Category Archives: McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity

SUPER, SUPER, SUPER EXCITING NEWS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING -COMING TO YOUR LIVING ROOM! AND PLEASE CONSIDER A TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION

Dear Monarch Friends!

I have the most wonderful, exciting news to share. Our documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly has been accepted for distribution by the American Public Television Exchange market, which means that within the year, you will be watching Beauty from your living room, on your local public television station!

American Public Television Exchange is the largest source of free programming to US public television stations, covering virtually every market in the country (nearly 350 stations). APT writes that they expect the documentary “to engage and delight public television viewers of all ages who are interested in nature, conservation, and our planet’s amazing ecosystems.”

What happens next? Beauty on the Wing needs underwriters and donors! The total distribution cost to bring the documentary to public television is just over $51,000.00. We only have several months to raise the funds. Please consider donating to the distribution of Beauty through my tax deductible online fundraiser at Network for Good. The link is here.

If you have donated previously to the fundraiser for the post-productions costs, I am so grateful for your generosity. Because of your kind contribution, Beauty on the Wing is doing exceptionally well at film festivals and has received a number of awards. If the distribution phase of the project is of interest, please consider a second donation.

Film screenings and awards to date include:

Winner Best Documentary  Boston International Kid’s Film Festival

Winner Best Feature Film Providence International Children’s Film Festival

Environment Award Toronto International Women Film Festival

Outstanding Excellence Nature Without Borders Documentary Film Festival

Outstanding Excellence Women’s International Film Festival

New Haven Documentary Film Festival

Montreal Independent Film Festival

Flicker’s Rhode Island International Film Festival

Docs Without Borders International Film Festival

The names of supporters contributing $10,000.00 and over will be promoted in the film’s underwriting credit pod. What does it mean to be an underwriter? As an example, when you watch a show on public television and the announcer says, “This show was brought to you by Katherine and Charles Cassidy, by The Fairweather Foundation, by Lillian B. Anderson, and by The Arnhold Family, in Memory of Clarisse Arnhold,” that’s where your name, or the name of your foundation, will appear. APT allows for up to 30 seconds per film and your name or promo will appear at both the beginning and at the end of the film.

Please write and let me know if you would like more information about underwriting, including a complete budget, along with APT’s underwriting guidelines. Email at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com.

All donors, no matter how large or small the donation, will be listed on the film’s website and on APT’s website. Any amount contributed is tremendously appreciated!

Thank you for being part of launching Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly onto the national television stage!

With gratitude,

Kim

A brief overview of the film – Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly is a 56-minute narrated documentary film that takes place along the shores of Cape Ann and in the heart of Mexico’s forested volcanic mountains. Filmed in Gloucester, Massachusetts and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserves at Estado de México and Michoacán, the film illuminates how two regions, separated by thousands of miles, are ecologically interconnected. See more at monarchbutterflyfilm.com

“BEAUTY ON THE WING” AWARDED BEST DOCUMENTARY AT THE BOSTON INTERNATIONAL KIDS FILM FESTIVAL

Dear Friends,

I hope you are doing well. Just a quick note to let you know that the awards for the Boston International Kids Film Festival were announced today and Beauty on the Wing was given Best Documentary. Simply overjoyed !! 🙂

The festival went very, very well. The organizers, Laura Azevedo and Natalia Morgan from Filmmakers Collaborative, working with WGBH, did an extraordinary and outstanding job producing an online film festival, no easy feat, but especially during a global pandemic! I was able to view many of the films and they were wonderfully entertaining and inspiring. I am so proud Beauty on the Wing was a part of the BIKFF 2020!

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, wherever that may be during these most challenging of days.

Warmest wishes,
Kim

Boston International Kids Film Festival 2020

Best Documentary
Winner: Beauty on the Wing: The Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

Best Foreign Language Film
Winner: Kapaemahu

Best Animated Short Film
Winner: The Magical Forest and the Things

Best Live Action Short Film
Winner: Esme Gets a Job.

The Peggy Charren Award for Excellence
Winner: All American Kids

Best Student Narrative Film
Winner: First Dances! What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Best Student Documentary Film
Winner: DACAmented

New short, with clips from Beauty on the WingMonarch Dreams 2, “Afternoon at Saties.,” by Jesse Cook.

WITH THANKS AND GRATITUDE TO JOANN MCKENZIE, ANDREA HOLBROOK, AND THE GLOUCESTER TIMES FOR THE WONDERFUL ARTICLE FOR OUR MONARCH DOCUMENTARY <3

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Joann Mackenzie, Andrea Holbrook, and the Gloucester Times for the beautifully written story “Butterfly Film Takes Flight”.

Ten years in the making, Kim Smith’s butterfly film takes flight

Kim Smith’s monarch movie 10 years in the making

GLOUCESTER TIMES OCTOBER 28, 2020

Every story has a back story, and Kim Smith’s back story began in her backyard.

In the mid 1990s, Smith — an award-winning landscape designer — filled her Gloucester garden with native and pollinator plantings that attract all manner of winged creatures. These, thanks to lots of milkweed, included lots of magnificent monarch butterflies. “I just loved them,” says Smith,  “I wanted more and more of them.”

There began a tale that this year saw Smith complete a 10-year project, the making of the 56-minute documentary “Beauty on the Wing — Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.” In a few short months, and despite the pandemic canceling its local premiere, the film has seen its way to six film festivals, all virtual, the latest of which — the Boston International Kids Film Festival — runs Nov. 20 to 22.

American Public TV Worldwide —the world’s largest distributor of educational television has just signed the documentary for global distribution.

Armed with a handheld digital camera, an artist’s eye, and a love of her subject, Smith has captured the life, work and world of what she calls “this charismatic little creature,” beginning with its metamorphosis from a tiny egg, to its amazing annual journey from the summer shores of its Gloucester habitats to its winter habitats in the Mexican mountains and forests of Michoacán, where the monarchs annual arrival has long been regarded as something of a miracle: the returning of the souls of the dead descending from the sky in fluttering orange clouds, to roost by the millions in the trees.

When she began the project in 2006, Smith knew nothing about filmmaking. Photographing the monarchs, first as “a record,” she was urged on by family and friends. One of them, Gloucester’s late historian Joe Garland, was particularly encouraging. “Oh, I thought, I have to learn to make a film,” she recalls, of her early days learning the basics with Andrew Love and Lisa Smith at Cape Ann TV (now Studio 1623).

Investing in a hand-held HD Canon video camera, Smith began shooting digital. “It was small and so easy to use that I could crouch down, or lie down to capture extreme close-ups,” she says. Supported by community fundraising that covered the $35,000 production budget, she shot “tons of footage over the years,” wrote and recorded the narrative script, and saved on post production costs by teaching herself to digitally edit her film.

Her goal, she says, was not just to celebrate the monarch, but to educate viewers about the plight of this creature that is loved around the world. Indigenous to North America, these light, bright orange butterflies have through the centuries been blown by wind and weather to other continents, including England, where, in the late 17th century, they were named in honor of King William III of England, also known as the Prince of Orange.

In the last 20 years, however, the butterflies’ numbers have plummeted worldwide from a billion to 30 million, as the excessive use of herbicides has killed off much of their main food source —milkweed— while climate change has confused their flight patterns. And in Mexico, the logging of trees has sabotaged the delicate ecosystem of their annual return.

Smith’s film joins a growing body of environmental activism on behalf of the monarch butterfly. Gardeners across the nation have, like Smith, filled flower beds with milkweed to feed their numbers. The Obama administration, concerned by its alarming decline, allocated $3.2 million to protect it.

In making her documentary, Smith traveled to Mexico twice to film, and learned firsthand just how endangered the monarchs have become. Over time, she says, she came to see monarchs as “little gateway creatures that can open the way to for people to learn about other endangered creatures.”

At Good Harbor Beach, a favorite early morning photographic haunt, Smith began to turn her camera to another local endangered species, piping plovers. Like the monarchs, the little shore birds rely on a fragile ecosystem that Smith began to take an active role in protecting, while filming them. With her monarch documentary now in worldwide release, the piping plovers are  on their way to star billing in a new documentary, now in production.

Meanwhile, the Boston International Kids Film Festival, a program of Filmmakers Collaborative, will screen Smith’s documentary as “one of best that the world of independent filmmaking has to offer.” Shown for one week to schoolchildren across the city, the festival, which describes her documentary as  “illuminating how two regions, separated by thousands of miles, are ecologically interconnected,” will then host a Zoom author event in which the students can engage in a Q&A which Smith herself.

Smith, by the way, doesn’t just train her talents on winged creatures. In yet another ongoing film project, she captures the aerial antics of Gloucester’s falling Greasy Pole walkers. That documentary, which celebrates the spirit of the city’s annual St Peters Fiesta, is well underway.

https://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/local_news/ten-years-in-the-making-kim-smiths-butterfly-film-takes-flight/article_5271bd72-777c-5f49-83dc-b9c3b372033d.html

ABOUT KIM SMITH AND HER FILM

Gloucester resident Kim Smith is a documentary filmmaker, environmental conservationist, photojournalist, author, illustrator and  award-winning landscape designer.

Her documentary “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” was released in February. It has been chosen as an official selection at New Haven Documentary, Nature Without Borders International, Flickers’ Rhode Island International , Docs Without Borders , WRPN Women’s International, and Conservation Wildlife film festivals.

It next shows at the Boston International Kids Film Festival (https://bikff.org/schedule/) on Nov. 20 to 22; tickets start at $20. Links to view the film will be provided upon ticket purchase.

More information about the film is available by visiting https://monarchbutterflyfilm.com/  or email Smith at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com.

$34,900.00 RAISED FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING DOCUMENTARY! AND MONARCH BUTTERFLY MIGRATION UPDATE

$34,900.00!!! RAISED FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING DOCUMENTARY! THANK YOU GENEROUS DONORS!!!!!!!!!!!

WITH THE GREATEST APPRECIATION FOR OUR COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS AND SPONSORS, I AM OVERJOYED TO SHARE THAT TO DATE WE HAVE RAISED $34,900.00 FOR THE DOCUMENTARY FILM “BEAUTY ON THE WING” ONLINE FUNDRAISER, with a recent grant awarded in the amount of $10,000.00.

Friends of the Monarch Butterfly: If you would like to help towards the completion of the documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, 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

MY DEEPEST THANKS AND APPRECIATION TO LAUREN MERCADANTE (PRODUCER), SUSAN FREY (PRODUCER), NEW ENGLAND BIOLABS FOUNDATION, JOHN HAUCK FOUNDATION, BOB AND JAN CRANDALL, MARY WEISSBLUM, SHERMAN MORSS, PETE AND BOBBI KOVNER (ANNISQUAM AND LEXINGTON), CLAUDIA BERMUDEZ (LEXINGTON), JAY FEATHERSTONE, MIA NEHME (BEVERLY), CHICKI HOLLET, JUNI VANDYKE, ERIC HUTCHINSE, KAREN MASLOW, MARION F. (IPSWICH), ELAINE M., KIMBERLY MCGOVERN, MEGAN HOUSER (PRIDES CROSSING), JIM VANBUSKIRK (PITTSBURGH), NANCY MATTERN (ALBUQUERQUE), DONNA STOMAN, PEGGY O’MALLEY, JOEY C., CATHERINE RYAN, JOEANN HART, JANE PAZNIK BONDARIN (NEW YORK), ROBERT REDIS (NEW YORK), NUBAR ALEXANIAN, PETER VAN DEMARK, PATRICIA VAN DERPOOL, FRED FREDERICKS (CHELMSFORD), LESLIE HEFFRON, JIM MASCIARELLI, DAVE MOORE (KOREA), LILIAN AND CRAIG OLMSTEAD, JOHN STEIGER, PAT DALPIAZ, AMY KERR, BARBARA T. (JEWETT, NY), ROBERTA C. ((NY), MARIANNE G. (WINDHAM, NY), PAULA RYAN O’BRIEN (WALTON, NY), MARTHA SWANSON, KIM TEIGER, JUDITH FOLEY (WOBURN), PATTI SULLIVAN, RONN FARREN, SUSAN NADWORNY (MELROSE), DIANE LINDQUIST (MANCHESTER), HEIDI SHRIVER (PENNSYLVANIA), JENNIFER CULLEN, HOLLY NIPPERUS (BROOKLYN), HILDA SANTOS (SAUGUS), TOM HAUCK, AND ANONYMOUS PERSONS FOR THEIR GENEROUS HELP.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bc5cXVcF2oA/

MONARCH MIGRATION UPDATE

The Monarch migration of 2017 was the latest ever recorded and the butterflies are continuing to arrive!

The region where the Monarchs spend the winter is confined to a narrow altitudinal band across twelve trans-volcanic mountaintops in central Mexico. This narrowest of overwintering habitat is only 73 miles wide. What allows the Monarchs to survive in these these twelve habitats? The sites are at a high elevation of 10,000 to 11,000 feet, where the temperature hovers around freezing at night and warms during the day to about 50 to 60 degrees. The towering cathedral-like Oyamel Pine Trees contribute to creating the perfect microclimate to meet the butterflies needs by providing shelter from harsh winds and when the Monarchs cluster together high up on the Oyamel boughs they maintain a cool temperature, which conserves the fat that they stored on their southward migration.

During the month of December, the all important work of counting the butterflies takes place. Several years ago a late migration occurred (not as late as this year’s) and the scientists counted the butterflies a bit too early. I hope they wait until much later in the month to begin the count.

If you would like to learn more about how to count Monarchs, go to this to link to an interview that I conducted with Thomas Emmel, the Director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Museum of Natural History of the University of Florida, Gainesville. Dr. Emmel is a butterfly population specialist and has been counting the Monarchs since 1980. The interview took place at Sierra Chincua Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Angangueo, Mexico.

MONARCH FILM FUNDRAISING SCREENING PARTY

Dear Friends,

This past spring I had a tremendously inspirational experience. Out of the blue, a lovely woman from Concord, Laura Stevens, contacted me about the possibility of viewing my documentary film about the Monarch butterflies, Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterflies. I was reluctant at first, explaining that the film was in a rough cut form. Although the rough cut features the butterflies and Cape Ann in the most beautiful light, the film does need finessing.

Laura comes from a wonderful family and they all love Monarchs! Every year, she and her family gather together for a reunion based around a weekend of learning. Laura explained that it would be an extra special treat for the 27 women and children who attend the reunion to see the film. The more I thought about it the more I thought it would be a super idea, and sent her access to the film.

Several weeks passed when in the mail I received the most heartfelt thank you letters from Laura and her family members who had attended the screening, from the ninety-five year old great auntie to the youngest child there. And soon after that, donations towards the film’s completion arrived from this most generous family. I am so grateful to Laura and her family for the donations, and for their kind encouragement and enthusiasm.

At that time the thought crossed my mind that this would be a wonderful way to continue to raise funds for the documentary. Landscape design work and the story of Little Chick and the Piping Plovers has kept me from doing any recent fundraising, but my work typically slows for a brief period during the end of August and beginning of September.

Female Monarch Butterfly and Marsh Milkweed, 2017

Don’t you think it auspicious for my film project that we are seeing so many butterflies this summer? I began documenting the Monarchs in our region in 2006, which was a tremendous year for the Monarch migration through Cape Ann. The year 2012 was quite strong as well, but in the past four years, as the worldwide population has plummeted, so have the Monarchs migrating through our area. Imagine that in 1977 when the Monarchs were first discovered at their winter sleeping grounds, the butterflies were counted by the billions, while today only by the millions.

My hope for Beauty on the Wing is that it will travel to the various conservation and environmental festivals, and then be made available to classrooms around the nation. Another dream for the film is that it will be translated into Spanish and French. Just as American and Canadian children are curious about the butterflies’ winter home after departing their northern breeding grounds, Mexican children are equally curious as to the butterflies’ destination after they leave the butterfly sanctuaries in central Mexico.

The intent of this letter is to learn if amongst our readers there is interest in hosting a screening of the film in its not quite completed form. The purpose of the screening would be to raise money towards the film’s completion and distribution. And, too, I thought it would be a more fun, educational, and personal way to fundraise. To date I have received over $5,000 in generous donations. I am working with the non-profit filmmaker’s assistance group, the Filmmakers Collaborative. Donations made through FC are tax deductible. An itemized budget is available upon request. Beauty on the Wing is 54 minutes long. I thought we could show twenty minutes of highlights and then discuss the current state of the butterflies. Viewer feedback would also be of tremendous help. Screening parties could be so much fun, especially at this time of year during the butterfly’s migration, and especially in 2017 while we are seeing so many Monarchs on the wing.

Readers, what do you think? Please comment on this post or write me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail. Thank you so very much for your time, thoughts, and interest.

Warmest wishes,

Kim

 

Links:

Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly film website

A Flight of Monarchs

Trailer

Film Interview with Doctor Thomas Emmel at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve at Sierra

https://instagram.com/p/BW7wfw-F5o9/

https://instagram.com/p/BXjLQjZleLY/

https://instagram.com/p/BXjL7HgF2p2/

Monarchs Eyed for Possible Inclusion Under US Endangered Species Protection

Cape Ann Milkweed and Monarch Habitat, Eastern Point

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering adding Monarchs as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. A one-year review is underway to monitor the butterfly’s status. Since the 1990s the population has plummeted from about one billion to approximately 35 million. That may seem like a substantial number, but the Monarchs need stronger numbers to be resilient to other threats such as harsh weather.

The reason for the decline is primarily because of loss of milkweed habitat in the agricultural heartland of the United States. With the development of Monsanto’s Roundup and Roundup Ready (glyphosate resistant) seed, farmers are now able to spray glyphosate directly on their corn, soybean, and sorghum crops. Roundup also destroys milkweed. Secondly, with the push for ethanol, farmers have begun to plant corn on conservation land.

If the Fish and Wildlife Service determines that the Monarchs are threatened, they will set aside land for milkweed.

You can read more about the the Monarch Butterfly Endangered Species Act here:

FAQs on the Monarch Butterfly Endangered Species Act Petition

Monarch Butterfly Wildflower Joe-pye ©Kim Smith 2012Monarch Butterfly Drinking Nectar from Native Wildflower Joe-pye Weed

You can learn more about the Monarch migration and the loss of Monarch habitat from Professor Tom Emmel here ~ 

New Film: Monarch Migration Interview with Tom Emmel

Horses neigh, bugs crawl across the lens, and Monarchs flutter in the background —interview on the mountaintop and it was all beautiful! Video includes footage from my forthcoming film, Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.

Monarch Migration Interview with Tom Emmel, filmed at the summit of the Sierra Chincua Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Angangueo, Mexico.

This was Tom’s 40th trip to Angangueo to study the Monarchs. In this interview, he provides some historical perspective from those very first trips to the remote Oyamel fir forests atop the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Mountains. We learn how scientists count millions of Monarchs. Tom discusses the state of the Monarch migration today and why it is in crisis.

Tom Emmel is the Director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Museum of Natural History of the University of Florida, Gainesville. Additional footage shot at El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Reserve and at the base of Sierra Chincua.

Meet McGuire Center Director Tom Emmel at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserves

Tom Emmel Angangueo ©Kim Smith 2014Tom Emmel, right

Our expedition to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserves was led by Tom Emmel, Ph.D. Tom is the Directorof the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, which is part of the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History. He is also the university’s professor of zoology and entomology and the author of over 400 publications, including 35 books. Not only is Dr. Emmel a professor and director of the center, he leads expeditions to research biodiversity around the world, including recent trips to Bali to Komodo Island to study the Komodo Dragon (with a great story of how he and his fellow travelers very nearly almost became Komodo Dragon supper), the Galapagos Islands, and Madagascar.

This was Dr. Emmel’s fortieth trip to Angangueo to study the Monarch Butterfly migration. His first trip was in 1980 with Dr. Lincoln Brower who had, at the same time as Dr. Fred Urquhart, discovered the Monarch colonies in 1975. In those first early years of conducting research at the biospheres, Dr. Emmel and Dr. Brower traveled on old mining roads, rode horseback to the colonies, and camped in tents. Today, there are well-marked trails with options for either hiking or horseback riding.

On the second day of our expedition, I interviewed Dr. Emmel at the top of Sierra Chincua Monarch Colony. He was also interviewed by a Mexican television crew at the summit of the Sierra Chincua biosphere. I am in the process of editing the interview footage and will have that ready to post in the near future. Amongst the many aspects of the Monarch’s migration discussed during the interview, Dr. Emmel reveals exactly how one counts millions upon millions of Monarchs and offers several theories as to why the butterflies migrate to the very specific climate zone of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. We cover the subject of Monarch conservation and precisely how Monsanto’s GMO genetically modified Roundup Ready corn and sorghum, and Bt-corn, are indisputably deadly to the Monarchs. You’ll be surprised at the results of the research that was conducted on our journey in regard to the numbers of Monarchs counted in the biospheres.

Monarch Oyamel tree ©Kim Smith 2014 copyThis photo was taken early in the day, before the butterflies awaken in the sun. You can see that the limb of the Oyamel tree is so heavily laden with butterflies, it appears as though it will snap at any moment. And oftentimes, the limbs do break! The butterflies  scatter and then regroup to another location.

Ian Segebarth Craig Segebarth ©Kim Smith 2014Meeting Dr. Emmel and fellow expedition travelers was one of the most interesting and exciting aspects of the journey. You can’t imagine traveling with a more knowledgeable expert than Dr. Emmel. He is not only a world authority on all aspects of the Monarch’s migration, the history of the development of the biospheres, and the community of Angangueo, he also has extensive knowledge about a wide range of wildlife species and topics relative to biodiversity and the natural world.  He shares the information generously and with a sense of humor, too.

Dr. Emmel’s assistants, brothers Ian and Craig Segebarth, are two of the brightest and most helpful young men you could hope to meet. Marie Emerson, who works in the development department at the museum was a joy and also super helpful, as was Josh Dickinson, who was traveling with his wonderfully fun granddaughter, 5th grader Zoie Dickinson. Josh Dickinson has spent a lifetime consulting on forestry management and he will be helping with forestry management at the Monarch biospheres. Josh also speaks Spanish very well and was tremendously helpful, especially when I locked myself out of my hotel room! Thanks again Josh for your kind assistance!

Zoie Dickinson ©Kim Smith 2014 copyZoie Dickinson

Monarch Expedition: Part One ~ Angangueo Michoacán, Mexico

Angangueo Mexico ©Kim Smith 2014

After the four-hour drive from Mexico City, across a wide canyon of rustic farmland and over and around volcanic mountains, we arrived in the early evening at the beautiful town of Angangueo. Pitched on a steep mountainside, the narrow streets and closely packed buildings with shared stucco walls immediately reminded me of southern European villages. Especially lovely were the modest and many handmade outdoor altars gracing townspeople’s homes and gardens.

Angangueo is located in the far eastern part of the state of Michoacán in the central region of Mexico within the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. During the late 1700s minerals were discovered.  Large deposits of silver, gold, copper, and iron ore brought a rush of people to the area. Today, Angangueo is noted as home to two of the most beautiful Monarch Butterfly Biospheres, El Rosario and Sierra Chincua.

Altar Angangueo mexico ©Kim Smith 2014

Hotel Don Bruno Angangueo Mexico ©Kim Smith 2014Our guesthouse, the Hotel Don Bruno, was utterly charming. As with many of the buildings we passed on the way to Angangueo, a cheery row of glazed terra cotta pots brimming with red and pink geraniums lined the hotel entrance. Through the entryway door and past the front office, guests entered the beautiful inner courtyard garden. All the rooms faced into the courtyard and mine had a delightfully fragrant sunny yellow rose just outside the door. I quickly changed for dinner to meet my fellow travelers in the hotel’s second floor dining room. A long dining table arranged family style, running the length of the room, had been set up for our group, with a view onto the flowering courtyard below.

Chef Jean Gabriel Salazar López Hotel Don Bruno Angangueo © Kim Smith 2014.As he did that evening, and every dinner and breakfast, Chef Jean Gabriel Salazar López had prepared an elegant feast of many different entrees, mostly native Mexican dishes, including and combining a fabulous array of local fruits and vegetables. The proprietors and hotel staff could not have been more friendly and accommodating.

Dinner was followed by a discussion led by Dr. Emmel. Tom Emmel is the Director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, which is part of the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History. He is also a professor of zoology and entomology and the author of 35 books (more about Dr. Emmel in the next installment). I recorded several of Dr. Emmel’s lectures and an interview atop the Sierra Chincua Biosphere and will be posting all on youtube.

Mural Angangueo Mexico ©Kim Smith 2014Mural in the town plaza

At daybreak the following morning, I climbed the central outdoor stairwell to the top of the hotel to film the sleepy town awakening. Roosters crowed and the hotel’s freshly washed and drying sheets whipped to the wind in the crisp mountain air. The morning light did not disappoint. Kitty corner across from my rooftop vantage point was one of the small town’s several churches, with a walled courtyard and red and white banners fluttering in the breeze. The village’s main road leads further up to the mountains and is lined with red tiled roofed-homes and sidewalks swept immaculately clean. The sun was just beginning to peek through the mountains when I had to leave to hurry down to breakfast.

Angangueo ©Kim Smith 2014

Despite the beauty and well-kept appearance of Angangueo, and especially of our charming guesthouse, the town and the Hotel Don Bruno were nearly empty of tourists. Reports of mayhem and murder in Michoacán have drastically reduced the number of people traveling to Angangueo to see the Monarchs at the biospheres.

The gang violence is taking place on the far western side of Michoacán, near the Pacific Coast. Angangueo is located on the far eastern side of the state, bordering the state of Mexico. Not traveling to Angangueo for that reason is as uninformed as if someone decided not to travel to San Francisco because of the gang violence that takes place in Los Angeles! The people of Angangueo have stopped logging to protect the Monarch’s habitat and have come to rely heavily on income from tourism. I was deeply saddened to see the lack of visitors, at this time of year especially, when the Monarchs are at their peak activity at the colonies.

San Simón Angangueo Mexico ©Kim Smith 2014San Simon Parish Church

Inmaculada Concepcíon ©Kim Smith 2014Inmaculada Concepcíon

Next installment: Day 1 at the Monarch Colony

Bug Bytes Yucca Giant-Skipper

My new friends at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, located in Gainesville, Florida, forwarded this interesting video about the Giant Yucca Skipper. Watch Dr. Warren as he shows how to carefully extract the live larvae from the yucca plant stalk. Craig Segabarth, one of the awesome guides on our trip to the Monarch colonies, filmed and produced this fun episode of Bug Bytes.