Posts Tagged: Western tiger swallowtail
If I were in charge of a praying mantis' daily diet, I would enforce one stringent rule: "Please don't eat the pollinators! Do not, I repeat, target the bees or butterflies. Leave them alone!"
The mundane menu would include flies, gnats, stink bugs, aphids, mosquitoes, yellowjackets, grasshoppers, leaffooted bugs and not much else.
But since I'm not likely to be employed as the chef of a praying mantis' diet, these predators can--and do--eat what they want.
This morning I encountered a praying mantis perched on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in our bee garden. He saw me. He swiveled his head about 180 degrees as he followed me with his five keen eyes--two large compound eyes and three smaller simple eyes. Hmm, not potential prey. He went about "praying"--bending his front legs and "assuming the position."
Okay, I thought. "Go catch a fly, gnat, stink bug, aphid, mosquito, yellowjacket, grasshopper or leaffooted bug."
So, what did he catch? A beautiful Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) which made the fatal mistake of landing on his flower.
Yes, a praying mantis has to eat. Yes, he was hungry. Yes, it's nature. But why not a stink bug?
He polished off a butterfly.
"Yummy!" declared a colleague.
A praying mantis eyes the photographer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The praying mantis quickly snatches a Western tiger swallowtail. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The predator gripping his prey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Predator polishing off his prey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's a joy to see the anise swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) fluttering around in community gardens, bee gardens and parks.
Last weekend in a Benicia community garden, we spotted this sunny butterfly, as identified by Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, who monitors Central California butterflies and posts information on his website, Art's Butterfly World.
Its distinctive yellow, blue and blue colors remind us of the Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus).
Unlike the Western tiger swallowtail, however, the anise swallowtail has large patches of black on the front portion of its forewing.
You'll see the anise swallowtail around its host plant, anise, Foeniculum vulgare, a weed with a licorice scent. Anise swallowtails breed on the anise and poison hemlock, Conium maculatum, Shapiro says.
Last weekend in Benicia, the anise swallowtail took an interest in wild radish.
Check out the beautiful photos of the anise swallowtail on BugGuide.net, which says it was first described in 1852 by Hippolyte Lucas as Papilio zelicaon. That was during California's Gold Rush Days and a year later, in 1853, settlers introduced the European or Western honey bee to California.
Anise swallowtail visiting a community park in Benicia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Anise swallowtail foraging on wild radish. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
We have liftoff! Anise swallowtail leaves the wild radish. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Caterpillar of the anise swallowtail. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
You never know what you'll see on a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).
Honey bees. Check.
Sweat bees. Check.
But sometimes these rough-and-tumble blossoms are graced with a Western tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio rutulus).
This gorgeous yellow-and-black butterfly glides so delicately and so freely in our gardens that we want it to stay forever.
We spotted this one this morning in the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis. The garden, owned and operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
The garden is open from dawn to dusk. Bring a camera, a hat, some sunscreen, and enjoy lunch at one of the picnic tables in the garden.
Maybe, just maybe, a Western tiger swallowtail, will flutter by.
It's one of the little pleasures of life.
Western tiger swallowtail on a purple coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Western tiger swallowtail spreads its wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
That's when butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, will be speak at the Northern California Entomology Society meeting, to be held at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
The meeting will begin at 9:15 a.m. with registration for club members and guests, and conclude at approximately 2:30 p.m. The group, which meets three times a year, is comprised of university faculty, researchers, pest abatement professionals, students and other interested persons.
Shapiro will lead off the program at 9:45 a.m. with his talk on “History of the Sacramento Valley Butterfly Fauna.” A noted butterfly expert, he has monitored butterflies for more than 35 years in the Central Valley and maintains Art's Butterfly World website.
Chemical ecologist Steve Seybold of the USDA Forest Service, Davis, and an affiliate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, will speak on “Goldspotted Oak Borer in California” at 10:30 a.m.
Following the lunch from noon to 1 p.m., Jason Leathers of Pest Detection/Emergency Projects, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), will cover “Pest Control Approaches and Evaluations on Success of 2012 Insect Eradication Programs in California.”
At 1:45 p.m., Stephen Brown, CDFA, and Anthony Jackson, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), USDA, will discuss “California and Federal Regulations Concerning Importing Living Plant Pests.”
The society meets three times a year: the first Thursday of February at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Sacramento; the first Thursday of May, at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis; and the first Thursday of November in the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District conference room, Concord.
Membership is open to the public; dues are only $10 year. President is Robert Dowell, a staff environmental scientist at CDFA.
More information about the meeting is available from Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. Serving as the society’s treasurer, he can be reached at email@example.com or by (530) 752-0472.
Western tiger swallowtail, Papilio rutulus, on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
And a free one, at that.
UC Davis graduate student Melissa Whitaker, who is studying for her doctorate with noted butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, has just created an app or application for iphones, ipods and ipads.
It's called Butterfly Guide: Butterflies of the Sacramento Valley, Delta and San Francisco Bay Area. Click on Itunes to download it.
So if you're from the Sacramento or San Francisco area, and see a butterfly fluttering around, you can identify it by consulting this free app. Western tiger swallowtail? Check. That would be Papilio rutulus. Monarch butterfly? Check. Danaus plexippus. Gulf fritillary? Check. Agraulis vanillae.
Her app includes 117 species of butterflies, complete with photos, descriptions, common names, scientific names and family names. Shapiro, her key source of information and inspiration, maintains a comprehensive website that includes data he's collected for more than three decades. He's the author of Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions.
Whitaker engaged two computer science undergraduates, Joey Jiron and Bryan Maass, for the app development.
Whitaker, who's from Colorado but claims California as home, says she's relatively new to the butterfly scene. "Always a lover of nature and natural history education, I quickly arrived at butterflies as ideal study organisms for my PhD research," she says.
Whitaker describes the app as a "mobile tool for natural history education and biodiversity informatics, using the butterflies of the region."
Her website details how to use the guide and how to share data. She's hoping to encourage users to become citizen scientists.
Whitaker is especially interested in the teaching aspect. "Butterflies are absolutely terrific models for education in the science classroom, and capture the attention of all ages," she says on her website. "They can be used to teach many biological concepts: mimicry, conservation, species interactions, biodiversity, migration, ecology, evolution, life history development, and on and on! They can also be great tools for inspiring people to spend more time outside observing their natural (or semi-natural) surroundings. With this in mind, we hope teachers and educators will find ways to incorporate butterfly monitoring into their classrooms and will share their curriculum and ideas. For great ideas for biodiversity lesson plans check out Project Noah's Education page."
"Our long-term vision for this project is that The Butterfly Guide will provide a template for The Lizard Guide, The Urban Spider Guide, The Wildflower Guide—a whole series of guides!" she says. "With that in mind we can provide all development materials to folks who want to create their own educational, community-driven and non-commercial (free!) field guide apps."
The National Science Foundation funded the project through its REACH-IGERT program. REACH is an acronym for REsponding to RApid Environmental CHange (REACH), while IGERT is Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship.
Western tiger swallowtail is one of the butterflies listed in Melissa Whitaker's app. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)