Butterfly Corner

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.

Mrs. Janie LaFave's kindergarten class, Shell Lake Grammar School, WI
Mrs. Janie LaFave’s kindergarten class, Shell Lake Grammar School, WI

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.

Butterfly Corner, June 8, 2011

Butterfly Corner

by Mary Ellen Ryall

Happy Tonics in collaboration with Indianhead Action Agency was invited to speak at Ruby’s Kitchen, Spooner, in May. I visited the food distribution site and spoke to the public. Free vegetable seed was available from Indianhead Action Agency in Spooner. The only requirement was that a participant be below a certain income level to qualify for free garden seed. At least 30-40 people showed an interest and many more said they were going to plant a garden. Some stated they would be first time gardeners. Rising food prices impact pocketbooks and can change a person’s behavior.

May 27 – Jim VanMoorleham and I did a walkabout at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake. We saw a queen bumblebee go into her ground nest. This is the first time either of us witnessed this. Queen bumblebees usually seek a clearing of soil that they can build a nest in. There is several water filtering areas in the habitat, which is the purpose of these sparse areas of non egetation.

May 28 – The Lakes and Pines Girl Scout Troop of Shell Lake visited Bashaw Farm and Nursery. Washburn County AODA Commission and Leopold Education and Pheasants Forever grants enabled the girls to create functional and fun container gardens at Shell Lake Friendship Commons. This year Youth Container Gardens consist of four whiskey barrels of vegetables, flowers, herbs and a pollinator garden. Garden flowers, herbs and produce will be part of the Summer Environmental Film Fest
on June 25, July 30 and August 20 at Friendship Commons. Lakes and Pines Girl Scout Troop will host the event, give a tour of their gardens and prepare refreshments.  Environmental films will focus on world water issues, monarch butterfly migration and bee colony collapse disorder.

Happy Tonics added plants to the retainer wall gardens at the Spooner Food Pantry. Herbs such as parsley, sage, thyme, ground cherries and cherry tomato plants were added to the fledgling garden. Sue Adams gave the nonprofit permission in 2010
but we were short handed last year. In 2011 we are rolling out the gardens for people to learn that food, herbs and flowers do not need to be planted in the ground for one to be sustainable. Grant money from Leopold Education and Pheasants Forever was shared with Fresh Start to install a fence around a Youth Garden in Shell Lake.

May 29 – Sophie Belisle called in the first sighting of two monarch butterflies in Springbrook. The young student reported that the butterflies came in after the storm. Sophie was very happy to see the monarch butterflies in the meadows where she lives. She
has already received a beaded butterfly pin made by Ojibwe children at St. Francis Mission in Reserve, WI. She also received a fabric art square of butterflies, by Mabel Perry.

June 1 – Happy Tonics opened a new Visitors Centert in Minong. The artist loft is adjacent to The Scoop and has the advantage of Wi-Fi access. Minong is progressing nicely with Wi-Fi friendly businesses that want tourists and residents to frequent
their establishments.

June 3 – Kris Fjelstad called in the first monarch sighting in Shell Lake. She mentioned the day was cloudy and windy. It was 77.6 degree Fahrenheit and the time was 2:25 p.m.

June 4 – Mary Ellen Ryall and Sandy Stein participated and walked with the Mother Earth Water Walkers close to Reserve, Hayward. The walkers of the southern direction have been walking since April 20th, carrying salt water of the Gulf of Mexico to Bad River, WI where it will meet with the other waters from the Atlantic, Hudson Bay and Pacific. The southern direction included Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin. The walk is ongoing until the water from the south reaches
Bad River, WI on June 12. The purpose of the walk is to raise awareness of loss of fresh drinking water in many countries around the world and to stop water privatization and pollution.