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Signs of the Seasons: A New England Phenology Program

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BDN Article Discusses Maine’s Missing Monarchs

Maine residents typically view monarch butterflies from July to September during the summer migration season. However, monarch sightings are becoming much less common across the state. This is likely due to a reduced amount of the milkweed plant that acts as a reproductive host and primary food source along their migration route. Challenges relating to decreased overwintering habitat are also contributing to a population decline. Read more about monarch butterflies.

Since 2007, volunteers have been participating in the Maine Butterfly Survey, a citizen science project that seeks to identify butterfly populations in Maine. The last field season for the Survey project will be next year, but volunteers are encouraged to continue monitoring monarchs through the Signs of the Seasons program, which is ongoing.

Changes in Climate and Phenology Alter Species Abundance in Acadia National Park

Conditions in Acadia National Park have changed over the past hundred years, causing a shift in species variety.  In habitats throughout the park, many native species have declined in abundance.  In their place, scientists are finding well adapted invasive species; some that are able to use an early spring thaw to compete with less temperature-sensitive species.  Read more

Choosing New Indicator Species: Why Amphibians?

This year, Signs of the Seasons added three amphibians to the list of indicator species.  Our newest additions include the wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus), spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer), and American toad (Anaxyrus americanus).   Each species is distributed throughout Maine and can be identified by both sight and sound.  However, this ease of identification is not the only reason for choosing these particular species.  Read more

Maintaining a Milkweed Patch

For those with milkweed in their yards, the color and scent of the flowers adds to the landscape and may even attract monarch butterflies. But, what happens after the blooms have faded? What is the best way to maintain a patch of milkweed for both landscaping and the monarchs?

Lois Stack, Horticulture Specialist and Signs of the Seasons adviser, offers some guidelines:

There are three approaches to managing a colony of milkweed. First, the milkweed can be left on its own. If there’s enough space, this is a great method because the seed heads break open and the seeds can spread in the wind. This enhances the likelihood of milkweed establishing in a new site from one of the seeds.

The second method, if the seeds are not wanted, is to remove the seed heads before they mature. Monarch larvae do not feed on the seed heads, so removing them does not threaten the insects.

Finally, if mowing is necessary, milkweed can be cut down very late in the season, after all butterfly larvae have metamorphosed from pupae into adults. If some of those pupae (called chrysalises) are still hanging on the plants, allow more time for them to mature and develop into adults. If there are no chrysalises hanging on the plants, then the plants can be mowed. Wait as long as possible before mowing. The safest timing is following a hard frost. However, if that is not possible, check for pupae in late September and decide about mowing.

A Summary of Spring

Undeterred by winter weather, the first robin appeared at about the same time as the previous two years, around the beginning of April.  However, not all species were as eager for spring.  Leaf-out of our maple species came weeks later than prior recorded years.  Learn more about data comparisons across the country by viewing the National Phenology Network’s Summary of Spring recorded webinar or compare your site to other Maine sites using the visualization tool.

Image Description: Graph of the first appearance of robins by year

Press Herald Publishes Koskela’s Op-Ed on Monarch Butterflies

Elissa Koskela, an assistant coordinator of the Signs of the Seasons program coordinated by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant, wrote an opinion piece for the Portland Press Herald about the decline of the monarch butterfly population. Signs of the Seasons is a phenology program that helps scientists document the local effects of global climate change through the work of volunteer citizen scientists who are trained to record the seasonal changes of common plants and animals in their communities.

UMaine Extension 4-H Offers Bug Club

University of Maine Cooperative Extension is offering a youth 4-H club focusing on entomology from 9 to 11 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, Aug. 4–20, at the UMaine Extension office, 28 Center St., Machias. Activities are designed to teach youth ages 8–10 about the environment through bugs. Cost is $10 per child; registration is limited to 10. For more information, to register or to request a disability accommodation, call 207.255.3345 or email

Local Citizen Scientist Aids in Graduate Research

Imagine finding an attic full of journals detailing leaf-out, returning migratory birds and bloom times for species in Oxbow, ME.  Between 1940 – 1957, L.S. Quackenbush kept detailed phenology records that have become the focus of modern day research.  When scanned copies of these records were sent to Boston University, Caitlin McDonough was given the opportunity to examine change over time.  Read more

Phenology Research in Maine

For generations of folks returning each summer, the varied habitats within Acadia National Park may appear stable.  However, a closer look at the historical record shows changes in both species abundance and the timing of life cycle events.  Researcher Caitlin McDonough is focused on the phenology at this local site.  Read more

Drummond Talks to BDN About Blueberry, Bee Research

Frank Drummond, an entomology specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and a UMaine professor of insect ecology, spoke to the Bangor Daily News about a five-year, $3.5 million research project on the role bees play in blueberry production. Drummond is leading the project that involves biologists, economists, anthropologists and graduate students from UMaine, as well as researchers from other states. Drummond said renting commercial beehives is, on average, the most expensive production cost for Maine’s blueberry growers. The project aims to study the role native bees play in blueberry pollination, the status of native bee populations, and which species of bees are best for adequate pollination. “The whole purpose of this project is to look at what are some of the best pollination strategies that growers might be able to use,” he said. The project also includes outreach to blueberry growers in the form of workshops hosted by Drummond to teach growers about pollination.


USA National Phenology Network: Taking the Pulse of Our Planet

University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Maine Sea Grant

Contact Information

Signs of the Seasons: A New England Phenology Program
377 Manktown Road
Waldoboro, Maine 04572
Phone: 207.832.0343 or 1.800.244.2104 (in Maine)E-mail:
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
A Member of the University of Maine System