Tag Archives: male Monarch

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!

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!

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!

MONARCHS EMERGING AT BREAKFAST

Last weekend watching the Monarchs emerge at breakfast – I think Charlotte loves butterflies nearly as much as do I <3

 

CATS IN THE GARDEN, MONARCH CATS THAT IS!

Milkweeds, as most know, are the host plant for Monarch Butterflies. A host plant is another way of saying caterpillar food plant.

Monarchs deposit eggs on milkweed plants. Some milkweeds are more productive than other species. For the Northeast region, the most productive milkweed is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). The second most productive is Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), also known as Swamp Milkweed.

What is meant by productive? When given a choice, the females choose these plants over other species of milkweed and the caterpillars have the greatest success rate. In our own butterfly garden and at at my client’s habitat gardens, I grow both Common and Marsh side-by-side. The females flit from one plant to the next, freely depositing eggs on both species.

Monarch caterpillar readying to pupate (become a chrysalis) and hanging in a J-shape

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 thanks and gratitude to our growing list of wonderful folks for their kind contributions

Lauren Mercadante, Jonathan and Sally Golding, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), JoeAnn Hart and Gordon Baird, 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, Jan Waldman (Swampscott), Alessandra Borges (Rhode Island), Nancy Mattern (New Mexico), Carolyn Constable (Pennsylvania), and Ian Gardiner.

BUTTERFLY FRIENDS STOPPING BY FOR MONARCHS!

Walking past our front porch, butterfly friends Meadow, Frieda, and Ruby stopped by to see a batch of newly emerged Monarchs. Both Frieda and Meadow are featured in Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, filmed when they were several years younger. It’s so wonderful to see all three girls are growing into the bright, beautiful young woman they are becoming.

Love our neighborhood kids <3

YOUR DAILY MONARCH BUTTERFLY PHOTO AND WHY WE LOVE JOE-PYE WILDFLOWER!

With wonderfully exuberant pollinator friendly flower clusters atop 7 -12 foot tall stalks, what is not to love! Plant Joe-pye in a sunny location at the back of the border and enjoy the array of bees and butterflies that will flock to the nectar-rich blossoms.

More reasons to love Joe-pye is that it is low maintenance, attracts pollinators, is deer resistant, not flattened by rain, not bothered by diseases, blooms when Monarchs are on the wing, and is super easy to grow.

Coming in for a landing

 

HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MALE AND FEMALE MONARCH BUTTERFLY

Newly eclosed female in the petunia patchYou can tell she is a female Monarch because of her smokier and thicker wing venation. The male’s wing veins are narrower . The male also sports to black dots, or sacs, one on each hind wing. The sacs are filled with a pheromone, which the male sprinkles on the female during courtship. If she is receptive, the pair will mate. The pheromones are sometimes referred to by scientists as “love dust.”
In the above photo taken during the fall migration last year, you can easily see the difference. The female is on the left, the male on the right.

Please consider contributing to our online fundraiser to bring the feature length documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. Thank you!