Gratitude

Crimson Patch (Chlosyne janais)

Community Butterfly Murals

There are many ways to brighten our lives with butterflies. Some communities have beautiful butterfly murals that do just that.

This lovely mural is located in South Norfolk, Virginia, (all murals in this article are located in the USA) and was painted by artist Chip Wilkinson.

You can find these Monarch butterflies on the side of Toni’s Market in the Phillips neighborhood of southside Minneapolis.

Monarch butterfly mural in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by Roger Peet and Barry Newman. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/about/creative_media/endangered_species_mural_project/

“Monarch Magic” depicts the Monarch butterflies that overwinter in a strand of eucalyptus trees on South Vandenberg Air Force Base. You can see it on a stroll through Old Town Lompoc, California.

Monarch Magic by artist Colleen Goodwin Chronister. http://www.lompocmurals.com/project/monarch-magic/

This beautiful mural is located at Candlelight Ranch near Austin, Texas. Candlelight Ranch provides therapeutic and educational nature-based experiences to enrich the lives of at-risk youth and children with disabilities.

Lyndon Crowson recreated this wonder of nature on the side of a barn at Candlelight Ranch. https://www.101highlandlakes.com/news/butterfly-mural-candlelight-ranch-marble-falls

Sometimes murals have a story. “The Butterfly Effect: Dreams Take Flight,” depicts life in Joplin, Missouri both before and after the devastating tornados of 2011. It was inspired by the stories of young survivors who said that they saw butterfly people who protected them from the storm.

“The Butterfly Effect: Dreams Take Flight,” by artist Dave Loewenstein. http://www.missourilife.com/blogs/mo/the-butterfly-people-of-joplin/

A mural can also be political such as this one, which is intended as a show of support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s campaign to protect their water and sacred grounds from the Dakota Access Pipeline. In addition to the threat to people, water and sacred places, the Dakota Access Pipeline could also kill the Dakota Skipper (Hesperia dacotae) a rare prairie butterfly protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Some murals carry a message of love and hope such as this beautiful artwork in Newark, New Jersey.

Black Butterfly and Love, Artist: Kerns Bruce. http://planning.ci.newark.nj.us/public-murals/

The Monarch butterfly in this mural, located at the Cecil Williams Glide Community House in San Francisco is a symbol of hope for homeless families and individuals, and people recovering from addiction, where they receive support services.

Cecil Williams Glide Community House opened its doors in October 1999. http://epmi-co.com/properties/cw-house/

 

Live Your Life Like a Butterfly!

Red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis)

Día de los Muertos and Monarch Butterflies

 In Mexico, Monarch butterflies are beginning to arrive this week in their over-wintering sites as people prepare for Day of the Dead celebrations.

Monarchs in Mexico

Overwintering Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) swirl and pivot in a sanctuary in Mexico’s Michoacán state. • Photo Copyright by Santuario Mariposa Monarca el Rosario. Used with permission.

Celebrations for Día De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, officially start November 1 and end November 2, the actual Day of the Dead. However, this popular Mexican holiday can start as early as Halloween.  The festival honors the lives of deceased ancestors and coincides with All Saints Day and All Souls Day–Catholic holidays dedicated to honoring the saints of the church and those who have died, but who have not yet gone to heaven, respectively.

Monarch Parade

Dressed up to celebrate Dia de los Muertos and the return of the Monarch butterflies. • Photo Copyright By Mari Osa of Madame’s Journey Home. Used with permission.

Day of the Dead is not about being scared of the supernatural, but rather about remembering the spirits of their loved ones.

monarchwoman

Catrina figures, costumed female with a skeleton face, have become associated with the Day of the Dead, and are a prominent part of modern Day-of-the-Dead observances. • Photo Copyright by Danilo Rizzetto. Used with permission.

Rather than dressing in all black and mourning the passing of loved ones, Día De Los Muertos becomes a colorful and vibrant national remembrance of the lives of deceased relatives and friends.

While most people who recognize the international holiday decorate their homes and grave sites of their ancestors with altars, relics, candles, foods, and drinks favored by the deceased; many cities will join in on the festivities by hosting parades, community-wide ceremonies and street parties.

Day of the Dead Street Scenes

Celebrations with parades, music and dance at El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Preserve in Michoacán State in Mexico welcome the return of Monarch butterflies. • Photo Copyright by Santuario Mariposa Monarca el Rosario. Used with permission.

In Michoacán, Mexico, Día de los Muertos, takes on an even more interesting aspect. According to traditional belief among Michoacán’s Mazahuas indigenous community, Monarch butterflies are souls of ancestors who return to Earth for their annual visit.

The video below, “Muerte Es Vida” (Death is Life), follows a family from Michoacán’s Mazahuas indigenous community as they celebrate Day of the Dead. Native peoples explain how the Monarch butterflies always return a few days before the celebrations begin. Children were taught to set out water to welcome the butterflies because they were tired and thirsty from their travels.

I Remember Abuelito: A Day of the Dead Story

I Remember Abuelito: A Day of the Dead Story / Yo Recuerdo a Abuelito: un Cuento del Día de los Muertos written by Janice Levy, illustrated by Loretta Lopez, and translated by Miguel Arisa. • Click Here or on the book cover to see more and to order.

Whether you live in Mexico or elsewhere, you can join in the Day of the Dead celebration by sharing these stories with your children and grandchildren and by downloading the information sheet below.

Uncle Monarch and Day of the Dead

Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead written by Judy Goldman and illustrated by René King Moreno. • Click Here to see more details and to order.

Madame's Journey Home

Madame’s Journey Home by Mariosa. • Click Here to see more details and to order.

Click Here to download this Día de los Muertos information sheet to learn more.

The Fortunate Visit of a White Monarch Butterfly

Life on a remote island in the South Pacific brims with quirky surprises. We learn to expect most anything.

While driving to town, the random pig will dash in front of the car, causing us to slam on brakes. Sometimes, it’s a dozen pigs, or a pair of dogs, or a clutch of chickens; or a child, who seems to delight in the cheap thrill of racing across the road and living to laugh about it.

I live in Nuku‘alofa on the island of Tongatapu in the Kingdom of Tonga, which is 1,240 miles (1,997 kilometers) northeast of Auckland, New Zealand. A few days ago, a white Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus nivosus) found the Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) in my yard and began laying eggs.

White Monarch on Tropical Milkweed

A female white-form Monarch butterfly nectaring in Tonga on flowers of Tropical Milkweed, which also happens to be her host plant for egg laying.

I thought her wings were just old, worn, and faded, as butterflies can get as they age. But, on closer inspection, I realized that she was actually white in the places where she should have been orange. We have Monarch butterflies here in Tonga (read more here), but this is the first white Monarch that I’ve observed anywhere.

Female White Monarch

A female white Monarch butterfly in Tonga. She was skittish, not wanting me to photograph her up close outside. I caught her with a soft butterfly net and placed her in a pop-up cage inside. Eventually, she relaxed and I was able to shoot this pose.

According to Monarch Watch, white Monarchs have been found throughout the world, including in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Hawai‘ian islands and on the mainland of the United States. Generally, white Monarchs are extremely rare with only a few being reported each year. The exception is in Hawai‘i where it is believed that as much as 10% of the population of Monarchs is white.

White and Orange Monarch Butterflies

White and orange Monarch butterflies side-by-side for comparison.

Monarchs are preyed upon by birds called Red-Vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus cafer), which are quite abundant here on our island, as well as in Hawai‘i. Red-vented Bulbuls come from Southeast Asia and are relative newcomers to the islands of Polynesia.

Scientists suggest that predation is lower for white Monarchs and raise the possibility that the white form is more cryptic (harder to see) for the Bulbuls than the orange form. Consequently, they eat more regular, orange-form Monarchs than white-form specimens, increasing the relative frequency of the latter in places where both white-form Monarchs and Bulbuls range.

As I attempted to get a photo of the white Monarch, a huge Wasp (Hymenoptera apocrita spp.) was flying around which made me nervous, and an aggressive male Blue Moon butterfly (Hypolimnas bolina) kept chasing her away as he displayed his natural territorial tendencies. I realized it was going to be impossible to get a good photograph. So I caught her with my butterfly net and placed her inside a pop-up cage with some Milkweed (Asclepias spp.).

White Monarch

Final view of the white Monarch as she enjoyed her freedom in the garden.

After an overnight stay for observation, I released the white Monarch the next morning. She left me many eggs on the Milkweed in the cage, even laying on the screen, so I thanked her and set her free.

To my surprise and delight, she lingered all day in the garden and continued to come back, time and again, to nectar on the flowers and deposit eggs on the outside Milkweed. I sat on the porch and enjoyed watching her glide gracefully through the air as she flew back and forth in my yard.

Some cultures believe that a white butterfly brings good fortune. I don’t know about any fortune. However, the visit of this beautiful white Monarch brought me great joy and surprise. For that, I’m rich.