Posts Tagged: Art Shapiro
In some respects, the pterophorid plume moth is fit to a 'T.'
"The T-square shape is classic," says butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.
"They always sit with their wings stuck out to the side like that," says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
At rest, the plume moth (famlly Pterophoridae) holds its slender wings at right angles to body, giving it a T-shaped profile.
In his book, California Insect, UC Berkeley entomologist Jerry Powell explains why they're called plume moths..."because the forewings are deeply notched and the hindwings are divided into three linear parts, each with long scale fringes. When perched, the insects roll the forewings around the folded hindwing plumes, resulting in peculiar sticklike or craneflylike appearance, unlike any other moth."
Most are noctural and are attracted to lights, Powell adds.
Scientists report some 159 described species in North America alone and more than 30 in California.
In their larval stages, some plume moths are beneficial as biological control agents. And some are pests, such as the artichoke plume moth, the geranium plume moth and the snapdragon plume moth.
When you see them resting on a plant, however, the adults look a little like those wind turbines that stretch out in the hills of Rio Vista, Solano County.
The plume moth is tiny. It's shown here on the finger of native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The plume moth at rest resembles a wind turbine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Did you count pollinators on Thursday, May 8?
That was "Be a Scientist Day," sponsored by the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Day of Science and Service to commemorate 100 years of Cooperative Extension.
UC ANR asked that you take three minutes out of your day and count the honey bees, bumble bees and butterflies and other pollinators.
Amina Harris and Art Shapiro did.
In the Good Life Garden.
It's a little treasure located in the courtyard of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on the UC Davis campus.
The Good Life Garden's ever-changing edible landscape features lots of organic and sustainably grown vegetables, herbs and flowers--all for the faculty, students, staff, and visitors to enjoy.
And for pollinators, too.
Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, and Shapiro, a butterfly expert and distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, happened to be enjoying the garden at the same time.
The count: 150 honey bees, two yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii) and one skipper butterfly. Most of them were foraging on the lavender or the catmint.
As a bonus, they saw dozens of lady beetles and immature lady beetles.
A good life. A very good life. A very good life in the Good Life Garden.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, talks pollinators with Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Skipper butterfly on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Don't go looking for the first-flight cabbage white butterfly of the year in Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties.
The beer-for-a-butterfly contest is over.
We have a winner!...drum roll...
Professor Arthur Shapiro!
Shapiro, a distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, again won his own three-county area contest by netting the first-flight cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) of the year at 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14 in West Sacramento, Yolo County.
Shapiro netted a male on the south slope of the railroad tracks where “I’ve caught at least half of the first-flight cabbage whites.” The temperature was 62 degrees, but soon rose to 70 degrees.
“I caught it in mid-air with a ballet leap!” Shapiro said, smiling.
“There was a little radish but hardly any vegetation there. It was about 40 or 50 feet from where I got the one last year, about one-fourth mile west of Harbor Boulevard. It was flying eastward along the edge of the service road.”
The annual contest, which Shapiro launched in 1972, seeks the first-flight cabbage white butterfly of the year in the three-county area of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano. He has won every year except for the three years claimed the championship title.
The contest is all part of Shapiro’s 43-year 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.”
“The cabbage white is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago here,” Shapiro said. He estimated his 2014 find ranks as "the fifth or sixth earliest since 1972."
Shapiro delivered the butterfly to the Evolution and Ecology office, where it was verified by Sherri Mann and Joe Patrocinio. No one else has submitted an entry.
The professor, fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Entomological Society and the California Academy of Sciences, initially calculated he would find the butterfly either Jan. 17 or 18. “It may have been out Monday (Jan. 13), but I was in Chico delivering a talk to the Northern California Botanists on “What Did Sacramento Valley Butterflies Do Before There Was Yellow Starthistle?”
While searching for the cabbage white on Tuesday, Shapiro also spotted a small male buckeye butterfly, (Junonia coenia) along the trail, and a mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), perched on and flying around leafless willows. “That’s the fourth earliest antiopa in the valley ever,” he said.
Shapiro said he will be celebrating his victory by sharing a pitcher of beer with a friend at an undisclosed Davis venue. “It will be PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) because I get to choose.”
The cabbage white butterfly inhabits vacant lots, fields and gardens where its host plants, weedy mustards, grow. Mustards, however, are late this year, he said, pointing out the drought. “The record for consecutive days without rainfall in the winter here is 44. We’re on the 38th day and I see no chance of rain in sight, so this record will be broken.” However, a "good Pineapple Express," he said, could easily erase the drought.
Now, with the first-flight butterfly caught and in the history/record books, “it is spring because I say so.”
Shapiro maintains a website on butterflies at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu, 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.
Suds for a bug...this is the cabbage white butterfly that Art Shapiro caught Jan. 14. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Professor Art Shapiro with his newly netted cabbage white butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) is a butterfly magnet.
In our yard, it draws gulf fritillaries, Western tiger swallowtails, cabbage whites, and fiery skippers.
Lately, fiery skippers (Hylephila phyleus) are the main draw. It's a delight to see them fluttering over the blossoms and then touching down for a sip of nectar.
Or chasing one another.
This species is California's most urban butterfly, says butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolution at the University of California, Davis. It's "almost limited to places where people mow lawns," he says on his popular website, Art's Butterfly World.
"Its range extends to Argentina and Chile and it belongs to a large genus which is otherwise entirely Andean. Its North American range may be quite recent. Here in California, the oldest Bay Area record is only from 1937."
The fiery skipper is attracted to lantana, verbena, zinnias, marigolds, and "in the wild seems quite happy with yellow starthistle," Shapiro says.
The butterfly breeds mostly on bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), native to the Mediterranan region, according to Shapiro.
Last weekend we noticed a courtship in the lantana. A female landed on a blossom and seconds later, a male.
"The male butts her tail with his head," Shapiro told us. One of his master's students described the courtship some 40 years ago.
Soon, more fiery skippers!
Courtship in the lantana: the female is on the left, and the male on the right. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Courtship in the lantana: second photo in a series of four. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Courtship in the lantana: third photo in a series of four. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Courtship in the lantana: fourth photo in a series of four. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
For months, I've been waiting ah, so patiently (well, not always s-o-o-o patiently) for the gulf fritillary butterfly to touch down on our Mexican sunflower, Tithonia.
A perfect match, I figured. The showy reddish-orange butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) sipping nectar from the equally orange and showy Mexican sunflower.
No such luck. Every time I'd check the yard for the special butterfly-blossom scenario, it was always landing on something else: multi-colored lantana, lavender lantana, and the passion flower vine (genus Passiflora).
And occasionally, a pomegranate tree or tomato plant.
Oh, sure, it did visit the Tithonia, but it would vanish before I could grab the camera.
However, on Sunday, following the San Francisco Giants' game, I was thinking orange. Bright orange. Baseball orange. I stepped outside, and voila!
Touchdown! The perfect match!
The butterfly lingered long enough for me to capture its image, a side view of its silver-spangled wings, as well as a bird's eye view (Please, scrub jays, don't eat my butterfly.) It then fluttered off to the passion flower vine.
The gulf flit was once prevalent in the Sacramento area in the 1960s, but "it seems to have died out by the early 1970s," according to butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.
It's been making a comeback in the Sacramento area since 2009.
Sunday was a perfect comeback day. And a perfect touchdown day!
Gulf fritillary butterfly. Agraulis vanillae, lands on Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf fritillary butterfly spreads its wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A perfect match: gulf fritillary on Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)