Posts Tagged: Art Shapiro
Collembola! Watch the springtails spring!
Over the last several days, Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of Caifornia, Davis, has patrolled a UC Davis sidewalk checking out a huge volume of springtails.
"Literally millions of little buff-colored springtails," he related Monday, "have been swarming for the past three days on the sidewalk and adjacent strip under the oak trees on the east side of Howard Way, about halfway between the parking garage and Russell Boulevard, mostly around 7 to 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. I've never seen such numbers, except for the snow springtails in winter in upstate New York."
I trekked over to Howard Way at 7 a.m. today and it took awhile to find these little buff-colored organisms. That's because they're oh, so tiny! They're less than six millimeters long--that's 0.24 inches in length. And they move fast.
Obviously, Art Shapiro has the eyes of an eagle. I don't.
Springtails (order Collembola) are those primitive, wingless six-legged critters you find in soil, leaf litter, decaying wood and other damp places. Basically, they're known for working the soil. However, some springtails, such as Sminthurus viridis, are agricultural crop pests.
Why are they called springtails? Retired UC Berkeley entomologist Jerry Powell writes in California Insects (a University of California Press book co-authored by entomologist Charles Hogue): "Most springtails are readily recognizable by a forked, tail-like appendage (furcula) which arises toward the rear of the abdomen and which the insect snaps against the substratum, springing itself into the air."
California has about 130 species that spring themselves into the air.
Frankly, it's a wonder anyone can see them, springing or not springing.
A springtail (look to the right of "of") next to a penny. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The springtail is less than 6 millimeters long. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Site of the springtail sightings on Howard Way, looking toward Russell Boulevard on UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Noted butterfly expert Art Shapiro of UC Davis sees about 40 yellow sulphur butterflies, aka alfalfa butterflies, during alfalfa-cutting time.
We saw one yesterday.
It was fluttering over by the tennis courts, corner of Russell Boulevard and Howard Way, on the University of California, Davis campus.
Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolution, writes on his popular "Butterfly World" website that these yellow sulphur butterflies (Colias eurytheme) reach "very high densities in alfalfa fields in midsummer to autumn."
When the alfalfa is cut, they "may emigrate en masse, even flooding into cities," he says.
"Although it is a significant alfalfa pest, this butterfly overwinters as a larva almost entirely in annual vetch at low altitudes, and colonizes alfalfa only as the vetch senesces in May-June," Shapiro points out. "Aside from alfalfa and annual vetches, it also breeds on a variety of clovers and sweet clovers and occasionally on lupines. It seems certain that the planting of alfalfa has greatly increased its range and abundance."
With these colorful butterflies, they don't stay linger long during their flight of fancy. You have to shoot on the run. Aim, pre-focus, shoot.
And away it flutters.
Yellow sulphur butterfly ready for take-off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A streak of gray, but don't wash it away.
The gray hairstreak is a butterfly.
We spotted this delicate-looking butterfly (Strymon melinus) on a red pincushion flower (Scabiosa) this week in Winters, Yolo County.
Gray on red. Fauna on flora. A Strymon on a Scabiosa.
Butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, includes hairstreaks in his book, Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions (University of California Press).
If you look on his website, Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site, you can read all about the butterflies he studies.
You'll often see the butterfly on the mallows, Spanish lotus, bird's-foot trefoil, white clover, alfalfa, and scores of other plants. We saw it nectaring on catmint (Nepeta) in our yard.
And on Scabiosa. A Strymon on a Scabiosa.
Gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) on a red pincushion flower (Scabiosa). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of a gray hairstreak. (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
Mellow yellow! The butterflies are back!
We spotted a bright yellow butterfly nectaring a bush germander on Feb. 7 in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis.
He said it "counts as the first Valley record in 2011."
The orange sulphur butterfly, also known as "the alfalfa butterfly," often reaches "very high densities in alfalfa fields in midsummer to autumn," Shapiro says. When the alfalfa is cut, it "may emigrate en masse, even flooding into cities. This is also our most variable butterfly, seasonally and individually."
Its presence on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, probably had something to do with the unseasonable warm weather--or that enticing-- oh, so enticing--bee friendly garden.
It's friendly to other pollinators, too!
Like orange sulphur butterflies...
Shapiro's the professor who sponsors the "beer for butterfly" competition; for 40 years he has issued a call for the first cabbage white butterfly of the year in Yolo, Solano or Sacramento. (He usually wins; he collected the first one of 2011 in Suisun City, Solano County, on Jan. 31.)
Perhaps Professor Shapiro should sponsor a "wine for a butterfly" contest: the first orange sulphur butterfly of the year photographed in the garden receives a....drum roll...bottle of wine. Or, maybe the first to find a yellow-faced bumble bee in the haven could receive...ahem...a jar of honey. And Kool-Aid for the first cuckoo bee!
No matter, it's a treat to find such a glorious butterfly--and so early in the year.
Orange Sulphur Butterfly
Sharing Air Space