Category Archives: Lepidoptera ~ Butterflies, Skippers, and Moths

LINK TO WCVB CHRONICLE PIPING PLOVER AND MONARCH EPISODE! #ploverjoyed #sharetheshore #plantandtheywillcome

New England residents and nonprofits work to save threatened species

https://www.wcvb.com/article/new-england-residents-and-nonprofits-work-to-save-threatened-species/41915984

Climate concerns growing for the future of many migratory species.

We travel all over coastal Massachusetts to learn about a few local “indicator species,” which can help explain the impact of climate change. Award-winning documentarian Kim Smith tells us the story of piping plovers breeding in Massachusetts.

The City of Cambridge raises monarch butterflies for release.

Every year, hundreds of sea turtles are stranded on the Cape. The New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital comes to the rescue.

Meanwhile, terrapin turtles on the Cape are struggling to survive.

In Plymouth at Manomet, researchers monitor coastal health, tag songbirds, and study the presence of a mighty migratory shorebird – the whimbrel.

And scientists at Nature and students at Bristol Aggie examine the health of river herring in the Taunton River watershed.

BEAUTY ON THE WING WINS BEST DOCUMENTARY!

Dear Monarch Friends,

I am delighted (and very surprised) to share that Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly has won Best Documentary at the San Diego International Children’s Film Festival. I write surprised as there were many beautiful films from around the world participating in the festival, and also because I wasn’t even aware we had been nominated for the award. My sincerest thanks and gratitude to SDIKFF!

Yesterday there were a number of Monarchs out on Eastern Point nectaring at wildflowers and in my garden. It was magical that we learned of the award on the same day as seeing these stragglers. We were celebrating Dia de Muertos here on Plum Street, and on this very same day, November 2nd, Monarchs were spotted arriving at Cerro Pelon and El Rosario Monarch Butterfly sanctuaries. Joel Moreno and his family at Cerro Pelon JM Butterfly BandB spotted the Monarchs traveling high in the sky in the upper thermals while my friend David Hernandez reports that at El Rosario, they are flying low on the mountain.

The wings of the butterfly in the upper photo appear as though they have been snipped by birds while the butterfly’s wings in the second photo are pristine.

Will the stragglers that we see at this time of year be able to travel the roughly 3,000 mile journey all the way to Mexico? I don’t know the answer to that question but we can make a guess that if a butterfly looks weather worn, with torn and tattered wings, it is unlikely that it will be able to complete the journey. On the other hand, some of these late Monarchs that we are seeing look as though they just eclosed (hatched) hours earlier. Their wings are a vibrant orange and black and are completely unscathed. Some butterflies will be funneled between the Appalachian and Great Rockies while others are destined to follow the Atlantic coastline, traveling towards Florida and the Gulf of Mexico states.Safe travels Monarca, wherever you land!

I hope you are able to get out and enjoy this extraordinarily lovely stretch of balmy weather we are having.

Warmest wishes,

xxKim

 

 

 

CELEBRATING DAY OF THE DEAD

Inspired by my friend Nina’s beautiful altar that she and her family and friends create every year for the feast of St. Joseph, for the past seven years or so we have been celebrating Día de Muertos with an ofrenda that we set up on our front porch. Placing the ofrenda on the porch over Halloween makes for a wonderful hybrid bridge between American Halloween and the Mexican tradition of honoring the souls of lost loved ones. On Halloween night our porch has become a gathering place where we so very much look forward to seeing our neighborhood friends each year.

Cemetery Macheros, Mexico

The Mexican festivities of Día de Muertos typically begins the night of October 31st, with families sitting vigil at grave sites. Mexican tradition holds that on November 1st and 2nd, the dead awaken to reconnect and celebrate with their living family and friends; on the 1st to honor the souls of children and on the 2nd, to honor adults. The ofrenda, or “offering to the dead,” is a sacred Mexican tradition where those who have passed away are honored by the living.

In late October millions of Monarchs begin to arrive to the magnificent oyamel fir and pine tree forests of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, located in the heart of Mexico in the eastern regions of Michoacán and western edge of Estado de México. Their return coincides with the annual celebration of Día de Muertos. In Mexican folklore, butterflies represent the souls of departed loved ones, returning to Earth to be remembered by their ancestors. An even older tradition connects the Monarchs with the corn harvest, as their return signified that the corn was ripe. In the language of the native Purpécha Indians, the name for the Monarch is “harvester.”

Oyamel fir tree (Abies religiosa) with Monarchs Cerro Pelon, Mexico

The Day of the Dead finds its roots in the native people of central and southern Mexico. The Aztecs recognized many gods, including a goddess of death and the underworld named Mictecacihuatl.

Mictecacihuatl was linked to both death and resurrection. According to one myth, Mictecacihuatl and her husband collected bones so that they might be returned to the land of the living and restored by the gods. Just as did the ancient Egyptians, the Aztecs appeased the underworld gods by burying their dead with food and precious objects.

Día de Muertos is a celebration blending both indigenous people’s cultural beliefs and observances held by Spanish Catholics. The conquerors found it difficult to convince native peoples to give up their rituals honoring the goddess of death Mictecihuatl. The compromise was to move these indigenous festivities from late July to early November to correspond with the three-day Christian observance of All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

This year I have been thinking about Camille Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre, Op. 40, which is based on the French legend that Death packs a fiddle and comes to play at midnight on Halloween, causing the skeletons in the cemetery to crawl out of the ground for their annual graveyard dance party.

Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre comes from an even older concept, the medieval allegory of the all conquering and equalizing power of death, which was expressed in poetry, music, the visual arts, and drama in Western Europe in the late Middle Ages.

Marigold flowers (Tagetes erecta), known as cempazúchitl or flor de muerto are placed on graves and ofrendas. The cempazúchitl are believed to lure souls back from the dead with their vibrant colors and lovely citrus, musky fragrance

Marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) and Painted Lady butterfly

 

WHY NILES POND IS VITALLY IMPORTANT TO CAPE ANN’S ECOSYSTEM AND WHAT IS BEING DONE TO PROTECT THE CAUSEWAY

Repair work to the Niles Pond/Brace Cove berm was completed last week. Severe storms over the past several years had breached the area of the Pond adjacent to the Retreat House. Sand, rocks, popples, and even boulders have been pushed by the pounding surf into the Pond.

Despite the excellent repairs, this corner of Niles Pond continues to remain vulnerable. The causeway needs not only to be repaired, but to also be rebuilt to withstand future storms and rising sea level.

Why not just let nature take its course and let the sea pour in you may ask? Won’t Niles Pond eventually become a saltwater marsh? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

The answer is a resounding NO!

For readers not familiar, the very narrow strip of land that runs between freshwater Niles Pond and Brace Cove is interchangeably referred to as a berm or causeway. This narrowest bridge of land plays an outsized, yet invaluable, role in preventing the salty sea of the Atlantic from swallowing Niles Pond.

It is believed that long ago Niles Pond was a lagoon, which was sealed off by rising sand and rock. Over time, it became a freshwater pond, fed by springs and rainfall. The detail of the Mason map from 1831 clearly shows the division between the Pond and the Cove.

It can’t be overstated enough how uniquely invaluable is the ecosystem created by the causeway, this juncture where Niles Pond meets Brace Cove. Ponds are widely regarded as ecological “hotspots,” for the diversity of life they support. Nowhere is that more evident than at Niles Pond. The sheer number of species of wildlife supported by Niles Pond is simply breathtaking. To name but a few: Painted Turtles, Snapping Turtles, Spring Peepers, American Bullfrogs, Leopard Frogs, Muskrats, Minks, Red Squirrels, Green Herons, Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, Screech Owls and Barred Owls, Cedar Waxwings and songbirds of every tune and color, Honeybees and native pollinators, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Coyotes, Red Fox, White-tailed Deer … the list goes on and on.

Common Buckeye drinking nectar from Seaside Goldenrod, Niles Pond causeway

The Niles Pond ecosystem not only supports myriad species of resident wildlife but also hundreds of species of migrating songbirds, waterbirds, raptors, and insects. Eastern Point is an important stopover and staging area for wildlife traveling the Atlantic flyway. Niles Pond provides essential freshwater while both the Pond and Brace Cove provide much needed sustenance. Berries, wildflower seeds, pond vegetation, and the zillions of invertebrates found at the Pond, in the seaweed, and at the shoreline support a wondrous array of travelers; a small sampling includes herons, Merlins, hawks, songbirds, Monarch butterflies, Bald Eagles, gulls and ducks and geese (rare and common), Snow Buntings, Plovers, Whimbrels, and many more.

Monarch Butterfly drinking nectar Smooth Asters Niles Pond

Juvenile Wood Stork

Why, even the wildly-rare-for-these-parts White Pelican and juvenile Wood Stork have stopped at Niles Pond to rest and to refuel!

To lose Niles Pond to some misguided notion that it needs to become a saltwater marsh would be tragic beyond measure. Our nation as a whole is losing its freshwater ponds at an alarming rate. Ponds are absolutely critical to the survival of local and migrating wildlife, especially large scale, healthy natural ponds that are located within the four US Flyway zones. Niles Pond has been a great pond for millennia. The accessibility of the fresh water ecosystem found at Niles Pond is part of the instinctual DNA of both resident and migrating wild creatures.

The Association of Eastern Point Residents has assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the causeway. In the future, the Association needs permission to bring riprap in to distribute at the weakest points of the causeway. Every time the topography of the causeway is redistributed to rebuild the corner where the greatest number of breaches are occurring, the vegetation from another part of the berm is disturbed. This is wholly counterproductive because it is in part preventing a natural succession of vegetation to permanently take hold.

Migrating yellow-rumped Warbler Niles Pond

Niles Pond is enjoyed by dog lovers, ice skaters, ice boat sailors, birders, painters, photographers, joggers, walkers, and more. We can all give thanks to the Association of Eastern Point Residents for the stellar job they are doing in maintaining the causeway. Their time and expense is a gift of the greatest kind to the entire community.

This narrowest of causeways plays the critical role in preventing a freshwater dedicated Massachusetts great pond from becoming a salty marsh or lagoon. Cherished greatly by residents and guests alike for the beautiful, peaceful walk it affords along the banks of the Pond, the preservation of Niles Pond benefits all of Cape Ann, her citizens and wildlife. 

With thanks to Karen Gorczyca, John McNiff, and Mike S. for sharing information about preserving the Niles Pond causeway.

American Bullfrog Niles Pond

Cattails Niles Pond

 

BEAUTIFUL BUCKEYES!

A truly glorious weekend weather-wise with warm sun, mild temperatures, beautiful sunrises and sunsets. There are still loads of butterflies on the wing. Saturday was a five species afternoon, not an everyday occurrence in mid-October on Cape Ann. Monarchs were on the move, along with American Ladies, Clouded Sulphurs, Orange Sulphurs, and one of my favorites, the wholly uncommon, Common Buckeye. The gloriously patterned 3 pairs of eyespots of the Common Buckeye are meant to frighten avian predators, a scary six-eyed monster if you will, but we humans find them enchanting.

Each summer Common Buckeyes emigrate to New England from southern states. Some years we see many more than others. It’s always a delight to come upon one and I typically find them at the edge of a marsh nectaring at Seaside Goldenrod or basking in the sun on a sandy path.

Underwing (ventral) view of Common Buckeye

To see a photo collection and short film of some of October’s most commonly seen butterflies go here –

A MINI- GLOSSARY OF LATE SUMMER BUTTERFLIES

Buckeyes begin around 2:40

Common Buckeye Larval Host Plants

Female Common Buckeyes deposit their eggs on a variety of plants, both native and non-native.

Caterpillar food plants from Mass Audubon –

Many documented. In the Northeast, larvae usually feed on “members of the snapdragon family (and) plantain family” (Opler and Krizek, 1984), including Blue Toadflax (Linaria canadensis); False Foxglove and gerardias (Gerardia, species), plantains (Plantago, sp.), and Snapdragon (Antirrhinum). Buckeye larvae have been observed in Massachusetts on Butter and eggs (Linaria vulgaris) and Slender Gerardia (Gerardia tenuifolia)

And from The Butterflies of Massachusetts

Today, lacking such an abundance of gerardia, Common Buckeye’s most usual host plant in Massachusetts may be Plantago lanceolata, or lance-leaved plantain, a widespread non-native weed introduced with the arrival of European settlers.  The 1990-95 Connecticut Atlas workers observed Buckeye ovipositing on lance-leaved plantain in the wild, and the caterpillars have been successfully raised on it many times, for example by caterpillar photographer Sam Jaffe in July 2011.  Buckeyes have been observed in the wild ovipositing on the native purslane speedwell (Veronica peregrina) (S. Jaffe 6/21/2011), and on the non-native butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris) (M. Champagne 7/14/2008).  They are also reported to use blue toadflax (Linaria canadensis), slender gerardia (Agalinis tenuifolia), and sometimes non-native garden snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) (Scott 1986).

Common Buckeye and Painted Lady

LEAVES OF THREE, LET IT BE

In thinking about our community’s efforts to Save Salt Island from deforestation and development, I wanted to share evidence that the vines and shrubs on the island are an important source of food for a host of small mammals and birds.

One of the most reviled of plants, Poison Ivy, is an excellent food plant for wildlife and will not cause the itchy uncomfortable rash if you do not touch the leaves, stems, fruits, and roots. Poison Ivy can either look like a shrub or a vine. Regardless of the shape, the leaves are easily identifiable in that they are always arranged in three; two leaves opposite one another, and between them the third leaf is borne on a stem growing at a right angle from the two shorter leaves.

Common Bonnet Fungi and Poison Ivy

Out on Eastern Point there are large patches of Poison Ivy that grow smack on the edge of very well traveled pathways. They have grown that way for decades, yet no one bothers the Poison Ivy and the Poison Ivy bothers no one. The spring blooming greenish yellow clusters of flowers are beloved by bees and myriad pollinators, while the vitamin rich white waxy berries are relished by resident and migrating songbirds alike.

In autumn, the plant’s glossy green leaves turn a brilliant red, which acts as a “red flag” to hungry songbirds. The long list of birds that dine on Poison Ivy fruits include Yellow-rumped Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds, Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Mockingbirds, Song Sparrows, Gray Catbirds, Bobwhites, and many, many more.

Poison Ivy Tips – If you come in contact, rinse the area with cold water, not soap, as soon after contact as possible. Ocean water works well when near to the beach. If you have Jewelweed growing handily nearby, smear the juice of the stem on the exposed skin. Never burn Poison Ivy. With burning,  urushiol (the poisonous oil in Poison Ivy) becomes volatilized in the smoke and you can get it in your lungs, which is very dangerous and can even lead to death.

Yellow-rumped Warbler and Poison Ivy

RESPLENDENT MONARCH MIGRATION

 

Dear Monarch Friends,

This new short, titled Resplendent Monarch Migration, features Monarchs during the late summer southward migration. Also highlighted are some of the more commonly seen butterflies of late summer, including the American Lady, the spectacular Common Buckeye (2:53), Pearl Crescent, Yellow Sulphur, and American Copper. The flora seen includes New England Asters, Seaside Goldenrod, Tall Goldenrod, Smooth Aster (pale lavender), and Common Milkweed. When you plant for the butterflies, they will come!

At 3:30 you can see a small overnight roost beginning to form. As the sun sets, particularly on chilly or windy evenings, Monarchs head for the trees. One by one they fly in, some settling quickly, others restless and shifting to a more preferable spot. By nightfall, all are tucked into the sheltering boughs of the Black Cherry tree. (4:15).

With the warming rays of Sun’s first light, the Monarchs begin to awaken (4:20). If it’s cold and windy they”ll stay a bit longer but typically, the butterflies either float down to the wildflowers in the marsh below, or in the case of this particular roost at Eastern Point, the Monarchs wasted no time and quickly departed. They flew directly south towards Boston by first traveling along the length of the Dogbar Breakwater before heading out to sea (4:30).

It took patience (and a lot of luck) to capture the butterfly heading up into the clouds (5:44). I wanted to share the imagery of the scale of a tiny speck of a creature juxtaposed against the vastness of sea and sky. Imagine, a butterfly that weighs less than a paper clip, journeys 2500 miles to the trans Mexican volcanic mountaintops.

Safe travels oh resilient one!

I have received a number of requests for Monarch footage. I cannot lend the footage from my documentary, Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, currently airing on PBS however, this past summer, I spent time shooting butterflies in my garden, butterflies in pollinator gardens that I have designed for clients, and at our local marshes and meadows. All the footage was shot in beautiful 4k, which is what organizations are requesting.

Several weeks ago I posted Monarchs and Friends in the Summer Garden and you can see that here. This short features butterflies you may typically see in mid-summer drinking nectar alongside Monarchs.

Cast, in order of appearance:

Monarch Butterfly

Hoverfly

Clouded Sulphur

Autumn Meadowhawk Dragonfly

American Copper

American Lady

Pearl Crescent

Common Buckeye

 

 

 

GOOD MORNING MONARCHS! – CAPE ANN MONARCH MIGRATION UPDATE

Monarchs awakening in the morning sun

Compared to year’s past, the 2022 fall southward migration has been a relatively quiet year (so far) for Monarchs traveling through Cape Ann. That is not to say we won’t see another batch or two coming through, but for the most part, we did not have the spectacular roosts that we have seen in some year’s past. We had many travelers flying through during the month of September, but the conditions were favorable and they kept moving along at a steady pace.

I found several roosts in late September. On one evening, the wind was blowing hard from the northwest and the Monarchs were clustered tightly on the east facing side of the tree, to get out of the wind. I didn’t notice the silhouette of Monarch arcs until twilight and counted a dozen or so Monarch arcs.

The golden morning sun revealed several hundred butterflies! It was a joy to see them stirring and fluttering in the dawn light.

Upon awakening, the butterflies didn’t spend any time drinking nectar from the wildflower meadow below as they often do, but headed straight out over the Dogbar Breakwater.

Although Cape Ann has not seen many large roosts this season, two Monarch staging areas, Cape May, New Jersey and Point Pelee, Ontario are both having spectacular migrations!! Monarchs gather at  the Point Pelee peninsula before crossing over Lake Erie into Ohio. Likewise, the butterflies stage at Cape May before crossing the Delaware Bay. The butterflies wait for favorable winds to help carry them across bodies of water.

Point Pelee

Cape May (red star)

WILD MUSTANG BEAUTY, MONARCH MIGRATION, AND HIP HOP!

Dear Friends,

While I began writing this note yesterday morning and was looking out my office window, there were Monarchs drinking nectar from the Zinnias in the front flower border and Monarchs nectaring at the New England Asters around back. The migration is underway, with small assemblages here and there. I’m keeping my hopes up that we will see a greater influx in the coming days. And hopefully, too, the drought has not too badly harmed the Monarchs as there seems to have been enough moisture in the air that native wildflowers such as goldenrods and asters are blooming.

It was a good year for many species of butterflies in our garden. Here is a short video set to Camile Saint-Saens “Carnival of the Animals,” organized for a request for footage by a news organization:Monarchs and Friends in the Summer Garden #plantforthepollinators

On another note, the Shalin Liu and the Boston Film Festival are screening a new film titled Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West on Friday evening. This screening is free and open to the public. Here is a link to the trailer: Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the WestThe footage of the wild horses looks stunning. The film documents that wild horses are disappearing. You can find more information on my website here, too much for an email.

Our sweet little Hip Hop has not been seen for several days (as of this writing), but as Piping Plover Ambassador Deb writes, he has a Houdini-like way of disappearing and reappearing. Hopefully, he has departed. I am not sure if I sent this along to you – Ethan Forman from the GTimes wrote a fantastic article about our GHB Plovers. You can find the story here: Best Year Ever for Plovers at Good Harbor Beach.

I was so happy to read in the Gloucester Times that Mayor Verga’s new beach reservation system is a success, not only for the City, but because an interesting outcome is that I think the reservation system also helped the PiPls. Folks with reservations weren’t desperate to get to the beach by 7am and took their time arriving. The net result was that the wildlife that finds shelter and sustenance on the beach was less disturbed and could forage in relative peace. The new system appears to be a win for all!

In the sixties with mostly sunny skies this weekend. There are many creatures migrating along the coast and through New England currently. I believe I saw a pair of American Golden Plovers but haven’t had time to check my footage to verify 100 percent. I hope you have a chance to get out and enjoy the predicted beautiful weather and see some wildlife.

Warmest wishes,

Kim

Charlotte’s first day of kindergarten with a newly emerged Monarch to send her off – her idea to accessorize 🙂

GUIDELINES ON HOW TO RESPONSIBLY RAISE MONARCHS

The first guideline in becoming an excellent citizen scientist is to do no harm while trying to do good. Considering the spiraling downward numbers of the Monarch Butterfly population, this basic tenet has never rang more true.

A number of friends have written in the past month with questions about captive rearing butterflies and the new listing of the Monarch as an endangered species by the IUCN (International  Union for the Conservation of Nature) and by the state of California. The ruling by the IUCN, which is an organization based in Gland, Switzerland, has no legal bearing on rearing Monarchs however, that is not the case with the California ruling.

In June, a California court ruling opened the door for the protection of insects as endangered species, which now includes the Monarch Butterfly. It is unlawful to take possession of live monarchs, breed and rear them in captivity, and conduct other interventions including covering eggs, larvae, and adult butterflies with nets, and transporting Monarchs to different locations. Canada and Mexico also restrict Monarch handling.

The ruling is understandable. There are folks who are rearing Monarchs by the hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands in wholly unsatisfactory conditions, ignoring safe and sanitary protocols.

As goes California, so goes the rest of the nation. I am deeply saddened that it won’t be long before we in the rest of the country will also no longer be able to rear Monarchs, even on the most modest scale.

READ MORE HERE

Monarch Chrysalis ready to eclose – native garden  phlox (Phlox paniculata)

One of the strongest reasons for not rearing hundreds (or more) Monarchs in close quarters is the spread of the highly contagious parasite OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha).

“Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) is a debilitating protozoan parasite that infects Monarchs. Infected adult Monarchs harbor thousands or millions of microscopic OE spores on the outside of their bodies. When dormant spores are scattered onto eggs or milkweed leaves by infected adults, Monarch caterpillars consume the spores, and these parasites then replicate inside the larvae and pupae. Monarchs with severe OE infections can fail to emerge successfully from their pupal stage, either because they become stuck or they are too weak to fully expand their wings. Monarchs with mild OE infections can appear normal but live shorter lives and cannot fly was well as healthy Monarchs.” From Monarch Joint Venture

Simply put, the very best way to help Monarchs is to create pollinator habitats on whatever scale you can manage. Plant milkweeds native to your region, which provides food for the caterpillars.*  Plant native wildflowers such as New England Asters, Seaside Goldenrod, and Joe-pye, which provide sustenance to migrating Monarchs and a host of other pollinators. Plant annuals native to Mexico with simple, uncomplicated structures, such as single (not double) Zinnias,Cosmos, and Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia), which will bring the pollinators into the garden and provide sustenance throughout much of the growing season, while the pollinators are on the wing.

Plants such as daylilies, roses, and dahlias are eye candy for humans. Keep your candy to a minimum and know that they are just that, eye candy. They do not help pollinators in any way, shape, or form.

A Monarch in the wild flits from plant to plant and from leaf to leaf when looking for a suitable milkweed plant on which to deposit her eggs. She is carefully inspecting each leaf, first scratching the surface with her feet, the butterfly’s way of sensing taste. The female will typically deposit no more than one egg or possibly two eggs per leaf or bud. When you see an image of a large cluster of Monarch eggs, you can be sure the female was raised in close quarters in captivity and is desperate to deposit her eggs.

Recommendations from the Xerces Society:

How can I rear monarchs responsibly?

  1. Rear no more than ten Monarchs per year (whether by a single individual or family). This is the same number recommended in the original petition to list the monarch under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
  2. Collect immature Monarchs locally from the wild, heeding collection policies on public lands; never buy or ship monarchs.
  3. Raise Monarchs individually and keep rearing containers clean between individuals by using a 20% bleach solution to avoid spreading diseases or mold.
  4. Provide sufficient milkweed including adding fresh milkweed daily.
  5. Keep rearing containers out of direct sunlight and provide a moist (not wet) paper towel or sponge to provide sufficient, not excessive, moisture.
  6. Release Monarchs where they were collected and at appropriate times of year for your area.
  7. Check out Monarch Joint Venture’s newly updated handout, Rearing Monarchs: Why or Why Not?
  8. Participate in community science, including testing the Monarchs you raise for OE and tracking parasitism rates.

Monarch Butterfly newly emerged and expanding wings

Monarch newly emerged and sun drying wings

*Best milkweeds native to Cape Ann, in order of productivity: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), and Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

 

 

MONARCHS AND PIPING PLOVER INTERVIEW WITH HEATHER ATWOOD AND KIM SMITH AT 1623 STUDIOS!

Thank you Heather Atwood and 1623 Studios!

I so appreciate Heather taking the time to talk about Piping Plovers and Monarchs both. She asked tons of great questions and in a short period of time, we got in lots of information! Please see our interview below <3 !

For more about Hip Hop and the Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers, see here –

And, please join me Thursday, August 18th, at 10am at Essex’s T.O.H.P. Burnham Library for a free  all ages (5 plus) Monarch Butterfly event, The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch. To register, GO HERE

 

Monarch Butterfly and Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias vericillata)

CECROPIA MOTH LIFE CYCLE

One year in the life story of the giant Cecropia Moth, North America’s largest moth.

The first photo shows a pair of Cecropia Moths mating in late May. They completed their life cycle the following year, in early June.

Cecropia Moth Life Cycle -1) mating, 2) eggs, 3-7) developing instars, 8) spinning cocoon, 9 and 10) cocoon, 11) newly emerged, 12 and 13 closeups, 14) male Cecropia, 15) female Cecropia

SAVE THE DATE AND SELLING OUT – KIM SMITH MONARCH BUTTERFLY ALL AGES PROGRAM AT THE ESSEX BURNHAM LIBRARY

Please join me Thursday, August 18th, at 10am at Essex’s T.O.H.P. Burnham Library for an all ages (5 plus) Monarch Butterfly talk, The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch. To register, please GO HERE I hope to see you there!

Newly emerged Monarch and Asclepias tuberosa

BEE PART OF POLLINATOR WEEK!

HAPPY POLLINATOR WEEK!

We can all lend a hand helping pollinators. 

The three best practices –

1) Plant a habitat garden for bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds, and songbirds.

2) Keep your home and garden free from pesticides, herbicides, and rodenticides.

3) Support local farmers and beekeepers by purchasing locally produced food.

Please join me tonight at the Salem Regional Visitor Center for a free screening of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly


A wonderfully early-in-the-season for our region batch of Monarch caterpillars feeding on Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), June 11.

IF YOU GO TO GOOD HARBOR BEACH AT SUNRISE BE SURE TO…

Take in the wonderful fragrance of the flowering Black Locust trees adjacent to the footbridge entrance. The air is redolent with the scent of orange blossoms and honey, along with the Rosa rugosa blooming nearby.

The stand at Good Harbor Beach has been increasing in size and I don’t ever recall the scent quite as potent as it is this year. You can smell the flowers halfway down Nautilus Road!

Black Locust are native to the Appalachian Mountains. The leaves are a host to over 67 species of Lepidoptera, including  Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak, Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy, Giant Leopard Moth, and the Elm Sphinx Moth. A host plant is a caterpillar food plant. And they offer nectar to pollinators, including Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

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.

AMERICAN LADY AT CAPE HEDGE BEACH

There are a surprising number of butterflies this year at Cape Hedge Beach. Several days ago an American Lady was warming on the popples and today, a female Black Swallowtail.

An easy way to see the difference between an American Lady Butterfly and a Painted Lady Butterfly

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) ~ Note the two large eyespots on the underside of the hindwing, close to the outer margin.The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) has four smaller eyespots on the underside of the hindwing. 

Painted Lady, left; American Lady right

MOM COMING IN FOR A LANDING!

Please share your Monarch sightings. We would love to hear from you <3

This Mama Monarch photographed yesterday was zeroing in and depositing eggs on the freshly emerging shoots of Common Milkweed sprouting in the grassland meadows at Cox Reservation.

 

On May 21st the first Monarch was spotted; this is the earliest many of us have seen Monarchs in our gardens, dunes, and meadows. MJ observed one on the 21st in Lanesville, Patti in East Gloucester on the 23rd (she has tons of milkweed), Duncan spotted one at Brier Neck, they are in the dunes at Good Harbor Beach in the Common Milkweed patches, in my garden (also lots of milkweed), and have been seen at several Greenbelt sanctuaries, both Castle Neck River Reservation and Cox Reservation.

The butterflies at Cox Reservation were drinking nectar from the Red Clover

The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch –  share with kids!

 

Please join us Wednesday, June 22nd at 7pm for a free in-person screening and Q and A of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Salem Visitor Center, as part of Essex National Heritage Pollinator week-long series of events.

BEAUTY ON THE WING AIRING ACROSS THE NATION!

Super great news update from my friend and American Public Television Vice President Judy. She shares that since our documentary premiered a month ago, Beauty on the Wing has been broadcast 276 times, reaching 48.95 percent of the UStv households. She thinks we will have even greater activity in April because of programming centered around Earth Day! We have received emails and messages from viewers around the country, many inspired to create a Monarch habitat.

With thanks and gratitude to our many generous contributors, without whose help this film would not have been possible.

To the lovely woman in Idaho whose name I think is Shelly – if you are reading this – I accidentally deleted your note but would be happy to advise you on how to establish a Monarch habitat at your field. Please feel free to email so we can connect. Thank you!

FOR NEW YORK, SAN FRANCISCO, AND LA FRIENDS AND FAMILY – THIS WEEK’S BEAUTY ON THE WING AIR TIME ON PUBLIC TELEVISION

Good Morning Friends! The following are this week’s showtimes for Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly airing on NY, LA, and San Francisco stations. Thank you for watching <3

WEDWDT3 1 __W____ 2:30:00 2/17/2022 2/17/2022 New York 1 6.24 %
WEDWDT3 1 ____F__ 5:00:00 2/19/2022 2/19/2022 New York 1 6.24 %
WEDWDT3 1 M______ 9:00:00 2/14/2022 2/14/2022 New York 1 6.24 %
WEDWDT3 1 _T_____ 13:00:00 2/15/2022 2/15/2022 New York 1 6.24 %
WEDWDT3 1 ______S 15:00:00 2/13/2022 2/13/2022 New York 1 6.24 %
WEDWDT3 1 ______S 22:00:00 2/13/2022 2/13/2022 New York 1 6.24 %
KOCEDT2 1 _____S_ 17:00:00 2/12/2022 2/12/2022 Los Angeles 2 4.66 %
KVCRDT 1 ______S 16:00:00 2/20/2022 2/20/2022 Los Angeles 2 4.66 %
KVCRDT3 1 M______ 5:00:00 2/22/2022 2/22/2022 Los Angeles 2 4.66 %
WYINDT 1 __W____ 23:00:00 2/16/2022 2/16/2022 Chicago 3 2.90 %
KQEDDT 1 __W____ 5:00:00 2/17/2022 2/17/2022 San Francisco 8 2.14 %
KQEDDT 1 __W____ 23:00:00 2/16/2022 2/16/2022 San Francisco 8 2.14 %
KQEHDT2 1 __W____ 5:00:00 2/17/2022 2/17/2022 San Francisco 8 2.14 %
KQEHDT2 1 __W____ 23:00:00 2/16/2022 2/16/2022 San Francisco 8 2.14 %
KRCBDT 1 ___T___ 12:00:00 2/17/2022 2/17/2022 San Francisco 8 2.14 %
KRCBDT 1 _T_____ 21:00:00 2/15/2022 2/15/2022 San Francisco 8 2.14 %

THE PBS PASSPORTS LINK TO WATCH BEAUTY ON THE WING!

Hello Friends,

We are are receiving many wonderful comments from viewers who have seen the film on their local public television channel, viewers from coast to coast! For we in Massachusetts (and everywhere), if you are a member of PBS Passports, here is the PBS.org Passports link to watch Beauty on the Wing: 

https://www.pbs.org/show/beauty-wing-life-story-monarch-butterfly/

Note about the photos – I took a bunch of these Monarch and Buoy photographs as there were several flying around the buoys one day (only on Cape Ann = Monarchs + buoys!). They were taken during this year’s autumn migration on a hazy October afternoon. I didn’t put two and two together until finally having a chance to look at the images several days ago, that one of the buoys was painted orange and black 🙂

Thank you Friends for your continued support and for your love of Monarchs!

Warmest wishes,

xoKim

 

Monarchs and Buoys, Cape Ann

BEAUTY ON THE WING PREMIERES ON PUBLIC TELEVISION TODAY!!

Hello Friends!

Today Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly is scheduled to begin premiering on over 180 public television across the US. From cities coast to coast (including New York, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, Charlotte, Raleigh, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Columbus, Hartford, and many more), you can check your local listings to find out when Beauty on the Wing is scheduled to air.  Additionally, if you don’t see your city listed this week, more stations are planning to add the documentary to their schedule in the coming days.

If you happen to watch Beauty on the Wing on television, please write and let us know. We would love to hear from you!

The one major market that at this date is not planning to air Beauty on the Wing is Boston (??). However, if you are a member of your local PBS station and have contributed more than $60.00, shows are available to stream through PBS Passports. I believe the streaming option for Beauty on the Wing begins this week.

My deepest thanks and appreciation once again to all who so kindly donated to Beauty on the Wing. With your support we were able to complete our documentary, showcase at film festivals, and now bring to a nationwide television audience. Huge special shoutouts to my dear friend Lauren Mercadante who is not only extraordinarily generous, she also loves creating butterfly magic in her garden, and to Jesse Cook, who gave so generously of his music. Thank You Friends <3

Official 30-second promo for American Public Television

BEAUTY ON THE WING WINS GOLD AT THE SPOTLIGHT DOCUMENTARY FILM AWARDS!

Dear Monarch Friends,

Good news to share for Beauty on the Wing – Many thanks to the Spotlight Documentary Film Awards for the gold award! And starting in February, Beauty on the Wing will begin airing on public television stations across the country. As soon as I have dates, I will write and let you know 🙂

Fantastic news for our West Coast population of Monarchs – Tuesday, January 25th, the Xerces Society released the outcome of the 2021-2022 Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count, an organized group of volunteer community scientists that has been cataloging the Western Monarchs for over 25 years. In a remarkable turn of events the final winter tally of 247, 237 butterflies were counted across the West, a 100- fold increase from last year’s count and the highest recorded since 2016!

Insect populations can fluctuate widely from year to year and the Monarchs are by no means out of the woods. In an otherwise bleak outlook for the West Coast population, this is a positive note and gives us hope that we can make the necessary changes to prevent the extirpation of the Western population.

Read the full report here

We’re expecting a classic nor’easter snowstorm this weekend while last weekend we had an exquisite “ocean effect” snowfall, which was lovely and magical. I am teaching myself a new film editing program and used the B-roll that I shot during the fairy-like snowstorm at Hammond Castle. Link to new short film  – Hammond Castle-by-the-Sea.

Stay warm and safe and Happy Snow Days!

xoKim

 


2021 WILD CREATURES REVIEW! PART TWO

Cape Ann Wildlife – a year in pictures and stories

July through December continued from part one

July 2021

Conserve Wildlife NJ senior biologist Todd Pover makes a site visit to Cape Ann beaches, summer long updates from “Plover Central,” GHB Killdeer dune family raise a second brood of chicks,  Cape Hedge chick lost after fireworks disturbance and then reunited with Fam, Great Black-backed Gulls are eating our Plover chicks, thousands of Moon Snail collars at Cape Hedge,  Monarchs abound, #savesaltisland, missing Iguana Skittles, and Earwig eating Cecropia Moth cats.

August 2021

New short film for the Sawyer Free Library The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch!, Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting new short Piping Plover film, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the garden, why we love Joe-pye and other wildflowers, butterfly friends, Monarch cats in the garden, what is the purpose of the gold dots found on Monarch chrysalides?,Black Beauty came calling, Tigers in the garden, School Street sunflowers, Hoverflies, luminescent Sea Salps return to Cape Ann beaches, Petal Dancers and lemony Yellow Sulphurs on the wing.

 

September 2021

Flower Fairies, irruptive Green Darner migration, mini glossary of late summer butterflies, what to do if you find a tagged Monarch, Painted Ladies, White-tailed Deer family, Monarchs mating, Tangerine Butterflies,  yellow fellow in the hood, and Beauty on the Wing first ever live screening at the Shalin Liu.