October 2020 – A week ago, I was walking outside after 10 AM when I saw what I suspected to be a new Monarch Butterfly. The butterfly flew close to the ground and couldn’t gain any height. It was 57 degrees F, and the butterfly can not fly when it is colder than 55 degrees F. I was surprised to see a Monarch Butterfly this late in the season, being mid-October. The butterfly starts to migrate to Mexico in mid-September to October.
The migration time is what has me stumped. Why is this Monarch Butterfly so late? To my surprise, I saw the female Monarch Butterfly again, October 22, 2020. She was sipping nectar on Marigolds in the Patio Garden, behind the Embury Cafe. I hope you will wish the Monarch Butterfly a safe trip even if she only makes it south to a warmer climate. Let us hope she has enough time to escape before it gets too cold to fly.
Last night I had an uncanny dream. For years I have been working on behalf of the monarch butterfly, actually I do. My friend Sandy Stein and I were visiting what looked like a large vista that reached into the distance without end. It appeared the land had once been used as a farm, but its relationship with the land went wrong. I somehow understood that the elder, in the dream, knew crops were in trouble in my home country because there were no pollinators.
The old gentleman that I really couldn’t visually see, stayed mostly in the background, but he was consciously in my mind; I understood his intentions clearly. He knew of my work with the second largest group of pollinators in the world. The reverent elder was the owner of forests and fields that appeared to go on forever. He made me to understand that 40 acres of land had been prepared for me and the pollinators. I knew that he was giving me land for the butterflies. I was overcome, I could hardly believe my eyes, I felt so honored for my life’s work.
It was then, I felt him communicating, “I have admired you for being so tenacious on behalf of the monarch butterfly.” He went on, “You have been teaching the people about the necessity of native habitat for the monarch and other pollinators. Many times you were all alone in your quest. I do know your dream and am giving this land to you for the butterflies.”
I was stunned when I realized what he conveyed was real. I could look out into the distance and see the land was prepared for establishing a native pollinator habitat. I can’t tell you how honored and childlike I felt. I wanted to cry because someone really understood my heart and had made it possible for me to have this land for an intended purpose.
When I asked, “What will you do?” He let me see vistas of forest that could be consciously and sustainably cut to grow more organic food for people and still have forests for wildlife and plants.
Realizing his truth, I could imagine that people might now listen and understand that we need to live in balance with nature. Could the time have come?
The dream was so beautiful that when I awoke I wondered if I had had a vision dream that gave me a glimpse into the afterlife. I felt so blessed, humbled and longed to go to this place where I can live forever among the butterflies.
Mary Ellen Ryall, naturalist and environmental educator, has written two children’s books on the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. An article, Bringing Butterflies Home, was published in the spring issue of Celebrate HOME Magazine.Come learn about the habitat, life cycle of the monarch and more at this Open the Public Free Event..
Ryall’s books and magazine will be available for sale. Some host plants for other butterfly species and milkweed seed for the monarch will also be offered.
Today my sister’s grandchildren came calling my name, “Aunt Mary Ellen come quick. The butterfly is born.” I could hardly believe it was the same monarch that was in a chrysalis this past week because it was too early in its development at this stage. Rather it turned out to be another monarch birth.
It took a child with eyes close to the ground to spot the newly emerged butterfly, which was resting on a blade of grass, after it emerged from a clear, see through chrysalis. Welcome to the world dear monarca. The caterpillar created a chrysalis right on a container pot. No one even suspected that there was a chrysalis there.
The other chrysalis we are watching is about ready to emerge. The wings are becoming more visible through the chrysalis as the hours pass by. It should prove interesting tomorrow. Here’s a shot of today’s chrysalis.
Before I begin this post, I thought you would want to know that the monarch butterfly caterpillar has changed into the next stage of its life. It is now a lime green chrysalis. I think it must of happened yesterday afternoon after the sun finally came out. The morning was rainy.
I photographed a few shots of the caterpillar that just hung upside down for a day. It was cloudy out and a little cooler. I wondered if the caterpillar needed sun to give it energy in order to change into a chrysalis. Then the downpour came and I hoped the caterpillar would be safe. Rain drops can dislodge an adult monarch and cause it harm or death. I was concerned about the caterpillar. Would it be safe from the elements? After all it was hiding among tomato leaves and perhaps had enough cover not to experience the brunt of heavy rain pellets.
This morning was cool, a touch of fall crisp air. Dressed in a hoodie, I went outside to begin thanksgiving morning rituals. Old growth oak trees at the end of the driveway were whispering yes, fall is coming. They communicate a unique sound when the leaves move. It is different than summer serenades. The leaves resonate this truth. As I stood on the back stoop for a few minutes, I heard hummingbird wings behind me. It wasn’t long before a female flew in front of me; I had a close encounter as I stood perfectly still. Evidently she decided I wasn’t a flower, even if the hoodie was pink. The hummer headed toward a moist colony of black-eyed-Susan and bright pink phlox. I think of my elder friend Phyllis DeBrot when I see hummingbirds. She loves hummingbirds and always sends me cards that have either hummingbirds or butterflies on cover.
I decided to walk out on the country road. It is very hilly; I figured it would improve my endurance if I start hill climbing. Yesterday I learned from Jack (brother-in-law) that Fitchburg is the second hilliest city in the country. San Francisco is number one. We’re out in the country and what a hill it is for cars to get up my sister’s hill. Believe me, I am buying a four wheel drive vehicle when I return here to live starting in the fall. I have my eye on a used Suburu. There is a Suburu car dealer in Fitchburg. My brother-in-law swears by his. I heard that two other friends love their vehicles too. The back roads here are narrow and I need a vehicle that I can trust.
My nephew’s morning glories are growing profusely at my sister’s. They appear to be illuminated from within. I imagine pollinators see the inner glow. Who is not attracted to radiating light when it beckons? Hope you enjoy the photos this morning. It is taking me awhile to learn my brother-in-law’s computer system and applications such as photos.
Be happy insectamonarca friends where ever you are.
Ryall, M. E., 23 May 2012. Washburn County Register, Butterfly Corner,p. 7
May 14 – What a day for butterflies. I watched a mother monarch butterfly fluttering low to the ground as she searched for milkweed. She located plants near my kitchen garden. I witnessed the butterfly laying eggs on tiny milkweed plants. When you look closely, one will notice that the butterfly tips her abdomen to the underside of milkweed leaves. More often than not, the air current is less windy close to the ground, making it easier for a butterfly to deposit eggs on tiny milkweed. This wasn’t the only species of butterflies seen. There were Canada swallowtail, black swallowtail, coppers, fritillary, and Milbert’s tortoiseshell butterflies. Monday’s temperature was a balmy 82 degrees Fahrenheit sunny day, a perfect day for butterflies.
May 17 – I was a guest speaker at Mrs. LaFave’s kindergarten class at Shell Lake Elementary School. Children love butterflies. Mrs. LaFave teaches students about monarch biology and the butterfly’s life cycle. One student brought in a deceased monarch to show me. Another student raised his hand and proudly told the class that he had raised a painted lady butterfly at home. I was amazed. He said that he fed the adult butterfly sugar water when it emerged as an adult butterfly. The students have such an interest in nature, be it butterflies, bees, or native plants. We did get a bit off topic when the class wanted to tell me personal bee stories. I found that of interest because bees are suffering a decline. It is wonderful that children are connected to nature and insects. Someday these very children will be the next generation to protect the natural world.
Volunteers met at the Visitors Center in Shell Lake. We talked about the Monarch Butterfly Habitat and ways we are working together to bring this rich environmental land based project forward in the 2012 season. Jim VanMoorleham is going to stain the signs that the Tech Ed. class made at Shell Lake School. Joan Quenan is going to buy some white vinegar to start eradicating invasive spotted knapweed. Yes, it is true. Vinegar kills the invasive species; however, it will kill everything around it too. We are not concerned with killing bird’s foot trefoil in area three along with spotted knapweed. Both plants are replacing native species.
The Monarch Butterfly Habitat is alive with crickets. We saw hundreds of monarch eggs on milkweed plants. Milkweed has finally taken off and there are milkweed plants throughout the habitat. All things point to a bumper crop of monarchs at the habitat this year. We will be marking plants and putting up a “Journey North” butterfly screened tent to view the life cycle of the butterfly. Visitors will be able to observe monarch butterfly conservation in action this year.
The plan is to replant a weeded area with a layer of wet newspapers and top soil from Bashaw Nursery. Thank you, Steve Degner, for delivering the enriched soil. We are getting ready to plant a Three Sisters Garden as a teaching garden. People will have an opportunity to learn about healthy organic native crops, corn, beans and squash. Native seed means that seed originated in the Americas. This type of garden allows nitrogen to be added to the soil to replenish good nutrients that corn depletes. The squash is a natural ground cover and holds moisture. Along with this, the group is planning to plant gourds, within the squash family. Hopefully these will produce future gourd bird houses for the habitat.
Ryall, M. E. (21 March 2012). Butterfly Corner. Washburn County Register, p. 11.
March 12 – Michele Darmanin, Sydney, Australia, spearheaded a project to donate books to start a school library on the remote island of Viwa Island, Fiji. Michele and her husband visited the island in 2011. Michele explained they traveled by two boats to get to Viwa. In March 2012, she made a request via an Internet writers group. A Google search documented that monarch butterflies do indeed live on Fiji. I mailed Michele a copy of my book, My Name is Butterfly. It is known that monarchs often land on ship when they are far from land. Most likely a passing ship made it possible for the monarch to take up residence on Fiji.
March 14 – According to Journey North, “Here they come! Monarchs are leaving the overwintering sites and appearing on the breeding grounds to the north. According to our observers, they may already have spread more than 1,000 miles northward. During spring migration, female monarchs leave a trail of eggs behind as they travel.”
March 17 – The Spooner Garden Club and the Spooner Agriculture Research Station sponsored the Eighth Annual New Ventures Garden Seminar, Northwood School, Minong. Over 240 gardening enthusiasts attended the all day seminar. Cassie Thompson, Northwood School and Dakota Robinson, Shell Lake School assisted Happy Tonics with displays. Cassie is the model for My Name is Butterfly. She participates in High School Forensic Class. Cassie is a public speaker, winning a state award in 2008 for the environmental talk Trumpeter Swan. She is boning up on her skill to hopefully compete at state level. The next competition is March 29 in Spooner. This will be the deciding event.
Dakota brought a petition to stop mowing during migration. She worked on the environmental project to earn a Silver Badge, which she won in 2011. Over 30 people signed the petition at the event. Three individuals at the event told me they had seen monarch butterflies, in Hayward, Ashland, and Superior. How can this be? The milkweed isn’t even up yet.
March 18 – I saw a Milbert’s tortoiseshell. Perhaps the ladies at the seminar mistook the tortoiseshell? Tortoiseshell butterflies overwinter and could fly about on a 70 degree F. day. Monarchs do not overwinter. I didn’t notice the tortoiseshell’s front wings with color. I only saw the dark body tones with orange outer wings on hind wings as it flitted by. Is climate change impacting the timing of migration? The unusually warm weather in March is triggering migrating birds back to our area. Some male robins arrived last week. This week I see more males setting up display areas. This is their way of inviting females to choose a partner. Butterfly news was reported to Mike Reese, Wisconsin Butterflies Organization at http://wisconsinbutterflies.org/butterfly/sightings. My listing is posted on the link.
March 23 – 2nd Annual NW WI Regional Food Summit will be held from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, in the auditorium and outside. Happy Tonics will be exhibiting and distributing common milkweed seed. My Name is Butterfly will also be offered. Break-out sessions: Farmer, Buyer, and Coop Perspectives; Entering the Local Food Arena for Community Members – Why, Where, and How. Keynote Speaker: John Peck, Family Farm Defenders. Topic: Food Sovereignty.
According to Dr. Lincoln Brower, Monsanto’s Roundup garden pesticide and Roundup Ready Crops, such as GMO corn and soy, contain glyphosate. The impact of glyphosate has been linked to environmental and pollinator decline including monarch butterfly. Roundup Ready crops are planted most frequently in the Midwest. Mexico, the mother country of corn, has also switched over to Roundup Ready crops and GMO corn seed. It has been documented that the 17 year decline in butterfly population is directly related to Roundup Ready pesticide and GMO crops that have the pesticide in their DNA. Mind you, this is not the only cause of monarch butterfly decline. Development and roadside cutting during migration and lack of the native host plant, specifically milkweed, also play a big role in monarch decline. Source: Insect Conservation and Diversity, March 2011.
Ryall, M. E. (14 March 2012). Butterfly Corner. Washburn County Register, p. 16
March 8, 2012 – Estela Romero, local reporter, Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico, went to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary with monarch expert, Doctor Lincoln Brower, Sweet Briar College, Virginia. Estela has been watching the monarchs for weeks and thinks they are more active. She saw many butterflies flitting about, instead of hibernating on trees. The scientist and his guide went to Chincua sanctuary. Further up the mountain, last year’s flood and mud slide damage could be seen.
Dr. Brower expressed his concern about how dry the Mexican forest is this year. In winter 2010, Monarch butterfly populations endured a terrible flood in the mountains, where the sanctuary is located. This year, the soil is baked dry and unstable because there are fewer trees to stabilize the mountains. It is so dry, that Dr. Brower is concerned, that the butterflies may not have sufficient moisture, which they use for respiration. Last fall 2011, Texas suffered a terrible drought. The state suffered massive fires. Texas is the gateway to and from Mexico for the butterfly. Lack of liquid and plant nectar in Texas may play a major role on the monarch butterfly migration 2012 .
Dr. Brower is concerned that now the monarchs may not have enough lipids to make the journey north this spring. Yes, many will make it, but what about the majority of the migration? Deforestation continues in Mexico. There are fewer Oyamel fir trees in the Mexican forest. Fewer trees mean fewer winter habitat for the monarch butterfly. Since the time of the dinosaurs, the butterfly has been around. How could a butterfly, which has survived throughout history, be so impacted by our material world and climate change in such a short time? We will follow the migration north to keep you posted.
The Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake has some good news. Volunteer staff discovered that black swallowtail caterpillars and adult butterflies were seen in Shall Lake, in the summer of 2011. With this news, Happy Tonics plans to include host plants for the butterfly. We want to welcome this species to the habitat.
I am thrilled to have my book talked about in England and beyond the big waters. Happy Tonics has published butterfly articles in the UK before with Butterfly Observer, Cornwall Butterfly Conservation.
March 29 – The first week of April, I will be in Washington, DC. While there, I will attend Cindy Dyers one woman photography exhibit at Green Springs Garden, in Alexandria, VA. Cindy is Happy Tonics VP of Marketing. Check out her exquisite photography at http://www.gardenmuseshow.com/. I am doing a book tour in DC; Southern Maryland in Calvert and St. Mary’s County; and in Northern Virginia. I have been invited to speak at Meet the Author events. It will be good to see my old stomping grounds again.
18 March 2012 – According to Journey North, the monarch butterfly has left Mexico and may have traveled north by 1,000 miles. Read the science behind the article about the decline of monarch butterflies. We need milkweed to establish a pollinating corridor across the United States.
Too warm in Northwest Wisconsin week of March 11. Three people told me they saw monarch butterflies. How can this be? There are no milkweed plants up yet.