Thom Smith | Naturewatch: Responses to monarch butterfly survey


Pittsfield, Mass.:

I saw a monarch today, Sept. 9 2016, on a Joe Pye Weed plant. I have four varieties of milkweed plants in the area, along with native plants that attract butterflies. Strictly, [an] organic yard.

— Sara

I have seen seven monarch butterflies this year, in my garden in Pittsfield, at the milkweed. This compares to none seen last year, but sadly I have not seen any caterpillars.

— Donna

Putney, Vt.:

I happened to see your article in the Reformer and wanted to respond. I live in Putney and have had huge perennial gardens for over 30 years. Back then, I saw monarchs by the dozen. Last year, I didn't see one, but was thrilled to see one about three weeks ago. Although I do have some milkweed and hybrid members of the asclepias family, it was not on them. It was trying to light on the echinacia, but for two days was chased off by a large viceroy that had been here for weeks, along with many others, and numerous, butterflies of other species.

Although disappointed to not enjoy it for long, I was heartened to at least see one this year! I hope to see more next year. The 300 varieties of perennials, hostas and shrubs bring many birds and butterflies and I have never used poisons (I hand-pick all the bugs!). I hope this info is helpful to you and I will be on the lookout next year for the beautiful monarchs.

— Debbie

Chatham, N.Y.:

On Aug. 15, I counted 10 monarchs in the fields at Ooms Conservancy in Chatham, N.Y. That is because they delayed mowing this year. However, I did not see one monarch caterpillar all summer anywhere.

— Lynne

North Adams, Mass.:

(A paraphrase of a lovely letter written in long-hand on equally lovely stationary that I felt needed to be answered by phone.)

The writer, a lady named Mary LaPierre. is I believe 85 years old and wanted to pull and move a number of milkweed plants to a bordering field so that the pods might more readily seed that area.

Her question was, "How late do the monarchs lay their eggs on the leaves?" She was concerned she would harm a generation of butterflies if they were still relying on the plants. I assured her that female monarchs lay their eggs on fresh growth, so that offspring will have more tender leaves to dine upon, and that it is too late in the season, anyway, for egg laying and, more than likely, caterpillars.

During our conversation, she told me a wonderful story of gathering milkweed pods as a child. She and children [young and old alike] gathered them for the war effort (World War II) for the manufacture of life preservers.

How many I wondered, so I began searching Bing and Google, and found one source, The Erie County Independent, that reported more than 1.5 billion pods were collected to make 1.2 million life vests.

Native plant pollinator garden

Lanesborough resident Liz Stell writes, "I'm happy to tell you that a native plant/pollinator garden has been installed at the entrance of the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary [Lenox, Mass.]. I invite you to check it out, as many plants are now blooming.

The large bed showcases garden-worthy natives, with the goal of encouraging visitors to include some of these pollinator-friendly species in their home gardens. With the exception of purple coneflower (a more southern species), the plants are native to our region.

I'm one of two volunteers [Liz Stell and Kathi Hatch] who planned the garden, wrote the grant, and supervised the installation this spring. (I also do most of the maintenance, with help from a Massachusetts College Liberal Arts summer intern.) Funding was provided by the Lenox Garden Club, with some additional funding from the Berkshire Garden Club. Most of the plants were purchased from Helia Native Nursery ( with a few donations from myself and Joe Strauch. Joe has shared advice, as well as plants.

Thom Smith welcomes your questions and comments. Email him at or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 South Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201


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