Tag Archives: The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch

COLLECTING MILKWEED SEEDS AND WHY HELLO LATE, LATE LITTLE CATERPILLAR!

Ripe vessels of beauty promised –  for both the flowers, and pollinators attracted

Beginning in September and through the month of October is the best time of year to collect Common Milkweed seed pods. The packets are usually ripe, or near fully ripened, and many have already begun to split open.

An easy way to separate the floss from the seeds is gently pop open the pod and grab the tip of the floss at the tip of the pod. Hold the pod over a bowl and slide your fingers over the seeds. The seeds will fall away and you are left holding the floss. The floss stays relatively intact and is easier to discard, rather than floating everywhere, including your nose 🙂 To prevent skin irritation, always wash your hands after handling milkweed.

Either scatter your seeds now, or store in a paper, not plastic, bag. If you decide to plant now, choose a location that gets at least a half day of sun. Lightly scratch the surface where you intend to plant, sprinkle the seeds over the cultivated area, and cover with a 1/4 inch layer of soil.

If planning to plant in the spring, the seeds must experience a period of cold for at least six weeks. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator six to eight weeks prior to planting. This is called “cold stratification.”

Saturday I spent the afternoon looking for seeds for a special friend of a special milkweed I’d come across several years earlier. It blooms in a royal rich purplish magenta and is a mecca for many species of butterflies and bees. The mystery milkweed grows in a field where the farmer usually mows  before the milkweed has gone to seed. Not this year and I was able to collect a bunch!

Much to my surprise and delight, I found more than seeds! From across this grand meadow, I spied a solitary caterpillar. How extraordinary that he/she has been able to survive living in the wild this late into October and is only due to the wonderful late season warmth we have been experiencing. With temperatures expected to drop down in the 40s later this week, I gently carried the caterpillar back to my car and brought him home. He never stopped eating while transporting and he is continuing to chow down nearly nonstop. Perhaps he knows he is in a race against time.

Mid-October Monarch Sightings!

Monarch friend Alessandra shares her Monarch sighting from north Providence, Rhode Island.

And her friend Casey shares a photo from Woonsocket, RI. Many thanks to Alessandra and Casey for sending photos!

There were two at the EP lighthouse on Saturday and one in my garden on Sunday. My friend Lillian shares from her garden in the the Niles Beach area that she had 3 – 5 Monarchs last Monday and Tuesday, 1 – 3 Monarchs on Wednesday and Thursday. Hers, as was mine, as well as our RI friends, were all drinking nectar from Butterfly Bushes.

Monarch Friends at Point Pelee are still reporting hundreds migrating through, which portends a possible late wave along the Atlantic Coast as well.

Fundraising Update – We are in the final two weeks of fundraising to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public Television. If you have thought about giving a contribution and have not yet done so, 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 PBS. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go hereThank you!

An added note – for any person or organization contributing over $1,000.00, your name will be at the beginning and end credits each and every time the documentary airs nationwide! For contributions of $5,000.00 or more, your organization’s logo will be featured in the credits. For more information, please feel free to contact me.

With gratitude and deep appreciation to the following for their generous contributions to Beauty on the Wing –

Lauren Mercadante, New England Biolabs, 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, Nancy Leavitt, Susan Pollack, Alice and David Gardner (Beverly), Kristina and Gene Martin, Gail and Thomas Pease (Beverly), Carol and Duncan Ballantyne (Beverly), Sharon Byrne Kashida, Eric Hutchins and Julia McMahon, C. Lovgren, Joan Keefe, Linda Kaplan, Mary Rhinelander

MORE SUPER EXCITING MONARCH UPDATES!

Good Morning Friends!

More fantastic migration news to share – a massive wave of butterflies is traveling through the Texas Hill Country. Although experts predicted a late migration, butterfly observers on the LLano River, at a location about two and half hours west of Austin, witnessed thousands arriving in an early wave. The Monarchs appeared stalled in the face of winds out of the south, roosting overnight in Pecan trees.

It’s entirely possible that the early wave of Monarchs that we saw migrating through Cape Ann this season are part of the early wave currently traveling through Texas!

Monarch good news update at home – the eighteen late coming caterpillars have all pupated and are now beautiful green chrysalides. The warmer temperatures we are experiencing has surely helped these cats pupate more quickly than expected and I am relieved there will be nectar plants still blooming to help get them started on their southward migration. This is a good reminder as to why we need not clean up our gardens in autumn. Late blooming flowers provide nectar, dried flower stalks create winter homes for bees, and leaf litter offers shelter from the cold for overwintering caterpillars and other insects.

Twins – these two October chrysalides pupated within moments of one another!

Wonderful news from film festivals – Beauty on the Wing has been accepted to the New Haven International Film Festival!! We have also been notified that we are an award winner at the Boston Independent Film Awards (they haven’t yet let us know what award). It’s because of generous contributions from friends such as yourself that we were able to apply to and to bring Beauty to film festivals. Thank you once again!

There were several Monarchs on Eastern Point this past weekend and in our garden. If you see a Monarch in your garden at this late date, please write and let me know, and please feel free to send a photo; we would love to post.

Warmest wishes,
xxKim

Fundraising Update – We are in the final phase of fundraising to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public Television. If you have thought about giving a contribution and have not yet done so, 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 PBS. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go hereThank you!

An added note – for any person or organization contributing over $1,000.00, your name will be at the beginning and end credits each and every time the documentary airs nationwide! For contributions of $5,000.00 or more, your organization’s logo will also be included in the credits. For more information, please feel free to contact me.

With gratitude and deep appreciation to the following for their generous contributions to Beauty on the Wing –

Lauren Mercadante, New England Biolabs, 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, Nancy Leavitt, Susan Pollack, Alice and David Gardner (Beverly), Kristina and Gene Martin, Gail and Thomas Pease (Beverly), Carol and Duncan Ballantyne (Beverly), Sharon Byrne Kashida, Eric Hutchins and Julia McMahon, C. Lovgren, Joan Keefe, Linda Kaplan, Mary Rhinelander

BEAUTIFUL MONARCHS MIGRATING!

There is wonderfully exciting news to share about this year’s Monarch migration. My friend and super Piping Plover champion, Todd Pover, who is also the Senior Wildlife Biologist at the stellar conservation organization Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, shares that there have been thousands of Monarchs migrating along the Jersey coastline. Cape May, which is the southernmost point of New Jersey, is the launching place for Monarchs before crossing the Delaware Bay. Cape May is the narrowest point (approximately 13 miles) where they can cross from the Jersey coast to the shores of Delaware, making for safer travels. After traveling along the New England and mid-Atlantic shorelines, the Atlantic Coast Monarchs wait for favorable winds before continuing their journey over the Bay. In some years, there are thousands roosting overnight in the trees at Cape May Point.

In 2017, after receiving numerous reports from friends and from our daughter Liv of sightings of large numbers of Monarchs migrating along the coast of Long Island and NYC, I made a whirlwind trip to Cape May and Stone Harbor Point to catch the Monarch migration –  See Chasing Monarchs Part One and Chasing Monarchs Part Two – and it was spectacular. The trees in the photos, the Japanese Black Pines, although not native, are a favorite Monarch roosting tree.

Will the fantastic numbers we have seen at locations such as Cape Ann, Point Pelee, and Cape May translate to great numbers at the Monarch’s wintering home? Perhaps yes, if there are nectar plants that will provide sustenance along the way on their journey southward. Only time will tell.

More fun Monarch updates, a local one – I wrote briefly in September about the unusual, but not unheard of behavior, of Monarchs mating during the fall migration. Several days after filming a pair mating at Eastern Point, we had a female in our garden depositing eggs. After she departed, I brought indoors what I could find. Twenty eggs in total. I didn’t want to share too much about the eggs because it gets very dicey towards the end of the season and the survival rate often isn’t great. Of the twenty eggs, eighteen are doing beautifully! We have eight chrysalides, two J-shapes, and eight caterpillars getting ready to turn into a Js (pupate). If this mild weather continues, I have high hopes they will at least make it as far as Florida.

Patch of Common Milkweed Rockport field October 9, 2019

Thank you to all my Rockport and Gloucester friends who have allowed me to raid their gardens of milkweed this past week. One of the biggest hurdles to rearing Monarchs at this late date is finding milkweed that isn’t an orange mushy mess from aphids or has foliage that has yellowed and dried out. But between friends and local dunes and meadows we had enough to cover the appetites of 18 very hungry caterpillars!

October Monarch caterpillars

We are in the final phase of fundraising to bring our Monarch documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. If you have thought about giving a contribution and have not yet done so, please consider making a tax deductible donation or becoming an underwriter to bring Beauty on the Wing to PBS. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go hereThank you!

An added note – for any person or organization contributing over $1,000.00, your name will be at the beginning and end credits each and every time the documentary airs nationwide! For contributions of $5,000.00 or more, your organization’s logo will also be included in the credits. For more information, please feel free to contact me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com.

Happy Columbus Day Weekend!

xxKim

Black Skimmers also waiting for favorable winds to cross the Delaware Bay at Cape May

With gratitude and deep appreciation to the following for their generous contributions to Beauty on the Wing –

Lauren Mercadante, New England Biolabs, 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, Nancy Leavitt, Susan Pollack, Alice and David Gardner (Beverly), Kristina and Gene Martin, Gail and Thomas Pease (Beverly), Carol and Duncan Ballantyne (Beverly), Sharon Byrne Kashida, Eric Hutchins and Julia McMahon, C. Lovgren, Joan Keefe, Linda Kaplan

 

THE BEE-SIZE BUTTERFLY

The most diminutive butterfly to visit our garden during late summer and early autumn is the American Copper. With its pale gray outer wings showing when in flight, it looks more like a tiny nondescript moth fluttering by. When the winged beauty lands and opens its brilliant coppery-orange hued forewings that’s when you’ll take notice. If you look closely at the open lower wings, you can see the brilliant flakes of iridescent copper for which the species is named.

Mostly we see them making swift sorties from one nectar source to another. This season it has been from the zinnias to the asters and back again, non stop throughout the warmest hours of the day. I also see them sunning in the sand at Brace Cove and nectaring at the wildflowers along the edge of the beach.

Their wingspan measures a mere 3/4 of an inch at the lower end, an inch and half at the higher side, making it one of the smallest butterflies seen locally. Spring and Summer Azure Butterflies are of a similar size.

The Bee-size Butterfly

American Coppers (Lycaena phlaeas) are Holarctic, covering northern and central America, Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. L. phlaeas may have been introduced to North America from Scandanavia during colonial times.

Only two host plants, sheep-sorrel (Rumex acetosella), and curly dock (Rumex crispus) are normally listed for Massachusetts.

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 hereThank you!

If mailing a contribution, please include your email address and please address to:

Beauty on the Wing c/o Kim Smith

22 Plum Street

Gloucester, MA 01930

With thanks ad deep appreciation to the following contributors for their generous donations to bring Beauty on the Wing to a national television audience:

Lauren Mercadante, New England Biolabs, 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, Nancy Leavitt, Susan Pollack, Alice and David Gardner (Beverly), Kristina and Gene Martin, Gail and Thomas Pease (Beverly), Carol and Duncan Ballantyne (Beverly), Sharon Byrne Kashida, Eric Hutchins and Julia McMahon, C. Lovgren, Joan Keefe, Linda Kaplan

 

Tattered and torn but still flying and drinking nectar

 

THANK YOU COMMUNITY!

Thank you dear Community for coming last night! We had a wonderfully engaged audience and fantastic turnout, over 200 friends! It was especially wonderful to have some of the kids who appeared in the film in attendance  – a huge thank you to Meadow Anderson, Esme Sarrouf, Annie Kate Convey, Charlie Convey, and their families! <3 

We are overjoyed that Beaty had its live premiere with the Boston Film Festival at the magnificent Shalin Liu. The staff at the performance center are terrific. Thank you to Scott and Andy for their technical expertise and most especially thanks to Michelle Alekson for her seamless organizing.

Our deepest thanks to Robin Dawson, Executive Director of the Boston Film Festival, for creating this wonderful free film fundraising community event for Beauty on the Wing.

Thank you once again Butterfly Friends. I am so grateful for your continued support.

If you received an envelope with a request for a contribution to bring Beauty on the Wing to American Public television and are so inclined, please feel free to email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com if you have any questions. Go here for more information and for online donations, please go here. Thank you!

With thanks ad deep appreciation to the following contributors for their generous donations to bring Beauty on the Wing to a national television audience:

Lauren Mercadante, New England Biolabs, 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, Nancy Leavitt, Susan Pollack, Alice and David Gardner (Beverly), Kristina and Gene Martin, Gail and Thomas Pease (Beverly), Carol and Duncan Ballantyne (Beverly), Sharon Byrne Kashida

BEAUTY ON THE WING TONIGHT AT THE SHALIN LIU!!

Tonight’s the Night!

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.

LEMONDROPS – MORE BEAUTIES ON THE WING!

Fresh drops of spritely lemon flitting from flower to flower, the Clouded Sulphur is another beauty often seen drinking nectar alongside Monarch’s during the M’s epic migration southward.

At this time of year, late summer/early autumn butterflies find nectar at native asters, goldenrods, and non-native Black Mustard, along with a variety of garden flowers that have an extended blooming period. Clouded Sulphurs have a special fondness for Zinnia elegans, the straight species, not the over-hybridized, overly ruffled variety, where they may have difficulty finding nectar in the obscured center of the flower.

Clouded Sulphur caterpillars eat Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), White Clover (Trifolium repens),sweet clovers (Melilotus spp.) and vetches (Viceia, spp.).

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.

SPUN SILK

My friend Lauren, who raises Monarchs, and who also creates beautiful and highly productive butterfly and songbird habitat gardens, shared this very cool photo of empty Monarch chrysalides. Thank you Lauren!

When a Monarch caterpillar is preparing to pupate, it first spins a silky mat from its spinneret. The silk is much like the texture of spider’s silk and extends over an area several inches in diameter. You can see in the diagram below where the spinneret is located.

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.