Category Archives: #wildflowers

VIBRANT TANGERINE ORANGE BUTTERFLY ON THE WING!

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. Presented by the Boston Film Festival and Rockport Music.

Orange Sulphur Butterfly on the Wing!

The vibrantly beautiful male Orange Sulphur Butterfly was spotted on our shoreline, flitting from flower to flower along a stand of Black Mustard. No other butterfly of New England flashes that beautiful shade of tangerine when in flight. The females are considerably paler with wings in shades ranging from white to buttery yellow.

The Orange Sulphur Butterfly is seen from coast to coast, from southern Canada to central Mexico. I most often observe them at the edge of marshes and in fields where clovers grow.

Male Orange Sulphur Butterfly

Orange Sulphurs drink nectar from many types of flowers including milkweeds, dandelions, asters, and goldenrods.

The caterpillars eat a wide variety of plants in the Legume Family, both native and introduced. Favorite host plants (caterpillar food plants) include Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), White Clover (Trifolium repens), and White Sweet Clover Melilotus alba).

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

A MINI- GLOSSARY OF LATE SUMMER BUTTERFLIES

A gallery of some of the butterflies most commonly seen during the Monarch’s southward migration.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) – wingspan 1.6 inches -2.9 inches

American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) – wingspan 1.75 – 2.40 inches

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) – wingspan 2.75 – 3 inches

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) – wingspan 1.5 to 2.75 inches 

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) – wingspan 3 to 4 inches 

Small White /Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) – wingspan 1.3 – 1.9 inches

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) – wingspan 1.25 – 2 inches

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme) -wingspan 1.3 – 2.3

Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) – wingspan 3 – 4 inches

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) – wingspan 3.1 to 5.5 inches

American Copper (Lycaena phleas) – wingspan .75 to 1.5 inches 

Silver-bordered Fritillary (Bolaria selene) – wingspan 1.25 – 2.25 inches

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) – wingspan 1 – 1.5 inches

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) – wingspan 2.25 – 4 inches

 

Beauty on the Wing Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly premiering locally on September 23rd at the Shalin Liu. For more information, please go here.

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 here: Over the Moon

To DONATE go here.

Thank you!

Pearl Crescent Male (left) and Female (right). You can tell the butterfly on the left is a male because males typically have black-tipped antennae clubs

 

THE BEST NEWS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING AND PLEASE SAVE THE DATE!

Good morning Butterfly Friends!

I hope so much you had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend. We on Cape Ann were treated to the magnificent Schooner Festival. The Schooner Festival committee, Maritime Gloucester, and the City of Gloucester create a magical last-weekend-of-the-season hurrah, all tied around the Schooner Fest, and each year more and more fun events and activities for the whole family are added.

I have fantastic news to share. As many of you know, all my in person film screenings and live film festival events were cancelled because of Covid. Beauty on the Wing has never been shown on the Big Screen. We have been accepted to the outstanding Boston Film Festival! Not only that, but Robin Dawson, the Executive Director of the Boston Film Festival, has created a wonderful event. We are going to have a live, free, in-person, fundraising, community screening and Q and A at the Shalin Liu!!!

Please save the date of September 23rd at 7pm. The film is 56 minutes long, followed by the Q and A. I think the standard for all Boston Film Festival live screenings will be masks and proof of vaccination required. Admission will be on a first come first serve basis I believe but will find out more about that. The Boston Film Festival, which runs September 23rd through September 27th is truly a stellar event and as soon as I know more about the lineup of films and full schedule, I will post that as well.

For my several new Butterfly Friends who are reading this, please go to kimsmithfilms.com or here and here to learn more about our ongoing fundraising efforts to bring Beauty on the Wing to PBS.

Monarch and Zinnia elegans

Common Green Darners on the move!

An added note of good news – with all the breeding Monarchs we have been seeing this summer, the butterflies are on the move and it appears as though we may have a strong migration. So many friends from around the Northeast are reporting many sightings and for we on Cape Ann, this is very early in the season. And from what we are observing empirically (not actual numbers counted) we are having a phenomenal dragonfly and darner migration, too.

Happy September Butterfly Days!

xoKim

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

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), 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

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 CHRYSALIS OF THE SMALL WHITE BUTTERFLY

The mystery of the tiny green caterpillar found on one of my Common Milkweed plants has been solved (I think). The caterpillar wasn’t eating milkweed, but looking for a safe place to become a chrysalis.

The caterpillar pupated overnight and I believe it is the chrysalis of the Cabbage White Butterfly, also known as the Small White Butterfly.

Small White chrysalis

In a week or so, we’ll know for sure when it emerges. I wonder what it has been eating in my garden because I don’t see any damage to foliage; so curious to know!

The Sulphurs ,Whites, and bees adore this lovely lavender purple aster that blooms in my garden non-stop for nearly two months. Unfortunately, I can’t share the the specific species name because this beautiful wildflower is a happy volunteer. From where it came, I know not. Over the past several years the clump has grown larger and larger, is in a place I’d rather plant something else but because it is so attractive to so many butterflies and bees, I’ll  let it have its way.

PETAL DANCERS

Your daily Monarch photo-Monarch and Black-eyed Susans

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!

BEAUTIFUL LEMONY BUTTER BUTTERFLIES

Later in the day the light is so beautiful in gardens. It’s not necessarily the best time of day for capturing winged wonders in flight, but the gossamer wings of white and yellow butterflies, the family Pieridae, look especially silky and diaphanous in the oblique light of late afternoon.

Clouded Sulphur and Zinnia elegant

Cabbage Whites are the earliest butterfly to appear in spring and one of the last sighted in fall. They are easy to ID, although some female Clouded Sulphurs and Orange Sulphurs have a white form and the Checkered Whites are very similar, yet less common around these parts.

Cabbage White

We see far more Clouded Sulphurs than Orange and Cloudless Sulphurs on Cape Ann. Cloudeds have a lovely pinked border and silver spot on the the ventral side of their hindwings. You can tell the male from the female because when the wings are open, the male has a black border on its wing margins (as you can see in the photo below); the female’s black border is spotted with yellow and not as pronounced.

Clouded Sulphur caterpillars eat clover, alfalfa, and legumes. The photo is possibly a caterpillar of the Pieridae family, or it could be a Skipper caterpillar.

Mystery caterpillar

 

SCHOOL STREET SUNFLOWERS IS OPEN AND THE FIELD AND FLOWERS LOOKS MAGNIFICENT!

School Street Sunflowers will be in peak bloom over the next week or so, the field is dried out from all the rain, and there are armfuls of flowers to take home! For tickets (which include sunflower stems!) visit School Street Sunflowers here

School Street Sunflowers is located at 16 School Street in Ipswich.

 

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!

 

 

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!

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!

MONARCH FLOWER BUD BABIES

The Mama Monarch of these three early instar caterpillars deposited her eggs on the buds of Common Milkweed. I see this behavior often, not as much as on the leaves, but often enough.

The three hatched and stayed foraging on the flowers, where they were well camouflaged in their early instar paler colors. By the third molt, they had all three moved off the blossoms and were foraging on foliage.

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!