Monarch butterfly migration is off to a good start, according to the people who chart movement nationwide on a website called journeynorth.org
You can tell that monarchs are migrating if their flight is directional, they are clustering in overnight roosts and they are feeding intensely.
Scientists say that declining daylength is the trigger that starts their journeys.
Scientists also have figured out why only these last-of-the season butterflis migrate — as opposed to those that hatch earlier in the season — and how/why they can live up to eight months, while the earlier butterflies live only two or three weeks.
They say it is because the late-season butterflies are not reproductively mature and are in a state called diapause. The same hormone deficiency that leads to diapause also leads to increased longevity. The butterflies will become sexually mature in the spring when they will mate and begin flying.
It all still sounds like a miracle to me.
FOR YOUR READING LIST: An exiting new exhibit is coming to Davenport's Putnam museum called Literary Heroines in which mannequins will be dressed up like women characters in 20 selected novels.
The clothing will be from the museum's own, extensive costume collection.
I'll be writing more about this exhibit in the coming weeks — it opens Oct. 13 — but I wanted to give you a head's up in case you'd like to read some of the books that will be represented.
Of the 20, I've read only seven. (The Putnam counts the Harry Potter series and the "Little House on the Prairie" series as one.) I've also read "The Color Purple," "Pride and Prejudice," "Jane Eyre," "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Little Women."
But others will be uncharted territory.
"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan," by Lisa See, for example. An internet search explains that this novel begins in 1903 when the narrator is 80 years old, then tells the story of her life from birth onward.
"The Forest Lover," by Susan Vreeland, is about a Canadian painter (1871-1945) who rejected middle-class Vancouver society to paint the landscape and indigenous peoples of west British Columbia.
Two books I've never read but that have been on my list are "Like Water for Chocolate," by Laura Esquivel and "Memoirs of a Geisha," by Arthur Golden.
So, be aware. It's time to get cracking.
POISON HEMLOCK: A friend asked me about a somewhat new invasive weed called poison hemlock that looks a lot like Queen Anne’s Lace, but is much larger, blooms earlier, and has a smooth stem with purple spots on it.
And is nasty in the sense the poison ivy is nasty, only worse.
I hadn't heard of this, so I asked Brian Ritter, director of Davenport's Nahant Marsh Education Center, if he has seen this Eurasian invasive around the Quad-City area. Unfortunately, he has.
And you should be on the lookout for it, because it is dangerous. It causes blisters and is toxic if ingested. Nothing to mess around with.
"It seems to have spread rapidly in our area over the past 10-15 years," Ritter said in an email. "This plant is popping up everywhere, especially in disturbed places — abandoned lots, railroad right-of-ways, along certain streams, etc."
So far, it's not so prevalent in road ditches, he said.
"It is potentially dangerous when mowing or weed-eating it, especially when it is green," Ritter wrote. "If someone has this on their property, they should destroy it.
"It is not only dangerous to humans, animals, and ecosystems, it is also on the noxious weed list in Iowa. Iowa landowners are therefore required by law to destroy it to prevent it from spreading."
This information is coming in late in the season; be sure to file it away for next year.