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Posts Tagged: Art Shapiro

It's a Butterfly Week!

A cabbage white butterfly nectaring on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When the week is about butterflies instead of guerrilla attacks, murderous rampages, measles outbreaks, and deflated footballs, it's a good week.

Butterflies draw smiles instead of scowls, pleasure instead of pain, glee instead of grief.

So, here's Part 1 of the good news. You still have a chance to win the Beer-for-a-Butterfly contest. No one has come forth in the three-county area of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano to deliver the first cabbage white butterfly of the new year to Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. If you collect the first one of 2015 and you're the verified winner, you'll receive a pitcher of beer or its equivalent.

Shapiro, who usually wins his own Beer-for-a-Butterfly contest, hasn't found one either.  Every day has amounted to a "No Fly Day" and a "No Beer Day."

Reports are surfacing that the cabbage whites (Pieris rapae) are flying in Santa Rosa, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), Santa Rosa is in Sonoma County, not in Sacramento, Yolo or Solano counties.

Shapiro has sponsored the annual contest since 1972. It's all part of his four-decade study of climate and butterfly seasonality. “It is typically one of the first butterflies to emerge in late winter. Since 1972, the first flight has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20." Shapiro says his long-term studies of butterfly life cycles and climate "are especially important to help us understand biological responses to climate change. The cabbage white is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago here."

Shapiro, who is in the field more than 200 days a year, knows where and when to look. In fact, he's been defeated only three times since 1972, and all by his graduate students. Adam Porter defeated him in 1983; and Sherri Graves and Rick VanBuskirk each won in the late 1990s.

In 2014, Shapiro netted the winning butterfly at 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14 in West Sacramento, Yolo County. It ranked as "the fifth or sixth earliest since 1972.

The contest rules include:

  • It must be an adult (no caterpillars or pupae) and be captured outdoors.
  • It must be brought in alive to the department office, 2320 Storer Hall, UC Davis, during work hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with the full data (exact time, date and location of the capture) and your name, address, phone number and/or e-mail. The receptionist will certify that it is alive and refrigerate it. (If you collect it on a weekend or holiday, keep it in a refrigerator; do not freeze. A few days in the fridge will not harm it.)
  • Shapiro is the sole judge.

Part 2 of the good news about butterflies: a mid-winter gathering of Northern California Lepidopterists and the Bohart Museum of Entomology will take place at an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31 in the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. Hosts are Bohart senior museum scientist-entomologist Steve Heydon and entomologists John De Benedictis and Jeff Smith.

Lepidopterists are researchers or hobbyists who specialize in the study of butterflies and moths in the order Lepitopdera.
All interested persons are encouraged to bring specimens, photos, PowerPoint presentations or slides from collecting trips and tales of collecting triumphs to share with others.  Butterfly t-shirts and other entomological merchandise are available from the gift shop.

The museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens, and is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. It was founded by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007).

For more information on the mid-winter gathering of lepitopterists, contact Steve Heydon at (530) 752-0493 or slheydon@ucdavis.edu.

Meanwhile, The Great White Cabbage Butterfly Hunt is still underway. Can you find one before Art Shapiro does?

Ulysses butterfly (Papilio ulysses) collection in the Bohart Museum of Entomology. These are all males. The females have barely any blue on their wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ulysses butterfly (Papilio ulysses) collection in the Bohart Museum of Entomology. These are all males. The females have barely any blue on their wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Ulysses butterfly (Papilio ulysses) collection in the Bohart Museum of Entomology. These are all males. The females have barely any blue on their wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is a Paris peacock butterfly (Papilio paris), part of the Bohart Museum of Entomology collection. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is a Paris peacock butterfly (Papilio paris), part of the Bohart Museum of Entomology collection. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is a Paris peacock butterfly (Papilio paris), part of the Bohart Museum of Entomology collection. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Bohart Museum of Entomology houses nearly eight million specimens from all over the world. Here are some of the butterfly specimens. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The Bohart Museum of Entomology houses nearly eight million specimens from all over the world. Here are some of the butterfly specimens. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Bohart Museum of Entomology houses nearly eight million specimens from all over the world. Here are some of the butterfly specimens. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, January 23, 2015 at 9:37 PM

The Real Skinny on Migrating Monarchs, Milkweed

Art Shapiro
A recent article in Science magazine, headlined “Plan to Save Monarch Butterflies Backfires,” is getting a lot of attention. And UC Davis butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, is getting a lot of inquiries.

Reporter Lizzie Wade, Science's Latin America correspondent based in Mexico City, led with: "It started with the best of intentions. When evidence emerged that monarch butterflies were losing the milkweed they depend on due to the spread of herbicide-resistant crops in the United States, people across the country took action, planting milkweed in their own gardens. But a new paper shows that well-meaning gardeners might actually be endangering the butterflies' iconic migration to Mexico. That's because people have been planting the wrong species of milkweed, thereby increasing the odds of monarchs becoming infected with a crippling parasite."

Wade pointed out that "tropical milkweed—at least when planted in warm environments like southern Texas and the U.S. Gulf Coast—doesn't die back in the winter like native milkweed does. When presented with a place to lay their eggs year-round, many monarchs don't bother making the trip to Mexico at all."  Some think the year-round tropical milkweed is "an even more direct threat to the butterflies. Milkweed hosts a protozoan parasite called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE). As caterpillars, monarchs ingest the parasite along with their normal milkweed meals, and when they hatch from their chrysalises they are covered in spores."

She quoted a butterfly scientist as saying that infected monarchs are much weaker than their healthy counterparts and don't live nearly as long. And if an OE-infected monarch tries to migrate, it will probably die long before it arrives in central Mexico, she wrote.

Shapiro has been monitoring and studying populations of butterflies in central California for more than four decades and posts the information on his website. In an email response to inquiries from a UC Master Gardener and Farm Advisor (initially sent my way), wrote:  “The story is basically correct, but there has to be more to it. Monarchs are normally in 'reproductive diapause' in winter, which means their sex organs and sex drive are inactive; this condition (as in migratory birds) is believed to be induced by seasonal day-length changes. We never used to get attempted winter breeding. Tropical milkweed has been in gardens in California for decades, but only very recently are we seeing attempted winter breeding, first in Southern California and now in the Bay Area. Many of us would like to understand why these animals are NOT in diapause! There have been unexplained changes in the seasonal geography of monarch breeding: for example, here in the Sacramento Valley, there is now virtually no spring breeding (as before) but tons of fall breeding (which didn't use to happen; the animals migrating coastwise were generally in reproductive diapause)."

The reference to OE is correct, Shapiro said. "However, there is an easy 'fix' that nobody talks about for some reason: just cut the plants to the ground a few times a year. This will encourage new growth, which will be cleaner, prettier, more nutritious, and uncontaminated with OE. There is nothing inherently 'bad' about winter breeding if it's clean. Infected winter breeding is a population sink. The animals are often too feeble to fly, and may be unable to expand their wings. But perfectly healthy ones are being produced right now in the East Bay on clean plants."

Many of the public comments that people posted about the research, Shapiro said, show a large amount of ignorance.  “Observation: the commonest eastern (Asclepias syriaca complex) and Californian (A. fascicularis) milkweeds are usually almost if not quite non-toxic, which means the monarchs that feed on them will be edible to birds. If you want to breed monarchs as bird food, by all means plant those! But if you want to breed nasty monarchs that will make birds vomit and never try one again, plant one of the more toxic species! There is no good evidence that the females discriminate between high-and low-cardenolide milkweeds, or that larvae do better on one than on the other. There is no garden equivalent of "one size fits all." You want to use species that make sense where you are located! That's what gardening 'zones' are there for...The genus Asclepias extends south to Argentina (the s-most species, A. mellodora, is the major host of the South American Monarch, Danaus erippus) so yes, there are milkweeds in Mexico…. There are so many resources readily available, but people are lazy, don't know how to search properly, or prefer to create their own 'facts' a la Fox News...it gets discouraging. God bless Master Gardeners and Farm Advisers!”

Stay tuned!

A male monarch nectaring Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A male monarch nectaring Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A male monarch nectaring Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, January 16, 2015 at 5:55 PM

Have You Seen Me?

Cabbage white butterfly nectaring on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Have you seen me?

Me, being a cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae)?

No? No one else has, either.

Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, is looking and waiting. Every year he sponsors "A Beer for a Butterfly" contest, and the first person who finds and collects the first cabbage white of the new year--within the three-county area of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano counties--receives a pitcher of beer or its equivalent.

Shapiro, who is in the field more than 200 days a year,  usually wins his own contest. He has been defeated only three times since he launched the contest in 1972. And all were his graduate students. Adam Porter defeated him in 1983; and Sherri Graves and Rick VanBuskirk each won in the late 1990s.

In 2014, Shapiro netted the winning butterfly at 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14 in West Sacramento, Yolo County. It ranked as "the fifth or sixth earliest since 1972." 

Well, Jan. 14, 2015 has come and gone, and no winner.

Shapiro was out looking for it today in the Gates Canyon area of Vacaville, one of the butterfly populations he regularly monitors. Apparently the butterfly was in a "no fly" zone.

A woman visiting the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house last Sunday reported seeing one in Davis but hadn't netted it. Yet.

"Do you like beer?" we asked her.

"I love beer," she said.

"Well, if you win, you'll get a pitcher of it," we told her.

To remind herself to net the cabbage white "on the way home or early in the morning,"  she inked "Cabbage White" on her hand.

Apparently she didn't net it, because Shapiro reported no winners today.

Shapiro sponsors the annual contest to draw attention to Pieris rapae and its first flight. It's all part of his four-decade study of climate and butterfly seasonality. “It is typically one of the first butterflies to emerge in late winter. Since 1972, the first flight has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20."

Shapiro maintains a butterfly website, where he records the population trends he monitors in Central California. The cabbage white, he said, is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago here. It inhabits vacant lots, fields and gardens where its host plants, weedy mustards, grow. 



The contest rules?

  • It must be an adult (no caterpillars or pupae) and must be captured outdoors.
  • It must be brought in alive to the department office, 2320 Storer Hall, UC Davis, during work hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with the full data (exact time, date and location of the capture) and your name, address, phone number and/or e-mail. The receptionist will certify that it is alive and refrigerate it. (If you collect it on a weekend or holiday, keep it in a refrigerator; do not freeze. A few days in the fridge will not harm it.
  • Shapiro is the sole judge.

Shapiro initially predicted he'd net "the first of 2015" on Jan. 13, unless he were selected for jury duty.

Was he selected? "No. They filled the jury before I came up for voir dire," he said. "Just as well--I would have had some serious questions, given what I know about the case."

We don't imagine the lawyers would have excused him, anyway. "Chasing butterflies" does not seem like a valid excuse.

Meanwhile, Shapiro believes the contest will end sometime next week. "We should have a winner by then," he said.

Today Art Shapiro looked for a cabbage white butterfly along Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville, but didn't find it. The photo is from one of his 2014 field trips up Gates Canyon Road. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Today Art Shapiro looked for a cabbage white butterfly along Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville, but didn't find it. The photo is from one of his 2014 field trips up Gates Canyon Road. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Today Art Shapiro looked for a cabbage white butterfly along Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville, but didn't find it. The photo is from one of his 2014 field trips up Gates Canyon Road. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Where, oh, where is that cabbage white butterfly? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Where, oh, where is that cabbage white butterfly? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Where, oh, where is that cabbage white butterfly? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at 9:08 PM

A Posse for the Pieiris?

Art Shapiro
In case you've forgotten amid all the horn-blowing, champagne-sipping and singing of "Auld Lang Syne," the search is still on to collect the first cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) of 2015 in the three county-area of Yolo, Sacramento and Solano.

So, pull on your boots, gather your posse, grab your nets and head off to where you think a cabbage white butterfly might be. That would include vacant lots, fields and gardens where its host plants, weedy mustards, grow.

Butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, has sponsored the annual contest, "Beer for a Butterfly," since 1972. If you collect the first one, and it's verified by judge Shapiro, you'll win a pitcher of beer or its equivalent.

Professor Shapiro says it's too cold out for the cabbage white to fly. "Both yesterday (Thursday, Jan. 1) and today (Friday, Jan. 2) were too cold for even the 'hibernator' Vanessas to come out," he said. "I don't expect rapae before AT LEAST the 13th. By the way, the prognosis looks quite dry through mid-January, but the 90-day outlook is quite wet. In late September, I forecast 130 percent of average rainfall for the season. I'm sticking with that."

Shapiro not only knows butterflies but he knows the weather. His opinion of what's happening with the California weather? (Heavy rains, flooding, heavy rains, flooding.)

"It's a drought. We'd need at least 150 percent, better 200 percent of average seasonal rainfall to get the reservoirs to the point where water managers could undeclared the drought," he said in an email today. "But even if we got that--say with a series of Pineapple Express storms--prudence would dictate releasing some of the inflow to make room for more. It's a crap shoot. This is California, where booms and busts are born. By the way, the snow level has been high so far, so even though the snow is Sierra cement and has a high water content, the pack is mostly above 7500', so the area is pretty small (look at a satellite photo) and no part of the Sierra is carrying more than 50 percent of its seasonal storage capacity."

The "Beer for a Buttterfly" contest is all part of Shapiro's four-decade study of climate and butterfly seasonality. “It is typically one of the first butterflies to emerge in late winter. Since 1972, the first flight has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20.”

Shapiro says his long-term studies of butterfly life cycles and climate "are especially important to help us understand biological responses to climate change. The cabbage white is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago here."

Shapiro, who is in the field more than 200 days a year,  usually wins his own contest. He knows where and when to look. In 2014, he netted the winning butterfly at 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14 in West Sacramento, Yolo County. It ranked as "the fifth or sixth earliest since 1972."

The contest rules include:

  • It must be an adult (no caterpillars or pupae) and be captured outdoors.
  • It must be brought in alive to the department office, 2320 Storer Hall, UC Davis, during work hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with the full data (exact time, date and location of the capture) and your name, address, phone number and/or e-mail. The receptionist will certify that it is alive and refrigerate it. (If you collect it on a weekend or holiday, keep it in a refrigerator; do not freeze. A few days in the fridge will not harm it.)
  • Shapiro is the sole judge.

Shapiro has been defeated only three times since 1972. And all were his graduate students. Adam Porter defeated him in 1983; and Sherri Graves and Rick VanBuskirk each won in the late 1990s.

Shapiro maintains a website on butterflies, where he records the population trends he monitors in Central California.  He and biologist/writer/photographer Tim Manolis co-authored A Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions, published in 2007 by the University of California Press.

Cabbage white butterfly on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Cabbage white butterfly on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Cabbage white butterfly on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, January 2, 2015 at 5:33 PM

A Beer for a Butterfly

Art Shapiro
DAVIS--A beer for a butterfly.

If you collect the first live cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) of 2015 in Yolo, Sacramento or Solano counties and have it verified as the winner, you'll get a pitcher of beer or its equivalent.

Arthur Shapiro, distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, is sponsoring his annual “Beer for a Butterfly” contest to draw attention to Pieris rapae and its first flight.

The contest, launched in 1972, is all part of Shapiro's four-decade study of climate and butterfly seasonality. “It is typically one of the first butterflies to emerge in late winter. Since 1972, the first flight has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20.”

"I do long-term studies of butterfly life cycles and climate," he said. "Such studies are especially important to help us understand biological responses to climate change. The cabbage white is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago here."

Shapiro, who is in the field more than 200 days a year,  usually wins his own contest. In 2014, he netted the winning butterfly at 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14 in West Sacramento, Yolo County. It ranked as "the fifth or sixth earliest since 1972."

The professor, fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Entomological Society and the California Academy of Sciences,  said the cabbage white butterfly inhabits vacant lots, fields and gardens where its host plants, weedy mustards, grow.

The white butterfly, with black dots on the upperside (which may be faint or not visible in the early season), inhabits vacant lots, fields and gardens where its host plants, weedy mustards, grow. It is typically one of the first butterflies to emerge in late winter.

The male is white. The female is often slightly buffy;  the "underside of the hindwing and apex of the forewing may be distinctly yellow and normally have a gray cast,” Shapiro says. “The black dots and apical spot on the upperside tend to be faint or even to disappear really early in the season.”

The contest rules include:

  • It must be an adult (no caterpillars or pupae) and be captured outdoors.
  • It must be brought in alive to the department office, 2320 Storer Hall, UC Davis, during work hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with the full data (exact time, date and location of the capture) and your name, address, phone number and/or e-mail. The receptionist will certify that it is alive and refrigerate it. (If you collect it on a weekend or holiday, keep it in a refrigerator; do not freeze. A few days in the fridge will not harm it.
  • Shapiro is the sole judge.

Shapiro has been defeated only three times since 1972. And all were his graduate students. Adam Porter defeated him in 1983; and Sherri Graves and Rick VanBuskirk each won in the late 1990s.

Shapiro maintains a website on butterflies, where he records the population trends he monitors in Central California.  He and biologist/writer/photographer Tim Manolis co-authored A Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions, published in 2007 by the University of California Press.

A cabbage white butterfly on catmint in Vacaville, Solano County. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A cabbage white butterfly on catmint in Vacaville, Solano County. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A cabbage white butterfly on catmint in Vacaville, Solano County. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, December 26, 2014 at 8:28 AM

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