In a bid to keep you and your children entertained and informed during our current doomscape, we will be putting a bunch of unrehearsed, unscripted, off-the-cuff, slightly wacky garden trainings and info sessions on-line for your viewing pleasure and acquisition of gardening knowledge (basically our official gardening training, but in a virtual format, and free for all). Spring is upon us and it’s almost time to plant!
PLUS, our very own Executive Director, Lara Lepionka, will be hosting our first-ever virtual story hour to keep your littles entertained and focused on growing food! Mark your “calendars” for the first story hour! Tomorrow (Wednesday) at 10 AM EST. Lara will gladly distract your children for a full 18 minutes with a charming gardening tale from yesteryear. (Don’t worry, we will get through this.) LOOK HOW EXCITED I AM TO TELL YOUR KIDS A STORY.
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.
Although only able to visit just two of the incredible Backyard Growers Gardens, the two that I did attend were fabulous and beautiful and overflowing with deliciousness. Lara Lepionka, founder of Backyard Growers, and Amy Clayton (one half of the Crazy Hat Lady sisters fame) are across-the-street neighbors. As a matter of interest, Amy grew up in what is now Lara and Steve’s home, and Lara’s first Backyard Growers garden customer was Amy!
This was the first ever Backyard Growers garden tour. In case you missed, don’t despair, a second is planned for next summer.
Bea, Lara, and Jen
Lara’s Beacon Street terraced front border is a series of raised beds. Every spare inch is devoted to growing veggies, herbs, and flowers; no high maintenance lawn here. Lara supplies the fresh greens for three local restaurants, Duckworth’s Bistrot, Short and Main, and the The Market on Lobster Cove.
Lara’s California Poppies
Amy’s pumpkin on the vine
Amy’s towering sunflowers.
Both Lara and Amy’s gardens are abuzz with pollinators!
Lara Lepionka, Backyard Growers executive, director writes,
Thank you everyone for all your support this week! We’re doing a final push on this last day of voting for Backyard Growers to win $35K. Voting closes at 11:59 tonight! Please share this opportunity with your networks—so appreciated! Vote here: http://www.bgoodfamilyfoundation.com/35k-grant-vote/
Meet Backyard Grower’s chicks! There are four different families of chickens, with a triplet in each. The babies must be sold in groups of three because, as Meghan explained, when a new baby chicken is introduced to a flock, if they don’t come with their own posse, they may be bullied by the flock. The four chicken families are Rhode Island Reds, Silver and Gold Laced Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons, and Easter Eggers, which lay blue eggs!
Buff Orpington is on the left, Easter Egger on the right (I think)
Lara and Meghan have named each family of chicks after a TV show, Downton Abbey and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example, and each chicken is named after a character in the show. See Backyard Growers Facebook page to find out the names of the chicks and visit their beautiful new website for more information on the Cutest Fundraiser Ever!