Posts Tagged: Art Shapiro
Don't look now, but a garden spider almost grabbed a tiger by the tail.
The tiger? That would be the Western tiger swallowtail, Papilio rutulus.
The ragged wings of the butterfly (below) show signs of a close encounter with a predator--maybe another spider, a praying mantis or a bird.
The Western tiger swallowtails are drop-dead gorgeous. Sporting a yellow-and-black wingspan of 2.75 to 4 inches (when not tattered by a predator!), these butterflies attract attention as they glide around gardens and parks and in riparian forests.
This is one of the butterflies that distinguished scientist Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis studies. Check out his amazing butterfly website.
LiveScience, in partnership with the National Science Foundation, recently showcased him in a feature story, "Passion for Butterflies Becomes a Study in Climate Change Impact."
You'll want to read how Shapiro first became involved in the wonderful world of butterflies, and how that passion led to a massive butterfly data collection he launched more than 40 years ago.
Despite "the high altitudes, rigorous walks and over cooperative weather, he's still going strong, exploring mountains across central California, pen and notebook in hand," wrote Ayesha Monga Kravtz of the National Science Foundation.
"Through phylogeography, Shapiro is trying to reconstruct the history of the high-mountain butterfly faunas both on the West coast of North America and in the southern parts of South America, such as Argentina and Chile," Kravtz wrote. "By reconstructing the history of these faunas, where they came from, how they moved and when, scientists and researchers can make predictions as to how the fauna will respond to climate change in the future."
And, as Shapiro told Kravtz: "The past is the key to the future."
Indeed it is. And that would include the comings and goings of the Western tiger swallowtail.
Western tiger swallowtail, Papilio rutulus, nectars on a zinnia, unaware of the danger lurking below. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of garden spider tucked beneath the petals. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
We've seen bumble bees, honey bees, sweat bees, wool carder bees and syrphid flies topple into our swimming pool, but never an alfalfa butterfly until now.
This male alfalfa butterfly--the gender identified by noted butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis--bumbled into our pool early one morning. Not sure why it fell into the pool. It spiraled over the catmint, fluttered over the pool, and then dropped into the water. Not very gracefully, either.
We netted it and placed it on a flowering artichoke so it could rest a bit and dry its wings.
The alfalfa butterfly, Colias eurytheme (common name "orange sulphur" or "alfalfa butterfly") is a significant pest of alfalfa, Shapiro says on his website, Art's Butterfly World. It "overwinters as a larva almost entirely in annual vetch at low altitudes, and colonizes alfalfa only as the vetch senesces in May-June. Aside from alfalfa and annual vetches, it also breeds on a variety of clovers and sweet clovers and occasionally on lupines."
"An oddity of sulphurs is that their orange and yellow pteridine pigments are water-soluble," Shapiro told us today. "Had it remained in the water long enough, its scales would have been leached to translucency."
And, he pointed out, "Colias that sit out in the alfalfa during overhead irrigation regularly get water-spotted."
This one not only survived but so did its colors.
Alfalfa butterfly, Colias eurytheme, lands in a swimming pool. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fished out of the pool, the alfalfa butterfly rests on the net. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Placed atop a flowering artichoke, the alfalfa butterfly dries its wings. Several minutes later it fluttered away. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When I last met up with a pipevine swallowtail, it wasn't faring well.
In fact, I didn't recognize it as a pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor), no thanks to it being in the clutches of a hungry praying mantis.
Mantids have to eat, too, but I'd prefer they express an culinary interest in pests such as spotted cucumber beetles instead of beneficial insects.
On his website, butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, calls the pipevine swallowtail "the signature riparian butterfly of our region, occurring along streams in foothill canyons and on the Central Valley floor, essentially everywhere where its only host plant, California pipevine or Dutchman's pipe, Aristolochia californica, occurs."
If you head out to the Storer Garden in the UC Davis Arboretum, you might see a pipevine swallowtail catching the breeze, stopping here and there to nectar a plant.
Maybe this time a praying mantis will catch something else.
Pipevine swallowtail visiting the Storer Garden, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantis devouring a pipevine swallowtail. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Pop goes the Pieris.
So wrote professor Art Shapiro of the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology from his office in Storer Hall.
Yes, he won his own contest again.
Every year since 1972, the butterfly expert has sponsored a beer-for-a-butterfly contest to see who can find the first cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) of 2012 in the three-county area of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano.
He netted a newly emerged male at 11:50 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 8 in in West Sacramento, Yolo County, to claim his own prize.
Shapiro immediately announced he would take his graduate students and their significant others out for a beer in a few days to celebrate. His students are typically his fiercest competitors in the contest, which is designed to aid in his studies of biological response to climate change.
Sunday’s capture date is the second earliest of record in 40 years, the earliest being Jan. 4, 1990. Shapiro said it reflects “the extraordinary sunny and dry weather that has persisted all winter, with warm afternoons, frosty nights, and little cloudiness or fog.”
“There have been numerous high-temperature records set in northern California, both in the valleys and in the Sierra Nevada, “ Shapiro said. “The abnormal conditions cannot be linked causally to global warming but are related somehow to the current La Nina, now in its second year.”
Shapiro noted that many regional first-flight records for butterflies were set during the severe drought of 1975-76, before “ the signature of global warming was observed.”
“In 1976 we had species flying at the end of January that normally come out in March,” Shapiro observed. “If the current weather pattern continues another two weeks, all those records will be at risk.”
He also pointed out that due to the lack of rainfall, germination of herbaceous plants has been very poor. “If butterflies and other insects are tricked by the weather into emerging early, the resources they need will simply not be there!”
Showing his keen sense of humor, Shapiro joked that politicians of a certain persuasion had something to say about the contest. "Despite my willingness to share the prize, news that I had won again drew harsh criticism" from them, he said. "Despite their own differences, they unanimously pointed out that I teach evolution and study climate change, both of which they consider to be hoaxes."
Shapiro, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Entomological Society and the California Academy of Sciences, maintains a website on butterflies at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu/, where he monitors butterfly population trends in Central California. He has surveyed fixed routes at 10 sites since as early as 1972. They range from the Sacramento River delta, through the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains, to the high desert of the western Great Basin. The sites, he said, represent the great biological, geological, and climatological diversity of central California.
Meanwhile, we're waiting for the 2013 beer-for-a-butterfly contest. We think we know who will win it! The winner's name starts with an "A."
Professor Art Shapiro with his newly found cabbage white butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is the first cabbage white butterfly found this year in the three-county area of Solano, Sacramento and Yolo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Every year since 1972 Shapiro has challenged the residents of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano to find the first cabbage white butterfly and bring it to him. First one to capture the butterfly in one of the three counties gets a pitcher of beer (or its cash equivalent).
Shapiro 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. 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 usually wins his own contest. He's lost only three times since 1972.
If you want to compete, be sure to check the rules.
Today he went a'hunting in West Sacramento. "What a grand and glorious April day it was!" he said. "Sixty-five degrees in West Sacramento, sunny, light and variable wind...a perfect day to get the first Pieris rapae of 2012. But I didn't. I spent 3-1/2 hours in West Sacramento checking every one of the more than 20 wild radish plants in bloom at least 3 times. If there had been a rapae there, I would have seen it! All I saw was two Vanessa annabella. The drama continues."
I looked through my Solano County photos of cabbage whites and noticed a two-at-a-time image, taken Sept. 7, 2008 in our backyard.
My camera, which can shoot eight frames a second, caught the images on the fly.
Art Shapiro can catch them with his hands. And does.
Two cabbage whites (Pieris rapae) on catmint in Vacaville, Calif., on Sept. 7, 2008. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)