Posts Tagged: Art Shapiro
Nothing but net? No, no net.
We have a winner in the 40th annual Cabbage White Butterfly Competition, sponsored by butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. Shapiro traditionally offers a pitcher of beer (or its equivalent) for the first cabbage white of the year collected in Yolo, Solano or Sacramento counties and delivered to the office of the Department of Evolution and Ecology, Storer Hall.
And the winner is...drum roll, please...Art Shapiro. Fact is, he's won the contest every year except for three.
And this year, he caught the prize-winner without a net.
Shapiro nabbed the first cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) of 2011 at 1:21 p.m. today (Monday, Jan. 31) in Suisun City, Solano County. Last year he caught the first one on Jan. 27 in West Sacramento.
Although Suisun City is his oldest sampling site, dating back to 1972, Shapiro does not recall ever finding the first-of-the-year cabbage white there before. Precisely because of that, Shapiro traveled to Suisun at midday Monday without a net.
He saw it, a male, at 1:09 p.m. And he had no net.
“It was taking nectar from flowers of field mustard (Brassica kaber) along a 6-foot-high fence facing the sun,” Shapiro said. “I tried twice to catch it by hand but failed, and it soared over the fence into someone's back yard.”
"But I knew it wasn't as warm on the other side, and there probably wasn't anything in bloom either. So I figured I'd just wait and see if it came back. It did--and I got it on my first try."
Asked how he could catch an active butterfly by hand, Shapiro smiled and said "Experience." A few years ago he caught a very rare all-black mutant of the orange sulphur butterfly the same way.
Shapiro (see his website, http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu) sponsors the annual contest to draw attention to Pieris rapae and its first flight. "I am doing long-term studies of butterfly life cycles and climate," he said. "Such studies are especially important to help us understand biological responses to climate change. The cabbage white is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago here."
Shapiro, who is in the field more than 200 days a year, enlists public involvement "because I have that much more confidence that I am tracking the actual seasonality of this common 'bug.'"
Following his find, Shapiro said he took his disappointed grad students out for beer at The Graduate, a local pub, after work. “I usually buy the first pitcher anyway,” he said.
Shapiro has lost only three times in 40 years--and all by his graduate students. Adam Porter found the first cabbage white in 1983; and Sherri Graves and Rick VanBuskirk each claimed the title in the late 1990s.
Interestingly, people contact him as late as June asking if they’ve won.
“No,” he tells them. “Too late.”
Cabbage White Butterfly
The Bohart Museum, located on the University of California, Davis campus at 1124 Academic Surge on California Drive, is home to more than seven million insect specimens, plus a live “petting zoo” that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks.
The butterfly specimens range from the big and bold to the small and shy. Of special regional interest is the cabbage white butterfly; a contest is under way to find the 'first of the year" in the three-county area of Yolo, Solano or Sacramento.
The museum’s regular hours are from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. It is closed on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
To accommodate families and other area residents who are unable to attend the regular visiting hours, Mondays through Thursdays, the Bohart began offering special weekend hours last year.
Events scheduled this year, in addition to the Jan. 23 opening, are:
Saturday, Feb. 26: “Meet the Beetles,” 1 to 4 p.m.
Sunday, March 13: “The Ants Go Marching On,” 1 to 4 p.m.
Saturday, April 16: “UC Davis Picnic Day,” all day
Saturday, May 7: “Moth-ers Day,” featuring moths, 1 to 4 p.m.
Sunday, June 5: “June Bugs,” 1 to 4 p.m.
Cabbage white butterflies are the focus of Art Shapiro's 40th annual Cabbage White Butterfly Competition, which began Jan. 1, 2011.
Shapiro, a noted butterfly expert and a professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology, sponsors the annual contest to draw attention to Pieris rapae and its first flight. The first person to collect a cabbage white in Yolo, Solano or Sacramento will win a pitcher of beer or the equivalent. So far, no winner.
"I had predicted the first rapae would be between Jan 17 and Jan. 21, based on my own projection of a 3-week January dry spell," Shapiro said today. "The projection was right on, but the bug may well not be out by then."
Shapiro usually wins his own contest, but so far, no cabbage whites. However, he's been finding other members of Lepidoptera. "I did my Gates Canyon site (Vacaville) on Saturday--it was 65F!--and had a male Buckeye and 3 moth species, one being the wonderful BearSphinx, Arctonotus lucidus."
We expect to hear any day now that he's found the first cabbage white.
The R. M. Bohart Museum of Entomology, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, is dedicated to teaching, research and service. Founded in 1946 by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart, it houses the seventh largest insect collection in North America.
The Bohart Museum also includes a gift shop, where visitors can purchase t-shirts, sweatshirts, jewelry, note cards, books, posters, insect candy and other gifts. The insect candy includes chocolate-covered ants and crickets.
More information is available on the Bohart website or by contacting Tabatha Yang at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 752-9464.
Two Cabbage Whites
Skippers and sedum. Sedum and skippers.
A perfect match. The flower, sedum (family Crassulaceae), and the fiery skipper butterfly (Hylephila phyleus, family Hesperlidae) make a stunning autumn photo.
When late afternoon sun strikes its fighter-jet wings, it glows brilliantly. Move closer and you'll see the skipper sipping nectaring. Move a little more closer and...it's gone.
It does keeps its distance.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, provides comprehensive information on fiery skippers and other butterflies on his website, Art's Butterfly World.
He calls the fiery skipper "California's most urban butterfly, almost limited to places where people mow lawns. 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."
Only 1937? A newcomer, but what a beauty.
There's a whole lot of crunchin' going on.
The redhumped caterpillar has discovered our redbud tree, which it considers an "all-you-can" buffet.
Now this is a voracious eater on the same scale of a fellow named Joey "Jaws" Chestnut.
Seconds? Yes, please.
Thirds? Of course.
Well, say "when!"
Distinguished by a bright red head and an equally bright red hump behind its head (Joey has neither, by the way), the caterpillar is yellow with red and white stripes. It's about an inch and a half long and can defoliate or skeletonize a leaf faster than you can say "The redhumped caterpillar is a Schizura concinna in the family Notodontidae." (Or “Joey Chestnut ate 54 dogs and buns on July 4, 2010 and took home the Mustard Belt.”)
The redhumped caterpillar is quite fond of redbud leaves but it also takes a liking to liquidambar, walnut and plum leaves, to mention a few.
Noted butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis and the person behind "Art's Butterfly World," took one look at my trio of happy campers...er...caterpillars and commented:
"As you can see, they are gregarious and warningly colored. The red hump contains a defensive formic acid gland. They hold their anal prolegs, which are not useful for walking, in the air and thrash their rear ends in unison when disturbed. This is the ONLY defoliator of redbud around here, and is very common."
Shapiro says it also "attacks walnut and a variety of other chemically distinctive trees that other things don't eat, as a rule. The damage is minor, and I strongly advise against spraying; hand-picking can be used if control is deemed necessary, but they feed so late in the season that there is no actual harm to the tree."
No, no harm. Just some skeletonized leaves and leaf stubs.
What's the adult look like?
"The moth is very nondescript," he says. "It holds its wings wrapped around the body cylindrically and looks remarkably like a cigarette butt, though it is probably 'imitating' a broken-off twig. Despite authoritative commentary to the contrary, they have two broods a year here but are usually seen in fall. The species is native on both coasts and oddly absent in most of the mid-continent."
It will be awhile before we see the adults, which are grayish-brownish.
Shapiro says the insects "pupate in litter or slightly below the soil surface and won't hatch until June or so, if true to form."
Meanwhile, it's OTL, followed by OTD and OTB (out-to-lunch, dinner and breakfast).
It's already won the Redbud Belt.
Especially when it nectars from catmint (Nepeta) in the early evening, as the sun drops low in the horizon.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolution at the University of California, Davis, says the species was introduced in southern Canada in the 1850s. "The great lepidopterist Samuel H. Scudder traced its spread, but was unable to resolve the history on the West Coast," he writes on the website, Art's Butterfly World.
"It was not in San Francisco in the early 1880s, but was abundant by the time of the earthquake (1906)."
Just look at it now. It's everywhere. In fact, every year Shapiro sponsors a contest to see who can find the first cabbage white of the year in the Davis-Sacramento area.
He usually wins.