Elk Rapids Almanac-July 2018
July 26 - A special treat during the warm days of summer is the sight of stately Monarchs flying above open meadows, and on closer inspection many Milkweed plants have monarch caterpillars munching on the leaves. This symbiotic relationship, where the Monarch helps pollinate the plant and the plant provides a food source for the caterpillars, means that Milkweed plants are critical for this butterfly species survival. Once the eggs hatch on the milkweed, the caterpillar emerges and consumes the leaves of Milkweed species incorporating plant toxins that contribute to its bright coloration, which scares off predators. There are 11 native Milkweed species in Michigan, some of which are very rare and only seen in the southern habitats of Michigan while in our area the most commonly seen include Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed and Butterfly Weed~ these "weeds" are native plants and are found on many GTRLC protected lands. While most of our butterfly species hibernate in the cooler months or sometimes make migrations to southern habitats, the later season monarchs or "super generation" live 8-9 months and make the almost 2,000 mile journey south to central Mexico where most Michigan Monarchs tend to congregate in the Sierra Madre mountain region. Monarchs are unfortunately declining for a number of reasons, including habitat loss and decline of Milkweed populations. For more information on how you can help, visit: https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/_
Angie Lucas, Senior Land Steward, gtrlc.org
July 23 thru August 20-For an awe-inspiring experience, watch the Perseid meteor shower, with best showing anticipated for Sunday night/Monday morning, August 12 &13. For the best viewing look for a place with little or no lighting, and hope for clear skies. Meteor showers consist of small debris left from comets and meteors burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere, often at the rate of 50-100 per hour.
For further info: Grand Traverse Astronomical Society, gtastro.org, which includes kid’s space place. - Royce Ragland
Monarch Butterfly, photo credit by James Dake