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

Published by Washburn County Register, Shell Lake, WI, 16 May 2012

May 8 – Northwood School, Minong, WI. I met with Shelby Ausing, parent of students at Northwood School, Josh Tomesh, principal, and Jean Serum, Administrator. The school is implementing a Butterfly Garden on school property.  I chose the site based on a gentle sloped terrain. Property has native hazelnuts, chokecherry, and Juneberry growing naturally in the background near red pines. The open sandy land is visible from Route 53. Land base is between ½ acre for restoration and up to 1 acre for total habitat. It flanks the school entrance driveway and parking lot. The habitat will be within easy access for students to walk to from grade school and charter school. The habitat will be used as an outdoor classroom.

While walking the site, I pointed out two native wild strawberry colonies; pussy toes, host plant of painted lady butterfly; and violets, host plant of fritillary butterfly. Minor invasive spotted knapweed was evident and will need to be eradicated. The area has been mowed, which will be discontinued to allow native habitat to emerge. Happy Tonics will work in liaison with the school. We will advise with conception, landscape design, planning, planting, and maintenance. Northwood School is an average of 8 miles, round trip, from my home in Minong.

May 9 – JoAnn Flanagan, Oregon, OH, reports, “Saw several monarchs today down at the state park. Had the binoculars out – biggest week in birding there. People from over 47 states in attendance.”

May 10 – Sophie Belisle, Shell Lake, called in the first monarch sighting for Shell Lake. She has followed the monarch’s arrival in Shell Lake for two years.  She received a jade butterfly ring, metal butterfly book mark, and My Name is Butterfly, as gifts for her participation in this year’s monarch tracking.

Mike Carpenter, habitat caretaker, has the shrubs weeded. Open space was created around them.  This will allow them to be visible from Route 63. A layer of wet newspaper and mulch will be added around the shrubs. Residents can use the same technique to kill weeds and allow air to get around shrubs and trees.

May 11 – I saw my first male monarch today. He looked like he was in good shape. Milkweed is up in Minong. Mother butterflies don’t need much, only newly emerged milkweed to lay eggs on. Later in the afternoon, I saw a female monarch searching for milkweed. She will tap the leaves and taste the plant with feet to determine if it is truly milkweed.

Mike Jensen, Lampert Lumber, in Spooner, donated building materials for a garden shed, approved by City Council last fall. Happy Tonics, through a grant from Wisconsin Environmental Education, matched 50 percent of the donation. Bob Forsythe, Technical Education Department, and students at Shell Lake School are building the shed. We are thrilled that Mr. Forsythe and students took the project on as community outreach. To learn more about Lampert Lumber Community Giving visit http://lampertlumber.com/about/community-involvement