are considerably paler with wings in shades ranging from white to buttery yellow.

The Orange Sulphur Butterfly is seen from coast to coast, from southern Canada to central Mexico. I most often observe them at the edge of marshes and in fields where clovers grow.

Male Orange Sulphur Butterfly

Orange Sulphurs drink nectar from many types of flowers including milkweeds, dandelions, asters, and goldenrods.

The caterpillars eat a wide variety of plants in the Legume Family, both native and introduced. Favorite host plants (caterpillar food plants) include Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), White Clover (Trifolium repens), and White Sweet Clover Melilotus alba).

MONARCHS MATING AND DEPOSITING EGGS IN SEPTEMBER!

Unusual, but not unheard of, every year during the Monarch’s annual southward migration, I come across a pair, sometimes two, that are mating. This year was no exception. The butterflies apparently did not get the 411 that they are supposed to be migrating, not mating! The Monarchs that eclose (emerge from their chrysalides) at the end of the summer are the Methuselah Monarchs, or a super generation of Monarchs. These Super Monarchs eclose in a state of sexual immaturity, or diapause. Rather than expending energy looking for a mate and egg laying, they spend all their days drinking nectar and building their fat reserves for the long journey south. They are often a bit larger than their counterparts that emerge earlier in the summer and they are biologically oriented to fly southward. Methuselah Monarchs live about eight months, nearly eight times longer than the spring and early summer Monarchs. They are called Methuselah Monarchs  after the Biblical patriarch who is said to have lived 969 years.

While joined together, abdomen to abdomen, the mating Monarchs flew into a neighboring tree.

Occasionally though individuals are reproductively active. I often wondered what happens to the Monarchs that mate in September. Do they lay eggs, will the eggs hatch, and will the caterpillars complete metamorphosis?

Female Monarch depositing eggs on Common Milkweed, September 13, 2021

The first question has been answered. A beautiful female, apparently newly emerged, with vibrant fully intact wings, arrived in our garden and laid dozens and dozens of eggs. I  placed many, but not all, of the eggs in our terrariums. Will these eggs hatch? We’ll know within the next week or so. I’ll keep you posted on these late September babes. If they go through their entire life cycle, they won’t be ready to fly off for another five weeks or thereabouts. The butterflies most likely will not make it to Mexico, but may journey as far as Florida, where they will spend the cooler months.

Four eggs on one leaf!

Please join us for a free live premiere of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Shalin Liu on Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm. I hope to see you there! Masks are required to be worn at all times while in the hall.For more information go here.

HELLO MONARCH ACTU 676! – WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A TAGGED MONARCH

Good morning Butterfly Friends!

I hope you were able to get out and enjoy the glorious weather this past weekend! We dropped off our daughter Liv at Logan on Saturday. It was a dream having her home during this broken leg period and I am so grateful for her kind and loving care. We’ll all miss her terribly but her work and beautiful California call and we understand.

I graduated from the giant boot to the mini boot several weeks ago and am now doing well hopping around with only one crutch, which means, joyfully so, I can carry my cameras with my free arm! While out in marshes over the weekend I photographed a living tagged butterfly. I don’t usually see living tagged butterflies, only dead ones. Unfortunately, in the past, I have been in a field after a bunch of children ran unsupervised in catching and tagging butterflies, without proper training. Many were killed and/or mangled. Fortunately, male Monarch ACTU 676 appeared just fine and was flying well.

Only a small fraction of the butterflies tagged are actually recovered at their wintering grounds in the volcanic mountains of Mexico. Some are spotted near to where they were tagged, some along the migratory route, and the ones recovered and recorded in Mexico provide a meaningful connection between the tagger and the recoverer.

If you find a tagged Monarch, alive or dead, please go to the official online tagging form provided by Monarch Watch. You can find the 2020 -2021 form here and it looks like this screenshot –
As you can see, it’s a basic form and there is a link provided to add a photo. By submitting your sighting, you as a citizen scientist are participating in a long term study, first developed by Monarch Watch in 1992.

Please join us Thursday, September 23rd at 7pm for the world Live Premiere of Beauty on the Wing at the Shalin Liu, presented by the Boston Film Festival and Rockport Music. For more information, please go here.

Happy Butterfly Days,

xxKim

A MINI- GLOSSARY OF LATE SUMMER BUTTERFLIES

A gallery of some of the butterflies most commonly seen during the Monarch’s southward migration.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) – wingspan 1.6 inches -2.9 inches

American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) – wingspan 1.75 – 2.40 inches

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) – wingspan 2.75 – 3 inches

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) – wingspan 1.5 to 2.75 inches 

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) – wingspan 3 to 4 inches 

Small White /Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) – wingspan 1.3 – 1.9 inches

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) – wingspan 1.25 – 2 inches

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme) -wingspan 1.3 – 2.3

Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) – wingspan 3 – 4 inches

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) – wingspan 3.1 to 5.5 inches

American Copper (Lycaena phleas) – wingspan .75 to 1.5 inches 

Silver-bordered Fritillary (Bolaria selene) – wingspan 1.25 – 2.25 inches

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) – wingspan 1 – 1.5 inches

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) – wingspan 2.25 – 4 inches

 

Beauty on the Wing Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly premiering locally on September 23rd at the Shalin Liu. For more information, please go here.

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 here: Over the Moon

To DONATE go here.

Thank you!

Pearl Crescent Male (left) and Female (right). You can tell the butterfly on the left is a male because males typically have black-tipped antennae clubs

 

THE BEST NEWS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING AND PLEASE SAVE THE DATE!

Good morning Butterfly Friends!

I hope so much you had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend. We on Cape Ann were treated to the magnificent Schooner Festival. The Schooner Festival committee, Maritime Gloucester, and the City of Gloucester create a magical last-weekend-of-the-season hurrah, all tied around the Schooner Fest, and each year more and more fun events and activities for the whole family are added.

I have fantastic news to share. As many of you know, all my in person film screenings and live film festival events were cancelled because of Covid. Beauty on the Wing has never been shown on the Big Screen. We have been accepted to the outstanding Boston Film Festival! Not only that, but Robin Dawson, the Executive Director of the Boston Film Festival, has created a wonderful event. We are going to have a live, free, in-person, fundraising, community screening and Q and A at the Shalin Liu!!!

Please save the date of September 23rd at 7pm. The film is 56 minutes long, followed by the Q and A. I think the standard for all Boston Film Festival live screenings will be masks and proof of vaccination required. Admission will be on a first come first serve basis I believe but will find out more about that. The Boston Film Festival, which runs September 23rd through September 27th is truly a stellar event and as soon as I know more about the lineup of films and full schedule, I will post that as well.

For my several new Butterfly Friends who are reading this, please go to kimsmithfilms.com or here and here to learn more about our ongoing fundraising efforts to bring Beauty on the Wing to PBS.

Monarch and Zinnia elegans

Common Green Darners on the move!

An added note of good news – with all the breeding Monarchs we have been seeing this summer, the butterflies are on the move and it appears as though we may have a strong migration. So many friends from around the Northeast are reporting many sightings and for we on Cape Ann, this is very early in the season. And from what we are observing empirically (not actual numbers counted) we are having a phenomenal dragonfly and darner migration, too.

Happy September Butterfly Days!

xoKim

With deep appreciation and gratitude for generous contributions to the following butterfly friends –

Lauren Mercadante, 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

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 here. Thank you!

TINY CHRYSALIS OF THE SMALL WHITE BUTTERFLY

The mystery of the tiny green caterpillar found on one of my Common Milkweed plants has been solved (I think). The caterpillar wasn’t eating milkweed, but looking for a safe place to become a chrysalis.

The caterpillar pupated overnight and I believe it is the chrysalis of the Cabbage White Butterfly, also known as the Small White Butterfly.

Small White chrysalis

In a week or so, we’ll know for sure when it emerges. I wonder what it has been eating in my garden because I don’t see any damage to foliage; so curious to know!

The Sulphurs ,Whites, and bees adore this lovely lavender purple aster that blooms in my garden non-stop for nearly two months. Unfortunately, I can’t share the the specific species name because this beautiful wildflower is a happy volunteer. From where it came, I know not. Over the past several years the clump has grown larger and larger, is in a place I’d rather plant something else but because it is so attractive to so many butterflies and bees, I’ll  let it have its way.

PETAL DANCERS

Your daily Monarch photo-Monarch and Black-eyed Susans

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 here.  For the latest update with PBS, please go here: Over the Moon. Thank you!

BEAUTIFUL LEMONY BUTTER BUTTERFLIES

Later in the day the light is so beautiful in gardens. It’s not necessarily the best time of day for capturing winged wonders in flight, but the gossamer wings of white and yellow butterflies, the family Pieridae, look especially silky and diaphanous in the oblique light of late afternoon.

Clouded Sulphur and Zinnia elegant

Cabbage Whites are the earliest butterfly to appear in spring and one of the last sighted in fall. They are easy to ID, although some female Clouded Sulphurs and Orange Sulphurs have a white form and the Checkered Whites are very similar, yet less common around these parts.

Cabbage White

We see far more Clouded Sulphurs than Orange and Cloudless Sulphurs on Cape Ann. Cloudeds have a lovely pinked border and silver spot on the the ventral side of their hindwings. You can tell the male from the female because when the wings are open, the male has a black border on its wing margins (as you can see in the photo below); the female’s black border is spotted with yellow and not as pronounced.

Clouded Sulphur caterpillars eat clover, alfalfa, and legumes. The photo is possibly a caterpillar of the Pieridae family, or it could be a Skipper caterpillar.

Mystery caterpillar

 

MONARCHS (AND OTHER BUTTS) IN THE JOE-PYE!

Why do we plant Joe-pye Weed? Especially a plant with a common name that ends in Weed?

Because it is beloved by every pollinator in the hood!

Let me count the Ways – a nectar plant for Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Painted Ladies, American Ladies, Monarchs, all manner of bees, and many more beneficial insects!

Joe-pye Weed is a native wildflower and wonderfully easy to grow. It does best in full sun, but will tolerate some shade and the blooms last longer in part shade. The plant does prefer average to moist soil, but if planted in dryer conditions, provide shade and water.

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 here.  For the latest update with PBS, please go here: Over the Moon. Thank you!

OVER THE MOON!

Dear Monarch Friends,

I hope so much everyone is doing well. For Cape Ann, tropical storm Henri brought lots of rain but south of us, some of you were hard hit. I hope your homes and businesses weren’t damaged. It’s been a strange summer in more ways than one. The upside to having a broken leg has been spending more time with my family, as well as all the beautiful pollinators in our little garden, both of which give such joy so no complaints here 🙂

The results of American Public Television’s Summer offer to Public Television Stations across the country were tallied. We are simply over the Moon with the results. Beauty on the Wing had one of the highest ratings ever. The documentary is going to be shown in 9 out of 10 of the nation’s major markets and 23 out of the top 25.  What does this mean exactly? 267 PBS stations voted YES, 44 stations voted MAYBE, and only 15 stations voted NO. The YES votes cover 88.5 percent of American homes, and the MAYBES and NOS may still change their minds! Beauty is going to be airing from New York to Los Angeles (the two top markets) and everywhere in between! This is wonderful for Monarchs, for our community, for New England, and for pollinator habitats everywhere!

Everyone who receives these updates has generously contributed to Beauty on the Wing and/or supported the film in some manner or another. Please Generous Contributors, I am not asking for further monetary contributions. I am already overwhelmed by your kind generosity and support. What I am hoping you may be able to help with is to think about worthy organizations, businesses, or foundations that you are affiliated with or know about that would be interested in becoming an underwriter.

When you view a show on PBS and the announcer says, this show was brought to you by the following …, these people and organizations are underwriters. Each and every time that Beauty on the Wing airs, underwriters will be promoted at both the beginning and end of the program. Becoming an underwriter for Beauty on the Wing is a wonderful way to let people know about a business, foundation, or organization, on a national platform. We have a very positive letter from APT to share with possible underwriters. So please think about all this and email me if you have any suggestions. I am happy to provide the station results from American Public Television, along with APT’s Underwriting Guidelines.

On another positive note, we are having a truly phenomenal year for Monarchs, not just on Cape Ann, but in regions throughout the butterfly’s northern breeding grounds. These population spikes seem to happen about every ten years or so. The last time Cape Ann was blessed with so many Monarchs was in 2012. Let’s keep our hopes up that the current beauties cavorting in our gardens, meadows, and dunes will make it all the way to Mexico and we’ll see an improvement in population counts at the butterfly’s wintering grounds in Cerro Pelon and El Rosario.

Happy August Butterfly Days!

xoKim

With heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the following for their generous support in helping to bring Beauty on the Wing to public television – 

Lauren Mercadante, Jonathan and Sally Golding, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Joeann Hart and Gordon Baird, 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, Alessandra Borges (Rhode Island), Jan Waldman (Swampscott), Carolyn Constable (Pennsylvania), Nancy Mattern (New Mexico), Ian Gardiner, Judy Arisman, Tom Schaefer, Margaret Thompson

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 here. Thank you!

From APT – “Congratulations! This is a wonderful response to this beautiful, well produced and educational nature program. The stunning scenery from the coast of New England to the heart of Mexico makes it an excellent program for children as well as nature lovers of all ages. This voting clearly shows that program managers across the country are confident that Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly will resonate with their viewing audiences.”

YES and MAYBES in the Top 25 Markets

  • WNET in New York #1
  • KOCE/KCET in Los Angeles #2
  • WTTW in Chicago #3
  • WHYY in Philadelphia #4
  • KQED in San Francisco #6
  • Georgia Public Broadcasting #7
  • KUHT in Houston #8
  • WETA in Washington, DC #9
  • KAET in Phoenix #11
  • KCTS in Seattle #12
  • WEDU in Tampa #13
  • WTVS in Detroit #15
  • KRMA in Denver #16
  • WUCF in Orlando #17
  • WPBT in Miami #18
  • WVIZ in Cleveland #19
  • KVIE in Sacramento #20
  • Oregon Public Broadcasting #21
  • WTVI in Charlotte #22
  • KETC in St. Louis #23

MAYBE

  • UNC-TV #24
  • WFYI in Indianapolis #25

MORE MONARCH BABES ON THE WAY!

More teenies found in the garden!  I thought we had seen the last Monarch eggs but while cutting milkweed in the garden for the larger caterpillars, we found four more!  I can’t recall when was the last time I saw this many Monarchs in our garden and in meadows.

For your daily Monarch photo, today we have a range of Monarchs in our garden in different stages, from minuscule first instars to J-shapes readying to pupate to an old worn out boy winding down.

1st Instar

3rd Instar

J-shape readying to pupate

Chrysalis

Newly emerged zipping together proboscis

Female newly emerged drying wet wings and readying for take off

An old boy – note his tattered and fading wings

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 here. Thank you!

 

 

Wonderful press for “Beauty on the Wing” from Pennsylvania! From the Ground Up: Preserving beauty on the wing

From the Ground Up: Preserving beauty on the wing

I want to share with you an email that I received in response to my column last week in which I reviewed a new book, by Sara Dykman, titled “Bicycling with Butterflies.” (2021, Timber Press)

The reader wrote:

“I read your article today about monarchs. My wife and I recently saw a film created over a several year period by Kim Smith. It has won many awards as listed on her website. It was sponsored by local environmental groups and others for a local showing via Zoom. I thought I knew everything about the monarch, but her video of the life cycle was amazing, with incredible detail.” (The film is tentatively scheduled to air on PBS in February 2022.)

I clicked on the website link provided (see below), and discovered that it contains a short, free video designed for children, titled, “The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch.” The detail of the close-ups of the various stages of the monarch’s life-cycle is captivating, and a young child featured in the video demonstrates how easy it is to make a monarch habitat to be able to observe and help restore the number of monarchs in the wild. The message is that anyone can raise monarchs, even pre-schoolers.

As I mentioned in my previous column, helping monarchs is really as simple as planting monarch-sustaining milkweed plants, along with other native, nectar plants. Milkweed is the only plant that monarchs feed on. There are many species, and it’s important to plant the ones suited to this area. The best ones for the Delaware Valley are Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), and Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Swamp Milkweed has lavender-pink flowers and a lovely evening fragrance. It can grow fairly large, and works well in a stand-alone planting bed or in a naturalized border. With its bright orange or yellow flowers and more refined habit, Butterfly Weed is a knockout in any flower bed or container.

Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

A monarch “habitat” only really needs to comes into play if you want to go the next step — and if you want to get up close to nature. All that is required — in addition to some care and curiosity — is a large aquarium with a screen cover, some cheesecloth, a glass jar with a lid (make holes in the lid), and water. When you find monarch caterpillars on your milkweed, cut the stem they are on, and place it through the holes in the jar lid, so that the stem is in the water. Cover the aquarium with the cheesecloth and then the screen. Caterpillars can eat a huge amount for their size, so be prepared to add/replace milkweed stems as needed.

In his email, the reader also explained that donations are needed to enable Kim Smith’s film, “Beauty on the Wing,” to appear on PBS:

“[The film] has been accepted by PBS, but requires a fee for distribution to get it shown. She has a link for donations to reach the amount she needs. It is tentatively scheduled for February 2022. The web-site explains how to donate to get it on PBS. I recommend this highly and thought you might like to keep an eye out for it when hopefully it will appear on PBS. (https://monarchbutterflyfilm.com/)”

Last week, I discovered that monarchs are at risk not just from habitat loss in their breeding and over-wintering grounds, both here and in Mexico. The larvae are vulnerable to predation by stink bugs, both the nymphs and the adults. Sadly, we discovered this just last week in our own garden, with two of four monarch caterpillars killed by stink bugs. More incentive to “adopt” at least some of the monarch caterpillars, to keep them safe from these predators. I’ve done this with black swallowtails, and it’s a fascinating process.

Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to pamelacbaxter@gmail.com, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Share your gardening stories on Facebook at “Chester County Roots.” Pam’s book for children and families, Big Life Lessons from Nature’s Little Secrets, is available on Amazon.

HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MALE AND FEMALE TIGER SWALLOWTAIL

Tigers on the prowl in our garden!

It’s very easy to see the difference between a male and female Tiger Swallowtail.

The female Tiger Swallowtail’s tail end of her lower wings are more vividly colored, with strongly pronounced cells of orange and a greater degree of iridescent blue.

Female Tiger Swallowtail drinking nectar from Phlox

Male Tiger Swallowtail. Note the very dark border along the tail end of the male TS lower wings, with very little blue iridescent scales

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail utilizes a large variety of host plants, mostly trees, such as wild black cherry, tulip tree, sweet bay (magnolia), cottonwood, ash, birch, and willow.

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 here. Thank you!

 

 

PRECIOUS GEMS IN THE GARDEN!

Gems more precious than jade.

The pupating Monarch caterpillar spins a fine mat of silky threads, to which the little black post, called the cremaster, attaches during pupation. Thirty or so of these jade-like pendants are in the garden and readying to emerge.   

Twins!

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TINY CATERPILLAR MOLTING

Did you ever wonder how a caterpillar fits into its new suit after shedding the old? The caterpillar in the photo has just shed its skin, or molted, and you can see its discarded and shriveled skin.

After molting, the caterpillar rests quietly for a bit, sucking in great deal of air, which expands the new suit. After molting and resting, the caterpillar eats its old skin.

The caterpillar feeds and feeds, expanding and growing into its baggy suit until it again feels a sense of tightening and will molt again.

Caterpillars molt four to five times and each stage is called an instar, for example, 1st instar, 2nd instar, 3rd instar, etc.

I haven’t seen a female depositing eggs for a week or so. Perhaps this is our last batch of caterpillars and these will grow to become the Super Monarchs, the Monarchs that journey to Mexico.

Last of the teeny tinies?

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MONARCH FLOWER BUD BABIES

The Mama Monarch of these three early instar caterpillars deposited her eggs on the buds of Common Milkweed. I see this behavior often, not as much as on the leaves, but often enough.

The three hatched and stayed foraging on the flowers, where they were well camouflaged in their early instar paler colors. By the third molt, they had all three moved off the blossoms and were foraging on foliage.

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MONARCHS EMERGING AT BREAKFAST

Last weekend watching the Monarchs emerge at breakfast – I think Charlotte loves butterflies nearly as much as do I <3

 

CATS IN THE GARDEN, MONARCH CATS THAT IS!

Milkweeds, as most know, are the host plant for Monarch Butterflies. A host plant is another way of saying caterpillar food plant.

Monarchs deposit eggs on milkweed plants. Some milkweeds are more productive than other species. For the Northeast region, the most productive milkweed is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). The second most productive is Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), also known as Swamp Milkweed.

What is meant by productive? When given a choice, the females choose these plants over other species of milkweed and the caterpillars have the greatest success rate. In our own butterfly garden and at at my client’s habitat gardens, I grow both Common and Marsh side-by-side. The females flit from one plant to the next, freely depositing eggs on both species.

Monarch caterpillar readying to pupate (become a chrysalis) and hanging in a J-shape

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With thanks and gratitude to our growing list of wonderful folks for their kind contributions

Lauren Mercadante, Jonathan and Sally Golding, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), JoeAnn Hart and Gordon Baird, 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), Alessandra Borges (Rhode Island), Nancy Mattern (New Mexico), Carolyn Constable (Pennsylvania), and Ian Gardiner.