Category Archives: Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

MONARCH BUTTERFLY POPULATION CRASHING

For a second year in a row, the Monarch numbers are plummeting.

“World Wildlife Fund Mexico in collaboration with CONANP and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) announced the total forest area occupied by overwintering monarch colonies today. Nine (9) colonies were located this winter season with a total area of 2.10 hectares, a 26% decrease from the previous season (2.83 ha).” – Monarch Watch

Call to Action! Create wildlife sanctuaries by planting flowering native trees, shrubs, vines, and wildflowers that bloom throughout the growing season.

For nearly two decades I have been sharing information on how we can all help all pollinators, not just Monarch Butterflies. Learn more by joining me virtually on March 17th for my program “The Pollinator Garden” that I am presenting to the Massachusetts Pollinator Network.

To register, click here

For Monarchs specifically, we in the northeast need plant milkweed for Monarch caterpillars and asters and goldenrods for the southward migrating adult butterflies. Creating habitats for Monarchs has a cascading effect that helps myriad pollinators and songbirds. 

All along the Monarch’s migratory corridors, climate change, loss of habitat, and the use of pesticides are the greatest threats to the butterflies. Because of climate change, the life cycle of wildflowers are often out of synch with the time the butterflies are traveling through a region. Examples include last September’s drought in the Texas Funnel (2020) and the cold Arctic blast in Texas this past February (2021). When the Monarchs migrated through Texas last fall, there were few if any wildflowers still in bloom to help fuel their journey. Followed by the unusually deep freeze in Texas that killed emerging milkweed shoots (food for the next generation’s caterpillars), this double whammy of sorts does not bode well for this year’s already reduced population traveling along the Monarch Highway. 

 

Drop-in on a Zoom Re-cap with the Providence Children’s Film Festival Tonight!

Missed chatting with friends and neighbors about the films you saw at this year’s Providence Children’s Film Festival? Join us for a Zoom discussion!
This evening, anytime between 5:30-7:00 pm and share. Link is https://zoom.us/j/93126124781
Perhaps you would like to share your thoughts https://docs.google.com/…/1FAIpQLSf41…/viewform…
We look forward to hearing from you!

The complete list of award-winning films at PCFF 2021!!

BEAUTY ON THE WING: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly – Special Jury Award Best Feature Documentary Film (USA / 2020)

THE CLUB OF UGLY CHILDREN  Audience Choice Award Best Live-Action Feature (Netherlands / 2019)

FIRST WE EAT  Audience Choice Award Best Feature Documentary Film  (Canada / 2020)

THE MAGIC OF CHESS – Audience Choice Award Best Short Documentary Film (USA / 2019)

CROCODILE – Audience Choice Award Best Short Live-Action Film (Spain / 2020)

ATHLETICUS: Sled  Audience Choice Award Best Short Animated Film (France / 2020)

MY BROTHER CHASES DINOSAURS : Special Jury Award Best Feature Live-Action Film (Italy / 2020)

2ND CLASS – Special Jury Award Best Short Live-Action Film (Sweden / 2020)

LEAF  Special Jury Award Best Short Animated Film (Belarus / 2020)

THE BEAUTY  Global Awareness Short Film Award  (Germany / 2020)

A TINY TALE  Emerging Filmmaker/s Award  (France / 2020)

THE PROMISE  Children’s Hospital Jury Award (UK / 2020)

If you missed our Q&A’s with filmmakers you can still catch them recorded HERE!

MY BROTHER CHASES DINOSAURS : Special Jury Award Best Feature Live-Action Film (Italy / 2020)

2ND CLASS – Special Jury Award Best Short Live-Action Film (Sweden / 2020)

LEAF  Special Jury Award Best Short Animated Film (Belarus / 2020)

THE BEAUTY  Global Awareness Short Film Award  (Germany / 2020)

A TINY TALE  Emerging Filmmaker/s Award  (France / 2020)

THE PROMISE  Children’s Hospital Jury Award (UK / 2020)

If you missed our Q&A’s with filmmakers you can still catch them recorded HERE!

“BEAUTY ON THE WING: LIFE STORY OF THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY” WINS BEST FEATURE FILM AT THE PROVIDENCE CHILDREN’S FILM FESTIVAL!

Dear Friends,

I am overjoyed to share that Beauty on the Wing received the Best Feature Film award at the Providence Children’s Film Festival. Thank you friends for voting!  I am so appreciative of your ongoing support. Thank you for taking the time to watch and to vote. 

It is not easy to host a film festival during the pandemic. Without doubt, it takes enormous amounts of work and professionalism. Festival organizer Eric Bilodeau created a fantastic event, and managed to do all with grace and a wonderful sense of humor. I looked forward to Eric’s communications, for instance, when he requested stills from the film, I sent a batch of photos. He wrote back, did I have anything more colorful? I was taken aback at first before realizing he was kidding. And when he announced Beauty had won, writing -“the Monarch is King!” I think I will use that in the future 🙂

I was able to view many of the films and they were wonderfully interesting and inspiring. I am so proud Beauty on the Wing was a part of the Providence Children’s Film Festival! This was mentioned previously but two of my favorites were Microplastic Madness and The Last Lightkeepers. I hope you have a chance to see if you haven’t already done so.

Thank you so very much again for your kind support.

Take care and stay well.

Warmest wishes,
Kim

FINAL TWO DAYS TO VIEW BEAUTY ON THE WING AND PLEASE VOTE!

Dear Friends,

Beauty on the Wing is playing through tomorrow, Saturday, and I will be part of a Q and A at 3:00pm on February 20th, Saturday afternoon. If you would, please share the link with friends and please vote for Beauty on the Wing after watching the film. Thank you! Here is the link if you would like to sign up to participate in the Q and A. All the films in the festival are geoblocked to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

All this school vacation week, the virtual Providence Children’s Film Festival has been airing an outstanding collection of wonderfully educational and interesting films for families and kids of all ages. Tickets are only $12.50 per film for the entire family. Or you can do as I did and purchase a pass, which allows for viewing all films all week long.

Some of the outstanding documentaries I have had the chance to view this week are First We Eat, Microplastic Madness, and The Last Lightkeepers. I think everyone would enjoy all the films in the festival but especially, we on Cape Ann will love The Last Lightkeepers.

Do you know why Thacher Island has not one, but two lighthouses? At about ten minutes into the documentary, local lighthouse historian and president of the Thacher Island Association Paul St. Germain reveals why. Thacher Island’s Twin Lights are featured prominently in the film as are a number of familiar New England lights.

The Last Lightkeepers is filmed beautifully, telling different aspects of the history of lighthouses as well as current status. A quote from one of the interviewees, author Eric Jay Dolan (Brilliant Beacons), especially resonated, “Lighthouses are there to benefit everyone regardless of where they come from, their race, nationality, their creed, their beliefs. Lighthouses are a manifestation of a government’s desire to make navigation for Everyone safer. In today’s turbulent political times, I especially like to think about lighthouses being a beacon for the world, a welcoming embrace for those that are choosing to come to our country…”

This week only, find The Last Lightkeepers, Beauty on the Wing, and more fabulous films at the virtual Providence Children’s Film Festival

I hope you’ll have a chance to enjoy this beautiful gentle snowfall today.

Take care and stay well

xoKim

EVERYONE ON CAPE ANN (AND ALL LOVERS OF LIGHTHOUSES!) WILL WANT TO WATCH THE OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY “THE LAST LIGHTKEEPERS”

Do you know why Thacher Island has not one, but two lighthouses? At about ten minutes into the documentary, local lighthouse historian and president of the Thacher Island Association Paul St. Germain reveals why. Thacher Island’s Twin Lights are featured prominently in the film as are a number of familiar New England lights.

The Last Lightkeepers is filmed beautifully, telling different aspects of the history of lighthouses as well as current status. A quote from author Eric Jay Dolan (Brilliant Beacons) especially resonated, “Lighthouses are there to benefit everyone regardless of where they come from, their race, nationality, their creed, their beliefs. Lighthouses are a manifestation of a government’s desire to make navigation for Everyone safer. In today’s turbulent political times, I especially like to think about lighthouses being a beacon for the world, a welcoming embrace for those that are choosing to come to our country…”

All this school vacation week, the virtual Providence Children’s Film Festival is airing an outstanding collection of wonderfully educational and interesting films for families and kids of all ages. Tickets are only $12.50 per film for the entire family. Or you can do as I did and buy a pass, which allows for viewing all films all week long. Beauty on the Wing is playing through Saturday and I will be part of a Q and A at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon. Please vote for BotWing after watching the film. Thank you!

This week only, find The Last Lightkeepers, Beauty on the Wing, and more fabulous films at the virtual Providence Children’s Film Festival

After watching The Last Lightkeepers, I am more inspired than ever that we form a nonprofit organization to restore Gloucester’s crumbling lighthouses. There is a great deal of expertise from which we can draw upon.

THERE IS NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT! Please write and let me know if you have every thought about how to go abut restoring our lighthouses and if you have an interest in Gloucester’s beautiful, but severely decaying, beacons. What do you think about the name Friends of Gloucester Lighthouses?Director, Filmmaker & Editor Rob Apse

CURRENTLY WATCHING “THE LAST LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS” AT THE VIRTUAL PROVIDENCE CHILDREN’S FILM FESTIVAL!

All this school vacation week, the Providence Children’s Film Festival is airing an outstanding collection of wonderfully educational and interesting films for families and kids of all ages. Tickets are only $12.50 per film for the entire family. Or you can do as I did and buy a pass, which allows for viewing all films all week long. Beauty on the Wing is playing through Saturday and I will be part of a Q and A at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon. Please vote for BotWing after watching the film. Thank you!

At this moment I am currently watching The Last Lighthouse Keepers. This is a film I have been especially super excited to see largely because I think here in Gloucester we should form a Friends of Gloucester Lighthouses Association. Our lighthouses are in increasingly deplorable condition. I would like very much for we in Gloucester to follow in the footsteps of Rockort’s Paul St. Germain and the Thacher Island Association in restoring our lighthouses and the surrounding grounds.

The Last Lighthouse Keepers – This stunning documentary explores lighthouses across New England (including in Rhode Island) and the sadly decaying condition of many of them. Many abandoned lighthouses haven’t been tended to in decades or since they were replaced by updated tools of navigation. Director Rob Apse captures the beauty of these American sentinels that once defined a nation’s coastline. The Last Lightkeepers highlights stories of individuals currently fighting to preserve these structures while capturing their folklore before the lights go dim forever.

This week only, find this and more fabulous films at the Providence Children’s Film Festival

PROVIDENCE CHILDREN’S FILM FESTIVAL VIRTUAL SCREENING OF “BEAUTY ON THE WING” BEGINS FRIDAY!

Good Morning Friends!

I hope you are doing well and taking good care. I have exciting news to share regarding virtual screening times for Beauty on the Wing at the Providence Children’s Film Festival for my Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island friends. The festival opens at 4pm on this coming Friday, the 12th. Tickets may be purchased in advance and you will then have seven days in which to view. Once viewing begins, you have 24 hours to complete the screening. The tickets are only $12.50. Purchase tickets here. I am going to be participating in a Q and A on the afternoon of Saturday, the 20th, and will let you know more in the next few days.

The festival is showcasing a fantastic lineup of films. I plan to purchase a full access pass and there is also a family access pass option for ten films. The festival takes place during February school vacation week and will be a wonderfully inspiring source of entertainment for you and your family. Here is a link to all the films showing at the festival: FILM GUIDE. Just two of the many films I am super excited to see are The Last Lighthouse Keepers and Microplastic Madness.

I hope you’ll have a chance to watch Beauty on the Wing virtually. The Providence Children’s Film Festival is a truly stellar organization devoted to bringing inspiring and educational films to families in Rhode Island and the surrounding region. More information on how to participate in the Q and A to follow.

Take care dear friends and stay well.
Warmest wishes,
Kim

THANK YOU BOSTON INTERNATIONAL KID’S FILM FESTIVAL!

This beautiful keepsake for my documentary Beauty on the Wing from the Boston International Kids Film Festival arrived in the mail. I am so deeply honored to be awarded Best Documentary and highly recommend filmmaker friends join, support, and participate in BIKFF and Filmmakers Collaborative.

BUTTERFLIES IN THE NEWS – BUTTERFLIES “CLAP” THEIR WINGS AND THE DEMISE OF THE WEST COAST MONARCH

I read the following article with great interest “Butterflies fly using efficient propulsive clap mechanism owing to flexible wings”.

Subsequent reports have come out with headlines such as “Butterfly wing claps explain mystery of flight” and“Natural wonder: Wing ‘clap’ solves mystery of butterfly flight”

Butterfly wings come in all shapes, sizes, and degree of flexibility. They have evolved with a range of mechanisms and strategies in flight. Butterflies such as the Silver-washed Fritillary (see video below) and Yellow Sulphur clap their wings frequently, but other butterflies, the Monarch Butterfly for example, does not “clap”  their wings every time they take flight. The Monarch’s wings create an open cup shape, operating in more of a figure eight pattern.

Scientist have known about butterfly wing clapping for more than fifty years. I don’t think a mystery has been solved by the recent study from Sweden’s Lund University nonetheless, the articles are interesting to read.

 

In the above video you can see in the first few frames when the Monarch is taking off that its wings do not clap.

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On a more terrifying note, the Western Monarch population has become nearly entirely extirpated from its historic range. A recently published article from the Xerces Society “Western Monarch Population Closer to Extinction as the Wait Continues for Monarchs’ Protection Under the Endangered Species Act”reports a 99.9 percent decrease in population since the 1980s. Only 1,914 Monarchs were located during the annual Thanksgiving Butterfly Count.

Monarchs at the Goleta Butterfly Grove, 2015

In 2015, when my daughter Liv was living in Santa Monica, she and I took a day trip to the Goleta Butterfly Grove, just outside of Santa Barbara.

Goleta Butterfly Grove

The butterflies were, for the most part, sleeping quietly  in the Eucalyptus trees. A few were fluttering about, drinking nectar from the Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) growing nearby.

Non-native nectar source for Monarchs, Cape Honeysuckle

The Western Monarch Butterfly demise has been in the making for decades. The Ecaplytus trees the butterflies were roosting in appeared stressed. Eucalyptus trees are not native to California and are highly flammable. I wondered at the time why the forest couldn’t be underplanted with native tree and also wondered exactly what were the trees the butterflies may have historically roosted in.

With unbridled development that has lead to loss of habitat, forest fires, a warming climate, and the use of deadly pesticides and herbicides in this American breadbasket to the world, is it really a mystery as to why the butterflies are nearly extirpated from California.Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count Data 1997-2020 shows that despite a strong volunteer effort, monarch numbers are at the lowest point recorded since the count started in 1997.

THANK YOU GLOUCESTER DAILY TIMES GAIL McCARTHY AND ANDREA HOLBROOK FOR THE “LOCAL ARTISTS EARN ACCOLADES” FILM UDATE!!

Lovely update from the Gloucester Daily Times Gail McCarthy for Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. So many thanks to the Times for their continued support for BotWing. I am so grateful and appreciative!

AROUND CAPE ANN: Local artists earn accolades

  • January 14, 2020

Gloucester’s Kim Smith, who boasts a love of nature, photography and all things art, has found growing recognition for her film “Beauty on the Wing,” about the life of the monarch butterfly and its intercontinental migration from Canada to Mexico.

Smith spent more than eight years researching and documenting the natural phenomenon, whose more than 3,000 miles includes Cape Ann.

This fall, her documentary was accepted into the Boston International Kids Film Festival, where it earned an award for best documentary.

More recently, “Beauty on the Wing” received an Award of Excellence from the Nature Without Borders International Film Festival and was accepted as an official selection to the Providence Children’s Film Festival, which takes place in February.

“I am overjoyed that ‘Beauty on the Wing’ is finding acceptance at both children’s and conservation festivals; that jurors see it as it was meant to be, a conservation film for people of all ages,” Smith said.

She noted that “Beauty on the Wing” also appears on the American Public Television Worldwide website in its catalog of science and nature programming at aptww.org/program/Beauty-on-the-Wing-Life-Story-of-the-Monarch-Butterfly.

Rockport artist wins Texas honor

Rockport artist Susan Lynn won the grand prize at the EnPleinAirTEXAS competition with her painting titled “Peace on the River.”

“It was overwhelming to get the grand prize because there is a stellar group of painters in that competition every year,” she said. “It was humbling, and I was very honored to be recognized in that group.”

READ MORE HERE

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE 2020: THE YEAR IN PICTURES, MOVIES, AND STORIES

Several years ago my husband suggested I write a “year end” wildlife review about all the creatures seen over the preceding year. That first review was a joyful endeavor though daunting enough. Over the next several years the reviews became more lengthy as I tried to cover every beautiful, wonderful creature that was encountered on woodland hikes, beaches, dunes, marshes, ponds, and our own backyards and neighborhoods. 2020 has been a very different year. There were just as many local wildlife stories as in previous years however, the pandemic and political climate have had far reaching consequences across geographic regions around the world, touching every living creature in the interconnected web of life we call our ecosystems.

This first year of the global pandemic has had a profoundly negative impact on wildlife and their habitats. In urban areas in developed countries, perhaps the economic slowdown afforded wildlife a break, with less pollution, less air travel, and some wild animals even reclaiming territory. Though the true downside of Covid-19 is that the pandemic has had an extraordinarily harmful impact on wildlife in rural areas and in less developed countries People who are dependent upon tourism, along with people who have lost jobs in cities and are returning to rural areas, are placing increasing pressure on wildlife by poaching, illegal mining, and logging. As mining and logging destroy wildlife habitats, animals are forced into ever shrinking areas, causing them to become sick, stressed, and to starve to death. These same stressed wild animals come in contact with people and farm animals, creating an ever increasing potential to transmit horrifically deadly illness, diseases such as Covid-19.

There are many, many organizations working to protect wildlife and conserve their habitats. I am especially in awe of one particular grass roots non-profit organization located in Macheros, Mexico, previously featured here, Butterflies and Their People. Co-founded by Ellen Sharp and Joel Moreno Rojas, the work they are doing to both protect the butterfly’s winter habit and provide employment for the forest’s guardians is outstanding.

All the butterfly sanctuaries (their winter resting places), are closed this year due to the pandemic. Dozens of people in the tiny town of Macheros are wholly dependent upon the income received by the work they do protecting the butterfly trees from illegal logging, as well as income from the tourist industry.  Ellen, Joel, and their team of arborists have come up with a wonderfully creative way to bring the butterflies to you. For a modest fee, you can sign up to “Adopt a Colony” to receive monthly newsletters and video tours of the Monarchs at Cerro Pelon. The newsletters are written by Ellen, who writes beautifully and clearly about the month-by-month current state of the butterflies in their winter habitat, as well as human interest stories drawn from the community. To subscribe to “Adopt a Colony” from Butterflies and Their People, go here.

We can be hopeful in 2021 that with a new administration, a much greater focus will be paid by our federal government to stop the spread of the virus in the US as well as around the globe. Not only is there hope in regard to the course correction needed to battle the pandemic, but the Biden/Harris administration has made climate change and environmental justice a cornerstone of their platform, including measures such as stopping the environmental madness taking place along our southern border and reversing many of the previous administration’s mandates that are so harmful to wildlife and their habitats.

Around the globe, especially in less developed countries, the pandemic has set back environmental initiatives by years, if not decades. We are so fortunate in Essex County  to have conservation organizations such as Greenbelt, MassWildlife, The Trustees, and Mass Audubon; organizations that protect the sanctity of wildlife and recognize the importance of protecting habitats not only for wildlife but equally as important, for the health and safety of human inhabitants.

The following are just some of the local images and stories that make us deeply appreciate the beauty of wildlife and their habitats found on Cape Ann and all around Essex County. Each picture is only a brief window into the elusive, complex life of a creature. Every day and every encounter brings so much more to observe, to learn, to enjoy, and to love.

To read more, each image and story from the past year is Google searchable. Type in the name of the creature and my name and the link to the story and pictures posted on my website should come right up.

Some Beautiful Raptors of 2020 – Red-tailed Hawk, Short-eared Owl, American Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Osprey, and Snowy Owls

 

Essex County Greenbelt’s Osprey pair, Annie and Squam, successfully fledged three chicks, Vivi, Rusty, and Liz (nestling photo courtesy ECGA)

Dave Rimmer video from the Osprey cam at Lobstaland

The Snowy Owl Film Project was completed in March, with the objective of providing pandemic- virtually schooled kids a window into the world of Snowy Owls in their winter habitat (see all five short films here).

 

Spunky Mute Swan Cygnets

Utterly captivated by the winsome Red Fox Family

A tiny sampling of the beautiful songbirds that graced our shores in 2020 – Cedar Waxwings, Baltimore Orioles, Catbirds, American Robins, Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, Snow Buntings, American Pipits, Horned Larks, and Eastern Bluebirds

 

A new favorite place to film is at my friend Paul’s wonderfully fun sunflower field in Ipswich, School Street Sunflowers. Beautiful Bobolinks, Common Yellowthroat Warblers, and Bluejays were just some of the songbirds seen feasting on the expiring seedheads  of sunflowers and wildflowers growing amongst the rows of flowers.

Graceful White-tailed Deer herd of adult females and youngsters

Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and juvenile Little Blue Herons delight with their elegance, beauty, and stealth hunting skills. Included in the montage is a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron that spent the winter at Niles Pond

A fraction of the different species of Shorebirds and Gulls seen on Cape Ann this past year – Dowitchers, Killdeers, Black-bellied Plovers, Common Tern, Least Tern, Laughing Gulls, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Glaucus Gull, and rarely seen Dovekie, or”Little Auk.”

Cecropia Moth life cycle unfolding in our garden, from mating, to egg laying, to caterpillar, to adult.

 

Dozens and dozens of orb spider webs draped a small patch of wildflowers. The dream catchers were attracting Cedar Waxwings to feast on the insects caught in the webs. The following day I returned after a rainstorm. The webs had melted away in the downpour and the Waxwings had vanished into the treetops.

Harbor and Gray Seals hauled out on the rocks at Brace Cove, as many as 28 were counted on a winter’s day!

Piping Plovers and Marshmallow Montage

In 2020, our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover pair fledged one chick, nicknamed Marshmallow. Despite the global pandemic, a group of super dedicated Piping Plover Ambassadors worked tirelessly from sunrise until sunset to help ensure the safety of the Piping Plover family and to help educate beachgoers about the beautiful life story of the Plovers unfolding on Gloucester’s most popular beach destination. We worked with Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, the Gloucester DPW, and Gloucester City Councilor Scot Memhard, with much appreciated advice from Mass Wildlife Coastal Waterbird Biologist Carolyn Mostello.

Read more about Marshmallow, the Ambassadors, and the Piping Plover Film Project here.

Piping Plover Marshmallow Montage, from egg to thirty-eight days old. Filmed at Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, Massachusetts.

MONARCHS!

It has been a wonderful, exhilarating, infinitely educational, and beautifully challenging journey creating my documentary, Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterflies. The film was released in February 2020, but because of the pandemic, was not seen by the public until August, when it premiered (virtually) at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival. Beauty on the Wing has gone on to win honors and awards at both environmental and children’s film festivals, including the tremendous honor of Best Documentary at the Boston International Kids Film Festival. I’ve just received the very attractive award in the mail and have not had time to post a photo yet.

Beauty on the Wing portrays Cape Ann in the most beautiful light and I think when we are ever able to have a live premiere in this area, local friends will be delighted at the outcome. Joyfully so, Beauty is now being distributed to schools, libraries, institutions, and the travel industry through American Public Television Worldwide.

Beauty on the Wing continues to be accepted to film festivals and I will keep you posted as some are geo-bloced to this area, including the upcoming Providence Children’s Film Festival.

 

Last but not least, our wonderfully wildy Charlotte, little adventurer and nature-loving companion throughout the year

 

 

 

 

 

 

MONARCHS IN THE NEWS – ENDANGERED, BUT NOT ENOUGH TO WARRANT PROTECTIONS

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that Monarchs are indeed threatened with extinction, but will not be added to the US list of Endangered and Threatened Species.  The official designation is “warranted, but precluded,” which means they fall in line behind 161 other species considered more endangered.

Monarchs mating in a patch of Common Milkweed, Good Harbor Beach Gloucester

From USFWS –

What action did the Service take?
We have made a 12-month finding on a petition to list the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Based on a thorough review of the monarch’s status, we determined that listing is warranted, but a proposal to list the monarch is precluded at this time while we work on higher-priority listing actions.

Is the monarch federally protected now?
No. Our 12-month finding does not protect monarchs under the ESA at this time. We first must propose the monarch for listing as either an endangered or threatened species, gather and analyze public comments and any new information, and using the best available science, make a final decision and publish a final rule. That process is deferred while we work on higher-priority listing actions.

What is a 12-month finding?
Under the ESA, when we receive a petition to list a species, we first make a 90-day finding, in which we evaluate the information in the petition to see if it is substantial enough to begin a review of the species’ status. If it is a substantial finding, we then prioritize the species in our evaluation process, and at the appropriate time, we begin a status review. The culmination of that review is a 12-month finding on whether listing is warranted, not warranted, or warranted but precluded by higher-priority listing actions.

Who petitioned the Service to list the monarch?
The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Xerces Society and a private individual petitioned us in 2014 to list the monarch. We made a positive 90-day finding in December 2014 and launched the status review in 2016.

Read more questions and answers here on the USFWS website –

Questions and Answers: 12-month finding on a petition to list the monarch butterfly

For further reading –

Monarchs and the Endangered Species Act

Monarch Butterflies Qualify for Endangered List. They Still Won’t Be Protected

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finds Endangered Species Act Listing for Monarch Butterfly Warranted but Precluded

Officials agree monarch butterflies belong on endangered species list, but still won’t protect them

Assessing the Staaus of the Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies denied endangered species listing despite shocking decline

 

DO MONARCH CATERPILLARS FIGHT?

Turn up the volume to hear the caterpillars noshing away 🙂

Monarch caterpillars use their sense of smell, touch, and taste to navigate from milkweed leaf to milkweed leaf. The hungry caterpillar tears milkweed into bite-sized pieces with its mandibles.

When devouring the foliage of a milkweed plant, what happens when a caterpillar encounters another of its own kind on the same leaf? Will it fight to defend its food? Typically, the caterpillar responds by pulling away and repositioning itself on the leaf, barely missing a beat.

A recent article in the NYTimes, “Don’t Get Between a Caterpillar and Its Milkweed,” reviews the paper, “Aggression Is Induced by Resource Limitation in the Monarch Caterpillar,” authored by Collie, Granola, Brown, and Keene. Monarchs raised in a laboratory were given varying amounts of milkweed. Monarch caterpillars, they claim, lunge aggressively towards each other in greater and greater frequency as their milkweed supply was decreased.

In all the years I have been filming Monarch butterflies and caterpillars in gardens and in the wild, I would never have thought to describe the caterpillar’s behavior as fighting, aggressive, hangry, lunging, or head butting.

Monarch caterpillars use their sense of touch smell, and taste to eat their way from leaf to leaf. When another of its own kind is encountered on the same milkweed leaf, Monarchs in the wild pull back and reposition themselves on the leaf, barely missing a beat.

Monarch caterpillars do this same “pulling back” when brushed up against. I think it is more of a sensory response because caterpillars can barely see. Their simple eyes, called ocelli, only differentiate light from dark and cannot form an image. When a group are feeding in the same area, their behavior upon encountering one of their own kind is more characteristic of bumping into each other rather than aggressively defending their territory.

Towards the end of the summer, when milkweed leaves may be in shorter supply, caterpillars in the wild will eat the seedpods and even the stems of milkweed plants rather than aggressively battle for food.

Monarch caterpillars do not have the ability to “fight.” Their greatest defense against predators is the the caterpillar’s bright color and striped patterning, warning birds of its toxicity.

Every species of caterpillar has evolved with its own species-specific form of visual self-defense, visual against birds that is. Camouflage, mimicry, pokey spikes and spines, or brilliant colors and patterning are examples of defensive visual cues. Some caterpillars look like they are a sploge of bird poop (discouraging an attack from an avian predator) and some like leaves on a tree.

Swallowtail caterpillars have evolved with an osmeterium, a sort of forked appendage that everts when the creature feels threatened. The osmeterium resembles a snake’s tongue, also discouraging avian predation.

Black Swallowtail orange osmeterium

Some caterpillars are thought to be cannibalistic however, I am not sure cannibalism is the correct word because that suggests the act of willfully eating one of their own kind.

Pipevine Swallowtail eggs and caterpillars

 Pipevine Swallowtail eggs are deposited by the female butterfly in clusters and the early instars continue to feed in a group.

Around the third or fourth instar, they will devour each other if not enough food for is available. Caterpillars taste like the leaves they eat. Doesn’t it seem natural that if a caterpillar cannot see what it is eating, it would simply eat whatever is in front of it if the ‘whatever’ tasted of its food plant? I wouldn’t call this aggressive behavior, the cat is simply using its sense of taste, smell and touch to locate readily available food.

Aggression Is Induced by Resource Limitation in the Monarch Caterpillar

Highlights

Monarch caterpillars display stereotyped aggressive behavior

Aggression is triggered by limited food availability

Aggression peaks during the late stages of caterpillar development

Summary

Food represents a limiting resource for the growth and developmental progression of many animal species. As a consequence, competition over food, space, or other resources can trigger territoriality and aggressive behavior. In the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, caterpillars feed predominantly on milkweed, raising the possibility that access to milkweed is critical for growth and survival. Here, we characterize the role of food availability on aggression in monarch caterpillars and find that monarch caterpillars display stereotyped aggressive lunges that increase during development, peaking during the fourth and fifth instar stages. The number of lunges toward a conspecific caterpillar was significantly increased under conditions of low food availability, suggesting resource defense may trigger aggression. These findings establish monarch caterpillars as a model for investigating interactions between resource availability and aggressive behavior under ecologically relevant conditions and set the stage for future investigations into the neuroethology of aggression in this system.

 

“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.

CAPE ANN BEACON WICKED LOCAL BEAUTY ON THE WING FEATURE STORY

Thank you so much to Joseph Barrett for the interview and feature story in the Cape Ann Beacon/Wicked Local for Beauty on the Wing!

Block #3 Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly
Today, November 21st 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Purchase tickets here:
https://bikff.org/schedule/

Can Ann Butterflies Featured at Festival

Gloucester filmmakers documentary featured at Boston International Kids Film Festival

Joseph Barrett

November 20, 2020

Gloucester resident Kim Smith will showcase her film on butterflies at the Boston International Kids Film Festival on Saturday, Nov. 21

Smith’s “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” is a 56-minute narrated film featuring visuals of Cape Ann and Mexico’s volcanic mountains.The film explores the life journey of the monarch butterfly from birth, and talks about environmental impacts that led to it being an endangered species.

“I think butterflies are beautiful. They make a garden come to life,” Smith said.

The picture will not only share information about monarchs, but will bring attention to other endangered species as well, said Smith.

The film is 10 years in the making, she said. The idea of the film came to her in 2006 when Smith was writing a book about monarch butterflies and taking pictures of them.

“It was a phenomenal migration that year and they just kept pouring in,” Smith said. “Over the years, I just kept at it.”

Smith bought a video camera and took it with her wherever she went.

Smith traveled to Mexico twice to film, and other parts of the project were shot in Gloucester. She said she enjoys incorporating Cape Ann because it’s a “special and unique place” that’s full of hardworking people.

“I love my community, I love the people in my community. It’s truly my home,” Smith said.

Smith then reached out to the Boston International Kids Film Festival, who helped her through the process of presenting her film.

The festival, taking place November 20-22, will be held virtually due to the coronavirus.

The festival includes 70 animated short and narrative films from 17 countries, all directed towards children.

Laura Azevedo is the executive director of the festival, who said it’s important to help creators get their stories out to the world.

“We’ve been a resource for independent filmmakers all over the country,” Azevedo said. “It’s a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it.”

Azevedo said Smith’s film will do a great job connecting with children. Kids will get access to the movie and a zoom link to interact with Smith about butterflies and the filmmaking process.

“Kim’s film is an example of one where we work with schools as well,” Azevedo said.

Smith hasn’t just helped the environment on-screen. Kim Smith Designs was launched in 1985, and Smith has designed and maintained gardens in locations such as Gloucester, Cambridge, and Andover.

The award-winning landscape designer now brings her talents to the screen, and said she appreciates the Boston International Kids Film Festival for highlighting her findings.

“It’s grown and grown and grown over the past eight years,” Smith said. “Filmmakers are provided an opportunity to showcase their work.”

Her film will be during block #3 of the festival on Saturday, Nov. 21 at noon. To purchase tickets to the festival, visit this link: https://bikff.org/schedule/

“Filmmaking is one of the best ways in the world to communicate,” Smith said.

Joseph Barrett is a senior communication student at Endicott College.

MONARCH DREAMS

So looking forward to tonight’s opening of the Boston International Kids Film Festival! The show’s opener is the outstanding film, The Biggest Little Farm, and there is a full lineup of over 65 films scheduled from now through Sunday. See the schedule and how to purchase tickets here.

Beauty on the Wing is playing during Block #3 at noon on Saturday, November 21st, followed by a Q and A.

Who doesn’t love The Cranberries “Dreams,” and one of my favorite covers of this beautiful song is by Mandy Lee and MisterWives. I edited a rough cut of Monarch Dreams this afternoon, with clips from Beauty on the Wing and set to “Dreams.” That my film is at last finding an audience is a dream come true for me.

I dream about Monarchs and other creatures nightly and am thinking about ways to make Monarch Dreams more dream-like, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this cut <3

 

TICKETS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING ON SALE NOW WITH Q. AND A. FOLLOWING THE SCREENING

Dear Friends,

In case you missed previous posts and emails, if you would like to see my Monarch Butterfly film documentary, please consider watching Saturday, November 21st, from the comfort and safety of your own home, via the Boston International Kids Film Festival and WGBH. 100 percent of the ticket sales goes to support this outstanding festival! There will be a Q and A following the screening, with me in the role of director, and hosted by WGBH and Filmmakers Collaborative.

With beautiful music by Jesse Cook and filmed on Cape Ann, Cape May, Santa Barbara, and the butterfly sanctuaries at Cerro Pelon and Angangueo, Mexico. Please share with friends and click the link below to learn more.

Block #3 Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

Saturday, November 21st 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Purchase tickets here:

https://bikff.org/schedule/

TICKETS TO THE 8th ANNUAL Boston International Kids Film Festival NOW ON SALE
THIS YEAR IN PARTNERSHIP WITH GBH!
Screen both Professionally and Student-Made films!
Meet filmmakers from around the world!
Take a workshop in filmmaking or stop-motion animation!
ALL FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR OWN HOME!
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2020
FILM BLOCKS INCLUDE:
  • Family-Friendly Features
  • SHORT films for ages 10 and under
  • STUDENT-MADE films
  • FOREIGN LANGUAGE films
  • SHORT films for middle-schoolers ( and above!)
ALL GEARED TOWARDS KIDS!
$55 INDIVIDUAL FESTIVAL PASS ( watch everything!)
$75 FESTIVAL PASS two or more viewers ( honor system!)
$20 per film block

TONIGHT FIRST LOCAL ZOOM FILM SCREENING OF BEAUTY ON THE WING!

Tonight I am presenting a Zoom screening/presentation of Beauty on the Wing to a private group. The screening was scheduled a year ago, before covid, and was planed to be live. The organizers have been super throughout the planning changes. This is the first time doing a screening not through a film festival and I am on pins and needles. I hope they love the film and that there are no technical glitches! If all goes well, I would love to do more of these and will let you know. <3

For information on how to see Beauty on the Wing via WGHB and the Boston International Kids Film Festival on Saturday, November 21st, please follow this link here.

 

TICKETS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING ON SALE NOW!

Dear Friends,

Although not the gala premiere event we had envisioned pre-covid, if you would like to see my Monarch Butterfly film documentary, please consider watching Saturday, November 21st, from the comfort and safety of your own home, via the Boston International Kids Film Festival and WGBH. 100 percent of the ticket sales goes to support this outstanding festival. I hope you can come! With music by Jesse Cook. Filmed on Cape Ann, Santa Barbara, Cape May, and the butterfly sanctuaries at Cerro Pelon and Angangueo, Mexico. Please share and click the link below to learn more.

Block #3 Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

Saturday, November 21st 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Purchase tickets here:

https://bikff.org/schedule/

TICKETS TO THE 8th ANNUAL Boston International Kids Film Festival NOW ON SALE
THIS YEAR IN PARTNERSHIP WITH GBH!
Screen both Professionally and Student-Made films!
Meet filmmakers from around the world!
Take a workshop in filmmaking or stop-motion animation!
ALL FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR OWN HOME!
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2020
FILM BLOCKS INCLUDE:
  • Family-Friendly Features
  • SHORT films for ages 10 and under
  • STUDENT-MADE films
  • FOREIGN LANGUAGE films
  • SHORT films for middle-schoolers ( and above!)
ALL GEARED TOWARDS KIDS!
$55 INDIVIDUAL FESTIVAL PASS ( watch everything!)
$75 FESTIVAL PASS two or more viewers ( honor system!)
$20 per film block

VOTE FOR THE MONARCH MIGRATION!

The Monarch Butterfly migration is at tremendous risk. Herbicides such as Bayer’s/Monsanto’s Roundup and Roundup Ready crops have already had a profoundly negative on the Monarch population as well as myriad spices of bees and other butterflies.

The current administration’s EPA is recklessly promoting use of some of the world’s most dangerous pesticides and has approved over 100 products with pesticides banned in multiple countries or slated for US phase out.

For example, and just the tip of the iceberg, the current administration gave a green light to Chlorpyrifos an insecticide with origins in Nazi Germany, which was set to be banned by the EPA over health and environmental concerns. The current administration reversed the decision after Dow Chemicals, a manufacturer of the chemical, donated one million dollars to his inauguration fund.

Vote for the Monarch Migration!

For all our winged wonders,

For the birds, the butterflies, the bees,

And mostly

For the future of the littlest human wonders that we so cherish.

Excerpt from Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

Music by Jesse Cook “Fields of Blue.”

VOTE the Blue Wave –

Vote for Science

Vote for the Environment

Vote for Racial Justice

Vote for a Woman’s Right to Choose

Vote for Wildlife

Vote for an Economy that Works for All

Vote for Fiscal Responsibility

Vote to End Voter Suppression

Vote to Educate All

Vote for Jobs

Vote for Infrastructure

Butterflies for Biden!