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Month: February 2023

Monarch butterfly caterpillar makes its debut

If you’ve never seen a monarch caterpillar hatch, you’re certainly not alone. The eggs are about the size of the tip of a pencil. Yet a lot is going on inside!

Below is video taken (with a microscope attachment) as a baby caterpillar breaks out of its egg. It then eats the egg as its first meal.

We named this little guy Miles—inspired by the many miles monarchs travel on their trip to Mexico.

Miles’ egg was found on a plant growing next to a concrete parking lot in Sterling, MA. The egg was removed in case the plants were cut down, which they often are in parking lot cases. The shell darkens before hatching. That’s the caterpillar getting ready to break free.

Milkweed planting

After eating its eggshell, monarch caterpillars rely on milkweed plant leaves for all meals. Milkweeds are the only food for these caterpillars. There are a variety of types of milkweeds. If you order seeds, make sure to get milkweed plants that are native to your area.

Milkweed seeds can be planted in the fall and winter or placed in the fridge to mimic natural cold stratification. There are a number of great ‘how to’ videos to learn more about growing milkweed plants. 

Saving milkweed plants

It’s hard to tell how many monarch eggs or baby caterpillars like this are killed each year. They have a variety of predators. Habitat destruction and chemicals are a bigger threat to the species as a whole. The problem: they are often cut down as weeds, cleared for construction, or sprayed with chemicals.

Instead of clearing them or spraying them, consider planting native pollinator plants around them to give adult butterflies a great place to stop. Milkweed plants often have flowers that are pretty and complement other flowers well. 

Will a monarch lay eggs if you have a milkweed plant ready? It’s hard to tell as there are dwindling numbers of monarchs, which are endangered. Those who track monarchs say improving habitat is critical.

To create a habitat, avoid spraying the plants with chemicals or cutting them (you could be cutting off eggs or caterpillars; they are small!) and plant milkweed and other native pollinator plants that are protected from spraying or mowing.  

Monarch lifecycle

The monarch butterfly’s lifecycle is pretty amazing to watch. After hatching, monarch caterpillars go through weeks of rapid growth. They have to literally shed their skin to grow. This includes busting out of their little face masks. This video (still using a microscope camera) shows one of little Miles’ molting sessions.

Many baby caterpillars like Miles won’t make it due to habit loss or spraying. Here are some resources to learn more about how to help:

Mass Audubon

Xerces Society

Pollinator Partnership

Check back here in the coming weeks. We’ll post the video of Miles and friends as they continue their journey toward becoming butterflies. We’ll also look at the serious illness that is spreading among monarchs, why it can kill many, and what NOT to do if you see baby caterpillars. 

Also, if you love wildlife videos, check out the Bolton Trail Cam and Bower Springs beaver stories!

Bolton Common Skating: Opening Day 2023 with Matt Savoie

Bravo to ice skater and former Olympian Matt Savoie and the Bolton Parks and Recreation Commission for the Opening Day of the Bolton Common skating rink.

Braving brutally cold temperatures which kept most people indoors, Savoie skated and some hardy families made it to the rink Saturday, February 4th. Despite the cold, the performance was great and there was a fire nearby. Here’s a look for those who couldn’t make it:

Organizers debated postponing the event to wait for more moderate temps. However, scheduling conflicts and forecasts for warm weather within a day of the planned opening made rescheduling difficult. About 24 hours after the opening, much of the ice had melted. 

Matt Savoie at the Olympics 

If you haven’t seen Matt Savoie skate a large rink, we’ve found U.S. Figure Skating performances – including videos from the Torino 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy – that are a real joy to watch. Here are the Olympic free skate and short program videos. There are also videos from the 2006 U.S. Nationals and the 2006 Four Continents event. Those are just some you can find in a search. In short, Bolton is extremely lucky to have such talent in the vicinity!  

Looking ahead: will there be more skating this season?

The answer from Bolton Parks and Rec is: hopefully. “We still have about a month to work with,” notes Lisa Shepple of Parks and Rec, who points out that it’s based on whether temperatures dip low enough for a long enough period to re-freeze. 

Shepple says if there is an expected refreeze there may not be a lot of time to give advance notice. “It will probably be announced at the beginning of the week according to the weather forecasts,” she adds. 

Follow Bolton Parks and Recreation for updates and other upcoming plans through the spring and summer.

Rebuilding lives with Fresh Start Furniture Bank

If you have furniture and other household goods to donate, consider Fresh Start Furniture Bank, a non-profit organization in Hudson that helps local families.

Fresh Start Furniture Bank assists Massachusetts residents like the family pictured above who lost everything recently in a fire. The organization’s mission is to “restore hope, dignity, and stability in our community by recycling donated furniture and housewares, for free, to people in need.” The effort also helps keep potentially useful items out of landfills. So, it’s a win-win. 

In a recent Facebook post, Fresh Start Furniture Bank introduced the Cardona family. The post reads: “They are a family of 6 that recently arrived in the U.S. from Columbia and were all sleeping on the floor. The parents came from Pittsfield for help furnishing their apartment.  They left happy with a full truck and everything that they needed to start their new life. They sent this message, ‘Thank you very much!  Blessings to all!  We are very grateful for the beautiful work of your team!'”

How it works

Fresh Start Furniture Bank has created a store-like shopping experience. It’s not open to everyone. To receive furniture, an applicant receives a referral from a social service agency. That person or family then has 30 days to go to Fresh Start Furniture where a personal shopper helps select items. The goal is to have enough furniture and household goods to help all those who need assistance. Boston 25 News recently toured Fresh Start Furniture Bank and aired this report

How you can help

The organization has just one employee and the rest are volunteers who regularly put in 16,000 hours a year. There are many ways to help. Donating the type of furniture and household goods that are on the organization’s wish list is one way to help. Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated. 

There are times when weather or other circumstances cause a drop in donations. After last week’s cold weather, Fresh Start Furniture Bank is short on items. 

If you have something to donate, check their website to see if it’s accepted and review the drop-off days or inquire about possible pickup. Learn more at: and follow the organization on Facebook at:

Bower Springs beaver—tail splash video

It appears that the early hiker or snowshoer catches the best view of wildlife in action.

“This was an early morning snowshoeing run with me and Kathy!” noted Bolton resident Elizabeth Davis-Edwards, who was out early at Bower Springs in Bolton with fellow Bolton resident Kathy Romeo.  “We got there at 6 am and were the first ones at Bower that morning.”

They may have surprised this Bolton beaver—with the surprise going both ways. See their video of the encounter:

Wonder why beavers slap the water with their tails? According to wildlife experts: “Beaver families are territorial and defend against other families. In order to warn family members of danger, beavers slap their tails against the water, creating a powerful noise.” See that information and more in this article:

9 Interesting Facts about Beavers