Tag Archives: monarch butterfly

New Life for Old Fields

It’s been a summer packed with pollinators for Clare Maffei and Jackie Hannifan, both working hard with the Service to evaluate the success of pollinator habitat created in 2014. In Caroline County, MD, partner lands were seeded with a native wildflower and grass seed mix with the hope of establishing healthy plants for pollinators. Since early June, Clare and Jackie have been monitoring the sites to evaluate the pollinator community during peak blooms and make recommendations for future restoration efforts.

To achieve these objectives, Clare and Jackie are conducting vegetation, caterpillar, butterfly, and bee surveys. The pair used many methods to collect their data, including timed photographic surveys of butterflies, caterpillar identification on vegetation in the area, long-term trapping and hand netting of bees. This allows us to understand the diversity of pollinators in the restored pollinator meadows. To evaluate vegetation, 1 meter x 1 meter quadrats are placed on the ground at randomly selected points throughout the area and all plants in the quadrat are identified. Then, percent coverage of each species was estimated to determine the evenness of the plant community.

Initial surveys indicated that three out of four of the sites are providing good pollinator habitat; the dominant plants in the area were species that had been seeded in 2014. Seventeen of the twenty native plants that were seeded have been observed at the sites. Wild bergamot, partridge pea, and black-eyed susans have established particularly well. A few invasive plants were also observed in the area, but have not yet become dominant. This monitoring project will continue through the end of summer, with an end of season vegetation survey to confirm the presence of late season blooming wildflowers.

Monarchs have been observed at all sites. Eastern tiger swallowtails, black swallowtails, American painted ladies, variegated fritillary, and common buckeyes are also frequently observed. Overall, 326 adult butterflies and moths and 591 caterpillars were counted and identified. The vibrant flowers and sturdy stems in these meadows are providing prime resources for an abundance of bumble and carpenter bees. Over 1,000 bees have been collected, but it will take a significant amount of time to process all the samples. Preliminary examinations indicate the collection includes many common eastern bumble bees and honey bees, as well as a few more species that were difficult to identify. A few surprising specialist bees were discovered, such as the Rudbeckia andrena, a bee that relies strictly on coneflowers. Overall, these plots of land appear to be providing beneficial habitat to a wide range of wildflowers and insects, and will continue to be successful in the coming seasons.

Clare Maffei is a Directorate Resource Assistant Fellow, hired on through Student Conservation Association for the Chesapeake Bay Field Office for the summer. She’s Master’s student with the Geography and Environmental Systems Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, studying Community Ecology.

Jackie Hannifan is a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar from the University of Arizona. Jackie is pursuing her undergraduate degree in Natural Resources with a Conservation Biology focus. They are grateful for the assistance of interns from the Maryland Fisheries Department at CBFO, as well as summer interns at Masonville Cove for volunteering to help collect data on field days.

Biking for Butterflies

What’s a Butterbike? Today we find out from Wildlife Specialist, Jared Green, at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. 

Monarch butterfly populations have been on the decline in recent years, which inspired one young naturalist to go on a 10,000-mile bike ride along their migration route to bring awareness to their plight. Despite being one of the most recognizable wildlife species in North America, monarchs have not been immune to the pressures of habitat loss and fragmentation. Naturalist Sara Dykman teamed up with Beyond a Book, an adventure-linked education project that uses the experiences of real life adventurers to engage students, to document the monarch’s annual multi-generational migration from Mexico to Canada and back again for her Butterbike Project.

Sara began her journey alongside the monarchs in March in Zitácuaro, Mexico, then spending the next four months bicycling north through the Midwestern United States and into Canada, before dropping back down into the Northeastern U.S. Along the way, she has made many stops to educate the local communities about their importance along the monarch migration route. Popular with children and schools, she hopes to inspire to community members to plant milkweed, which serves as the only host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars, and other native nectar plants in their backyards and community parks.

Sara made one of her many stops at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge in Sudbury, Massachusetts, to inform local residents of the impressive migration that monarchs undertake each year and the threats they are facing. She gave a presentation to several children that were part of a youth summer camp overseen by Massachusetts Audubon. After showing the children pictures from her trip, she guided them through the Refuge’s pollinator garden, pointing out several monarch butterfly caterpillars on milkweed plants. Later that afternoon, members of the general public were treated to a similar presentation and pollinator walk outside the visitor center.

Sara is currently outside Buffalo, New York and she anticipates finishing her round-trip journey to Mexico in December. Click here to follow her progress on the Butterbike blog.

The Buzz About Healthy Foods

Today we are hearing from Chef Larry Washington, and how he uses his incredible talent as a chef to teach about the importance of healthy foods and the pollinators that make it all possible!

In 2008, when the economy was on the financial downturn I was forced to close my family restaurant. In a state of depression, my family discovered the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. The wildlife refuge became our sanctuary. It represented an escape from my daily tasks. We ran here every chance we could.  We were often greeted by the wild turkeys, the sweet call of the frogs and the nonchalant ease of the turtles. It became a place that we talked about our plans for the future and created family memories.  It was our place right in the middle of the city that was magical, raw and a living laboratory of what was and what should remain.


The view of the Philadelphia skyline from John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

Fast forward to October 1, 2016 also known as the Philly Fall Nature Fest at Tinicum. It was a great honor to be invited back for the second year to do a cooking demonstration as my alter ego the Grill Sergeant Tabasco.  Grill Sergeant Tabasco is who I dreamed about during those long walks at the wildlife refuge. He represents a series of workshops and a healthy cooking demonstration that uses a disciplined approach to attack the problem of childhood obesity.

Philadelphia has the second-highest rate of obesity among the 10 counties containing the nation’s largest cities, according to a 2009 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 68 percent of adults — and 41 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 17 — are overweight or obese. Read more at this Philly Magazine article.

For the Philly Fall Nature Fest, I did a cooking demonstration which discussed the importance of and connection between pollinators and healthy foods.


Grill Sergeant Tabasco and his team prepare wild rice!

Pollinators are small animals or insects that are necessary in the production of many fruits, vegetables, and nuts! Hummingbirds, bees, bats, butterflies, flies, beetles, and moths can all help pollinate different plants. About 75 percent of the healthy foods we cook up every day require pollination!


Monarch butterflies were also displayed at the Philly Fall Nature Fest!

Now for the fun part. If you missed it, I’m sharing the wild rice recipe we cooked below. Items with an asterisk require pollination!  Serves 4-6 people. Enjoy!
1/3 cup sweet peas *
1/3 cup zucchini *
1/3 cup yellow squash *
1/3 cup red onion *
1/3 cup red peppers *
1/3 cup green peppers *
1/3 cup carrots  *
2 cups cooked diced chicken, optional
4 cups pre-cooked wild rice
2 tablespoons canola oil *
1/2 cup Grill Sergeant Pad Sauce

Grill Sergeant Pad Thai sauce
1 cup soy oil
1/2 cup sesame oil *
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh chopped garlic
1/4 cup fresh chopped ginger
1/2 cup honey *
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes *
1/2 cup scallions
Mix all ingredients together
Store in refrigerator
P.S.- Don’t use all of this tasty sauce in one sitting! A small amount will do and the remainder should last about a month.

Place canola oil in pan and heat oil
Add all veggies and quick cook
Add chicken
Add rice
Slowly add Pad Thai sauce and Chicken.

Click here to learn more about how you can protect pollinators like the monarch butterfly!

What foods do you cook that require pollination? Sound off in the comments!