Butterfly Corner with Happy Tonics

Butterfly Corner
by Mary Ellen Ryall

April 20 – In honor of Earth Day, Jim VanMoorleham and I planted five native chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) shrubs in area three, near the Memory Tree Grove, at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat. Black chokeberry is a deciduous, cold hardy shrub useful in landscape plantings, showing white flowers in the spring, colorful red foliage, and heavy dark fruit in the fall.

Meadow fritillary copyright Mike Reese, Wisconsin Butterflies Organization

Meadow fritillary copyright Mike Reese, Wisconsin Butterflies Organization

April 24 – Today I saw a white cabbage and a fritillary butterfly. The fritillary’s host plant is violet; flowers are in bloom. Butterfly sightings were posted to Wisconsin Butterfly Organization at http://wisconsinbutterflies.org/Individuals may record their butterfly sightings at this site. Kids would enjoy this activity as much as adults do. The project allows us to understand butterfly population trends.

My Name is Butterfly copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

I am happy to report that my book, “My Name is Butterfly,” is now available at Gadsden Public Library in Gadsden, AL. I am thrilled that libraries around the country are purchasing the book for children. Book postcards also went to the State Library Convention in AL where it was given exposure to other librarians.

According to ABC News, “A female Baringo giraffe calf at the Bronx Zoo was enjoying the warm New York weather over the weekend while frolicking with a butterfly that flew through her exhibit. The butterfly caught the newborn baby’s eye while she was nuzzling her mom and exploring her new home. The calf was born in March but has not yet been named, according to the Bronx Zoo. All of the zoo’s giraffes are named in memory of James and Margaret Carter, benefactors for the Carter Giraffe Building.” You can view the chase at http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/baby-giraffe-chases-butterfly-bronx-zoo-16151869

Award winning squash bread copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

Award winning squash bread copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

April 25 – My recipe for Squash Bread was a winner at the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College Sustainability Living Fair. The bread was chosen for Jiibaakweyang, We are Cooking Together, Flavors of Lac Courte Oreilles. I was delighted to share saved squash seed with attendees. The acorn squash grew in the Three Sisters Garden at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in 2011. Seed sharing is all about stories of where seed comes from. At the fair, Sheldon Spratford gave me beautiful corn husks. He reported that his grandmother grew the corn until the 1980s, when she passed away. He found one husk of dried corn at her house afterwards and saved it. Sheldon, an elder, mentioned that he has been growing the sweet corn since the 1990s. He mentioned that the corn is sweet and small. Happy Tonics will offer the seed at several environmental events in May. The Visitors Center/Store will be open for the season on Memorial Weekend. We invite you to stop by for sweet corn seed.

April 26 – Journey North reported that the monarch migration moved into five new U.S. states—Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and Minnesota this past week. The cold snap is keeping monarchs away from Shell Lake; there is no milkweed up yet in the habitat. Let us hope that a warming spell will begin soon.

Carol Hubin reported on April 28 that milkweed is up on her property in Shell Lake. Keep your eyes posted. If you spot a monarch, please let us know if it is a faded butterfly or freshly born. Knowing the difference will allow Happy Tonics to record the following: Did the butterfly fly all the way from Mexico or is this the first generation of butterfly in the U. S.? Female butterflies will need milkweed to lay their eggs on. Female butterflies only live a few weeks after depositing eggs.

In 2012, we are going to count monarch eggs at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat and mark milkweed plants that have eggs. Wire cages with tags will be used to identify which milkweed plants have eggs. If you have any old tomato cages to donate or see a monarch sighting, please call Mary Ellen at (715) 466-5349.

Ginger Wilcox smudges Mike Carpenter

Ginger Wilcox smudges Mike Carpenter

April 28 – 5th Annual Earth Day Event in Shell Lake was well attended. We are grateful to Dr. John Anderson and Ginger Wilcox for leading us in a Native American Ceremony to honor donors. Butterfly friends came to celebrate the butterfly and conservation efforts on behalf of the butterfly. Happy Tonics hosted an informal potluck afterwards at the Visitors Center/Store at 25 Fifth Avenue, Shell Lake.

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CLIMATE CHANGE IS A REALITY AND WE NEED YOUR VOTE

Brighter Planet is once again sponsoring our grant proposal on their social network.  Happy Tonics gained 384 VOTES in earlier rounds and we hope to boost VOTES this round from May 1 – 15.  Please log in or sign up to VOTE for Adapt to Climate Change Native Wildflower and Butterfly Habitats in Shell Lake, Wisconsin at http://brighterplanet.com/project_fund_projects/100 

Woodland trail to habitat

Woodland trail to habitat

Yesterday I went for a walk in the woods.  I wanted to check on the Wild Monarch Butterfly Habitat.  The DNR did a nice job in the fall of 2009 cutting down forbs and  cutting popple trees that were becoming invasive. I noticed two azure butterflies (Celastrina argiolus) flitting about with their lavender colored top wings.  This is the second butterfly species I have seen this year.  The first was a fritillary spotted earlier in April, well before it should have been in Wisconsin. We will monitor butterfly species on July 4 as part of the national butterfly count sponsored by North American Butterfly Association.  The public is invited to help us for a small fee of $5.00 to cover materials.  Come for an hour or more, from  10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Fiddlehead fern

Fiddlehead fern

  Seeing that the fiddlehead ferns were ready for picking, I gathered some and brought them home to cook.  They are delicious sautéed in butter with garlic.  While exploring I noticed that common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) is taking over a once native birch tree forest.  This is an invasive species.

Birch polypore mushrooms

Birch polypore mushrooms

The dead birch are now a haven to a birch fungus (Piptoporus betulinus) that breaks down the wood.  This particular polypore is unique in that it lives throughout the year on dead birch trees.  It only lives for up to a year but will continue to stay on the tree in its hardened wooden form.  It is known as the artist conk and the bottom is felt like and can be carved into art.

One of the side effects of climate change is that invasive species move into an area that once was native habitat.  They are hardy and once an invasive species gets a foothold, it is hard to eradicate.

Handmade sign DNR Donation

Handmade sign DNR Donation

  The DNR has been helping us to manage invasive species in the open field butterfly habitat surrounded by woods.

Your VOTE really matters.  It may in fact help fund a book to be published on monitoring species in 2010.

Thank you!

Welcome Back Meadow Fritillary and Bumblebee

April 10, 2010 – I was so surprised to see a meadow fritillary butterfly and what I think may be a rusty-patched bumblebee.  My neighbor Bobbie and her dog Bootsie were sitting outside and watching the nature show.  Bobbie said, “Bootsie was barking at the bumblebee earlier.”  She pointed out the futterbys.  Check out Larry Webber’s Website at http://wisconsinbutterflies.org/butterfly/species/70-meadow-fritillary to learn more about the meadow fritillary.

Meadow fritillary

North of Mount Morris, Waushara Co., WI, August 21, 2002 copyright Wisconsin Butterflies Organization

This is the earliest I have ever seen a butterfly outside of the mourning cloak that was seen in March and is the first butterfly to show itself after the snows. 

Bumblebees are another passion of mine. The rusty-patched bumblebee is in decline. I think this is the species I may have seen today because it had a rusty band around its middle. 

Xerces Society rusty-patched bumblebee

Xerces Society rusty-patched bumblebee

 According to Xerces Society this species of bumblebee though found in the Midwest is not supposed to be in Washburn County.

I feel that I am on a treasure hunt because I want to not only document this bumblebee species in Washburn County. I hope at least I am fortunate enough to photograph it and other bumbles in 2010.

I did notice that viola (violet plant) grew as a ground cover beneath the nonflowering lilac.

violet

violets growing under trees in Minong, Wisconsin

  The fritillary host plant is the viola.  The caterpillars overwinter and emerge as butterflies in the spring.  It was near 60 degrees Fahrenheit today and perhaps the butterfly had recently emerged as a butterfly. 

Think spring Insectamonarca friends and be happy where ever you are.

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