Red-Winged Blackbird. West Swale Wetlands Chappell Marsh. Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area Saskatoon, SK
Canada Geese West Swale Wetlands. Chappell Marsh. Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area, Saskatoon, SK, CA
“I love to see, when leaves depart,
The clear anatomy arrive,
Winter, the paragon of art,
That kills all forms of life and feeling.
Save what is pure and will survive.”
And yet, now the leaves are coming back. The leaf roller and the tent caterpillar have gorged, the feast has ended with the last leaf. It is now the era for the trees to once again send out their leaves and green again.
It has been a better year for some insects. Still the bees are not hovering as much as yore. The butterflies have made a small comeback. Will the abundance of tent caterpillar and leaf roller be a sign of times to come, and hope that all insects may thrive again?
What a piece of work is a man,
how noble in reason,
how infinite in faculties,
in form and moving how express and admirable,
in action how like an angel,
in apprehension how like a god!
the beauty of the world,
the paragon of animals. ~William Shakespeare
And would you agree with Hamlet, is man the paragon of animals? The ornithologist may pass his life in one place, but he can never say “I have finished” and though they have traveled nought, they know the morrow may bring some new bird or new fact. The astute observation, ahd attention to detail this association with the birds adds to the joy of life! How is spring set apart from autumn, what new meanings comings and goings of the waterfowl, the songbirds, raptors and all give to the changing seasons; the very air is made eloquent by their calls and songs. Why should we not all be gladdened and “come at these enchantments”?” It is impossible for us not to love whatever is lovely, and of all living things birds were made most beautiful ~ says the bird watcher.
And yet~ recent researches and news stories have emphasized the practical importance to human society of entomological study, and insects will always be a source of delight to the lover of nature. Among the manifold operations of the myriad of living creatures few have more strongly impressed the casual observer or more deeply interested the thoughtful entymologist than the transformations of insects. Everyone is familiar with and can ramble on at length the main facts of such a life-story as that of a moth or butterfly.
And now~ have ever when out in nature, have you become aware of another, one who is taking time to behold mankind. When you are out truly there is a pace, and nearer to wildlife, they do not let others draw across that distance, yet, although their curiosity about humans was great. Have you been out, and seen that from the way they go circling round, stretching their necks to get a good view, and one might only feel and perhaps come to the conclusion that mankind perchance was of a different species of animal from those with which they were familiar.
The seasons come and go. Summer turns to fall. “What a piece of work is a ____________, the paragon of animals.” Is it truly that man is the paragon of animals? What do you say? Is it truly in the eyes of the beholder? Or is it what they focus upon? Or what they can see?
Will the entymolgist spy the metamorphic rock of the geologist? Can the ornithologist spy the butterfly cocoon of the entymologist? Will the artist behold the scene with the same eyes as the surveyor? The seasons come and go. Winter turns to spring. Does the paragon of animals ever change? “What a piece of work is a ____________, the paragon of animals.”
Nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude. Louie Schwartzberg Mwanner
We feel that our greatest victory remains to be won when man will realize his oneness with the trees, the creatures and with all living things, not ours to destroy, but to be handed on for the enjoyment of future generations. – Richard St. Barbe Baker.
There is another aspect of life on the land; while working in forest or garden a man has time for meditation and indeed his very act is devotion. He becomes in tune with the Infinite. ~Richard St. Barbe Baker
Black swallowtail on wild bergamot
Species at risk: Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia mormo) butterfly depends on buckwheat host plant.
Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) photo credit William Warby
“Entomology extends the limits of being in new directions, so that I walk in nature with a sense of greater space and freedom. It suggests, besides, that the universe is not rough-hewn, but perfect in its details. Nature will bear the closest inspection; she invites us to lay our eye level with the smallest leaf and take an insect view of its plane.”—Henry David Thoreau.
In popular esteem the butterflies among the insects are what the birds are among the higher animals—the most attractive and beautiful members of the great group to which they belong. Entomology happens to be the branch of zoology focussing on the study of insects. Butterflies are primarily day fliers (diurnal) and remarkable for the delicacy and beauty of their membranous wings, covered with myriads of tiny scales that overlap one another like the shingles on a house and show an infinite variety of hue through the coloring of the scales and their arrangement upon the translucent membrane running between the wing veins. It is this characteristic structure of the wings that gives to the great order of butterflies and moths its name “Lepidoptera”, meaning scale-winged.
Ronald R. Hooper states that 160 species of butterflies are known in Saskatchewan, in families known as skippers, swallowtails, whites, sulphurs, marbles, hairstreaks, harvester, metalmarks, brushfooted butterflies, meadow browns, and coppers (see bibliography for scientific nomenclature). Every fall the Monarchs journey from Canada to California or Mexico, and they return to Canada in the spring. During this migration phone Nature Saskatchewan’s toll-free line at 1-800-667-HOOT (4668) to report any Monarch Butterfly sightings. When you are out and about this season, keep an ear out, do tell if there is the slightest murmuration when the butterflies migrate past.
And, whereas, the Monarch is known to migrate, this is not the case with all butterflies. Most of the Swallowtails pass the winter as chrysalids while practically all the Angle-wings pass the winter as adults. The Graylings and the Fritillaries are typical examples of butterflies which hibernate as newly hatched larvae. Many species simply find such shelter as they may at or near the soil surface, others may hibernate under boards, stones, or tufts of grass. The Swallowtails, nearly all of which hibernate in the chrysalis stage. Other examples are the various Whites, the Orange-tips, and isolated species like the Wanderer, and the Spring Azure and the American Copper. Now, an adult butterfly seems a fragile creature to endure the long cold months of winter, however many of our most beautiful species habitually hibernate as adults, finding shelter in such situations as hollow trees, the crevices in rocks, the openings beneath loose bark or even the outer bark on the under side of a large branch.
The butterflies furnish the best known examples of insect transformations. The change from the egg to the caterpillar or larva, from the caterpillar to the pupa or chrysalis, and from the chrysalis to the butterfly or imago is doubtless the most generally known fact concerning the life histories of insects. If you do not know the name of the lepidoptera larva, butterfly or moth that you have found, try to take a photograph of it. Identify your sighting at this web site which features an image gallery. If you have a photo of a caterpillar send in information about the plant that the caterpillar was found upon to Butterflies and Moths of North America and help to grow the database.
“The study of butterflies,—creatures selected as the types of airiness and frivolity,—instead of being despised, will some day be valued as one of the most important branches of biological science.”—Bates, Naturalist on the Amazons.
“What hand would crush the silken-wingèd fly,
The youngest of inconstant April’s minions,
Because it cannot climb the purest sky,
Where the swan sings,
amid the sun’s dominions?
Percy Bysshe Shelley.
There is another aspect of life on the land; while working in forest or garden a man has time for meditation and indeed his very act is devotion. He becomes in tune with the Infinite. The miracle of growth and the seasons’ changes induce a sense of wonderment and call forth worship from his inner being and in this sense WORK becomes WORSHIP.~ Richard St. Barbe Baker.
We forget that we owe our existence to the presence of Trees. As far as forest cover goes, we have never been in such a vulnerable position as we are today. The only answer is to plant more Trees – to Plant Trees for Our Lives.
A short tutorial about starting your very own Milkweed Monarch Butterfly Garden
How to have a successful Monarch pollinator Milkweed Patch.
Milkweeds are herbaceous perennials which grow about 1 meter (three feet) tall. The plants will bloom with clustered flowers over the summer growing season. Nature Saskatchewan says that five species of milkweed grow in Saskatchewan.
Low milkweed, (early milkweed, dwarf milkweed or oval-leafed milkweed) Asclepias ovalifolia grow 20 to 50 cm high ( to 20 inches), in sandy soil are common in moist mixed grasslands and along the edges of Aspen parklands and will tolerate sun and partial shade. Dwarf Milkweed blooms between May and June with a white, creamy color flower head.
Showy milkweed, Asclepias Speciosa found in mixed grasslands, with pink and white fragrant flower globular umbels. These plants grow to about 90 cm (35 inches)in height and feature large leaves. The plant is rhizomatous meaning that the roots send out shoots from the nodes creating colonies of these plants.
Silky milkweed, (common milkweed, tropical milkweed, blood flower, cotton bush, garden silkweed, redhead or Golden Butterflyweed) Asclepias curassavica a provincially rare plant reaching up to .6 to 1 m (2 to 3 ft) in height. The flower is purple or red corollas with yellow or orange corona lobes. This is a unique flower which blooms throughout the season June to October. This Milkweed is grown as an annual, and can be brought inside and used as an indoor house plant with bright lighting over the colder winter months. This plant is native to South America, grows in mixed grasslands and must be started indoors.
Whorled milkweed, (eastern whorled milkweed, horsetail milkweed) Asclepias verticillata another provincially rare plant that grows in mixed grasslands producing small greenish white flowers on an umbrel on the end of the plant stems. The leaves are linear and not broad, the plant thrives in dry soil, or clay/stony soil. The plant is very rare in Saskatchewan and when located it is most commonly found on hillsides in its native setting.
Green milkweed, (Green antelopehorn) Asclepias viridis, Asclepias viridis Walter,Asclepias viridiflora reaches a height of 20 – 60 centimeters (8 – 24 inches), however has been listed at 120 cm (47 inches). The numerous small flowers are pale green or a greenish yellow (and sometimes purple) clustered in round umbels (globes) at the top of the stem around June and July. Leaves are unique, being very thick, wavy and waxy. These plants enjoy dry hillsides, and a sandy soil in mixed grassland areas.
Buy your seeds from a nursery or department store, but check if the seeds have been pre-treated with an insecticide. An insecticide, will kill the butterfly caterpillar, defeating the purpose of planting the Milkweed plants. However, just planting the seeds in the soil, will not necessarily guarantee a crop of milkweed plants. And, furthermore, if you want larger plants to pop into your city lot garden, which the butterflies can use this season, it may be best to start them indoors this winter. The best time to start is now between the middle of January, and the middle of February, as the seeds, should be vernalized – subjected to cold by placing them into the refrigerator for 3-6 weeks set onto a moist paper towel, and protected in a plastic bag or plastic container. Wet the paper towel with non-chlorinated water if at all possible. “Cold stratification” can also be done by placing peat or a peat/clay mix into a planting pot or growing tray, and moistening this substrate before planting your seeds under about 0.6 cm (1/4 inch) of soil. Then pop this planting pot into the refrigerator or in a dark place hovering at a temperature around 5°C (41 degrees Fahrenheit) for 3-6 weeks but no longer than about 3 months. This stratification process will ensure a higher germination rate for your seeds. To naturally stratify your seeds, plant them outdoors in the autumn.
Timing the cold incubation period, would result in removing them from the cold temperature 6 weeks before the last frost date. In Saskatchewan, gardeners look to the last week of May to be frost free on average. So this means that the 3 week to 3 month cold period should end by the middle of March to the middle of April, so your seeds should be prepared in the fridge about middle January to the middle of February.
After your seeds come out of the fridge, then they should be soaked in cool non-chlorinated water for about 6 hours ~ a process referred to as “shocking” seeds. Then plant the seeds under 0.3 to 0.6 cm (1/8 to 1/4 inches) of soil, which is light, and drains well. These plants send out long tap-roots, so use a deep pot to accomodate your plant. However just use a light scattering of soil over the seed, as the seed needs light and warmth to begin their germination. A warm sunny window providing a warm ambient temperature of about 21 Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) will do nicely for an indoor green house setting, and remember to mist the soil to aid germination or cover the seed flats with a plastic cover to keep the soil from drying out. The seeds may not emerge for two to three weeks. Once your plants have emerged water the plants in the tray below the planting pot.
Take care to not get the soil too wet which would encourage mould and mildew “damping off” which will kill your seedlings. Thin out your seedlings will also help prevent damping off. Thinning the plants will also prevent weaker plants, and another hint is to set a small oscillating fan on your seed tray to encourage a stronger plant stem. Wait until there are four true leaves on the Milkweed plant seedlings, which will mean they are about 3 to 6 inches in height before moving the plants into your garden. When you transplant the Milkweed, look for a site in your city yard, which mimics their naturalized area in full sunlight. Give this some thought, as if there is no milkweed, there are no Monarchs. Most Asclepias species thrive in disturbed areas, which means along side a roadway, bike path, railway track, highway meridian, cultivated garden or beside park or vacant land. Hoe the land area when it is dry to make it smooth and lump free. Before inserting your new plants, wet the hole made in the ground which will receive the new seedlings, the moisture will help draw the tap root down into the soil with adequate moisture and help them get established. Another consideration in your choice of area is that a few of the 160 species of Milkweed plant contain a toxic substance, and it has been found that farm animals such as sheep, cattle, or horses may be affected if they eat a very large quantity of milkweed. So for your domestic use, do not buy the Whorled Milkweed, as it is the toxic variety. It is interesting to note that a Milkweed species in Africa is used as an herbal medicine, and in some countries as a food if boiled over and over again with a change of water. As with most poisonous plants, they are bitter, and animals such as your pets or livestock will avoid them if they free range. Farmers and ranchers have the worst experience if the Milkweed gets into the feed or if the livestock eat contaminated hay. It is wise to note that the broad leaf varieties have less toxicity than the narrow leaved (whorled) species. The city is an ideal location, as the Milkweed is not popular among farmers and ranchers as cows are not affected by the urban Milkweed garden. If collecting Milkweed stems to propagate the Milkweed by cutting, remember to wear gloves as it is the milky sap in the Milkweed stem which where the highest amounts of toxins.
Fencing off the area around the butterfly garden protects the seedlings from the wayward Jackrabbit hopping buy, or from the Milkweed being trampled underfoot. Once your Milkweed plant is established in the garden it become drought tolerant, much more so than the seedling which will need a green thumb. Try to establish a minimum of six Milkweed plants so that the caterpillars can be sustained. Do not panic, if your Milkweed plants lose their leaves from the shock of transplanting, they will likely recover.
To keep the ground around your Milkweed moist, use mulch around the stem, and keep the soil moist but do not over-water. The mulch will also prevent competition from weeds around your Milkweed butterfly garden. The plants will grow about 3 feet high, and should be spaced one to two feet apart, and no closer than 6 inches. Check your seed packet for further information. Fertilize the butterfly garden two to three times over the course of the growing season, or apply a time-release fertilizer.
The Monarch butterfly caterpillar will not be able to eat the Milkweed plant, until it has stalks, and leaves enough to eat, about 2 months after germination. To protect your plant in the garden from pests use only garlic or neem oil as a pesticide or spray with water containing ordinary dish detergent to take care of any aphid infestation. Import ladybugs to your butterfly garden to also milk your aphids.
Trim your plants after they grow to a height of 8-12 inches, to create a bushier plant with more leaves and stems for the caterpillars. So this means after about one month of growing, pinch the top of the stem which will force the plant to begin a new stem of growth. Once your plant is in your garden, and found by a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar, the plant will supply one caterpillar with more than 20 leaves so it can mature. To ensure that your plant is sturdy for the next year, cut the milkweed back about four inches above the soil, (above where the leaves come out), so it will return fuller and bushier next year. Try to plant a variety of Milkweed species as a back up, for your Monarch butterfly caterpillars, in case one species is slower growing when the Monarchs arrive. The Monarch butterfly will be able to detect your butterfly garden from 32 kilometers (20 miles) away via the smell of the plant. Buying a Milkweed species particular to Saskatchewan will enable it to survive the harshest of winters. If you are able to get a lush and vibrant butterfly garden of Milkweed established, you can purchase Monarch butterfly eggs or chrysalis to introduce the Monarch to your community neighbourhood.
So, educate yourself, consider your butterfly garden site carefully, and with a bit of knowledge, your newly found green thumb could go a long ways to saving Monarch Butterflies. The successful creation of a butterfly or pollinator garden may attract other butterflies, or perhaps even a hummingbird or two along the way.
We forget that we owe our existence to the presence of Trees. As far as forest cover goes, we have never been in such a vulnerable position as we are today. The only answer is to plant more Trees – to Plant Trees for Our Lives.
“Every prairie flower and shrub has special insect species that depends on it for the food
plant.”The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, Inc.
The Monarch butterfly owes its existence to the presence of the Milkweed.
The Mardon Skipper (Polites mardon) butterfly owes its existence to the Early Blue Violet (Viola adunca).
The Mardon Moth is interdependant upon the Soapweed (Yucca glauca) a species at risk. The the Five-spotted Bogus Yucca Moth and the Strecker’s Giant Skipper also rely on the Soapweed.
The Mormon Metalmark butterfly prairie population is a species at risk dependent upon the buckwheat host plant.
The Amblyscirtes simius, the simius roadside skipper, larvae feed on blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis). The adults butterfly rely on flower nectar, including Penstemon, Cirsium and Verbena.
Small Checkered-Skipper butterfly caterpillar relies upon the prairie flowers; Alkali mallow (Sida hederacea), scarlet globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea), and desert globemallow (S. ambigua); all of the mallow family (Malvaceae).
The interdependence of these butterflies upon their environment is as crucial as the Milkweed is to the Monarch Butterfly, and as Richard St. Barbe Baker explains, there is an acute interdependence which exists between the tree, nay the global forest and the survial of man.
Alberta Native Plant Council. Rare Vascular Plants of Alberta. Editor Linda Kershaw. Edition illustrated. Publisher University of Alberta, 2001. ISBN 0888643195, 9780888643193.
I believe in the Oneness of Mankind and all living things and the interdependence of each and all. Richard St. Barbe Baker
Would you like to migrate to Mexico, to see the Monarch Butterflies ?
The Monarch Butterfly comes up to Canada in the spring, but the Monarchs are currently, right now down south. The Monarch Butterfly is listed under the Endangered Species Act in the USA, and a species of concern in Canada, find out what actions you, personally can take, to protect and conserve the habitat for this butterfly.
This January, Saskatoon is pulling out of the weather system known as a Mackenzie Clipper. David Phillips, the senior climatologist at Environment Canada, describes a Mackenzie clipper as a weather system similar to the Alberta clipper, however with the origins around the MacKenzie River. An Alberta clipper (or Canadian Clipper) is a fast moving low pressure area across the central provinces of Canada, through to the Great Lakes. Residents notice a sudden and drastic temperature drop, and increased winds such as those experienced on Wednesday January 11, 2017 when the temperature dove to -34.1 Celsius, with a wind chill of -47 Celsius. Snowfall and precipitation amounts are very small. Where an Alberta clipper originates when the warmer air of the Pacific Ocean meets with the Rocky Mountains.
Warmer weather has arrived at the end of January, with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark however the cold snap, just one week ago, makes this contest to Mexico, a treat. So now, before Sunday, January 29, please take the time to enter a contest to win a trip for two to the magical Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico from February 16 to 25, 2017! Wouldn’t you love to see millions of butterflies in flight at the El Rosario and Sierra Chincua sanctuaries. These sanctuaries are part of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Read further, and find out what you can do for the butterfly habitat, can there be any more butterfly gardens, or sanctuaries in Canada?
So what can you do to help the endangered species, the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) ?
low milkweed, (or “oval-leafed milkweed”) Asclepias ovalifolia thrives in moist mixed grasslands and parklands
showy milkweed, Asclepias Speciosa grows in mixed grasslands,
silky milkweed, (or “common milkweed,” tropical milkweed or Golden Butterflyweed) Asclepias curassavica a provincially rare plant that may be spotted in mixed grasslands
whorled milkweed, (eastern whorled milkweed, horsetail milkweed) Asclepias verticillata rare plant In Saskatchewan might be found in mixed grasslands
green milkweed, (Green antelopehorn) Asclepias viridis
Asclepias viridis Walter,Asclepias viridiflora a mixed grassland areas variety.
Walter V. Krivda states that milkweed favours the typical black soil of the prairies, but has been seen in gravel and clay railway embankments. If you are going to start your seeds indoors, select a date six to eight weeks before your last frost date, and one does not usually start indoor germination before the end of February. For example vegetable gardens are typically seeded in Saskatchewan, around the last week of May, which is usually safe and the risk of frost has passed. If you did not start your seeds last fall in your Monarch butterfly Milkweed garden, then talk to your nursery now, for best hints on how to grow your Milkweed plants successfully.
Contact the CBC morning edition with places where you can buy milkweed, such as Early’s Seed and Feed .
Look for butterflies at the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area, and at the afforestation area formerly called George Genereux Urban Regional Park. According to Weyburn This Week, “The yearly migration of these butterflies will take place in late August. It takes three to four generations of butterflies to complete the migration they undertake, and the final generation starts in Saskatchewan. …The last generation lives for up to nine months, starts far north in Saskatchewan, migrates south, overwinters in Mexico or California, and finally lays eggs in the spring.” Walter V. Krivda has found butterflies into September, and occasionally October, the Monarch, Danaus Plexippus (L.) leaves Canada when heavy frosts arrive.
There are butterfly look-alikes such as the Viceroy, Limenitis archippus. The Viceroy travels further north than the Monarch, but seeks the look-alike pattern of the Monarch for protection from predators. Viceroys are smaller than Monarchs; Viceroy: 2 1/2 – 3 3/8 inches (6.3 – 8.6 cm) Monarch: 3 3/8 – 4 7/8 inches (8.6 – 12.4 cm). Viceroy butterflies do not migrate, but rather they over-winter, so they emerge around the same time that willow and poplar leaves burst from their bud, the Viceroy caterpillar actually feeds on the salicylic acid from the Willow and Poplar. Whereas the Monarch caterpillar feeds on the milkweed. The markings of the Viceroy and Monarch Butterfly, though similar, difference can be found on their hind wings to distinguish one from the other with the human eye or camera.