March 14, is National Learn About Butterflies Day. Have you seen a butterfly yet? A perfect reason to go for a walk, to look for butterflies. On sunny March days it is possible to see Mourning Cloaks even in northern North America and southern Canada. The Mourning Cloak is often the first to appear and lives in most of North America. This large ( 3-4 inch wingspan)) elegant velvety butterfly is a real treasure. They often overwinter hidden in bark or woodpiles. Tree sap is their food source, and willows, elms, birch and aspens are hosts for their caterpillars. Mourning Cloaks often live longer than other butterflies with a life span of 10 to 11 months, and even after sleeping all winter they are beautiful. Let me know if you spot one.
June can be the best time of the year for pollinators. In northern Wisconsin and Minnesota it is an awesome time for seeing bees, and butterflies! Within two minutes I observed monarchs, swallowtails, sulphurs, northern crescents, painted ladies, dragon flies, and many skippers and bees on a small patch of hawkweed and daisies.
Everyone comments about the beautiful lupine near Lake Superior, and it is beautiful to human eyes. If you look closely, very few butterflies and bees crave lupine like they crave Canadian anemone, blooming chives, wild geraniums, blooming trees, forget-me-nots or daisies. The blooming plant that has surprised me the most this year is the orange hawkweed. It is not a native plant, but the butterflies love it.
It’s not the best time of the year to see birds, but if you can recognize their songs they bring constant musical joy. The song sparrow, chestnut sided warbler, and a pair of red starts joyfully sing all day.
As long as the sun shines the birds, bees and butterflies seem oblivious to the battle taking place on the big lake. The cold lake ties to dominate the warm tropical winds from the south, and the temperature can fluctuate from 60 degrees to 80 degrees every few minutes. It’s fascinating and refreshing! The days are long in these northern climes with the sun setting past 9pm and twilight lasting beyond 10pm. No matter where you live get outside and enjoy the marvelous butterflies of summer, in a few weeks they will be gone!
What can you do to help our birds, bees and butterflies? Can you plant some milkweed or other native plants? Can you become aware and reduce the chemicals you use? Can you learn about neonicotinoids and be sure you never purchase plants that have been treated with them? For your information, neonicotinoids have recently been banned from use by the European Union.
Yesterday I had a mourning cloak, a painted lady, a red admiral, hummingbirds, and monarch caterpillars in my yard. Milkweed and native plants make a big difference for pollinators. I am not a fan of lists because experience is better, but here are some native plant lists to get you started: https://www.nwf.org/NativePlantFinder/About and from Audubon
Planting purple cone flowers, bee balm, black-eyed Susan and milkweed are easy ways to get started. After years of trying to get milkweed to grow, I now have swamp milkweed everywhere. It has reseeded itself and thrives in my yard. Also, common milkweed and butterfly weed have sprouted up, but only a few monarch butterflies. The few monarch butterflies have a big job ahead of them, and I am still hopeful we can get their numbers to improve! If everyone does a small part, it can make a big difference!
Below is a video from PBS about monarch caterpillars, enjoy!
Painted lady butterflies are one of my favorites. This week in Minneapolis we had an explosion of painted ladies as they migrate south. Other cities have experienced painted lady migration also. Read about their migration at Fargo and Lawrence.
Pearly everlasting is a host plant for the painted lady caterpillars and I watch their lives cycle all summer in my yard as they transform from caterpillar, to chrysalis to butterfly on these interesting white flowered plants.
Want to know more about the painted lady? Thoughtco has more information on them. Read at painted lady
Go for a walk and see if you can find migrating monarchs and painted lady butterflies.
Taiwan has been struck by three typhoons in the past month. A few weeks ago Taiwan was pummeled by Typhoon Meranti with winds of 186 MPH. In July they were struck by Typhoon Nepartak. As the earth warms, most of this warming is in the oceans causing instability. Global warming is making typhoons worse.
Earlier this year I was able to travel around the island of Taiwan with my husband. The people we met were so gracious and happy, and the food fabulous. This rugged mountainous country is beautiful.
Because of storms hitting the east side of the island, the Pacific Ocean side, most of the people live on the west side of the island. Map of Taiwan here. My thoughts and best wishes go out to the charming people and marvelous landscapes of Taiwan. I wish Taiwan a quick recovery, and I recommend Taiwan as an interesting place to travel.
Butterflies migrate from the southern part of Taiwan over the mountains to northern Taiwan. This was a butterfly festival celebrating migration.
I am at the Minnesota State Fair talking to individuals about rain gardens and native deep-rooted plants. Native plants help absorb pollutants, keep rain water in our yards, save on watering, and are loved by bees, butterflies and birds.
Plant deep-rooted plants for pollinators and clean water.
“Today, Minnesota set the strongest rules in the nation to protect pollinators from pesticides,” said Lex Horan of Pesticide Action Network. “The plan will help ensure that bee-harming pesticides won’t be used unnecessarily, and it lays the groundwork for reducing the use of neonicotinoid seed coatings. This decision is rooted in the resounding scientific evidence that neonicotinoids are harmful to pollinators. It’s past time for state and federal decisionmakers to take action to restrict the use of bee-harming pesticides, and today Minnesota did just that.” Read the whole story here. Another story from Minnesota Public Radio.
“Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the people of the earth.” Chief Seattle
If Everyone Does a Little It Can Add up to A Lot!
Have you noticed how few butterflies are flittering around this summer? Researchers find that butterfly species throughout the world are disappearing because of pollution, pesticides, and habitat loss. A newly released study says many butterflies are vanishing.
The author suggests we remove some of our lawn, and plant more flowers. Yes, we should plant more flowers, but beside planting more flowers we need to reduce the use of the chemicals we put on our lawns, in our gardens and on our agricultural fields.
Reducing chemicals and planting host plants for butterflies can make a big difference. Many of us are actively working on planting milkweed for monarchs, but there are many other butterfly species. Besides milkweed I have pearly everlasting for the American painted lady, turtlehead for the checkerspot butterfly, and golden Alexander for the black swallow-tail. Violets are great for the fritillary butterflies. This is one of the best charts I have seen on plants for butterflies from Bringing Nature Home And some ideas from the University of Minnesota for plants that are favored for butterflies an moths. Please let me know what your best plants for butterflies are?
Have you looked carefully at a butterfly? They are some of the most beautiful living species on our planet. The past few years I have loved learning about butterflies. Butterflies often sit so we can see them, and many binoculars make it possible to examine them closely.
Be sure to get outside this summer and look around for butterflies and other wildlife in your backyard. If you see a but aren’t sure about the species, you can consult this handy identification guide. This is from http://ecowatch.com
Here are 10 fascinating facts to consider next time you cross a butterfly’s path:
1. There are more than 17,500 recorded butterfly species around the world, 750 of which can be found in the U.S.
2. Butterflies and moths are part of the class of insects in the order Lepidoptera. Butterflies are flying insects with large scaly wings. Like all insects, they have six jointed legs and three body parts: the head, the thorax and the abdomen. The wings are attached to the thorax and they also have a pair of antennae, compound eyes and an exoskeleton.
3. The Cabbage White, is the most common butterfly in the U.S. Although it appears mostly white with black markings on the top of its wings, underneath those wings are yellowish-green. These butterflies have a wing spread of just about two inches. Males have only one spot on each wing, while females have two. As you probably know, you can find Cabbage Whites in most open spaces, including gardens, roadsides, parks and cities.
4. Monarch butterflies migrate to get away from the cold. However, they are the only insect that migrates an average of 2,500 miles to find a warmer climate. The iconic North
American Monarch has been greatly affected by extreme weather events, going through drastic dips and spikes in numbers over the past several decades. The overall pattern continues to point downward, with a 95 percent population decline over the last 20 years, but conservation efforts are helping: There were more monarch butterflies migrating in 2015 than there were in 2014.
5. Monarchs are not the only butterfly that migrate. The Painted Lady, American Lady, Red Admiral, Cloudless Sulphur, Skipper, Sachem, Question Mark, Clouded Skipper, Fiery Skipper and Mourning Cloak are among the other butterflies that also migrate, but not as far as the Monarchs.
6. The Common Buckeye Butterflyis one of the most striking butterflies, with its bold multicolored eyespots and thick upper-wing bars, all designed to frighten away any birds that might be tempted to chomp on them. If you look under its wings, you’ll find a more abstract profusion of brown, orange and beige. These insects are pretty common all over North and Central America, although you won’t find them in the Pacific Northwest or in the far north of Canada.
10. The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly, as its name implies, is one of the biggest butterflies, with a wing spread of four to seven inches. The female is once again bigger than the male. It too is found throughout North America and sometimes as far south as South America. These butterflies are called “swallow” because they have long tails on their hind wings that resemble the long, pointed tails of the birds known as swallows.