Posted by: cindydyer | January 21, 2014

Happy Tonics News

Happy Tonics received a grant to translate The Monarch Butterfly Coloring Book into Spanish from Community Health Network Area 9 (CHNA 9) in Massachusetts. Peter Ducos, Shell Lake, Wisconsin, is translating the children’s teaching book. Mary Ellen Ryall, author and executive director of Happy Tonics, resides in Fitchburg, MA, where the Latino population is 48 percent. Multicultural books are important when one realizes that only 10 percent of books have any multicultural base; and yet 39 percent of the population in the United States are from other cultures. Multicultural Children’s Book Day is on January 27. To learn more about the event, visit Jump Into A Book at 

Jessie Spinelli of Leominster, Massachusetts, is an Eagle Scout and wanted to create a garden in front of a stone retaining wall at Fitchburg Art Museum. It was quite an undertaking for a young man. I got to know him because Jessie had a fundraiser at First Thursday Farmers Market at the museum. He was offering a variety of shrubs and perennials that people could purchase to put in the garden. I thought that was clever. I picked out one of the lower cost perennials to be part of the project—a garden phlox.

We had lots of time to converse over a few months on First Thursday. I told Jessie about the importance of pollinator plants and the role native plants played in a garden. Among the plants were mums and native garden phlox. One day, Jessie was excited to show me photographs of two butterfly species that he photographed in the new garden. One was a black swallowtail and the other was a fritillary.

Imagine my delight to know that Jessie’s garden would bring butterflies and to his surprise the garden beckoned pollinators!



Posted by: cindydyer | December 4, 2013

Bringing attention to the severity of pollinator declines

Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 10.54.29 AMRe-posted from Center for Food Safety

Illustration © Aaron Birk

Today, Center for Food Safety—along with Ceres Trust, Beyond Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network North America, and countless other organizations—released ads in newspapers across the U.S. to bring attention to the severity of pollinator declines due to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, and to press the U.S. to act now. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has so far refused to act on these bee-toxic pesticides, and plans to keep reviewing them for five more years, but our pollinators can’t possibly wait that long.

Thankfully, there is a bill in the U.S. House right now that would be a major step forward in protecting pollinators, and it needs your support!

The Saving America’s Pollinators Act (H.R. 2692), calls for the suspension of several neonics until a full review of scientific evidence indicates they are safe and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators.

Neonics are the most widely used insecticides in the world, and exposure to neonics has become a key culprit in bee population losses. Commercial beekeepers in the U.S. have been reporting annual colony losses of 40-100%.  In June, 50,000 bumblebees were killed in a parking lot in Oregon by these very chemicals. We need to take swift action to protect our critical pollinators. The Saving America’s Pollinators Act seeks to do precisely that.

Center for Food Safety will be on the Hill all week talking to your members of Congress and pushing them for real action to protect bees.

Join us in telling your Representative to support the Save America’s Pollinators Act and protect our bees!

Posted by: cindydyer | November 27, 2013

Monarch collapse

Screen shot 2013-11-27 at 12.36.55 PMWhile attending a Thanksgiving  community dinner sponsored by Cleghorn Neighborhood Center, at St. Joseph’s Church, in Fitchburg on 27 November 2013, Sheila Lumi, director, Central Massachusetts Art and Agriculture Coalition, announced that the Mexican monarch butterfly population was reported as only 3 million returning Monarchs to Mexico around All Souls Day, the day that Monarchs normally return to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere in Michoacan. The count was observed around All Soul’s Day, 01 November 2013. The count is the lowest number ever recorded in over twenty years of observation. (left: Monarch on thistle, New Mexico © Mary Ellen Ryall)

Many scientists from around the country have feared that the Monarch butterfly might not be able to rebound from record low numbers this past summer in the United States. According to James Brugger, “As Watchdog Earth noted earilier this year, they have been losing habitat in the heartland to farming practices that don’t allow hardly any milkweed to grow. Yet they depend on milkweed, which hosts the butterflies’ caterpillars and chrysalises.” I only saw one monarch flutter by in Fitchburg, MA, this past summer. The Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, WI, experienced a drought, and no Monarchs were sighted.

It is more than sad to realize that the natural world is breaking down to the point that we are watching an indicator species in trouble. What does this mean for humans? One out of every three bites of food needs animal pollination. Butterflies are the second largest group of pollinators in the world, keeping the native plant gene pool alive. The monarch teaches us that mankind needs to transform, become sustainable, and stay connected to the natural world. This is the only way that the Web of Life can continue in harmony.

To read the full article visit

Posted by: cindydyer | November 22, 2013

Meeting NAPPC Authors, Artists and Graphic Designers

Screen shot 2013-11-22 at 12.46.13 AMAaron Birk, Sheila Lumi and I attended the North America Pollinator Protection Campaign, Washington, DC, in October. Aaron and I are working on the S.H.A.R.E. Task Force (Simply Have Areas Reserved for the Environment). We meet via satellite conference calls along with other S.H.A.R.E. partners. This allows us to work from around the United States on pollinator issues.Birk is the author of The Pollinator’s Corridor, a unique book. I say unique because I have no experience with comic book style writing. I found his work pioneering and perhaps ahead of his time in capturing a global food security issue through a pollinator’s eyes. Sheila Lumi told me that the book is about three young men who didn’t see any butterflies or other pollinators in the Bronx. An ingenious platform such as this may even get the younger generation of teens and young adults involved in learning and saving  pollinators.

Present and future generations need to be concerned about pollinator demise. 40 to 90 percent are in decline.  Authors, artists, and graphic designers are coming on board to bring pollinator issues to the front burner. We have to. The federal government, large agribusiness farms and chemical and food processing companies are not openly addressing the crisis.

There is an urgent need to plant pollinator corridors across the United States, starting with America’s federal and state highway system. Every backyard gardener has the ability to create native habitat on private property and can get involved in growing pollinator corridors for cities, towns, villages, public land, private land and city land, which can be planted with native habitat for pollinators.
Set in the aftermath of the 1970’s landlord fires, The Pollinator’s Corridor follows the lives of three friends who attempt to convince wild bees and butterflies to cross the Bronx by planting ‘corridors’ of native flora throughout the industrial wasteland. Connecting fragmented forests, watersheds and city parks, our heroes restore biodiversity to the blighted ghetto by uniting marginalized communities and laying the foundations of ecological health in an age of crisis and decline. This gorgeous, illustrated book envisions a world where human beings live seamlessly alongside native habitats.

The Pollinator’s Corridor is a must-read for high school and college students! A coming-of-age story about three teenagers from wildly different walks of life, The Pollinator’s Corridor is also a tale of botany, geology, soil science, and restoration theory.  It is an ideal companion to your tool-box of environmental curricula.

Aaron Birk began work on The Pollinator’s Corridor in 2003, while employed as a forester in Central Park, NY. In the twelve years since graduating from Oberlin College, Birk has built a career as a professional illustrator, sculptor, and instructor of visual arts. He contributes to numerous publications, including NPR’s RadioLab, The Philadelphia City Paper, and Art Forum Magazine.

Since going to press in 2012 The Pollinator’s Corridor has been exhibited by several major galleries, including Bronx Museum of The Arts, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and Blue Horse Arts. The Pollinator’s Corridor has also won over $20,000 in awards and grant funding. Backers include The Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, The Independence Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, and The Pollinator Partnership. The project received First Place in Blue Horse Arts’ “Plight Of The Pollinators,” an international juried exhibition.

Happy Tonics at is featuring The Pollinator’s Corridor in our on-line store. Book ships from Amazon and a small percent is donated to Happy Tonics. This allows us to grow our work organically on behalf of pollinators and helps to support other authors, illustrators, and artists in their work. The customer never pays more for items.

Posted by: cindydyer | November 14, 2013

Learn about cattle feed lots in the Midwest

Mishak Henner, a photographer, was able to showcase photos of American’s large corporate animal feed lots in the Midwest at

I personally saw this as truth in 2008 when Sandy Stein and I drove cross country through Kansas. We were both horrified by what we witnessed in the corporate animal folding pens. The cattle looked out at us as they stood in their own mire.

I never got over it and avowed to publicize photos or other sources that document the inhumane treatment of animals, pollinators and native plants. I believe that Happy Tonics makes us look at the living Earth and how we are losing it one species at a time.

Our hearts and Mission are dedicated to Sanctuary for the Monarch Butterfly. I can tell you right now Happy Tonics did not receive any notice of monarchs reported in the Midwest in 2013. As a matter of fact, there are almost no pollinators in the Midwest because corporate farms kill everything, including both bad and good insects. Milkweed is practically nonexistent in the Midwest now. Corporate farms often plant GMO poisonous corn laden with Bt gene that makes every cell of the corn plant toxic. The corn is sold as bio-fuel and as feed for cattle. Then Americans buy the beef.

Our nonprofit has held Native American Honoring Ceremonies at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat throughout the years, praying for pollinators, native plants, and all animal species who make up the Web of Life.

Posted by: cindydyer | November 1, 2013

Learning about food chain restoration for pollinators

Screen shot 2013-11-01 at 7.14.24 AMNorth American Pollinator Protection Campaign speaker Gary Nabhan, Ph.D, Kellogg, Endowed Chair in Food and Water Security at the University of Arizona, spoke about Curbing the Extinction of Relationships: Pollinator Diversity and Climate Adaptation at a conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this month.

Photo at right: Apache red corn, Native Seed/SEARCH

There is a relationship between native corn species and wind blown pollen that allows monarch butterflies to live safety in hedge rows in and around corn fields. Native corn can survive drought where hybrid or GMO corn might not survive as well. Non native corn that has had its cells changed due to GMO will have toxic pollen harmful to larvae of both good and bad bugs. The Midwest region has been proven to have less diversity of pollinators due in part to this reason.

We need to start to look at diversity of crops and pollinators as a interconnected link in the Web of Life. Climate adaptation will alter what food crops might grow successfully in the United States. The best chance of crop survival is to grow local native crops that are offer diversity. Stick to native crops. Order seed from organic seed supplies including, Native Seed/SEARCH, Seed Savers Exchange and Native Seed, to name a few. You’ll be surprised with what pollinators will come. Have fun learning!

Stephen Buchmann, Scientist at Large, Pollinator Partnership & University of Arizona, gave a briefing on New Findings in Buzz Pollination. Buchmann received a National Science Grant and does research on buzzing bees. So far he has counted 62 buzzing bee species.

This is exciting research. I loved buzzing bumble bees in spring when newly-emerged queens visited the early flowering bushes in my former gardens in Minong, WI. Buchman is presently writing a book with a working title The Reasons for Flowers. I can’t wait to read the book! I just ordered the children’s book, The Bee Tree. by Buchmann. I will read it and give the book to my nephew for Christmas. I’ll also recommend this book to the Fitchburg Public Library.

Buchmann was Chief Scientist on Disney’s film Wings of Life. This film is extraordinary in capturing the closeup life of winged pollinators. I showed the film at First Parish, UU, Fitchburg, MA. Fifteen people sat in the audience and I could hear the response of awe over and over again. The film needs to be circulated to science departments at middle and high schools, colleges, universities, garden clubs, butterfly organizations, public libraries, and distributed far and wide. Fitchburg Public Library already has the film for the public to borrow.

Once people see the intimate relationship between beguiling flowers and pollinators they will never misunderstand the absolute importance that pollinators play in the Web of Life.

Posted by: cindydyer | September 17, 2013

Changes for Happy Tonics Butterfly Garden

LCOsignby Danielle Moe, Washburn County Register staff writer

SHELL LAKE —The Happy Tonics Butterfly Garden will be downsized in light of the HWY 63 construction project. “Even though it is going to get clipped by the road system, it is okay because we already know about it,” stated Mary Ellen Ryall, founder of the garden.

According to Brad Pederson, city administrator, part of the north end of the garden will be lost due to the a proposal that involves the driveway to Farley’s Auto Body changing to the south end of the building. In addition, the hillside will be softened. “There will be two spots there that are going to get impacted, but I do not think it is major,” explained Pederson.

Ryall and a host of other volunteers started the garden to promote habitat for pollinators like butterflies and, “to teach people that without pollinators you would not even have food,” stated Ryall.

The garden in Shell Lake is one of several butterfly gardens that have sprung up in recent years over increased awareness of the decreased presence of pollinators, and the renewed understanding of how important their part of the food chain is. “It is an integral part of life, and the habitat is part of that,” stated Ryall.

In 2007 the city gave permission to the Happy Tonics organization to start the garden on the city-owned land where it now exists. According to Ryall, Happy Tonics is the non-profit that implemented and maintains the garden. “We have never put a burden on any public fund, we have operated strictly with our own donor base,” explained Ryall.

Source: Washburn County Register

As part of Happy Tonics efforts to work on behalf of pollinators, we are publishing Pollinator Partnership’s Group Letter that supports the BEES Act. You can sign on as an individual, organization or business. Pollinator Partnership is trying to get the House Resolution introduced. This is important because pollinators are in crisis with 40 – 90 percent decline. The Monarch Butterfly has only a five percent survival rate in 2013. Please sign the letter at

One out of every three bites of food requires pollination!


The undersigned support H.R. 2381, the Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment Act (Highways BEE Act).

 The Highways BEE Act proposes significant economic and conservation benefits that can be achieved through integrated vegetation management (IVM) practices on Federal and state highway right-of-ways (ROWs) managed by State Departments of Transportation (DOTs).

These areas represent about 17 million acres of opportunity where significant reductions in mowing and maintenance can reduce costs for cash-strapped State DOTs.

 Reductions in roadside mowing, combined with enhanced plantings of native forbs and grasses, can provide economic benefits, reduced carbon emissions, and critical habitat for pollinators, ground nesting birds and other small wildlife.

Pollinators, such as bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, are essential to healthy ecosystems and are vital partners in American agriculture. Pollinators are suffering drastic population loss, due in part to loss of habitat. In addition, neighboring agricultural lands and wildlife ecosystems will benefit from improved pollination services.

This legislation supports and builds on innovative IVM efforts in a growing number of State DOT’s by directing the Secretary of Transportation to use existing authorities, programs and funding to encourage and facilitate efforts by States and other transportation ROWs managers, to adopt IVM practices, including reduced mowing and enhanced native plantings that provide multiple fiscal, safety and aesthetic benefits while also promoting habitat and migratory corridors for pollinators, ground nesting birds and other small wildlife.

For further information contact Tom Van Arsdall, Pollinator Partnership Public Affairs Director at or 703-509-4746.



B9D6Each Christmas season, Diane Dryden takes it upon herself to decorate the Municipal Park with Christmas lights for Happy Tonics, Inc. The nonprofit environmental education organization has a Monarch Butterfly Habitat on city land near the lake. It is an entrance to the city, along side of Route 63, just a few blocks from downtown.

Happy Tonics officers and board members are grateful to Diane Dryden who has a way of making an event special. Thanks, Diane, and Merry Christmas to all!

Below, left: Diane Dryden is an herb seller at Bethlehem Exhibit. Right: Christmas display with Monarch Butterfly Habitat saying goodbye to monarchs who are in Mexico. The greeting reads “Feliz Navidad.”


Posted by: cindydyer | November 29, 2012

New Garden Shed for Monarch Butterfly Habitat!

The Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, WI, is the proud home to a new garden shed. Happy Tonics’ volunteers have been carrying tools and equipment back and forth to the habitat for the last five years.

Some volunteers traveling over 70 miles round trip to help maintain the habitat. Now volunteers can leave their tools in the shed.

A grant from Wisconsin Environmental Education Board, with a generous materials donation by Lamperts Lumber, made the garden shed project possible.

Carpentry skills used in Mr. Forsythe’s tech class turned a classroom into a community building project. Students took great pride in creating the garden shed. There was no blueprint for the project. The students learned quickly how to follow directions in order to build the shed.

City maintenance department delivered the shed to the habitat. Jeff Parker, Director Public Works, has been an outstanding partner to Happy Tonics over the years. This kind act shows one more example of a community working together to bring about solidarity for nature and pollinators.

Below: K-12 Shell Lake School Tech Education Class team from Mr. Forsythe’s class, Daniel and Jeffrey Shutrop, Brandon Skille, Ryan Melton, Isaac Otterson, Brendon Melton and Michael Monson © Larry Sampson, Washburn County Register

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