Posts Tagged: butterflies
If you're passionate about Passiflora (passion flower vine), you're probably passionate about those Gulf Fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae).
It's November with temperatures in the unseasonal mid-80s, and the butterflies are laying eggs like there's no tomorrow.
From eggs to larvae to chrysalises to adults--what a sight to see.
We watched a caterpillar munch leaves as an ant scooted down to investigate. Then a magnificent adult, its wings fresh and showing no visible signs of predatory bites, fluttered down right in front of us.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, calls these butterflies a "dazzling bit of the New World Tropics."
Indeed they are. Orange never looked so good.
Ant investigates a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, spreads its wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you head over to the 137th annual Dixon May Fair, the state's oldest continuous fair, you'll see a flurry of butterflies. The fair, located at 655 S. First St., Dixon, opened Thursday, May 10 and continues through Sunday, May 13.
Colorful specimens and butterfly posters from the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, grace the Floriculture Building. Over in the Fine Arts and Photography Building and Today's Youth Building, scores of artists--young and young at heart--are displaying images or paintings of butterflies. In the Interior Living Showcase Building, a butterfly necklace sparkles.
The Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility at UC Davis is showcasing a bee observation hive in the Floriculture Building, along with beekeeping equipment, a smoker, and informational posters. Also in the Floriculture Building, you'll see painted bee boxes, decorated with honey bees, from the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program.
Ethel Calvello of Dixon, a retired teacher who painted the 26-foot-by-4-foot wall mural in the Wine Pavilion (complete with a bumble bee!), also created a ethereal butterfly painting exhibited in the Photography and Fine Arts Building. You can almost hear the wings fluttering.
This butterfly painting, in the Fine Arts and Photography Building is the work of retired teacher Ethel Calvello of Dixon. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Butterfly necklace by Marcella Segard of Fairfield is in the Interior Living Showcase Building. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This owl butterfly is from the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What do butterflies tell us about tropical diversity?
Take it from an expert.
Tropical ecologist Philip DeVries of the Department of Biological Sciences, University of New Orleans, will discuss the topic at his lecture on Thursday, Feb. 9 at the University of California, Davis.
His presentation, sponsored by the College of Biological Sciences' Storer Life Sciences Endowment, is at 4:10 p.m. in 2 Wellman Hall. Professor Phil Ward of the UC Davis Department of Entomology is his host.
Free and open to all interested persons, the lecture is sparking a lot of interest, and rightfully so.
DeVries focuses his research on insect ecology and evolution, especially butterflies. A native of Detroit, Mich., he received his doctorate in zoology from the University of Texas, Austin, in 1987.
Highly honored, DeVries has received fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, the Guggenheim and Dodge foundations, and the Smithsonian Institute. He is not only a noted researcher and ecologist, but a writer, scientific adviser and photographer.
If you listen to his piece on YouTube (uploaded in 2008), you can see, hear and feel the excitement in his voice as the long-tongued hawk moth, Morgan's Sphinx (Xanthopan morgani) pollinates Darwin's orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale) one night in a Madagascar rain forest. Truly amazing!
Background of the moth and orchid: Naturalist Charles Darwin examined the orchid in 1862 and famously predicted in his book Fertilisation of Orchids that there must be in existence a moth with a long-enough tongue (proboscis) to be able to pollinate it. The orchid's "nectar spur" measures about 12 to 14 inches long. The moth itself was discovered in Madagascar in 1903--correctly proving Darwin's prediction of its existence-- but no one saw it pollinate the orchid until DeVries headed out to the rain forest with his camera equipment. Since pollination occurs only at night, DeVries used infrared light (invisible to the moth) to capture the scene.
Jerry A. Coyne, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, blogged about the spectacular video in "Why Evolution Is True."
"The video," Coyne wrote, "was made in Madagascar by a friend of mine, Phil DeVries from the University of New Orleans, a remarkable—and, as you’ll see, intrepid—naturalist, and author of the two-volume Butterflies of Costa Rica and their Natural History."
"It’s really lovely to see how excited Phil gets when he finally sees the pollination," wrote Coyne. "Those are the juicy moments that every naturalist lives for."
Yes, indeed! It's something you never expect to see--and hope to see again.
Morpho butterfly, a genus that Phil DeVries studies. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Phil DeVries with a Morpho (genus) butterfly. (Photo by Carla Penz)
Butterflies are good learners--just ask Martha Weiss.
Weiss, associate professor of biology at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., will discuss "Lepidopteran Learning and Memory: Caterpillars, Butterflies, and the Mysterious In-Between" at the UC Davis Department of Entomology seminar on Wednesday, Nov. 16 in 122 Briggs Hall.
Her lecture, from 12:10 to 1 p.m., will make you think.
"Despite a common perception to the contrary, lepidopterans are very good learners," says Weiss, who received her bachelor's degree in geological sciences from Harvard University in 1980 and her doctorate in botany from UC Berkeley in 1992. "Indeed, learning and memory are apparent across the entire lepidopteran life cycle. Caterpillars can associate tastes or odors with the presence of food, and can also learn to avoid cues associated with aversive stimuli."
"A capacity for rapid and flexible associative learning allows butterflies to adjust their foraging efforts in response to variable floral resources and to locate appropriate host plants for oviposition," she says. "Butterflies can associate colors, patterns, and even shapes with nectar rewards or oviposition cues, and can also learn to avoid aversive stimuli."
And the pupal stage? Can a caterpillar learn something that a butterfly or moth will remember? "Perhaps surprisingly," Weiss says, "the answer is YES -- memory of larval experience can persist in the pupa over a month, and is clearly expressed in the emergent adults."
That's not all. "Lepidoptera provide terrific opportunities, well beyond the familiar painted lady life cycle, for hands-on elementary science education."
Her talk is scheduled to be recorded and then posted on UCTV.
So, the next time you see a butterfly, such as a Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus), landing on a Tithonia or other blossom, just remember that "butterflies can associate colors, patterns and even shapes with nectar rewards or oviposition cues."
Butterflies are good learners!
Biologist Martha Weiss of Georgetown University studies Lepidopteran learning and memory.
A Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) lands on a Mexican sunflower, aka Tithonia, in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Butterfly guru Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, says he's now a "cover boy," too.
Shapiro is featured in the current edition of Sacramento News & Review. The headline: "Butterflyman: Is the Climate Heating Up? A UC Davis Lepitopdera Detective Cracks the Case."
Fact is, Shapiro chases butterfly. It's his passion, pure and simple. He maintains "Art's Butterfly World" website, does nearly year-around field research, and is widely published.
He also has a keen sense of humor. When SN&R reporter Hugh Biggar and photographer Ryan Donahue tagged along with him to Sacramento's Granite Park, Shapiro spotted a male orange sulphur butterfly flying around in the vetch.
"He's probably looking for a mate, and we are not what he has in mind," Shapiro told them, as they moved on.
Shapiro is now pursuing painted ladies.
The Lepitoderan kind.
"I’ve begun receiving inquiries about whether or not to expect a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) migration this spring," he told us last week. "In good years they would already be showing up, but there have been no reports so far anywhere in California, to my knowledge. The phenomenon depends on breeding success in the desert wintering grounds, which in turn depends on the rains producing a good crop of annuals for the larvae to feed on. After good late autumn and December rains, the tap was turned off for seven weeks—just like here—and the early annuals either dried up or froze. There were good rains over the President’s Day weekend—almost 2 inches at Anza-Borrego—which have already triggered another round of germination.
"But is it too little, too late? It all depends on March. 1992 had a very wet March after a dry midwinter. However, the northward migration is controlled by photoperiod (we think), and any butterflies that are around in March will head north rather than try to breed down south. So the timing is dicey. As of now, I would NOT expect a big flight here this spring."
If anyone can find Vanessa cardui, Art Shapiro can.
Orange Sulphur Butterfly
West Coast Lady