Tag Archives: common milkweed

KIM SMITH POLLINATOR GARDEN PROGRAM FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC THURSDAY EVENING

Please join me Thursday evening, August 10th, at 7:00pm, at the Peabody Institute Library, South Branch. I will be giving my talk about how to create a garden to benefit a host of pollinators and screening several short films. I hope to see you there! 

The day we planted blueberries, is the day the Catbirds moved in. Many species of songbirds are pollinators, too!

Painted Lady nectaring at wildflower Joe-pye, Good Harbor Beach

 

#POLLINATORHERO

Bees and butterflies, as we all know, pollinate flowers, but did you know that bats, songbirds, hummingbirds, wasps, beetles, moths, flies, midges, and even nasty mosquitoes also deliver pollen from plant to plant?

Flower pollinating Green-eyed Wasp drinking nectar from Common Milkweed florets.

The eyes of the male Green-eyed Wasp are larger than the females, all the better to see her, and predators. Green-eyed Wasps are also known as sand wasps because females excavate burrowing nests in sand (as well as soil).

Male Monarch Butterfly flitting about our garden and drinking nectar from the Marsh Milkweed florets.

Notice the mass of orange Milkweed Aphids in the background. Lady Beetles are another pollinator super hero because they help milkweed plants by eating aphids.

MONARCHS HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE PART TWO AND PLEASE CONTINUE TO REPORT YOUR MONARCH SIGHTINGS

The title of the post could just as easily have read Monarchs, Eggs, and Caterpillars Here, There, and Everywhere. I haven’t seen this much Monarch activity on Cape Ann in over ten years and hope so much the number of Monarchs seen in gardens, meadows, and dunes indicates a strong migration.

Thank you to everyone who has written in with your Monarch sightings! The reports are tremendously informative and fun to read, so please, do continue to let us know. The rainy cool weather has temporarily put the kibosh on mating and egg laying, but they are here on our shores and just waiting for a few warm hours and the sun to come out to renew breeding activity.

Monarchs not only drink nectar from the florets of milkweed, it is the only species of plant on which they deposit their eggs. In the above photo you can clearly see the Monarch probing for nectar with her proboscis, or drinking straw. 

Look for the butterflies, eggs, and caterpillars wherever milkweed grows. In our region, they are most often found on pink flowering Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), as opposed to the orange milkweeds, A. curassavica and A. tuberosa.

Female Monarch depositing an egg on an upper leaf of Common Milkweed.

The eggs are typically laid on the underside of the leaf, near the top of the plant. Tiny golden domes, no larger than a pinhead, Monarch eggs are easily confused with the eggs of other insects.

Once the tiny caterpillar emerges, it will stay towards the top of the plant, venturing further to larger leaves as it grows.

Four Monarchs in One Photo!

I was trying to take a snapshot of two Monarchs flying but not until I returned home did I realize that resting on a leaf were a pair of Monarchs mating. Lara Lepionka had just sent a photo the day before of a pair mating in a tree above her garden. Typically Monarchs will begin mating on the ground, or the foliage of a lower plant plant such as squash or milkweed. They will join together abdomen to abdomen and, once securely attached, the male then carries the female to a safer location. A male and female Monarch will stay coupled together for four to five hours before releasing (see photo below of a pair of Monarchs mating, towards center left.

Lara Lepionka cell phone photo of Monarchs mating in a tree.

Monarch and Common Milkweed Good Harbor Beach

Not everyone has a gorgeous milkweed patch like Patti Papows. Don’t despair. You don’t have to go far! I am finding tons of eggs and caterpillars on the Common Milkweed that grows around the edge of the parking lot at Good Harbor Beach.

Patti Papows Common Milkweed with Monarch and Bee.

PATTI’S CATTIES AND OTHER TALES FROM THE PAPOWS BEAUTIFUL GARDEN

My friend Patti Papows very thoughtfully invited me to come film and take photos in her gorgeous garden, especially her milkweed patch. Patti purchased milkweed plants from our Cape Ann Milkweed Project several years ago, both the Common and Marsh Milkweed that we offered.

Patti’s Common Milkweed has really taken off this year. The plants are about five feet tall, lush and healthy, and bursting with sweetly fragrant blossoms. The Monarchs are daily visitors, coming not by the ones and twos, but by the dozen. Not only are her milkweed blossoms beckoning to the Monarchs, but the plants are also attracting every bee species imaginable found in a Cape Ann garden, as well as myriad other pollinating insects.

I showed Patti how to find Monarch caterpillars. She found three in about three minutes; we weren’t even trying that hard! They are safer from spiders in my terrariums, so I brought her tiny caterpillars home where they are developing nicely alongside a dozen Monarch eggs. These eggs were discovered in my garden, and at the Common Milkweed plants growing along the edges of the Good Harbor Beach parking lot.

Patti’s patch of native high bush blueberries attracts loads of Catbirds, and dozens more species of songbirds and small mammals. This morning the foliage made a perfect perch for a male Monarch butterfly.

In the above photo you can clearly see the Monarch’s two-part tubular drinking straw, called a proboscis. The Monarch is probing deep into the Milkweed floret for a sip of sweet nectar.

Who, me? I’m innocent! Chipmunk snacking at the buffet-of-plenty in Patti’s garden.

Patti placed the purple chair in the midst of the milkweed patch so that visitors can enjoy being surrounded by the beautiful pollinators buzzing all around and the delightful fragrance emitted by the Common Milkweed. I tried it out and her plan worked, it is pure Heaven!

I had an absolutely wonderful morning filming and photographing, despite the limiting overcast skies, and plan to return on a sunnier day, hopefully this week while the Monarchs are here on Cape Ann busy egg-laying and pollinating our gardens!

Patti shares that at the end of the day, her Monarchs are nectaring from the flowering hosta. She sent these photos this morning, taken yesterday afternoon with her cell phone.

HOORAY FOR OUR TWENTY-THREE-DAY-OLD PIPING PLOVER CHICK!

Bravo to our little chick, who this evening, we are celebrating day twenty-three! Thank you to all our volunteers who are working so conscientiously to help the GHB PiPl survive Gloucester’s busiest beach.

Despite the fact that he can’t exactly still fit under Papa and Mama, at twenty-three-days-old, Little Chick still needs snuggles to thermoregulate.

Note how large Little Chick’s beak is growing.

Twenty-three-day-old Piping Plover: Of the four Piping Plover chicks that hatched on the morning of June 22nd (the first hatched at about 6am, and all had hatched by noontime), our little chick is the sole survivor.

At 6:30 this morning another fight with the interloper took place. I was able to capture some of it on film and, surprisingly, a very similar battle took place later this morning between the Coffin’s Beach Piping Plovers.

The Good Harbor Beach dunes are teeming with life. I spied five Monarch Butterflies on the Common Milkweed this afternoon, with many reports shared by readers of Monarch sightings all around Cape Ann and Massachusetts. We’ll do a post about Monarchs this coming week, and in the meantime, please share your Monarch sightings.

Dragonflies are predacious, and like our Piping Plover chick eat tiny invertebrates.

Beach bunny munching wild salad greens for breakfast.

Monarch Butterfly and Common Milkweed, Good Harbor Beach

AWESOME VOLUNTEERS MONITORING THE PIPING PLOVER CHICKS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Day six, and all four Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers are thriving! Their survival is in large part due to the efforts of Ken Whittaker, Dave Rimmer, and a growing assemblage of wonderful volunteers. If you would like to volunteer to take a shift babysitting the PiPl, please email Ken Whittaker at kwhittaker@gloucester-ma-gov. Ken is meeting groups on the beach to explain the protocol. The shifts are brief and it’s great fun to be at GHB as an ambassador for the Plovers while monitoring and answering questions.

Catherine Ryan and her sons Charles and George King have the early morning shifts, from 6am to 7:30, and they are splitting it three ways, each taking a half hour. Piping Plover watchers are invited to take notes–here are one of the volunteers, Hazel’s, excellent notes:

“I was there from about 11.30 to 1 pm today June 26..

During that time I only saw one adult at a time, probably about once every 20 minutes, not doing much – preening, sitting on the sand, resting under a bush, moving around relatively slowly. I also saw one baby at a time moving about – except for the last 20 minutes when I saw 2, possibly 3, moving around at the same time (I had lent my binoculars to some interested bystanders so not sure of the number).

I spoke to 2 groups of young people playing with a ball and a frisbee – they were unaware of the plover nest and very agreeable to moving further away. One couple were seated very close to the rope, and also unaware of the plovers.  They said they would watch out for babies coming outside the enclosure, and later had been watching one of the babies moving around inside.

Two other groups were close to the enclosure and already aware. The second group arrived when two or three babies were moving around and excited to see them through binoculars.

I will be back tomorrow from 11 to 1 pm.

Hazel”

Loved reading the King brother’s notes. Great job Charles and George!!

 

Five Day-Old Piping Plover Chick Foraging for Insects

While walking through the dunes on boardwalk 3 at Good Harbor on the way to volunteer, or simply to visit the PiPl, notice the Common Milkweed that is in full glorious bloom. You may catch a whiff of its wonderful honey-hay scent. And quite possibly, a Monarch sighting, or two!

Male Monarch Nectaring from Common Mikweed, Good Harbor Beach Dune

COMMON MILKWEED ABLOOM, HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE!

Common Milkweed and Bee Asclepias syriaca ©Kim Smith 2015A patch of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in bloom has a wonderfully sweet honey-hay scent. Look for it growing along the sand dunes, roadside edges, fields, meadows, and where ever there is a neglected patch. And keep your eyes peeled for Monarchs; the earliest arrivals (for the most part) are synchronized to the flowering of Common Milkweed.

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