Category Archives: Monarchs in Mexico

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

 

CHECK OUT THE BOSTON INTERNATIONAL KIDS FILM FESTIVAL TRAILER HERE!

So looking forward to viewing all the films at the Boston International Kids Film Festival this weekend.  The BIKFF202 starts Friday night, November 20th, with a fantastic feature “The Biggest Little Farm.” For more information visit the BIKFF2020 website here.

Check out the BIKFF2020 trailer –

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!

 

VOTE FOR BUTTERFLIES!

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!

 

 

Tickets for the 2020 Boston International Kids Film Festival NOW ON SALE!

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

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

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

Purchase tickets here:

 

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.

50KM POP-UP FUNDRAISER FOR BUTTERFLIES AND THEIR PEOPLE AND MONARCH SANCTURAY

Last spring my husband Tom and I traveled to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve at Cerro Pelón to continue filming Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. We stayed in the magically beautiful tiny rustic town of Macheros at the equally as beautiful JM Butterflies Bed and Breakfast. The hotel is owned and operated by a visionary husband and wife team, Joel Moreno Rojas and Ellen Sharp. In five short years, the dynamic duo turned a four room home into a wonderfully accommodating 14 room inn, replete with a new restaurant, swimming pool, ensuite bathrooms, internet, mountain view roof top cocktail area, yoga studio, with many more amenities.

Macheros is located at the base of Cerro Pelón, the location where the butterflies overwintering grounds were first documented by Mexican citizen scientist Catalina Aguado Trail, working with Canadian and US scientists (1975). The trail leading up to the sanctuary is mere footsteps from JM Butterflies B and B..

Cerro Pelón is the most pristine of all the reserves. The beautiful natural state in which the sanctuary is kept is only made possible by a group of highly dedicated arborists.  The arborists daily patrol the forest to prevent illegal logging and provide information to the guides on the butterfly’s current location (Monarchs move around the mountains during their winter stay). The arborists are working to protect the existing forest. Some organizations focus on replanting trees after they have been logged, but it can take 30 to 40 years for a tree to become a special “butterfly tree,” one on which the butterflies roost during the winter.

Monarchs and Snakeroot, Cerro Pelon

The arborists are paid through the forest conservation non-profit organization created by Ellen and Joel appropriately called Butterflies and Their People. The mission of Butterflies and Their People is to support the Monarchs while also providing livelihoods for members of the community. Much of the village of Macheros depends on visitors to the sanctuary. Additionally, the Inn provides well paying jobs including restaurant work, trail guides, drivers, and inn keeping.

As you can imagine, a tiny town such as Macheros has been devastated by the pandemic. Gratefully so, no one in Macheros has caught the disease however, the local town officials have closed the sanctuary to the public for fear that someone may contract Covid from visitors to the sanctuary. Cerro Pelón will be shuttered for the entire year, a devastating blow to the tiny township and all her citizens. As has happened to so many in the US and around the world, overnight the people of Macheros lost their livelihoods.

A fundraiser has been organized by Carlotta James and the Monarch Ultra Team. So far, they have raised $1,900.00, nearly two thirds of the $3,000.00 goal.

Please consider donating to the 50km pop-up fundraiser at:

50km Fundraiser for Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

Any donation of any amount will be tremendously appreciated. Thank you for our consideration.

Butterflies and Their People Mission Statement: To preserve the butterfly sanctuary by creating jobs for local people in forest and monarch butterfly conservation.

Thank you Film Friends!

Dear Friends of Beauty on the Wing,

Thank you all so very much for taking the time to respond to my ‘survey’ question about how you view films. Wow, what a variety of answers. I am working on a plan for Everyone to view!

Such a disappointingly light Monarch migration through Cape Ann this autumn but the shift in wind direction at the beginning of the week produced a tiny sprinkling of butterflies. Friends along the New Jersey coast are reporting good numbers the past few days. You can see on the map from Journey North how few overnight roosts have been recorded on the East Coast. Typically the map is much more densely colored: Monarch Butterfly Overnight Roosts 2020 Hopefully the migration will strengthen in the central part of the country

Stay well and take care,
Very best wishes,
Kim

Migrating Monarch in the garden fattening up on nectar at the pink New England Asters

BEAUTY ON THE WING RECEIVES OUTSTANDING EXCELLENCE AWARD AT THE WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

With gratitude to WRPN Women’s International Film Festival for this honor

Monarch passing through on Tuesday

Good News to Share!

Dear Friends of Beauty on the Wing,

I hope you are all doing well and fortunate enough to have good health.

After a brief cold snap we are having a beautiful Indian Summer here on Cape Ann. I hope you have the opportunity to get outdoors today and enjoy nature. Bird and butterfly migrations are well underway. At Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, rangers shared that they have never seen a migration such as this year’s, with over 180 species sited at the refuge this past week. The birds appear to have benefitted from decreased human activity over the past seven months. On the other hand, the Atlantic Coast Monarch migration seems stalled or nonexistent. Perhaps we will have a late, great migration as we did several years ago. And there are some positive signs for the butterflies, especially through the Mississippi Flyway as Monarch Waystations further north, such as the one at Point Pelee have been reporting that the Monarch migration is doing well. I’ve seen Monarchs migrating through Cape Ann in good numbers as late as the second week of October, so we’ll be ever hopeful.

Good news to share -the page for Beauty on the Wing is up on American Public Television World Wide! Here is the link, including information with a link on how to license Beauty. The page looks great and the line-up of films, stellar. We are so honored to be included in this fine catalogue of Science, Health, and Nature Programming!

And more super good news to share – Beauty on the Wing has been accepted to the Boston International Kids Film Festival! This is an outstanding festival for kids, by kids, and about kids and is organized by a dynamic group of women: Laura Azevedo, Kathleen Shugrue, and Natalia Morgan. A complete list of films for the 2020 BIKFF will be posted in the upcoming days, along with information on how the festival will be organized for safe viewing during the pandemic.

I have been following (or become enchanted is a more accurate description) a small flock of Bobolinks. Click here to read a story posted on my website: Bobolinks Amongst the Sunflowers. While reading about Bobolinks, I came across a link to The Bobolink Project, a truly worthwhile organization. The Bobolink Project habitat conservation plan not only helps Bobolinks, but many species of declining grassland birds.

The sun is coming out and the temperature still summery. Stay well and enjoy the day!

Warmest wishes,
Kim

BEAUTY ON THE WING ON AMERICAN PUBLIC TELEVISION WORLD WIDE!

Hello Friends,

So proud and excited to share – here are several screenshots and a link to my listing for licensing on American Public Television World Wide. APTWW Program: Beauty on the Wing:Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

If you would like to license Beauty on the Wing or would like more information, please follow the  above link and click on the Contact Us box. Thank you!

For more information about the documentary Beauty on the Wing and the Monarch Butterfly migration, visit the film’s website here: Beauty on the Wing

 

TINY KALEIDOSCOPE OF MONARCHS PASSING THROUGH

Winds from the north brought a tiny kaleidoscope of Monarchs to our shores over  the weekend. Isn’t that a wonderful official word for a group of butterflies! A bunch of caterpillars is officially called an army.

Will there be more waves of Monarchs passing through? Time will tell. Along the Atlantic Coast Flyway, we’ve seen far fewer butterflies so far this year, especially when compared to last year’s numbers. Keeping my hopes up though 🙂Dancing Monarch

Soaring Monarch

BEAUTY ON THE WING OFFICIAL SELECTIONS FOR THE WILDLIFE CONSERVATION AND NATURE WITHOUT BORDERS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVALS

Deeply honored to be included in the Nature Without Borders International and Wildlife Conservation Film Festivals

Kim Smith Interview with NHDocs

New Haven Documentary Film Festival presents a Q&A w/Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly director Kim Smith.

A Q&A, , moderated by NHdocs festival supervisor Karyl Evans, which accompanied the virtual screening of the feature documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the 7th annual edition of NHdocs: the New Haven Documentary Film Festival in August 2020.

For more information: www.NHdocs.com

With thanks and gratitude to New Haven Documentary Film Festival director Gorman Bechard and interviewer Karyl Evans for this interview. I am so appreciative of the support given to filmmakers by these two, filmmakers themselves. The festival was beautifully organized and I have received so much positive feedback. What an honor to be accepted!

NEW STUDY BY MONARCH WATCH CHIP TAYLOR REFUTES “MIGRATION MORTALITY” AS THE MAJOR REASON FOR THE DECLINE OF THE MONARCHS

Female Monarch depositing egg on Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Evaluating the Migration Mortality Hypothesis Using Monarch Tagging Data

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

August 7, 2020

Authors:

Orley Talor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States

John M. Pleastant, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, United States

Ralph Grundel, U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, Chesterton, IN, United States

Samulel D. Pecoraro, U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, Chesterton, IN, United States

James P. Lovett, Monarch Watch, Kansas Biological Survey, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States

Ann Ryan, Monarch Watch, Kansas Biological Survey, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States

The decline in the eastern North American population of the monarch butterfly population since the late 1990s has been attributed to the loss of milkweed during the summer breeding season and the consequent reduction in the size of the summer population that migrates to central Mexico to overwinter (milkweed limitation hypothesis). However, in some studies the size of the summer population was not found to decline and was not correlated with the size of the overwintering population. The authors of these studies concluded that milkweed limitation could not explain the overwintering population decline. They hypothesized that increased mortality during fall migration was responsible (migration mortality hypothesis). We used data from the long-term monarch tagging program, managed by Monarch Watch, to examine three predictions of the migration mortality hypothesis: (1) that the summer population size is not correlated with the overwintering population size, (2) that migration success is the main determinant of overwintering population size, and (3) that migration success has declined over the last two decades. As an index of the summer population size, we used the number of wild-caught migrating individuals tagged in the U.S. Midwest from 1998 to 2015. As an index of migration success we used the recovery rate of Midwest tagged individuals in Mexico. With regard to the three predictions: (1) the number of tagged individuals in the Midwest, explained 74% of the variation in the size of the overwintering population. Other measures of summer population size were also correlated with overwintering population size. Thus, there is no disconnection between late summer and winter population sizes. (2) Migration success was not significantly correlated with overwintering population size, and (3) migration success did not decrease during this period. Migration success was correlated with the level of greenness of the area in the southern U.S. used for nectar by migrating butterflies. Thus, the main determinant of yearly variation in overwintering population size is summer population size with migration success being a minor determinant. Consequently, increasing milkweed habitat, which has the potential of increasing the summer monarch population, is the conservation measure that will have the greatest impact.

Introduction

Since the late 1990s, the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, population has declined significantly based on measurements made at the Mexican overwintering grounds (Brower et al., 2011; Semmens et al., 2016). Identifying the cause or causes of the decline is important in order to focus conservation measures appropriately. Two explanations for the decline in the size of the overwintering population dominate the literature. The first, known as the “milkweed limitation” hypothesis, posits that the decline in the number of milkweed host plants in the major summer breeding area in the Upper Midwest of the U.S. (Figure 1) has led to a reduction in the size of the migratory population (Pleasants et al., 2017). The second, known as the “migration mortality” hypothesis, posits that the resources and conditions during the fall migration have declined resulting in an increase in mortality during the migration and a decline in the overwintering population (Agrawal and Inamine, 2018).

Figure 1. All wild-caught butterflies tagged from north of 40° latitude and east of 100° longitude were included in the study. This area includes the region we are calling the Midwest, encompassing the area from 40 to 50° latitude and 80 to 100° longitude (outlined in red) and the region we are calling the Northeast, encompassing the area from 40 to 50° latitude and 65 to 80° longitude (outlined in blue). What we are calling the Total Area is the Midwest and Northeast combined. The NDVI values (Saunders et al., 2019) come from the region that encompasses the area from 30 to 40° latitude and 90 to 105° longitude (outlined in green). The dark blue square indicates the location of the overwintering colonies. Butterflies were tagged in other sectors besides the Midwest and Northeast but those data are not included in this study.

The milkweed limitation hypothesis is supported by data showing that in the early 2000s the majority of monarch production came from common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, in corn and soybean fields in the Midwest (Oberhauser et al., 2001) and that the abundance of those milkweeds declined precipitously due to glyphosate herbicide use in those fields (Pleasants and Oberhauser, 2013; Flockhart et al., 2015; Pleasants et al., 2017; Thogmartin et al., 2017a; Saunders et al., 2018). The loss of the milkweeds from corn and soybean fields began in the late 1990s with the adoption of glyphosate-tolerant crops. Milkweeds had been nearly eliminated from these fields by 2006 (Pleasants, 2017). During this period, an estimated 71% of the monarch production potential of milkweeds on the Midwest landscape was eliminated, amounting to 25 million hectares of agricultural habitat that no longer had milkweeds (Pleasants, 2017). The subsequent decrease in the availability of milkweed is thought to have limited the size of the summer breeding population. Support for this hypothesis comes from the pattern of decline in milkweed availability that parallels the decline in the size of the overwintering population (Pleasants et al., 2017). Further support comes from the strong correlation between yearly late summer Midwest monarch egg production and yearly overwintering population size (Pleasants and Oberhauser, 2013; Pleasants et al., 2017).

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Beauty on the Wing Movie Poster

Version two of Monarch movie poster, with laurels!

THANK YOU HEATHER ATWOOD AND KORY CURCURU FOR THE WONDERFUL MONARCH FILM 1623 STUDIOS INTERVIEW!

Thank you so very much to Heather Atwood and Kory Curcuru for sharing about all things Monarchs, including the current state of the butterflies, Monarchs and other species of butterflies found in our gardens, and about my forthcoming film Beauty on the Wing; Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.  

I look forward to watching weekly episodes of their show, Cape Ann Today, and was simply delighted to be interviewed. Thank you again <3

“As light as a paperclip and they travel over 3,000 miles.” The Monarch Butterfly and its awe-inspiring life cycle has become a sort of northstar for documentary filmmaker Kim Smith. Watch the trailer to her soon-to-be-released film, “Beauty on the Wing – Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” and hear Smith discuss this iconic winged being, and what we can do to support its journey.

You can watch the interview on either Youtube or the Facebook link; I think the Youtube version is a little clearer.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE BUTTERFLIES GONE?

In thinking about where have all the butterflies gone, I am reminded of the poignant song written by Pete Seeger “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” which although a song about the futility of war, sums up much about the environmental impact of habitat loss. Without wildflower habitat, there will be no pollinators of any sort.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago.

Buckeye and Seaside Goldenrod

Where have all the butterflies gone? Different species of butterfly populations fluctuate from year to year. For example, some years you may see far greater numbers of Buckeyes, the next year not so much. That same year you may hardly see any Tiger Swallowtails but will the following.

That being said,, everyone must realize that every year there are fewer butterflies than the year before. Butterflies thrive in meadows, the very same topography that is the easiest to build upon. Every time a new house or shopping mall is built on a meadow, we decrease not just butterfly habitat, but a whole community of wildlife habitat.

In the above photo you can see a Monarch with a Black Swallowtail flying overhead. This stunning patch of wildflowers and nectar plants was sited in Gloucester at a prime spot for Monarchs to rest and refuel after migrating across Massachusetts Bay. The new home owners ripped out most of the wildflowers and planted the site in a more formal style, with non-native perennials and shrubs. At this location, I would often see Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Painted and American Ladies, Sulphurs, and many other species. That is no longer true.

Tiger Swallowtail drinking nectar from Joe Pye-weed at the same wildflower patch, no longer in existence.

Butterfly and bee populations are declining overall, not only because of habitat loss, but because of the unbridled use of herbicides and pesticides in agriculture and home lawn care.

Butterflies are especially sensitive to fluctuations in weather, and also to overall climate change. This year we had a long, cold wet spring. The inclement weather is continuing, too, from a butterflies perspective, because although we are seeing some warmer temperatures the past few days, it has mostly been rainy, foggy, or overcast. Butterflies thrive during long stretches of sunny, hot weather. Their wings don’t work very well in the damp and cold. Because of global climate change, we have seen a seven percent increase in precipitation worldwide.

One of the best years I have ever seen for dozens and dozens of species of butterflies, including Monarchs, in the Northeast, was the summer and fall of 2012. That year, we had a warm winter followed by a warm spring, then a warm, dry summer, and a long, warm Indian summer. It was butterfly bonanza that summer and autumn!Adding to people’s concern is the fact that last year, there was an abundance of spring rain that in turn created an extraordinary wildflower bloom in Texas, which got all the butterflies off to a good start. In 2019, we were seeing Monarchs as early as early June, which was very unusual for Cape Ann. Folks are comparing this year to that of 2019, however, 2019 was not an average year.

Monarchs are a case unto themselves. Their spring and summer numbers depend upon a variety of additional conditions, including how successful was the previous year’s autumn migration, whether or not there were nectar providing wildflowers on their northward and southward  migrations, and wind and weather conditions from Canada to Mexico.

Note the bar graph in that the eastern population of the Monarchs plummeted by half, according to this year’s spring count by the World Wildlife Fund Mexico.

Particularly in the northeast, the wind patterns during the Monarchs spring northward migration matter tremendously. My friend Charmaine at Point Pelee, in southern Ontario, which is 49 degrees latitude (we are 43 degrees latitude) has been raising and releasing Monarchs for over a month now, while most of us on Cape Ann have only seen a smattering. The Monarchs moved this year in a straight northward trajectory. If the wind does not blow from west to east during some part of their northward migration, far fewer will end up along the eastern shores.Monarchs and Seaside Goldenrod

All is not lost. I am 90 percent certain we will soon be seeing some of our migratory and non-migratory local populations, we just need some good weather. They are later than usual, but not gone entirely.

For so many more reasons, I am hopeful for the future of wildlife and their habitats and see such tremendous, positive change. Despite the current administration’ s extremely harmful stance against the environment, many, many individuals and organizations are gaining a deeper appreciation about the importance of habitats and taking positive action. Many have made it their life’s work. These individuals and organizations are creating wildlife sanctuaries and conserving existing habitats. If the Monarch is declared an endangered species, that will surely bring an added awarenesses and increased federal spending for protecting and creating habitats.

How can you help the Monarchs, which in turn will help myriad species of other butterflies and pollinators? Plant wildflowers! Both Marsh and Common Milkweed for their northward migration, and lots of nectar-rich later summer blooming wildflowers for their southward migration, including New England Aster, Smooth Aster, Purple-stemmed Aster, Seaside Goldenrod, and Canada Goldenrod.Monarchs and New England Aster

BEAUTY ON THE WING ACCEPTED TO THE NEW HAVEN DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL!

Overjoyed Beauty on the Wing is going to the New Haven Documentary Film Festival!

2019 Honors Filmmaker –

HAS ANYONE SEEN MONARCHS YET?

Although Monarchs have been sited as far north as 46 degrees, it is still very early for us even though we are at 43 degrees latitude because we are so far east. Please write if you see one in your garden. And feel free to send a photo. I will post photos here. Thank you so much!

Keep your eyes peeled, especially on emerging milkweed shoots. In the photos below, Monarchs are drinking nectar from, depositing eggs on, and also mating on the milkweed plants. Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) are the two most productive milkweeds for the Northeast region.

EARTH DAY 1970 – 2020: “MONARCH BUTTERFLIES MATING” SHORT FILM AND WHY WE PLANT NATIVE WILDFLOWER HABITAT GARDENS!

An excerpt from my forthcoming film, Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, shows three of the wildflowers found in our gardens, meadows, and marshes that attracts Monarchs, along with myriad species of other pollinators.

Plant the two milkweeds listed below and you, too, will have Monarchs mating in your garden!

Featuring:

Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) that supports southward migrating Monarchs.

Marsh Milkweed (Ascleipias incarnata), one of the milkweeds most readily used by ovipositing female Monarchs.

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). A study published last year that shows Common Milkweed is THE milkweed for Monarchs!

Music by Jesse Cook