Monsanto’s Roundup Ravaging Butterfly Populations, Study Shows | Truthout

Monsanto’s Roundup Ravaging Butterfly Populations, Study Shows | Truthout.

Roundup kills milkweed, the only host plant of the monarch butterfly. Citizen scientists have known for a few years now that the decline of milkweed is due to pesticide use which has depleted monarch populations in the Midwest where most of GMO corn and soy crop is planted now. What was once a diverse pollinator corridor has been reduced to remnant tallgrass prairie. Prairie has gone down by 90 percent in the USA.

Happy Tonics created a restored native tallgrass prairie, as a Monarch Butterfly Habitat, in Shell Lake, Wisconsin. We must do more. Gardeners need to plant milkweed to enable the monarch butterfly to rebound.


Happy Tonics on the move

posted by Mary Ellen Ryall

March 2, I did a radio interview with Jim Dick, Managing Director, Discover Wisconsin. The topic was Earth Day and why it is important.  The broadcast is scheduled to air on radio stations across the state on March 10. As many of you may realize, Happy Tonics sponsors the Washburn County Earth Day Event in Shell Lake. This year’s event is on April 23. See event details at

 March 11, Happy Tonics and invited guests will attend the Discover Wisconsin Premiere & Gala in Spooner, WI, 6 p.m. at the Palace Theatre ; 7 p.m. Gala at Northwest Sports Complex Ballroom. The syndicated television network broadcast will air on Saturday, March 12. The Washburn County TV program includes the Monarch Butterfly Habitat, Shell Lake, Woodcarving Museum, Shell Lake and others. Michelle Voight, Executive Director of Washburn County Tourism Association (WCTA), was instrumental in getting Washburn County promoted as a Tourist and Vacation Destination. Washburn County WCTA members that include businesses and nonprofit organizations are featured in this TV program.

Stations and Times: Local access channels: WDEE TV 4, Deerfield; WSCS TV 8, Sheboygan; Channel 12, Cottage Grove; New London, Cable 6; City Channel 25, West Allis; JATV 12, Janesville; PEG Station Channel 6, Mauston; W43BR Baraboo; FSN North and FSN Wisconsin, All stations air on Saturday, 10 am; WQOW, Eau Claire, Sun. 5 p.m.; WKOW, Madison, Sat. 6:30 p.m.; WFRV Green Bay, Sat. 5 p.m.; WJMN, Marquette, Sat. 6:30 p.m., WAOW, Wausau, Sat. 6 p.m.; WXOW, La Crosse, Sun. 5 p.m.; WYOW, Eagle River, Sat., 6:30 p.m., WIFR, Rockford, IL, Sat., 6:30 p.m., KFXA, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, IA; WDIO, Superior/Duluth, Sun. 5:30 p.m., WIRT, Hibbing, MN, Sun. 5:30 p.m.; WITI, Milwauke3, Sunday, 9 a.m.;   

 March 16 – Environmental Film Feast at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College (LCOOCC) will feature speaker Kevin Schoessow, Agricultural Agent, Spooner Agriculture Research Station. Subject: Composting. One can’t have a soil enriched garden without composting.  A rare film, “Life in the Soil” will be shown. Food prices may continue to rise to offset rising fuel cost at the pump. One way to be sustainable is to plant a vegetable garden. Soil is just as important as seed. Many seed companies are charging more for garden seed this year.  Join us at LCOOCC on March 16, 12 Noon to 2:30 p.m. 13644 Trepania Road, Hayward, WI.

 We are pleased to announce that Pat Shields, Happy Tonics Board Member and Faculty at LCOOCC, recently received an International Faculty Award to attend the seminar on sustainability in Costa Rica and Nicaragua this summer. The National Science Foundation is a co-grantor.  Shields will be submitting the college’s 3 year grant with the Center for Traditional Medicine in Esteli, Nicaragua, on March 16th and leaves for Nicaragua on March 17th. 

 March 19 – Happy Tonics will be exhibiting at the 11th Annual New Ventures Garden Seminar, Northwest School, Hwy. 53, Minong, WI. We will promote Earth Day Event and Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake. Cassie Thompson, young environmental advocate will assist us. She lives in Minong and is an inspiration for youth across the Nation to get involved in Volunteerism.

September the Long Goodbye

A prairie of Tall Bluestem Native Grass
A prairie of Tall Bluestem Native Grass.

Sunday, September 26, I stopped at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat to pick tall bluestem seed for a seed saving project. We want to offer online prairie friends the opportunity to buy a little of our native grass seed. We don’t sell seed by the pound or even by the ounce for that matter. When we ship common milkweed seed, the package contains 20-30 seeds. Tomorrow I will mail milkweed seed to Florida and Virginia. People are not greedy. They just want to help the butterfly by planting the host plant for the monarch.

As I strolled leisurely through the habitat, I saw at least a dozen yellow sulphur butterflies flitting about gathering nectar from periwinkle showy asters and yellow blooming birds foot trefoil. Among the stiff and showy goldenrod, I saw many species of native bees sipping nectar.

Summer may be over but the habitat is still alive with the activity of smaller species such as the insects which I saw in the warm sun enjoying the last days of blooming wildflowers. Soon a colder freeze will come and all life will go dormant to wait out the long cold winter.

Native bumblebees
Native bumblebees

I am enjoying these last few days of documenting and photographing the littlest of species that make our natural world complete.

Response to Letter to the Editor – Happy Tonics Board and Officers

The Editorial article by Lauralei Anderson in the paper September 8, 2010 was submitted to Happy Tonics, Inc. officers and board in OH, MA, VA and WI. We agreed to the following response to Lauralei Anderson’s Editorial.

Letter to the editor, Washburn County Register

In regards to the letter sent by Lauralei Anderson from Cumberland, we at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat would like to respond to her criticism calling the habitat “an overgrown railroad bed.”

A native habitat is completely different from a typical garden, park or planting. There are no tulips and marigolds in nice neat rows because all the plants in the habitat are native to Wisconsin. This is a prime example of a restored tall grass prairie whose plants are the same ones that covered Wisconsin when the Conestoga wagons passed through carrying the pioneers west.

It was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that not only helped pick out the native seeds, but donated over $500 worth of seeds to the habitat and the Land and Water Conservation Department had a huge hand in the project also.

Native plantings always start out with common plants like the little and big blue stems which you call weeds. If the garden is healthy, the first native flowers begin to appear the third year. You mentioned in your letter that you saw some ‘scant black-eyed Susan’s, they are right on time. Within the next 5 years, more native flower species, the seeds of which were planted by professionals, will appear. Some native plants take years for their seeds to germinate and grow into plants.

Even though the habitat idea is new to many here in Shell Lake and the surrounding residents, it’s familiar to those who are familiar with Saulk County’s favorite son, Also Leopold and sites like Brighter Planet. The habitat has received grants from both organizations as well as numerous others that believe that if we don’t save the native plants for the two most important pollinators, the bees and butterflies, commercial crops and public and personal gardens will fail due to a lack of pollination. We will be starting to be official Wisconsin native seed savers this year, sending them throughout the United States.

Shell Lake is also on the direct floral corroder that runs from Canada to Mexico that offers food and rest to the millions of butterflies heading to their winter home in Mexico and yes, the butterflies often follow the highways, another reason for this perfect habitat site.

It’s often easy to criticize what we don’t understand, and this habitat was never meant to look like a ‘cute little garden,’ it’s a teaching tool that has already tied into Eco Tourism and we have given many tours this summer to a local audience as well as visitors from across our nation. The Monarch Habitat also sponsors Earth Day activities each year which encourage locals to buy locally.

Articles about the habitat have not only been published nationally, the habitat is also part of the international world with blog responders from 72 different countries who understand why it exists.

If you watch television, you will see the habitat featured on Discover Wisconsin three times during the next two years, starting March 2011. The habitat is all over their website and print material and calendars as well as the official Wisconsin Tourism Site.

All the beautiful little gardens you mentioned in your letter require constant up-keep from weeding to watering to fertilizing, to the applying of pesticides and for some, mowing.

The habitat is ‘green’ in more ways than one because native plants live with or without our help. The habitat leaves absolutely no carbon footprint.

We would encourage you to take a tour of this amazing place; to step back in history for a bit and enjoy the many kinds of butterflies that already visit the habitat daily.

Mary Ellen Ryall, Executive Director

Mow it, pick it or replant it, please

Letters to the editor, Washburn County Register – September 8, 2010

by Lauralei Anderson, Shell Lake Alumni, Cumberland

This was the bad press received from a critic of natural habitat.

Over the last few years, I have to commend the city of Shell Lake for taking pride in the appearance of this little city. This has been accomplished by doing improvements such as the storefront renovations, the beautiful hanging baskets that adorn the light poles and the well-groomed lawns of the beach/pavilion walkways.

The last two  Registers have featured articles of two different area gardens. Two weeks ago featured the cut little village garden by te Washburn County Historical Society, with it beautifully weeded perennials, welcoming visitors from the south end of town. Last week’s feature was of the twilight garden at the Spooner Ag Station, with its sweet sitting benches and well-groomed plants. So, I was wondering if this week’s paper was going to feature the butterfly garden on the north end of town? However, I could probably answer my own question with a solid “No.” Why write a feature about an over-grown railroad bed?

So this brings me to the meat of my letter. Why do we keep seeing this unkempt, fence-in weed patch year after year? Yes, you I know that it was designed to attract butterflies, but on close inspection we see scant black-eyed Susan’s and nothing more than wild weeds and few bugs! Couldn’t we find some eye-appealing greenery that attracts butterflies as well as scenic onlookers, making it more welcoming than a back-40 field that needs to be hayed?

It amazes me that this has been allowed to go on for as long as it has. When looking at the area on the old railroad tracks, we see sitting benches that are longing to be sat on, a grown over walking path and a very nice pergola that is vacant. Mostly, I think, because of the lack of care and the uninviting appearance of the place.

So I ask whomever is in charge of this “Garden of Weed-en”…Could you mow it, pick it or replant it and make this sanctuary as welcoming to people as well as our six-legged, winged friends.

I am hoping that letter will spark those of you who agree with me, that have been quiet about this eyesore, to speak up and ask for a little more improvement to this pretty little city.

Happy Tonics officers and board of directors will address this article in this week’s paper if the Editor chooses to publish our response.

EPA Position on Native Habitat

The Native Restored Remnant Tallgrass Prairie in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, received some bad press in the newspaper this week re: Washburn County Register.  The article was in the Editor’s Column. One of our board members did some research and found an informative position paper. We are noting the Weed Law vs. Native habitat as follows.


The types of old weed laws used by municipalities to prosecute natural landscapers generally suffer from a variety of legal flaws. These flaws can be exploited by natural landscapers who are targeted for prosecution in order to win his or her case, or hopefully, convince his or her village that the weed law should not be applied to natural landscapes. The flaws are constitutional, practical and evidentiary.

A.  Natural Gardening as a Fundamental Right.

1.  Landscaping as Speech and Art

Natural gardening can be constitutionally protected speech and, therefore, any weed law must be closely related to a compelling state interest. While not all natural landscapes are obvious to even a casual viewer, many are. Indeed, this is often the real “problem.” Symbolic speech is as protected as oral speech. One of the best ways a person can announce his or her concern for what humankind has done, and is doing, to the environment is to restore a portion of the environment to its natural state. Restoring natural vegetation can, therefore, be a form of speech and, as such, is entitled to the same protection that speech receives under the First Amendment.129

The attempt made by natural landscapers to politically express themselves through the cultivation of wild plants is one that parallels historical and traditional precedents.130 The political use of flowers as symbols is as important today as it has been in the past. The red rose is the symbol of the Socialist Party in France and the British Arbor Party. In the War of the Roses, opposing sides took roses of different colors as their symbols.131

Natural landscaping can also be artistic expression protected by the First Amendment.132 State law recognizes the beauty, artistic expression and virtue of landscape gardening.133 Landscape architecture is defined as “the art and science of arranging land together with the spaces and objects upon it, for the purpose of creating a safe, efficient, healthful, and aesthetically pleasing physical environment for human use and enjoyment.”134 A weed law, as applied to natural landscapers, denies the landscapers’ ability to express themselves, through an activity statutorily recognized as art.

Neighbors and government officials need not concur that the natural landscape is “art” before First Amendment protection attaches. In interpreting art as speech protected by the First Amendment, the court in Piarowski V. Illinois Community College 135 stated, “[t]he freedom of speech and of the press protected by the First Amendment has been interpreted to embrace purely artistic as well as political expression (and entertainment that falls short of anyone’s idea or art…)…”136

One of the most spectacular examples of natural landscaping as art lies in the heart of Chicago’s Grant Park. The Wild Flower Works II is the creation of Chicago artist Chapman Kelly.137 Kelly sees his garden of wildflowers, legumes and other native plants not merely as dirt and flowers, but rather a giant canvas on which he does his “most spectacular work.”138 The ecological painting is a socio-political work that symbolizes the proper role of humankind within Nature.

In 1988, when the Park District sought to have the Wild Flower Works plowed under, Kelly went to court and obtained a temporary restraining order arguing his First Amendment rights. The lawsuit was later settled by allowing the Wild Flower Works to remain in Grant Park and the Park District to receive regular reports on its maintenance.

“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint and the soil and air as the canvas – working with nature provides the technique.”139 More remarkable examples of gardening as art are the efforts of the French Impressionist, Claude Monet. Following the death of his wife, Monet moved to Giverny, France in 1883. There he planted the gardens that were the subject of his most famous paintings. Focusing on color relationships and the effects of light, Monet carefully arranged pure colors in the abstract form of flowering plants to “create richly patterned textures and mood by contrasting or homonizing color relationships.”140 In the later, and most productive part of his career, Monet used his flower and water gardens at Giverny as a living studio. “With the living, growing and changing plants, always subject to light and weather, Monet created an organized concentrated color environment where he could live, breathe, observe and walk, forever having his painter’s eye challenged by the effects of light.”141 Many of the plants Monet employed, and much of the layout of the gardens, are the same or similar to many of today’s natural landscapes.

Enforcement of a weed law denies the artist the tools of her art, Nature. A city’s weed law enforcement is as devastating to a natural landscaper as declaring music a nuisance would be to a musician. Absent a showing of some compelling municipal interest, a city does not have the power to restrain a natural landscaper’s freedom of expression. The unjustified restraint of freedom of expression consitutes a violation of the First Amendment.

Sources: EPA, Landscaping with Native Plants; Green Landscaping Green Acres,  The John Marshall Law Review
Volume 26, Summer 1993, Number 4. You can view the whole document at 


Monitoring Native Species at the Native Wildflower and Butterfly Garden – August 2010


 August 12 – Stonelake Garden Club came for a tour of the habitat. There were 33 women from the garden club and they enjoyed learning about forbs and grasses. The tall bluestem grass is over 6 feet tall and it is like walking through a tunnel in some areas where the rain drenched earth produced tall stands in the wettest part of the sandy prairie.

The week of August 9 – 14 so very hot that we didn’t work in the habitat.  The temperature is supposed to cool next week.  Looking forward to placing the sculpture art in the habitat.

August 18 – The sculpture art is still not in. It has been raining quite steadily for at least two weeks now.  I don’t mind. Matter of fact, I do a Nibi Wabo Water Ceremony to bless the tears of the sky.  The habitat is happy with singing crickets. I believe I heard a frog out there this early evening as I walked through area two.

I was happy to see monarch caterpillars on several milkweeds throughout the habitat today. I feel we have an incubator this year because the adult females have found that the habitat is for them.  I love to see the waving and pollinating grasses dressed in dripping gold and yellows dangling from the flower heads waving in the breeze.  There is nothing quite like it as I pause to gaze at ground covering purple Prairie dropseed, what might be a little bluestem and one beauty I still haven’t identified. 

The plant ID plaques are nearly all in place. The hand-made large standing bird house is looking good in area three. Brennan Harrington placed a wooded stand under it so it now stands a little taller than the split rail fence.

 August 23 – I agree with Corey Bradshaw, Conservation Biologist in Australia. Limited monitoring of species does not give the big picture to show any pattern of species biodiversity, one needs to look at the long and broad view. Please read his article at

None the less, we are making minute monitoring observations at least. I felt it was important to document what we are seeing as an environmental education organization. I wanted to show and tell what is happening to biodiversity of animals and plant species in the Restored Remnant Tallgrass Prairie which is a Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, USA.

Monitoring Native Plant and Pollinator Species JUNE 2010

JUNE 2010

Native Wildflower and Butterfly Garden, Shell Lake, Wisconsin
as time permits I will add photos

1st monarch caterpillar in 2010
1st monarch caterpillar in 2010


June 19 – First sighting of a monarch caterpillar in area one. Saturday worked in area three for 2 hours.

 June 20 – Rains off and on over the next few days.

 June 21 – I showed Elizabeth Haasl the monarch caterpillar.

 June 23 – It rained like a tropical storm and I worried about the little thing.

 June 24 – When I checked area one for the monarch caterpillar, I didn’t see it on the milkweed at 8 a.m.  It was wet out. It rained last night and I thought perhaps it was hiding.  At 10 a.m. Elizabeth, a volunteer, walked through this area and saw the caterpillar on the milkweed.  I am happy because we are closely watching to ensure the little creature has enough milkweed to eat.

 The Memory Tree Grove at the north Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake was completely overrun with grass and spotted knapweed in June.  Elizabeth Haasl, a young volunteer has been diligently pulling the invasive species in area three for three weeks now.  I tackle the grass as high as my knees. As of today one can see that there is a walking circle with a central wild black cherry tree and parameter trees.  We planted chokecherry and staghorn suman in 2008. The cherry trees seem to be healthy but the sumac pretty much died.  We planted a large wild black cherry tree in the center of the Memory Tree Grove in 2009 and it is doing beautifully and even has fruit that hasn’t been eaten by the birds.  While I was weeding today, I noticed a dead stump of a sumac mother plant, hidden among the weeds, which was planted in 2008. The parent had sent out runners which are now two healthy young sumac trees.  Think of it. The transplanted sumac may have known that it would not transplant successfully so it sacrificed itself. I love this kind of survival story.  At least her DNA got passed down to the next generation.

 Area three – Today we put down some red and white clover and added some good rich dark soil. Then we tapped down the seed by walking on it to force it to settle into the ground. The idea is to remove the invasive species, add a legume to add nitrogen to the soil and then this fall or next spring  we will put down native seed in this area. We can’t transplant in this area because there are natural gas lines running through on this side.

The Three Sisters Garden looks great.  I want to put down some fresh mowed grass as ground cover the next time they mow at Lakeland Manor. Or perhaps I can bring back some straw from Minong.  The tiny butterfly weed that I transplanted from hydroponics experiment is thriving and growing in two places in area two and three.  Elizabeth showed me a Hidatsa bean when she opened the shell and it was beautiful beige with reddish tones on white. 

 At 2:30 p.m. I rode my bike over to habitat and saw the caterpillar on the underside of a milkweed leaf.  It is twice as big as it was a few days ago.

 I saw that prairie purple clover is coming up in area one to the left of the bench.  I see lots of gray head coneflower growing also.  Is this from seed that was planted in 2008 and only germinating this year because of rain?  Interesting!  I have been told that some of this seed that we planted in 2008 could stay in the soil for 100 years before germinating.  It waits until the conditions are just right for it to grow and regenerate.  Love this earth science and lessons from the field.  I find it unlikely that seed could have blown this far seeing as it is not a wind carrying seed.  Perhaps a bird ate the seed and flew over this spot depositing seed. 

 June 25 – It looked like it was going to rain early this morning.  I went to the habitat at 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and that is the moment the rain began to fall.  I sang OmMa Ka Om as the rain fell.  I know we are being especially blessed with rain this year.  Tabitha told me her mother was doing rain ceremony for us also. When I walked into area one, I headed straight for the milkweed that is home to monarch caterpillar one but I didn’t see it anywhere on the plant.

 I love to get here in the early morning when I have a little time to myself.  Elizabeth arrived at about 8:30 a.m. and she looked ill.  I asked her mother to take her home until she feels well.  She most likely overdid it in the heat on Thursday after I left for home.

 I am pleased with the mulch we ordered from Pederson’s Nursery.  I am pea green with envy at the money the condos have to put down mulch.  The nursery dumped hundreds of dollars of deep, rich mulch in their native gardens and it looks weedless.  I only had $50 and to me it was worth it so Peterson’s gave us a half of a truck load.  The purpose is to put mulch around the shrubs that we planted in 2008, 2009 and this year.  The trees and shrubs’ were dressed with wood chips around them but it was recommended we change over to wood chipped mulch.  I am also cutting back the tall native grass around the shrubs which are planted on the highway side so that eventually people will see them as they drive by.  We want the shrubs to grow as privacy screens.  This year some of the Ninebark flowered as well as the Juneberry. I can’t wait to see them set fruit in the fall.  I worked in the first part of area three.  One step at a time. 

June 26 – It is Saturday morning and I will meet Bob Hasman at the habitat. Tyler H. came to volunteer today. He is a student at Shell Lake High School and appears to be a very curious and bright young man. I asked what he was reading as he was walking towards me on the ATV trail and he said, “Plato.” This is the kind of person that is attracted to our work in conservation, they are bright and educated. He worked for an hour pulling spotted knapweed, an invasive species.

 I was clipping some of the tall native Brome that was growing near the ninebark shrubs in the far end of area two.  I noticed that one of these shrubs had fruit forming. I need to photograph this. It appears that some yellow graybead seed must have scattered here because I found new first year growth.

A part time resident who lives on the east side of Shell Lake came to visit the habitat. She asked me if any monarchs were around. Both Tyler and I saw what we presumed to be a male monarch because he didn’t light for long.  Every time we were near, he would fly up from the grasses and hoary asslum.  I suspected he was trying to catch a female with the sporadic behavior.

I invited Josie (the part-time resident on the lake) to come to area one and see the monarch caterpillar on the milkweed.  This is day eight and my how it has grown. The one I shot on Friday (I believe) happens to be a younger caterpillar and both of them are on the same plant.  I may need to do a rescue tomorrow or Monday and put the smaller one on another milkweed. Caterpillars are cannibalistic and I don’t want to lose a caterpilar simply because they are competing for the same source food.  I am already wondering if the caterpillar can taste the difference between milkweed plants.

Black-eyed Susan is starting to bloom as a colony in the start of area two.

 June 27 – I rode my bike over to the habitat at 6 p.m. because I simply couldn’t wait to see what the two caterpillars were up to. I looked closely at the milkweed and didn’t see either one of them.  Could they have wandered off to find safety for the night? I did see lots of birds flying over to roost in trees for the night and know they like to eat caterpillars but find out they are not tasty.  Even so, they have been known to try.

I saw a spinx moth.  It was tiny and orange in color.  The wings were moving so fast I didn’t have but a moment with the night pollinator. Saw Four-O-Clocks finally in bloom for the first time. Dropped the digital camera and lost one battery so I unable to photograph much.  It is curious about the Four-o-Clock because I am an early bird and work outside in the morning. I don’t usually go out to the habitat in late afternoon so the spinx moth and four-o-clock have alluded me at the habitat until today.

There is red root amaranth growing in area two in the dark rich black earth given to us by Bill Campbell of Campbell’s Country Store and Farm.  I noticed that there were several other wild edibles growing here also.  I picked some Lamb’s Quarter to property identify.  There was Purslane and Chickweed that I will write about in depth laterThere is this grass with red to purple seeds when sun hits it.  I don’t have a good native grass book and will check the library to see if I can find good photos so I can identify this and other native grasses.  The seeds are airy and delicate looking.

 The tall grasses had tawny-edged skippers settling down for a night rest in the tall grasses.  They appear to be solitary but can gather on individual grasses near each other.  It is pretty to see them in the early morning sleeping contentedly.  Then along came a white cabbage butterfly trying to find the just right spot to hunker down for the night.  She settled on a hoary asslum that has white flowers. Butterflies know how to camouflage themselves.

 I could hear the trees rustling across the street and the crickets. The habitat is alive with sound. The City owns the land next to the habitat and keeps it mowed, thank goodness because there is so much invasive spotted knapweed. The downside is that nothing can live in this monoculture, not a bee or cricket. 

 June 28 – I was at the habitat at 8 a.m. and several observations that make being alone in nature such a wondrous experience.  I thought that the red tinge growing in the 3 sisters garden was the Hopi amaranth I seeded.  It turns out it is the red root amaranth.  I was so surprised when I looked at the black earth mound with amaranth growing in the pile.  I pulled one up and saw that indeed it was red root amaranth. I brought some home today and steamed it for the community pot luck. The residents must have enjoyed it because there was none left when I finished working with the IT intern. 

I put straw down near the three sisters garden to hold moisture and keep the weeds at bay.  I didn’t see the caterpillars at this time and I thought perhaps it was because it was cloudy. It rained at 9 a.m. I walked in area two with a small sparrow.  I was doing mindful walking, the sparrow was pecking for seed and it was a joy to keep within his company for at least 3-4 minutes.  Other sparrows come too for the grass seed.  I was watching because it looked like sparrow one jumped on a hoary asslum.  Was it trying to dislodge something? The plant hadn’t gone to seed yet.

As I worked I thought of Margaret Lynk, my elder Ojibwe friend, who told me years ago, “Let nature teach you.  When people come to look at the habitat they need to train their eyes to behold the littlest of life happening.  You have to have eyes to see it. One person recently said, “I drive by on Route 63 and it looks so pretty.” My response was, “You need to come into the habitat and walk the butterfly wing shaped path to see the life within.”  

 At 4 p.m. I stopped by the habitat to check again for the caterpillars.  The sun was shining but still no caterpillars.  My heartvfelt a tug. Should I have removed the littler caterpillar and placed it on another milkweed on Saturday when I saw that two caterpillars were on the same milkweed?  Number one looked like it was big and may have been ready to start pupating. These are thoughts that make us conscious when we bond with a butterfly.  I ask myself, “Could I have saved it?” Eunice Smith who rescues and raises monarchs in Florida experiences the same kind of bonding with her butterflies.  Then there was Cindy Broesch of Rice Lake who wanted to know was it best to gather milkweed pods, save and clean the seed and scatter it or was it better to make sure caterpillars had enough milkweed during its caterpillar stage? It is an ethical issue and I can understand the part of making sure caterpillars have enough milkweeds so they don’t have to compete.  The caterpillar faces many challenges in its life AND I NEED TO ADDRESS THIS.


One of my favorite things is the bumble bee and here is her story.

Bombus ternarius from back
Bombus ternarius from back

On April 14, I was walking through the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, USA, and thought I saw a Bombus affinis.  This bumble bee is in decline.  Even though the bumble could be located in Wisconsin, Washburn County is not its home.  You can imagine how excited I became when I saw what I thought was the rusty patch bumble bee.  I went scrambling into my purse for the  iPhone and took some photos while the bumble bee flew happily from one dandelion flower to another gathering pollen. 

On April 25, I emailed Jennifer Hopwood, Midwest Pollinator Outreach Coordinator at Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.  She identified my bumble as Bombus ternarius.  According to Jennifer, this species has orange rusty hair bands on the 2nd and 3rd segments, and then another yellow band on the 4th segment.  This bee is the cousin of the rusty-patched bumble bee.

Jennifer says, “The rusty patch bumblebee has yellow hairs on the first segment, and then a rusty patch in the middle of the second segment, with yellow hairs on either side of the orange patch. She suggested that it was likely a queen bumble bee and that she will go on to produce 100+ bumble bees this year.  I hope many of the queen’s offsprings will make their home this summer at the Native Wildflower and Butterfly Garden.

Bombus ternarius with yellow band after rusty hair bands
Bombus ternarius with yellow band after rusty hair bands

Let’s do all we can to plant nectar sources for the pollinators.  Let me know your bumble bee stories.

Be happy Insectamonarca friends where ever you are.  

Bombus ternarius front view
Bombus ternarius front view

St. Francis Salinus Mission School Visits Native Wildflower Butterfly Gardens

Sister Maryrose and school mission bus
Sister Maryrose and school mission bus

  On May 14, St. Francis Mission school bus driven by Elmer Corbine pulled into downtown Shell Lake. Sister Maryrose accompanied the Kindergarten through 4th Grade students along with teacher aides Sarah Sisco and Laura Hoeft.  The bus ventured down the road to the school bus garage on Industrial Drive to park.  An average of 35 students jumped off the bus to romp in the woods and the south Monarch Butterfly Habitat.  This was a good choice seeing as the children had been on a bus for over an hour.  Now they could run and stretch their legs. All along the way the youngsters paid attention as plants were pointed out and uses were explained.  They learned that there are two kinds of horsetail and that the plant is used to scrub pots and pans after cooking outside on a fire.  Then there was yarrow called squirrel’s tail.  The kids got a kick out of seeing how the leaves resembled a wagging tail. They especially liked learning about pussy toes which are soft as a kitten’s foot. Some saw a small butterfly that flitted so fast we were not able to identify it.

Happy Christina with wild pea vine
Happy Christina with wild pea vine

  The sounds of wind in quaking aspen and spring peepers serenaded us.  We named plants in Ojibwe, English and Spanish when we knew the translation.  It was a cross cultural learning experience.  

Then we boarded the bus once again and headed to the north Native Wildflower and Butterfly Garden. I couldn’t help but notice that the children enjoyed the large boulder in area three. 

Children reconnecting to nature and loving it.
Children reconnecting to nature and loving it.

  They walked the path in twos respectfully in order not to trample on emerging plants.  They especially enjoyed sitting on the memory benches scattered about and having a short rest in the pergola.  Afterwards we headed to the Lion’s outdoor shelter for a picnic and play time at the beach and playground. A healthy veggie and fruit snack and fresh apple juice was made possible by a grant from Washburn County AODA Commission.