I hope you are doing well and taking good care. I have exciting news to share regarding virtual screening times for Beauty on the Wing at the Providence Children’s Film Festival for my Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island friends. The festival opens at 4pm on this coming Friday, the 12th. Tickets may be purchased in advance and you will then have seven days in which to view. Once viewing begins, you have 24 hours to complete the screening. The tickets are only $12.50.Purchase tickets here. I am going to be participating in a Q and A on the afternoon of Saturday, the 20th, and will let you know more in the next few days.
The festival is showcasing a fantastic lineup of films. I plan to purchase a full access pass and there is also a family access pass option for ten films. The festival takes place during February school vacation week and will be a wonderfully inspiring source of entertainment for you and your family. Here is a link to all the films showing at the festival: FILM GUIDE. Just two of the many films I am super excited to see are The Last Lighthouse Keepers and Microplastic Madness.
I hope you’ll have a chance to watch Beauty on the Wing virtually. The Providence Children’s Film Festival is a truly stellar organization devoted to bringing inspiring and educational films to families in Rhode Island and the surrounding region. More information on how to participate in the Q and A to follow.
Take care dear friends and stay well. Warmest wishes, Kim
This beautiful keepsake for my documentary Beauty on the Wing from the Boston International Kids Film Festival arrived in the mail. I am so deeply honored to be awarded Best Documentary and highly recommend filmmaker friends join, support, and participate in BIKFF and Filmmakers Collaborative.
Butterfly wings come in all shapes, sizes, and degree of flexibility. They have evolved with a range of mechanisms and strategies in flight. Butterflies such as the Silver-washed Fritillary (see video below) and Yellow Sulphur clap their wings frequently, but other butterflies, the Monarch Butterfly for example, does not “clap” their wings every time they take flight. The Monarch’s wings create an open cup shape, operating in more of a figure eight pattern.
Scientist have known about butterfly wing clapping for more than fifty years. I don’t think a mystery has been solved nonetheless, the study from Sweden’s Lund University and articles are interesting to read.
In the above video you can see in the first few frames when the Monarch is taking off that its wings do not clap.
In 2015, when my daughter Liv was living in Santa Monica, she and I took a day trip to the Goleta Butterfly Grove, just outside of Santa Barbara.
Goleta Butterfly Grove
The butterflies were, for the most part, sleeping quietly in the Eucalyptus trees. A few were fluttering about, drinking nectar from the Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) growing nearby.
Non-native nectar source for Monarchs, Cape Honeysuckle
The Western Monarch Butterfly demise has been in the making for decades. The Ecaplytus trees the butterflies were roosting in appeared stressed. Eucalyptus trees are not native to California and are highly flammable. I wondered at the time why the forest couldn’t be underplanted with native tree and also wondered exactly what were the trees the butterflies may have historically roosted in.
With unbridled development that has lead to loss of habitat, forest fires, a warming climate, and the use of deadly pesticides and herbicides in this American breadbasket to the world, is it really a mystery as to why the butterflies are nearly extirpated from California.
Lovely update from the Gloucester Daily Times Gail McCarthy for Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. So many thanks to the Times for their continued support for BotWing. I am so grateful and appreciative!
AROUND CAPE ANN: Local artists earn accolades
Around Cape Ann Gail McCarthy January 14, 2020
Gloucester’s Kim Smith, who boasts a love of nature, photography and all things art, has found growing recognition for her film “Beauty on the Wing,” about the life of the monarch butterfly and its intercontinental migration from Canada to Mexico.
Smith spent more than eight years researching and documenting the natural phenomenon, whose more than 3,000 miles includes Cape Ann.
This fall, her documentary was accepted into the Boston International Kids Film Festival, where it earned an award for best documentary.
More recently, “Beauty on the Wing” received an Award of Excellence from the Nature Without Borders International Film Festival and was accepted as an official selection to the Providence Children’s Film Festival, which takes place in February.
“I am overjoyed that ‘Beauty on the Wing’ is finding acceptance at both children’s and conservation festivals; that jurors see it as it was meant to be, a conservation film for people of all ages,” Smith said.
Rockport artist Susan Lynn won the grand prize at the EnPleinAirTEXAS competition with her painting titled “Peace on the River.”
“It was overwhelming to get the grand prize because there is a stellar group of painters in that competition every year,” she said. “It was humbling, and I was very honored to be recognized in that group.”
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that Monarchs are indeed threatened with extinction, but will not be added to the US list of Endangered and Threatened Species. The official designation is “warranted, but precluded,” which means they fall in line behind 161 other species considered more endangered.
Monarchs mating in a patch of Common Milkweed, Good Harbor Beach Gloucester
From USFWS –
What action did the Service take? We have made a 12-month finding on a petition to list the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Based on a thorough review of the monarch’s status, we determined that listing is warranted, but a proposal to list the monarch is precluded at this time while we work on higher-priority listing actions.
Is the monarch federally protected now? No. Our 12-month finding does not protect monarchs under the ESA at this time. We first must propose the monarch for listing as either an endangered or threatened species, gather and analyze public comments and any new information, and using the best available science, make a final decision and publish a final rule. That process is deferred while we work on higher-priority listing actions.
What is a 12-month finding? Under the ESA, when we receive a petition to list a species, we first make a 90-day finding, in which we evaluate the information in the petition to see if it is substantial enough to begin a review of the species’ status. If it is a substantial finding, we then prioritize the species in our evaluation process, and at the appropriate time, we begin a status review. The culmination of that review is a 12-month finding on whether listing is warranted, not warranted, or warranted but precluded by higher-priority listing actions.
Who petitioned the Service to list the monarch? The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Xerces Society and a private individual petitioned us in 2014 to list the monarch. We made a positive 90-day finding in December 2014 and launched the status review in 2016.
Read more questions and answers here on the USFWS website –
I hope you are well and staying safe. The happiest of news is that a vaccine is on the way. I am praying with all my heart that you all stay healthy between now and when we will be vaccinated and protected by herd immunity.
On a lighter note, I am delighted to share that Beauty on the Wing received an Outstanding Excellence award from the Nature Without Border’s Film Festival, and even more excited to share that we are an official selection to the Providence Children’s Film Festival. The Providence Children’s Film Festival takes place in mid-February (we don’t yet have the dates to share). The best news is that the film is geo-blocked to Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, which means film friends in Massachusetts will be able to participate in virtual screenings. More information to follow, as soon as the schedule is made public.
I am overjoyed that Beauty on the Wing is finding acceptance at both children’s and conservation festivals; that jurors see it as it was meant to be, a conservation film for people of all ages.
Take care dear Friends and stay well. Better days are sure to come.
The festival went very, very well. The organizers, Laura Azevedo and Natalia Morgan from Filmmakers Collaborative, working with WGBH, did an extraordinary and outstanding job producing an online film festival, no easy feat, but especially during a global pandemic! I was able to view many of the films and they were wonderfully entertaining and inspiring. I am so proud Beauty on the Wing was a part of the BIKFF 2020!
Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, wherever that may be during these most challenging of days.
A recent article in the NYTimes, “Don’t Get Between a Caterpillar and Its Milkweed,” reviews the paper, “Aggression Is Induced by Resource Limitation in the Monarch Caterpillar,” authored by Collie, Granola, Brown, and Keene. Monarchs raised in a laboratory were given varying amounts of milkweed. Monarch caterpillars, they claim, lunge aggressively towards each other in greater and greater frequency as their milkweed supply was decreased.
In all the years I have been filming Monarch butterflies and caterpillars in gardens and in the wild, I would never have thought to describe the caterpillar’s behavior as fighting, aggressive, hangry, lunging, or head butting.
Monarch caterpillars use their sense of touch smell, and taste to eat their way from leaf to leaf. When another of its own kind is encountered on the same milkweed leaf, Monarchs in the wild pull back and reposition themselves on the leaf, barely missing a beat.
Monarch caterpillars do this same “pulling back” when brushed up against. I think it is more of a sensory response because caterpillars can barely see. Their simple eyes, called ocelli, only differentiate light from dark and cannot form an image. When a group are feeding in the same area, their behavior upon encountering one of their own kind is more characteristic of bumping into each other rather than aggressively defending their territory.
Towards the end of the summer, when milkweed leaves may be in shorter supply, caterpillars in the wild will eat the seedpods and even the stems of milkweed plants rather than aggressively battle for food.
Monarch caterpillars do not have the ability to “fight.” Their greatest defense against predators is the the caterpillar’s bright color and striped patterning, warning birds of its toxicity.
Every species of caterpillar has evolved with its own species-specific form of visual self-defense, visual against birds that is. Camouflage, mimicry, pokey spikes and spines, or brilliant colors and patterning are examples of defensive visual cues. Some caterpillars look like they are a sploge of bird poop (discouraging an attack from an avian predator) and some like leaves on a tree.
Swallowtail caterpillars have evolved with an osmeterium, a sort of forked appendage that everts when the creature feels threatened. The osmeterium resembles a snake’s tongue, also discouraging avian predation.
Black Swallowtail orange osmeterium
Some caterpillars are thought to be cannibalistic however, I am not sure cannibalism is the correct word because that suggests the act of willfully eating one of their own kind.
Pipevine Swallowtail eggs are deposited by the female butterfly in clusters and the early instars continue to feed in a group.
Pipevine Swallowtail eggs and caterpillars
Around the third or fourth instar, they will devour each other if not enough food for is available. Caterpillars taste like the leaves they eat. Doesn’t it seem natural that if a caterpillar cannot see what it is eating, it would simply eat whatever is in front of it if the ‘whatever’ tasted of its food plant? I wouldn’t call this aggressive behavior, the cat is simply using its sense of taste, smell and touch to locate readily available food.
Aggression is triggered by limited food availability
Aggression peaks during the late stages of caterpillar development
Food represents a limiting resource for the growth and developmental progression of many animal species. As a consequence, competition over food, space, or other resources can trigger territoriality and aggressive behavior. In the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, caterpillars feed predominantly on milkweed, raising the possibility that access to milkweed is critical for growth and survival. Here, we characterize the role of food availability on aggression in monarch caterpillars and find that monarch caterpillars display stereotyped aggressive lunges that increase during development, peaking during the fourth and fifth instar stages. The number of lunges toward a conspecific caterpillar was significantly increased under conditions of low food availability, suggesting resource defense may trigger aggression. These findings establish monarch caterpillars as a model for investigating interactions between resource availability and aggressive behavior under ecologically relevant conditions and set the stage for future investigations into the neuroethology of aggression in this system.
Bank of México puts new 100-peso banknote into circulation
MEXICO NEWS DAILY
NOVEMBER 12, 2020The bill has a vertical format and unique security elements
A new 100-peso banknote, the third in a new family of bills, was placed in circulation Thursday by the central bank.
Featuring the likeness of 17th century feminist poet and nun Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz on one side and an image of monarch butterflies in a pine, oak and fir forest on the other, the predominantly red-colored note is made of polymer rather than paper.
“It has a vertical format and unique security elements,” Bank of México Governor Alejandro Díaz de León told a press conference.
Among them: embossing perceptible by touch on the Sor (Sister) Juana side, a transparent window similar to those on the existing 20-peso and 50-peso banknotes, a multicolor denomination and fluorescent ink.
Presenting the new note, Díaz described Sor Juana as an “erudite and combative writer who fought to overcome the obstacles that limited women’s access to culture.”
She became “one of the most important protagonists of Spanish-American literature in the 17th century,” he said.
While speaking about the reverse side of the note, Díaz said that forests cover 16% of Mexico’s territory and play an important role in supporting Mexico’s biodiversity. The monarch butterflies featured on the note migrate to forests in México state and Michoacán from Canada and the United States every year.
The new 100-peso note replaces a paper bill featuring the likeness of Nezahualcóyotl, a ruler of the city-state of Texcoco in the 15th century. That note remains legal tender but will be gradually withdrawn from circulation.
The release of the new banknote comes two years after a new 500-peso billfeaturing images of former president Benito Juárez and a gray whale entered circulation and one year after a new 200-peso note was introduced.
The face of Sor Juana appeared on the old 200-peso note but was removed in favor of independence heroes Miguel Hidalgo and José Morelos on the new one. The other side of the new 200-peso bill features an eagle flying over the Sonoran desert.
The fourth and fifth members of the new family of notes will be 1,000-peso and 50-peso bills.
The new 1,000-peso note will feature the 33rd president of Mexico, Francisco I. Madero, Revolution-era feminist Hermila Galindo and revolutionary Carmen Serdán. A jaguar will stalk its reverse side next to an image of the ancient Mayan city of Calakmul.
The axolotl, a species of salamander endemic to Mexico City’s Lake Xochimilco, will be featured on one side of the new 50-peso bill, while gracing the other will be an image commemorating the founding of Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec empire at the time of the Spanish conquest.
Gloucester resident Kim Smith will showcase her film on butterflies at the Boston International Kids Film Festival on Saturday, Nov. 21
Smith’s “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” is a 56-minute narrated film featuring visuals of Cape Ann and Mexico’s volcanic mountains.
The film explores the life journey of the monarch butterfly from birth, and talks about environmental impacts that led to it being an endangered species.
“I think butterflies are beautiful. They make a garden come to life,” Smith said.
The picture will not only share information about monarchs, but will bring attention to other endangered species as well, said Smith.
The film is 10 years in the making, she said. The idea of the film came to her in 2006 when Smith was writing a book about monarch butterflies and taking pictures of them.
“It was a phenomenal migration that year and they just kept pouring in,” Smith said. “Over the years, I just kept at it.”
Smith bought a video camera and took it with her wherever she went.
Smith traveled to Mexico twice to film, and other parts of the project were shot in Gloucester. She said she enjoys incorporating Cape Ann because it’s a “special and unique place” that’s full of hardworking people.
“I love my community, I love the people in my community. It’s truly my home,” Smith said.
Smith then reached out to the Boston International Kids Film Festival, who helped her through the process of presenting her film.
The festival, taking place November 20-22, will be held virtually due to the coronavirus.
The festival includes 70 animated short and narrative films from 17 countries, all directed towards children.
Laura Azevedo is the executive director of the festival, who said it’s important to help creators get their stories out to the world.
“We’ve been a resource for independent filmmakers all over the country,” Azevedo said. “It’s a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it.”
Azevedo said Smith’s film will do a great job connecting with children. Kids will get access to the movie and a zoom link to interact with Smith about butterflies and the filmmaking process.
“Kim’s film is an example of one where we work with schools as well,” Azevedo said.
Smith hasn’t just helped the environment on-screen. Kim Smith Designs was launched in 1985, and Smith has designed and maintained gardens in locations such as Gloucester, Cambridge, and Andover.
The award-winning landscape designer now brings her talents to the screen, and said she appreciates the Boston International Kids Film Festival for highlighting her findings.
“It’s grown and grown and grown over the past eight years,” Smith said. “Filmmakers are provided an opportunity to showcase their work.”
Her film will be during block #3 of the festival on Saturday, Nov. 21 at noon. To purchase tickets to the festival, visit this link: https://bikff.org/schedule/
“Filmmaking is one of the best ways in the world to communicate,” Smith said.
Joseph Barrett is a senior communication student at Endicott College.