a growing place… (monarch adoption)

By Marypat Ehlmann
Member-at-Large and Volunteer Coordinator, Wild Ones – St. Louis Chapter

Boy with magnifying glass looking at caterpillars

Examining the monarch caterpillars

In early/mid-April the St. Louis region received our first wave of monarchs migrating north. This was unexpected and about 4-6 weeks before most milkweed in neighborhood yards was tall enough to support feeding a brood of very hungry caterpillars.

As usual the female monarch butterflies laid eggs on as many various native milkweed varieties as they could find (some small plants in ground and some fuller plants in garden centers).

On April 14, at A Growing Place Montessori School, my classroom gained two milkweed plants both with eggs aboard. Then as a plea was heard to help with the monarch baby boom, our classroom adopted 15 of the tiny striped larvae, now totaling 19 caterpillars, to feed, clean up after, and eagerly observe.

Just as described in How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids by Carol Pasternak, for the next two weeks larva ate milkweed leaves, pooped (called frass), rested, outgrew one skin for a larger size, and then ate some more. Thanks to several friends and neighbors, milkweed leaves were harvested, served fresh, and quickly eaten by the brood. Did I mention in this hectic time, three more caterpillars hatched?

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Monarch butterflies, the Burk’s, and Wild Ones in local Times article

By Marcia Myers
Bog Editor, Wild Ones – St. Louis Chapter

yellow, black and white caterpillar

Monarch caterpillar
Photo by Besa Schweitzer

Monarch butterfles don’t care about state lines or country borders. For such seemingly fragile and lovely creatures, they travel between the continental United States and Mexico, with some as far north as Canada, on an amazing and difficult journey. Even under the best of circumstances, they brave challenging environmental conditions.

Unfortunately due to multiple factors including loss of habitat caused by human beings, monarch butterfly populations have decreased by 90 percent. Some wonderful organizations and dedicated individuals are working to increase awareness that if we don’t act quickly, we may lose a national and international treasure.

Susan Burk is one of those individuals who has taken on the task of raising monarch butterfly caterpillars. Her efforts were recognized and the local Webster-Kirkwood Times, Inc. published an article, Local Naturalists Fight To Save The Monarch Butterfly, written by Mary Shapiro. Diana Linsley, who took the photos, is a new member of our Chapter.

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We need help raising abundance of early baby monarchs

Blog by Susan Burk
Member, Wild Ones – St. Louis Chapter

A woman and a man looking for eggs on plant

Susan and Fred Burk looking for monarch eggs
Photo by Marcia Myers

[Editor’s Note: At the end of the gathering on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, Fred and Susan Burk were busy counting monarch eggs. They need our help as these early monarch eggs are now hungry caterpillars!]

It is unusual to have monarchs visit the St. Louis area in the spring. We normally see them as they are migrating south in late summer. This year, possibly because of storms in Texas and Oklahoma, they were “pushed” north and east. Problem with the early arrivals is that our milkweed has not started growing yet and there is not enough milkweed to feed the cat’s.

Female monarchs visited my yard on April 9, and because there were more than a hundred butterfly and marsh milkweed potted plants in my backyard, they had a great time laying eggs, which started hatching on April 16 and 17.

So far we have collected more than one hundred tiny caterpillars!

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Wild Ones sponsors Project Pollinator – plus celebration event on March 15

By Sue Leahy
Board Member-at-Large, Wild Ones – St. Louis Chapter

Project Pollinator is a cooperative effort of St. Louis County Parks, St. Louis County Libraries, The Butterfly House, and Greenscape Gardens to protect pollinators and their habitats. Wild Ones-St. Louis Chapter is proud to be a sponsor of this program in 2017.

The mission of Project Pollinator is to promote an appreciation of all pollinators through education and creation of pollinator gardens. The goal is to educate the public about the importance of pollinators and to provide demonstration gardens at county parks, libraries, and other public venues.

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Book reviews of Heather Holm’s work

Heather Holm is one of the keynote speakers at the Partners for Native Landscaping workshop this coming Friday and Saturday. Her books will be available for sale at the workshop, and she will be available for signing during the Friday social hour as well as during lunch on Saturday.

Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants
By Heather N. Holm
Pollination Press LLC: Minnetonka, MN, 2014
320 pages

Book reviewed by Mary Ann Fink, Curator of the Museum of Transportation’s Pollinator Junction

Pollinators of Native Plants, by Heather Holm, is a comprehensive book that profiles 67 native plants and their visitors who seek pollen, nectar, an insect meal, or a host plant. The “pollinators” category includes bees, wasps, beetles, butterflies, moths, and flies.

Holm had me on page vii when she included an excerpt of Neltje Blachan’s Nature’s Garden: An Aid to Knowledge of Our Wild Flowers and their Insect Visitors, published in 1900. She coaxed me into a trance with a magical visual sequence of close-up photography that masterfully followed Blachan’s poetic description of a bumblebee’s challenge to gain entrance to a sunlit white turtlehead (Chelone glabra) blossom.

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Even my tiny wafer ash tree provides habitat

Cleared yard area

Newly cleared planting area in the backyard
Photo by Dawn Weber

[Editor’s Note: This story was posted originally on the Bring Conservation Home blog on September 19.]

By Dawn Weber
Board Member-at-Large, Wild Ones – St. Louis Chapter

On Sunday, September 18, I spent a few hours planting new trees and shrubs in an area that was previously covered in English ivy, wintercreeper, and bush honeysuckle. One of the trees was a wafer ash (Ptelea trifoliata), planted in hopes of providing habitat for the giant swallowtail butterflies. Wafer ash is one of the host plants for the giant swallowtail. I also planted small prickly ash trees (Zanthoxylum americanum) for the same reason.

When a plant is a butterfly’s host plant, it means that it is a plant (or THE plant, in some cases) that eggs can be laid on, that will provide food for the new caterpillars, which will become butterflies and continue on to repeat the cycle. By planting the host plant, we support the entire life cycle of the butterfly.

The prickly ash trees were planted a couple of years ago, and the overall native garden planted for three years, but I’d never seen a giant swallowtail butterfly.

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Rain during a butterfly ID workshop? No problem!

By Dawn Weber
Board Member-at-Large, Wild Ones – St. Louis Chapter

warsaw_mapOn May 23-25, 2016, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) hosted a Butterfly and Skipper ID workshop in Warsaw, MO. Warsaw, in case you’ve not heard of it, is located south of Sedalia near Truman Lake, on the western side of the state. Because the workshop was almost three hours from St. Louis, I wasn’t sure who would attend or if I would know anyone. I was very happy when I walked through the door and saw Bob Siemer and Ann Earley also attending!

More exciting than that, I met several people who, up until that point, I’d only known “electronically”, via various Facebook groups, even some folks from Audubon Arkansas. Also, there were attendees from MDC, Forest Park Forever, the Butterfly House, Missouri Prairie Foundation, and several Missouri Master Naturalists chapters.

The workshop leader was Jim Wiker, a research associate of the Illinois State Museum and an affiliate of the Illinois Natural History Survey. He is a well-known Illinois lepidopterist (a person who studies or collects butterflies and moths), senior author on the definitive guide to the sphinx moths of Illinois, and an author of another book on the skipper butterflies of Illinois.

The registration for this workshop opened in December of 2015 and filled up quickly.

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Book Review: Gardening for Butterflies

Gardening for Butterflies: How You Can Attract and Protect Beautiful, Beneficial Insects

Xerces Society
Timber Press: Portland OR, 2016
287 pages

Reviewed by Carol Boshart
Member, Wild Ones – St. Louis Chapter

Book Cover Gardening for ButterfliesWritten by the Xerces Society which is dedicated to invertebrate protection, this book is designed for both novice and veteran home gardeners, as well as for larger-scale land managers and developers whose goal is to facilitate and enrich diversified ecosystems to attract and protect butterflies and moths as well other insects and interdependent wildlife populations. The authors express significant concern about the precipitous decline in the Lepidoptera order, and seek to “provide a blueprint for…change” in recruiting gardeners for help in reversing this alarming trend.

Included in the book is an overall view of butterfly characteristics by families, with outstanding detailed photographs depicting their strikingly-colorful wing patterns, body designs, and egg, caterpillar, and chrysalis formations. An added bonus in this book is that there is also a chapter devoted to notable moth families with accompanying informative photographs and commentary.

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City Milkweeds for Monarchs update and May 4 program

By Dawn Weber
Board Member-at-Large
Wild Ones – St. Louis Chapter

St. Louis City Mayor Francis Slay, Sustainability Director Catherine Werner, and young gardeners planting milkweed Photo courtesy of the City of St. Louis

City of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, Sustainability Director Catherine Werner, and young gardeners planting milkweed (Asclepias spp.) -Photo courtesy of the City of St. Louis

St. Louis sits at a pivotal migration point for monarchs, right in the middle of what is known as the Central Monarch Flyway. The importance of our location makes the success of the Milkweeds for Monarchs program significant, aiming toward the goal of increasing monarch butterfly habitat and helping people experience the splendor of monarchs where they live, work, learn, and play.

The City of St. Louis has been chosen to receive a GRO1000 Gardens & Greenspaces national award to create monarch habitat areas along the southern portion of the St. Louis Riverfront. The award presentation will be on Wednesday, May 4 at Bellerive Park.

Tentative Schedule:

9:00 – 11:00 a.m. – School group activities
11:00 – 11:30 a.m. – GRO1000 award media event
11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Community planting

For more information about participating, contact Elizabeth Ward, warde@stlouis-mo.gov or call (314) 622-4304.

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Project Pollinator kickoff event March 15

Project Pollinator logoThe new campaign announcement for Project Pollinator is not a typical tabling event, but the Wild Ones banner will be displayed, and we will have information available to spread the word about our organization’s mission.

Members of our St. Louis Wild Ones chapter, Bob Siemer, Ann Earley, and Betty Struckhoff participate on the Advisory Council for this project.

About this initiative from the website, “The Butterfly House is joining with St. Louis County Parks and Libraries to be a part of the national movement to protect pollinators and their habitats through a newly-launched initiative, Project Pollinator.

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