Posts Tagged: Art Shapiro
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)
First the lantana, and then the passion flower vine.
The Gulf Fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae) flutter daily around our backyard. They stop for a little nectar from lantana (family Verbenaceae), and then head over to the passion flower vines (genus Passiflora) to breed or lay their eggs.
You can't miss them. The Gulf Frit is a showy, reddish-orange butterfly. Its underside absolutely sparkles in a spangled iridescent silver.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, and who maintains the website, Art's Butterfly World, says the Gulf Frit was introduced into southern California in the 19th century and first recorded in the Bay Area "before 1908."
It was once prevalent in the Sacramento area in the 1960s, but seemed to have died out by the early 1970s.
Then in 2009, it began making a comeback in the Sacramento area.
It's definitely making a comeback. A beautiful comeback.
Gulf Fritillary butterfly on lantana. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Another view of the Gulf Fritillary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Side view (underside) of Gulf Fritillary about to lay an egg on a passion flower vine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
There's nothing like seeing an admiral at a marina.
That would be the Red Admiral butterfly, Vanessa atalanta, at the Berkeley marina.
It's often very common in the urban Bay Area, says butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. The Red Admirals often share sites with West Coast Ladies.
"Both breed on the weed Parietaria judaica (Pellitory) there."
We also saw a West Coast Lady, Vanessa annabella, fluttering around the Red Admiral last Saturday.
But it's the other butterflies that Shapiro is concerned about. "At this time of the year, one used to see Great Coppers (Lycaena xanthoides) up the yin-yang on the 'waste ground' across the marina parking lot, between it and the freeway. Since they made it part of Eastshore Park, it seems to be gone. Typical!"
Other "marina fauna" from back when, he says, included Anise Swallowtails and Large Marbles. "The latter seems to be gone too; it's extinct regionally but there is one population I know of near Concord."
A renowned lepidopterist, Shapiro monitors the butterfly population in Central California and posts information on his website, Art's Butterfly World.
He's the author of the book, Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions, illustrated by Tim Manolis. "The California Tortoiseshell, West Coast Lady, Red Admiral, and Golden Oak Hairstreak are just a few of the many butterfly species found in the floristically rich San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley regions," Shapiro writes. He covers and identifies more than 130 species in the book.
A West Coast Lady at the Berkeley Marina. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A Red Admiral at the Berkeley Marina. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
But they're doing it too well.
The gulf frittillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae) are mating and depositing their eggs on our passion flower vines--as we want them to do--but complete metamorphosis always seems to be incomplete. It's supposed to be egg, larva (caterpillar), chrysalis, adult.
But it's really egg, caterpillar, scrub jay food.
The ever-present scrub jays nest in our trees and swoop down periodically to feast on the caterpillars. Now that they have many mouths to feed, they seem to be even more vigilant.
But today, as luck would have it, we noticed several caterpillars tucked beneath the leaves.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, monitors the Central Valley butterfly population, including the gulf frits. In the early 1970s, scientists considered the reddish-orange showy butterfly extinct in the Sacramento/Yolo area. However, since 2000, it's been making a comeback.
Like many butterfly/plant enthusiasts, we planted the passion flower fine (tropical genus Passiflora) to attract them. We watch the gulf frits nectar on the nearby lantana and lay their tiny golden eggs on the passion flower vine.
Sadly, we're not the only ones watching them.
Gulf fritillary caterpillar munching away on passion flower leaves. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf fritillary caterpillar crawls along a stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two stages of caterpillars. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)