Posts Tagged: Art Shapiro
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
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