Category Archives: #monarchbutterflyfilmfundraiser

MONARCHS MATING IN SEPTEMBER – SAY WHAT??

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four eggs on one leaf!

LOOK FOR AMERICAN PAINTED LADIES ON THE MOVE!

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

The American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) is seen often drinking nectar alongside Monarchs during the late summer migration. She is one of four North American (of the 22 species found worldwide) Vanessa butterflies. The North American tribe also includes the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), and the West Coast Lady (Vanessa anabella). 

Some of the caterpillar’s favorite food plants are Sweet Everlasting (Graphalium obtusifolium), Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), and Plantain-leaved Pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia). The caterpillars also feed occasionally on Burdock (Arctium), Wormwood (Artemisia), and Ironweed (Vernonia)

BEAUTY ON THE WING AT THE SHALIN LIU! AND THANK YOU NEW ENGLAND BIOLABS!!!

Good Morning Butterfly Friends!

Don’t you love these last days of summer, they are simply so atmospherically glowing! According to the calendar, September 22nd marks the official beginning of autumn but if this balmy weather continues we still have many days ahead of warm golden light to look forward to.

The Monarch’s are on the move with continuous reports from all around the region of great flyovers and stopovers at meadows and friend’s gardens. I thought I was done rearing butterflies but a beautiful Mama stopped in our garden on Monday where she deposited dozens and dozens of eggs. More about that when I have time to write the story about why this happens. My friend Lauren was getting milkweed for the last of her caterpillars. She found an egg on one of the milkweed plants and it hatched yesterday! These late hatching Monarchs most likely won’t make it to Mexico, but they may travel as far as Florida where they will spend the cooler months there.

Female Monarch in the garden depositing eggs on September 13, 2021. Note the two tiny pin-head sized eggs on the milkweed leaf.

I am very delighted and proud to announce that we have our first corporate contributor/underwriter, New England Biolabs, Inc. We are equally as proud to write that New England Biolabs is a certified B Corporation, which means that a Certified B Corporation, or B Corp as it is commonly referred to, is a for-profit company that meets the highest level of third-party verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. More about New England Biolabs and its founder, Donald G. Comb’s love of butterflies, in an upcoming post.

I have been working like crazy making posters and postcards for the upcoming screening, along with preparing images and artwork for American Public Television and PBS. It’s all pretty exciting, and also a bit nerve wracking, as this is the first time Beauty on the Wing will be appearing in front of a live audience on the big screen. We have printed a few extra posters. Any suggestions of where would be the best place to post, please write. Many thanks to Samantha at Seaside Graphicsfor her excellent advice in printing! The screening and Q and A are next Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm.

I hope so much that all our friends who have supported Beauty so greatly, through interest and good will and/or contributions, will be able to attend. Please spread the word to your friends and family.  The screening is early enough in the evening that I think school age kids can attend and will really enjoy. Please be assured that this is a masked event and proof of vaccination may be required.

That Beauty on the Wing is having its live premiere at the Sahlin Liu is a full circle moment. Jesse Cook, the artist whose transcendent music you hear in the documentary, played at the Shalin Liu several years ago, pre Covid. Link to the concert photos at the Shalin Liu “Follow the Road

Here is the link to the lovely Rockport Music/Shalin Liu listing. Many thanks to Rockport Music’s Michelle Alekson for creating the page!

Happy September Days!

xoKim

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go here. Thank you!

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

Lauren Mercadante, New England Biolabs, Inc., Jonathan and Sally Golding, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Joeann Hart and Gordon Baird, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), Heidi and John Shiver (Pennsylvania), Marty and Russ Coleman, Joy Van Buskirk (Florida), Lillian and Craig Olmstead, Suki and Fil Agusti (Rockport), Janis Bell, Nina Groppo, Nubar Alexanian, Marguerite Matera, Claudia Bermudez, Thomas Hauck, Judith Foley (Woburn), Jane Paznik-Bondarin (New York), Paul Vassallo (Beverly), Stella Martin, Liv Hauck (California), Julia Williams Robinson (Minnesota), Cynthia Dunn, Diane Gustin, John Ronan, Karen Maslow, Fernando Arriaga (Mexico City), Holly Nipperus (Arizona), Kristina Gale (California), Maggie Debbie, Kate and Peter Van Demark (Rockport), Mia Nehme (Beverly), Chicki Hollet, Alice Gardner (Beverly), Therese Desmarais (Rockport), Jennie Meyer, Kathy Gerdon Archer (Beverly), Melissa Weigand (Salem), Duncan Todd (Lexington), Catherine Ryan, Linda Bouchard (Danvers), Elaine Mosesian, Paul Wegzyn (Ipswich), Catherine Bayliss, Alessandra Borges (Rhode Island), Jan Waldman (Swampscott), Carolyn Constable (Pennsylvania), Nancy Mattern (New Mexico), Ian Gardiner, Judy Arisman, Tom Schaefer, Margaret Thompson, Edward DeJesus (Maryland), Kim Tieger (Manchester), Mary Weissblum, Susan Pollack

New Poster –

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

Good morning Butterfly Friends!

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Butterfly Days,

xxKim

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

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

Because it is beloved by every pollinator in the hood!

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

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

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go here.  For the latest update with PBS, please go here: Over the Moon. Thank you!

OVER THE MOON!

Dear Monarch Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

Happy August Butterfly Days!

xoKim

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

Lauren Mercadante, Jonathan and Sally Golding, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Joeann Hart and Gordon Baird, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), Joy Van Buskirk (Florida), Lillian and Craig Olmstead, Suki and Fil Agusti (Rockport), Janis Bell, Nina Groppo, Nubar Alexanian, Marguerite Matera, Claudia Bermudez, Thomas Hauck, Judith Foley (Woburn), Jane Paznik-Bondarin (New York), Paul Vassallo (Beverly), Stella Martin, Liv Hauck (California), Julia Williams Robinson (Minnesota), Cynthia Dunn, Diane Gustin, Heidi Shiver (Pennsylvania), John Ronan, Karen Maslow, Fernando Arriaga (Mexico City), Holly Nipperus (Arizona), Kristina Gale (California), Maggie Debbie, Kate and Peter Van Demark (Rockport), Mia Nehme (Beverly), Chicki Hollet, Alice Gardner (Beverly), Therese Desmarais (Rockport), Jennie Meyer, Kathy Gerdon Archer (Beverly), Melissa Weigand (Salem), Duncan Todd (Lexington), Catherine Ryan, Linda Bouchard (Danvers), Elaine Mosesian, Paul Wegzyn (Ipswich), Catherine Bayliss, Alessandra Borges (Rhode Island), Jan Waldman (Swampscott), Carolyn Constable (Pennsylvania), Nancy Mattern (New Mexico), Ian Gardiner, Judy Arisman, Tom Schaefer, Margaret Thompson

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go here. Thank you!

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

YES and MAYBES in the Top 25 Markets

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

MAYBE

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

MORE MONARCH BABES ON THE WAY!

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

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

1st Instar

3rd Instar

J-shape readying to pupate

Chrysalis

Newly emerged zipping together proboscis

Female newly emerged drying wet wings and readying for take off

An old boy – note his tattered and fading wings

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go here. Thank you!

 

 

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

From the Ground Up: Preserving beauty on the wing

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

The reader wrote:

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

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

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

Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

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

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

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

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

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

WHY ARE THERE GOLD DOTS ON A MONARCH CHRYSALIS?

Glimmering sparkly gold in the sunlight, a question often asked is why is the Monarch chrysalis adorned with metallic dots and dashes? The gold dots serve the function of oxygen exchange but that doesn’t answer how and why the dots are gold.

Since time immemorial people have noticed the brilliant golden dots, dashes, and gold leafing of many species of butterfly chrysalides. The word chrysalis originates from the Greek word “chrysos,” which means gold.

There are are several hypotheses. The two that make the most sense are deterrents to predators and camouflage.

For the same reason the iridescent scales of the Blue Morpho Butterfly flash light when the butterfly is in flight, the golden markings of the chrysalis catch light, confusing and deterring predators.

Butterfly pupae are protein-rich easy targets. They are too busy rearranging their insides while undergoing metamorphosis to fend off predators. For the most part, throughout a butterfly’s life cycle, from caterpillar to chrysalis to adult, each species has evolved with specific-to-that-species warning and/or camouflage markings.

The chrysalis of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly is a perfect example. When the butterfly pupates in the spring and summer, the chrysalis has a soft golden green hue, which blends beautifully with the lush green of summer foliage.

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis newly formed

When the butterfly pupates late in the summer, the chrysalis turns woody brown, taking on the same hues of bare tree branches.

Golden studs, dashes, and leafing reflect the surrounding area, create flashes of light, look like drops of dew, shafts of light, and is some cases, such as that of the Tigerwing Butterfly, may frighten a predator when it sees its own reflection.

Tigerwing Butterfly (Tithorea harmonia) Photo by Desus Mortus

How the gold is formed is easier to pinpoint. Metallic and iridescent markings in butterflies are created when both pigmented cells (in this case yellow carotenoids) and structural cells are present. You see carotenoids present when trees turn yellow, gold, and orange in autumn. The Monarch caterpillar gets its carotenoids from the plant it eats, milkweed.

The crown of the Monarch pupa is called a diadem. If you look closely at the diadem, it’s a raised structure, a line of tiny hills. The combination of the raised hills and carotenoids present both absorb and reflects the light, creating the appearance of shiny gold.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go here. Thank you!

PRECIOUS GEMS IN THE GARDEN!

Gems more precious than jade.

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

Twins!

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go here. Thank you!

TINY CATERPILLAR MOLTING

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

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

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

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

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

Last of the teeny tinies?

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go here. Thank you!