Enjoy the Butterfly Explosion

Painted Lady

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, painted lady host plant.

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.

Painted Lady by Dave Carpenter, Nokomis Naturescape


Getting Ready for a Long Journey

A new monarch on blazing star

This is an exciting time for my yard!  At this time of year my yard is overrun by monarch butterflies and hummingbirds.   Total enjoyment!

The hummingbirds are gorging on the nectar feeder and on the cardinal flowers, and monarchs are obsessed with the blazing star flowers.

Then just like, that they are gone on a perilous journey, migrating to warmer climes. First the hummingbirds are gone, then a week or so later, no monarchs! I hope they aren’t caught in storms, or hit by cars, and that they all arrive in Mexico or Central America safely.

Cardinal flowers


Female ruby-throat hummingbird

How can you have monarchs and hummingbirds in your yard? First, never use chemicals. Second, plant lots of milkweed, cardinal flowers and blazing star. Good Luck!

September 2. is National Hummingbird Day! A day to celebrate these amazing birds.


The Magnificent Butterfly

An American lady on a dandeloin
An American lady on a dandelion

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

Monarch Butterfly
Monarch Butterfly

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 Butterfly is 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.

The Common Buckeye Butterfly. Photo credit: Thinkstock
The Common Buckeye Butterfly. Photo credit: Thinkstock

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.

The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly. Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke
The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly. Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke

Read the entire list here

http://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20q?guide=Butterflies  Identification Chart

An Amazing Story of Migration

Monarchs love liatitis (blazing star)
Monarchs love Liatris (blazing star). They need nectar sources as they migrate
Monarch eggs hatch into caterpillars
Monarch eggs hatch into caterpillars, then into a chrysalis. 3 or 4 times in a summer this happens!
chrysallis turns into a monarch
chrysalis turns into a monarch butterfly. 3 or 4 times as they come north.

When I learned about native plants and pollinators my gardening focus completely changed. By planting milkweed, liatris, purple cone flowers and many others, the butterflies, and other pollinators come to my yard giving us enormous enjoyment, but now in September these incredible monarchs start their journey to Mexico. These butterflies are the 4th generation of the monarchs(Their great-grand parents) that traveled south last fall.
Fascinating things I have just learned about monarch butterflies:
** These August/September monarchs are the longest lived, Maybe living 6 to 9 months. They do not lay eggs until early next spring when they have returned to Texas from Mexico
** They can fly 265 miles a day to their resting winter ground in Mexico, about 2500 miles.
** After resting for a few months they head back from Mexico to Texas where they finally lay their eggs on milkweed, and the next generation begins. Each new crop of monarchs lays eggs and continues the migration back to Missouri/Minnesota/Wisconsin/Iowa and Canada.

All the chemicals we use have destroyed monarch habitat! What are you doing to make sure they survive?




Exciting New Program for Monarch Butterflies

Monarch caterpillar in my yard last year
Monarch caterpillar in my yard last year

This week I had one monarch butterfly checking out butterfly weed in my Minneapolis yard. Last week I spotted one monarch in Northern Wisconsin. It is sad that we get excited counting our famous butterflies in the quantities of one.wpid-wp-1409341499490.jpeg

Hopefully, a new program by announced by the White House will help get our monarch butterflies back on track. See article: http://www.startribune.com/calling-all-milkweed-federal-pollinator-plan-needs-a-billion-plants-for-monarchs/306383591/

We can all help:

1. Plant milkweed. Most garden stores still do not carry milkweed. Seeds are available, but not the best option.  I transplant plants from friends gardens.  Ask major garden stores to carry milkweed plants.

2 Please do not use Roundup or neonicotinoids, and always ask if the plants you purchase have been treated with neonicotinoids.

3. Inform yourself on host plants for butterflies http://www.ecosystemgardening.com/host-plants-for-butterflies.html

4. Never pick off fuzz or little spots on plants.  These could be eggs

chrysallis in my yard last year, turned into the monarch above.
chrysalis in my yard last year, turned into the monarch above.

Earth Day on Lake Superior

047 Lake Superior is still covered with thick ice, but it is very alive, and it talks and groans. Everything surrounding the lake radiates the hope of spring.  The song sparrow sings his spring song as he sits overlooking and lake, and a juvenile eagle watches for ice-out from his favorite white pine post.

New migrating birds arrive daily. Some stay, but most rest up and journey across the lake.  The ancient sand hill cranes,and purple finch will be nesting in the neighborhood.  Busy flickers and yellow-bellied sap suckers explore new trees before they travel further, and the flitting kinglets and yellow rumps will soon be on their way north.

A hermit thrush is exhausted and rests on a tree branch.

Our fox friend is marking his territory and the wolves/coyotes howl under the clear starry nights.

Bright green ferns are under the snow
Bright green ferns are under the snow

Every day is unique and bring constant challenges to the vegetation and wildlife