Tag Archives: Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

THE DANCE OF COLOR AND LIGHT – MONARCHS ON THE MOVE!

Monarchs were on the move over the weekend, not only on Cape Ann, but all over northern and northeastern regions of the country* very solid numbers of migrating Monarchs are being shared, from Ontario, to upstate New York, Michigan, and Maine.

Lets keep our hopes up for good weather for the Monarchs on the next leg of their journey southward!

*Ninety percent of the Monarch Butterfly migration takes place east of the Rocky Mountains.

If you would like to help support the Monarchs, think about creating a milkweed patch in your garden. The best and most highly productive milkweed for Monarch caterpillars is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), the milkweed we see growing in our local marshes and dunes. The seed heads are ripe for plucking when they have split open and you can see the brown seeds and beautiful floss.

For several of my readers who have expressed difficulty in germinating milkweed seeds, the following is a foolproof method from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

HOW TO GERMINATE MILKWEEDS

MILKWEEDS (ASCLEPIAS SPP.) ARE NOTORIOUSLY DIFFICULT TO GERMINATE. But don’t despair. The Wildflower Center has developed and tested a protocol that results in good germination rates for a number of our native milkweed species. Follow this process and you’ll soon be on your way to supporting monarchs, bumblebees and tons of other insects that depend on milkweed plants. READ the complete article here.

SAVE THE DATE – KIM SMITH MONARCH BUTTERFLY PROGRAM AT THE TRUSTEES OF RESERVATIONS STEVENS COOLIDGE PLACE

Please join me for the Monarch Migration Celebration at the Stevens Coolidge Place in Andover on Saturday October 5th at 10:30am. I am cosponsoring the event and giving my slide presentation and talk “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.” The presentation is part of a day long event celebrating the Monarch migration. This promises to be a wonderfully fun day for kids and adults!MONARCH MIGRATION CELEBRATION

You spent the summer watching them flit about your gardens, now it’s time to wish them well on their trip down to Mexico – it’s the Monarch Migration Celebration at Stevens-Coolidge Place!

This celebration will kick off with a children’s pollinator parade around the property (costumes encouraged!) bringing all visitors to an afternoon of demos, crafts & stories, seed bomb making and gardening tips to bring these orange friends to your yard in the spring. Want to join in the butterfly tagging? Bring your flying friends with you and we’ll be happy to show you how! Butterfly release at 2:30PM

Trustees Member: $3
Trustees Member Child: $5
Trustees Family: $15

Nonmember: $6
Nonmember Child: $10
Nonmember Family: $25
Please help us plan for the day. Pre-registration is encouraged.

STEVENS COOLIDGE PLACE

137 ANDOVER STREET

NORTH ANDOVER

AMAZING PHOTO OF A MONARCH BUTTERFLY EGG MAGNIFIED BY THE THOUSANDS

Several friends have shared this stunning photo from http://www.sciencephotography.com. To the naked eye, a Monarch Butterfly egg is the size of a pinhead.

Magnificent Monarch Butterfly Egg

HOME FROM BEAUTIFUL MEXICO AND FILMING THE MAGNIFICENT MONARCHS!

My husband Tom and I returned from filming Monarchs in Mexico very late Monday night. The first day back was pasta making for Saint Joseph Day at the Groppos and spending time with our son Alex and granddaughter Charlotte. Yesterday and today I’ve been pouring through the footage to add to the film. I’ll write some posts about beautiful Mexico, the fantastic JM Butterfly B and B, and the magnificent Monarchs as soon as I have time to sort through the photos. It was an adventure of a lifetime!

I was most worried about torturing Tom and wasn’t entirely sure we would have uninterrupted internet access so he could work remotely, but he had the best time meeting new people, riding horses up the mountain, climbing Cerro Pelon, and practicing his Spanish!

Monarch flakes fill the sky 

Monarch Butterfly Film Update

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 Dear Friends,

I have so much to be thankful for – my family, friends, work, film projects, and all of you for your generous donations to the documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly.

 If we’ve spoken recently, then you know that over the past months I have been adding new scenes, from the Monarch migration of 2017, and from our most recent beautiful fall migration of 2018. This past week we screened the film for my two amazing producers Lauren and Susan (they both loved it and provided excellent feedback!). In the coming weeks the film next goes to an audio engineer and to a film “finisher,” with the goal of having a final cut in hand by the end of February. I’ll be sending updates more frequently now that the project is beginning to spread her wings.

My sincerest thanks to you for being part of the wonderful journey of Beauty on the Wing.

Wishing you much love, joy, and beauty in the coming year.

Kim

Monarchs in Our Midst


It doesn’t matter which beach I am filming at this summer- Coffins, Good Harbor, Crane, Revere, Nahant, Winthrop, Sandy Point – Everyday I am seeing Monarchs come in over the water and resting on the beach. So interesting!

The above photo was taken late in the day at my friend Patti Papows exquisite butterfly garden. More photos from her garden coming soon 🙂

Lovely Article by Shelby Macri – Salem State University Keynote Speaker Spotlights Plight of the Monarch Butterflies

Salem State keynote spotlights beauty, plight of monarch butterflies

Smith, who spoke on campus Thursday, April 12, makes nature films and contributes to the daily blog Good Morning Gloucester. She also helps communities and individuals build gardens specifically aimed at attracting butterflies, bees and beneficial bugs.

On behalf of the Earth Days Planning Committee, Carol Zoppel, a campus librarian and co-chair of Earth Days Week, presented Smith with the Friend of the Earth Award.

“Salem State University’s Earth Days committee would like to recognize Kim Smith for her artistic and advocacy work on behalf of wildlife through her films, photo, gardens, and writings,” said Zoppel. Smith received her award and a framed poster of her program.

READ COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE

…Smith also reflected on our involvement with these creatures.

“I think compassion for all living creatures is really important,” said Smith. “Right here in our own backyards and beaches we have small winged creatures like Monarchs and Piping Plovers that are struggling to survive.”

She added, “Our actions and how we chose to live our lives has tremendous impact.”

Salem State University Keynote Speaker Kim Smith Spotlights Plight of the Monarch Butterflies

Salem State keynote spotlights beauty, plight of monarch butterflies

 

Smith, who spoke on campus Thursday, April 12, makes nature films and contributes to the daily blog Good Morning Gloucester. She also helps communities and individuals build gardens specifically aimed at attracting butterflies, bees and beneficial bugs.

On behalf of the Earth Days Planning Committee, Carol Zoppel, a campus librarian and co-chair of Earth Days Week, presented Smith with the Friend of the Earth Award.

“Salem State University’s Earth Days committee would like to recognize Kim Smith for her artistic and advocacy work on behalf of wildlife through her films, photo, gardens, and writings,” said Zoppel. Smith received her award and a framed poster of her program.

READ COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE

…Smith also reflected on our involvement with these creatures.

“I think compassion for all living creatures is really important,” said Smith. “Right here in our own backyards and beaches we have small winged creatures like Monarchs and Piping Plovers that are struggling to survive.”

She added, “Our actions and how we chose to live our lives has tremendous impact.”

SAVE THE DATE FOR MY UPCOMING PROGRAM “BEAUTY ON THE WING: LIFE STORY OF THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY”

On Thursday, May 4th at 7pm, I am giving my lecture with photos, “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly,” along with several short film screenings, for the Salem Garden Club. For more information, see the events page of my website. I hope to see you there!

Newly Emerged Monarch Butterfly and Sunflower, Gloucester

Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly

The Monarch’s life story is one of nature’s most incredible examples of adaptation and survival. But the Monarch migration is in great peril. Learn how you can help. Through photographs and discussion, Beauty on the Wing tells the life story of the Monarch Butterfly, the state of the butterflies migration and why they are in sharp decline, and the positive steps we can take as individuals and collectively to help the Monarchs recover from the devastating effects of habitat loss and climate change.  (1-1.5 hours).

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis and Marsh Milkweed

Monarchs Awakening

MONARCHS WEAPONIZE MILKWEED TOXINS

Monarch Caterpillars Common Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2012Milkweed Munching Monarchs

Although scientists have long known that the toxic sap that flows through milkweed veins, called cardenolides, can make a bird very sick if it attempts to eat a Monarch caterpillar, it was unclear whether the butterfly’s acquired adaption to the toxicity was a side effect that allowed the caterpillar to eat the milkweed or had developed separately as a defensive mechanism against predators. A Cornell University study recently published in Proceedings B of The Royal Society Publishing reveals that they have indeed evolved to weaponize milkweed toxins! Thank you so much to Maggie Rosa for sharing “The Scientist” article and you can read more about it here. 

“Monarch butterfly caterpillars have evolved the ability to store toxins known as cardenolides, obtained from their milkweed diet, specifically to make themselves poisonous to birds, as has at least one other species of milkweed-munching caterpillar, according to a study published Wednesday (November 4) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“This finding is fascinating and novel,” Stephen Malcolm, a professor at Western Michigan University who studies cardenolides but was not involved in the new research, wrote in an email to The Scientist. “It is exciting to have evidence for the importance of top-down influences from predators.” Continue Reading

Please join me Thursday evening, November 12th, at 7pm at the Sawyer Free Library for my illustrated talk, Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Meadow monarch caterpillar ©Kim Smith 2015Meadow Anderson and Milkweed Caterpillar

SAFE TRAVELS MONARCHS!

Cape Ann Monarch Butterfly Migration Update

Monarch Butterfly bougainvillea ©Kim Smith 2015Female Monarch and Bougainvillea

Monarch Butterflies Daisies ©Kim Smith 2015Methuselah Monarchs Heading to Mexico

Our last batch of Monarchs emerged from their chrysalides, dried their wings, and caught the tailwinds to Michoacán. I hope they arrive to their winter roosting sites at the trans-Mexican volcanic mountaintops safely!

Although not many migrating Monarchs were reported on the shores of Cape Ann, a great batch was seen migrating over Lake Erie in late summer. Cape May, which is 400 miles south of Cape Ann, also had a strong showing. Keep on the lookout though because on Election Day in 2007, I photographed a Monarch refueling at Korean Daisies.

The Monarchs are counted by the Mexican scientists in December and the numbers released in January. Last year a tiny increase from 2013 was noted (2013 was the year the lowest numbers were ever recorded). Lets keep our hopes up that the population will continue to improve.

Monarch Butterfly sunflower ©Kim Smith 2015Last Sunflowers of the SeasonMonarch Butterfly daisy ©Kim Smith 2015

Monarch Butterfly pink bougainvillea ©Kim Smith 2015

From Germany to Logan to Gloucester, for Monarchs

I sent the following to my friend Joe a few days ago (Joe is the creator and Editor-in-Chief of the blog for which I am a daily contributor, Good Morning Gloucester): Thought you would like to know–Several days ago, at sunset, I was filming B roll at the Eastern Point Lighthouse. A German couple was there, with binoculars, and they had just arrived from Germany. I asked what they were looking for and they said, “Monarchs,” because they had seen all my butterfly postings on Good Morning Gloucester. Sometimes I think I am posting TMI about butterflies, but I thought you would think this pretty funny, and amazing; straight away from Germany to Logan to Gloucester, for butterflies!

To the lovely couple from Germany that was at the Lighthouse yesterday: Come on down to the dock to get your Good Morning Gloucester sticker and meet Joey C, the creator of Good Morning Gloucester. He’d love to meet you!  Captain Joe and Sons is located at 95 East Main Street.

Farewell Monarchs

Inquiring minds want to know, “Where do the Monarchs go?” I am often asked this question, not by children, but by adults. Most children have studied, or are studying, the butterfly life cycle and the have some degree of knowledge about the Monarch migration. The reason the majority of adults never learned about the Monarch butterfly migration is because the great mystery of their winter destination was only discovered as recently as 1975! The Monarchs that are journeying through Gloucester at this time of year travel approximately 2,000 miles to the transvolcanic mountaintops of  south central Mexico, near the town of Angangueo. I have the National Geographic issue from 1975 that tells the tale of one man’s determination, including all the scientific intrigue that goes with great discoveries, and I will try to post more about this fascinating story in the coming weeks.

As everyone who reads my blog probably knows by now, I am in the midst of shooting my Monarch film. What you may not know is that I have written and illustrated a book that tells the story of this most exquisite of creatures and its extraordinary journey. I am hoping to find a publisher. Just putting this out there ~ If anyone knows a friend of a friend of a friend, or has a suggestion for a very high quality publisher or top-notch agent, please let me know. Thank you.

Monarch Flakes

Click the photo to view larger and you will see the little Monarch flakes heading into the cherry tree. The clustering Monarchs are well-camoflouged by the autumn foliage nonetheless, their silhouettes are clearly visible in the setting sun.

Another passel of Monarchs poured onto the Point Thursday at dusk, carried in by the warm southerly breeze. Overnight the wind shifted, coming in from the northeast, and by day break Friday morning, the Monarchs had flown from the trees, carried to shores further south by the blustery tailwind.

Blooming Today in My Garden

In the garden of mid-Ocotober’s dissipating beauty ~

Black Swallowtail Butterfly and Fennel

Mandevilla

Zucchini Blossom

Toad Lily

Calico Aster

Rudbeckia and Smooth Aster

Monarch Butterfly and Smooth Aster

Sheffield and Korean Daisies

Moonflowers and Cardinal Climber

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’

‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangea and Sargent’s Crabapple

‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea and Winterberry

Begonia

Morning Glories

Geraniums

And the fabulously fragrant remontant roses ‘Souvenir de Victor Landeau’ and’Aloha’

Souvenir de Victor Landeau

‘Aloha’

Free Marsh Milkweed Seeds

Available while supplies last!

Plant this,

which will lead to this,

which will give you this!

Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) 

Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at Smooth Aster Fall 2011

Northward Migrating Monarch Butterflies Arrive to Good Harbor Beach and to Our Garden!

While snapping a photo of the divinely scented honeysuckle embowering the outside shower…
Honeysuckle embowered shower enclosure Lonicera japonica 'Purpurea'

I spotted our first female Monarch butterfly of the season.

Monarch Butterfly Marsh MilkweedShe’s arrived a bit earlier than usual this year, or more accurately, the milkweeds in our garden are slightly behind in blossoming time-Marsh Milkweed won’t bloom for another half-week and Common Milkweed won’t flower for another two weeks (both milkweed patches are growing nearby the shower enclosure). However, she did not have nectaring in mind.

Monarch Butterfly Marsh MilkweedPausing at the emerging buds and foliage of the Marsh Milkweed, then to the Common Milkweed, then back to Marsh, and curling her abdomen to the underside, one by one she oviposited golden egg after golden egg.

Monarch Butterfly depositing egg on Marsh Milkweed

Monarch Butterfly depositing egg on Marsh Milkweed

Typically, she searches for the uppermost, freshly emerging foliage in which to deposit her eggs. Click the above photo to make it larger. The newly deposited egg, no larger than the size of a pinhead, is a visible pale yellow dot adjacent to her abdomen.

Monarch Butterfly Marsh MilkweedAfter ovipositing an egg on the Marsh Milkweed, she next deposited several on the Common.

Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Monarch Butterfly Eggs

Click the above photo. Five eggs are visible, two on the upper leaf of the plant to the left and three on the upper leaf of the plant to the right.

I never tire of watching butterflies, especially Monarchs, whether in our garden or further afield, and eagerly anticipate their arrival each year. Monarchs are particularly gratifying to observe and record because they are one of the larger butterflies that grace our region. Oftentimes when I am photographing a smaller butterfly such as a Summer Azure, with a mere one-inch wingspan, I don’t know what I have captured through the camera’s lens until returning to the computer to download and edit. Monarchs, with their big and bold wing patterning and approachableness (is that a word?) are a joy to photograph. Because of their extraordinary migration, I believe the Monarch butterflies are one of the natural wonders of the world. We are so blessed to live in a community that plays host to such great numbers. PLANT MILKWEED and you, too, will have Monarchs! I guarentee it!

ommon Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Good Harbor Beach GloucesterCommon Milkweed in full bloom at Good Harbor Beach this week.

ommon Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Good Harbor Beach Gloucester

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) found along the shoreline grows in sandy soil and is exposed daily to windy seaside conditions. In these rough and tumble conditions it typically grows two- to two and a half -feet tall. Conversely, where in our garden it grows in fertile, friable soil and lives in a sheltered corner protected from wind, Common Milkweed often grows six to seven feet tall.

Walking along the boardwalk I often catch the sweet honey-hay fragrance of the Common Milkweed when in full bloom. Marsh Milkweed has little to no fragrance. Several Monarchs were seen while photographing this patch of milkweed.

ommon Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Good Harbor Beach Gloucester

Torch Lily (Kniphofia uvaria)Blooming along the pathway leading to the outdoor shower is the magnificent hummingbird attractant Torch Lily (Kniphofia uvaria) and bee magnet Helenium, commonly called Sneezeweed or Dog Tooth Daisy.

Helenium Sneezeweed Dog Tooth Daisy Mexican marigolds Tagetes tenuifolia

The foliage of the diminutive Mexican marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia), commonly referred to by the Mexican people as “flowers of the dead,” bears a fabulous spicy citrus fragrance. Flowers and foliage are edible and add both a tangy color and taste. I grow it in a pot, keeping it sometimes near the shower and sometimes moving it to the dining area.

The female Monarch stayed the morning and I have not seen her since. Lucky us, though. I found fifteen eggs, without really trying too hard, and will now have lots of caterpillars and chyrsalids for upcoming butterfly programs!

End Note regarding Japanese honeysuckle: The variety discussed here is a purple-stemmed variant and I have seen it written as Lonicera japonica var. repens and Lonicera japonica ‘Purpurea.’ In our zone 6 garden, I have found it to be well-behaved, neither bearing fruit nor sending runners. I do not recommend planting in zones 7 and above.  Lonicera ‘Purpurea is highly attractive to all manner of bees. As richly scented as the species, the blossoming time of L. ‘Purpurea’ lasts well over six weeks, equating weeks of showering while enwrapped in the spellbinding sweet scent of honeysuckle.

Lonicera japonica var. repens or Lonicera japonica 'Purpurea'Lonicera japonica var. repens or Lonicera japonica ‘Purpurea’

Brooke O’Donnell Shares Monarch Photo from Michoacán

Monarchs in Michoacán, Mexico

Brooke O’Donnell Photo from Michoacán

From Brooke’s Mom, Janet:

Hi Kim,

When I looked at the photo, I immediately thought of your inspiring exhibit at the Sawyer Free Library.  Brooke had an eight or more hour bus trip, then an hour horseback ride up to the 10,000 foot elevation in Michoacan state to see the migration.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find you up there!

Back down here at sea level, I wish you a glorious Spring!
Janet

Monarch Butterfly’s First Sips of Nectar

This female Monarch emerged from her chrysalis late yesterday afternoon. She stayed hidden under foliage overnight. Mid-morning she alighted onto my hand and I placed her on a fresh blossom of the butterfly bush ‘Nanho Blue.’ She is easily recognized as female because her wing venation is thicker and smokier than that of a males wings, and because she does not have the two small black pockets of pheromones on each hind wing.

Female Monarch Butterfly


Male Monarch Butterfly (left) and Female Monarch Butterfly (right).