Tag Archives: butterflies

Back yard cats, balloons, and butterfly releases

Image: Balloon release at the Yarmouth Old Gaffers Festival, by Editor5807 CC BY 3.0, via wikimedia.org

Someone’s cat just wandered across my back yard, and that got me thinking about butterfly releases.  No, really – stick with me for a moment.  There’s a connection, and, eventually, a bigger point.

By now, everyone ought to be aware that letting domestic cats roam outdoors is a terrible idea.  It’s terrible for the cats, who live shorter and less healthy lives; but much more important, it’s terrible for wildlife – cats kill millions of songbirds each year, and have (on islands) even been directly responsible for bird extinctions.  That there are self-identified cat “lovers” still insisting on letting cats outside says a lot about the phenomenal ability of humans to avoid (often deliberately) the acquisition of knowledge.  But this post shouldn’t become a rant about cats, so I’ll move on.

Balloon releases have more recently come under scrutiny, and it’s pretty obvious that they’re also a terrible idea.  Continue reading

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Monarch butterflies, and weird failures of observation

Photos: Wildlife-Friendly Garden and signage, © S Heard CC BY 4.0.  Monarch caterpillars on milkweed (in Minnesota), Courtney Celley/USFWS, CC BY 2.0.

My university, like many, is concerned with appearing green, and among its projects is a series of small plantings that offer (mostly) native plants with educational signage.  I pass by one of these every day on my walk to work: the “Wildlife-Friendly Garden”.  It has Joe Pye weed, roses, goldenrod, and a few other things, and it has some signs introducing passers-by to its “frequent visitors”.

One of the “frequent visitors”, we’re told, is the monarch butterfly: it has a lovely and informative sign.  This seems unremarkable: everyone loves monarch butterflies, everyone knows they’re common visitors to late-summer flowers like goldenrod and Joe Pye, and everyone knows they’re a species at risk* worth cherishing.  So how could I possibly have a beef with this sign?  Continue reading

Wonderful Latin Names, Part III: Two creatures named “merianae

(Image credits: Left, Opsiphanes cassina merianae, ©Andrey Zheludev, used with permission. Right, Erinnys lassauxii (=merianae), Shawn Hanrahan via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.5.)

I chose the first two entries in my Wonderful Latin Names series for the sound of their names. Today’s entry celebrates names that are wonderful for a different reason: for the amazing story of the woman for which each species is named. Continue reading