Posts Tagged: Art Shapiro
Monarchs and milkweed are in the news again.
As well they should be.
The declining monarch population, coupled with the decreasing scarcity of their host plant, the milkweed, is disturbing. The larvae of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) feed exclusively on milkweeds. No milkweed, no monarchs.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, says the problem hasn't totally reached California yet. "The 'dearth of milkweed' problem is primarily an East/Midwest problem, due to increased use of Roundup since the introduction of 'Roundup-ready' GM crops. It's quite real. There is no such problem out here--at least yet--but there is a new milkweed pathogen that may cause one! Dave Rizzo (UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology) and I hope to publish on it shortly. No harm in planting milkweeds, but the problem isn't a California one, at least not yet."
Journalist-photographer Alessandra Bergamin, writing in the Feb. 18 edition of Bay Nature: Exploring Nature in the San Francisco Bay Area, says that "the number of monarchs overwintering in Mexico's Oyamel fir forest has reached an all-time low," quoting the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico. "The reports suggest that factors such as loss of habitat, climate change and use of insecticides have contributed to the decline."
The situation in California, however, looked better than bleak last year. A little better. "Monarch butterfly populations in California's coastal overwintering sites showed a slight — and surprising — rebound in 2013 after more than a decade of dwindling numbers," Bergamin wrote. "The 2013 Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count tallied 211,275 monarchs at 162 sites from Sonoma County to San Diego County, up from 144,812 the year before."
Over the past two decades, however, the Western monarch population has dramatically declined in California, she pointed out in her article, "Western Monarch Population Hanging On." The downward trend is expected to continue.
Meanwhile, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, headquartered in Portland, Ore., has posted a seed finder resource so folks can find milkweed seed in their state and plant the seeds in their gardens, parks, landscapes, restoration areas and on farms.
Oakland parks supervisor Tora Rocha is taking it one step further. She is collecting the monarch caterpillars, rearing them, and releasing the adults in the Lakeside Gardens at Lake Merritt. Her newly formed Pollinator Posse has sparked the interest of volunteers, who range from school children to city council members. They all want to save the monarchs.
Rocha bans pesticides and herbicides from her pollinator gardens. “For the past fifteen years the gardens have had a pesticide-and herbicide-free policy,” Rocha told writer Constance Taylor of Wild Oakland, which offers free, Oakland-centered environmental education. “We also rely on volunteers contributing thousands of hours to keep our parks maintained--about 75% of the work is done by volunteers.”
Rocha says it's not enough to be a custodian of the land: it's important to be a steward of the land and protect the pollinators. She's created a video, posted on YouTube, that explains what she and the other Pollinator Posse members do.
Rocha and colleague Eddie Dunbar of the Insect Sciences Museum of California and a fellow Pollinator Posse member, recently visited UC Davis to share information with Shapiro and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology.
Another person keen on butterflies is Sally Levinson of Berkeley, who writes a blog on butterflies and is publishing educational videos, including "Secret Lives of Monarchs" and "In the Company of Wild Butterflies." As a graduate student at UC Riverside, Levinson studied with major professor Bruce Hammock, now a distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis. (He maintains a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.)
As an aside, the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis offers a "Got Milkweed?" t-shirt spotlighting the monarch and its host plant. The work of doctoral candidate Fran Keller and Bohart volunteer/naturalist Greg Kareofelas, the t-shirt is available online or at the museum, located in Room 1122 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane.
Want monarchs? Plant milkweed.
A monarch butterfly nectaring on a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is a milkweed, the host plant of the monarch. This photo was taken in Melissa's Garden in Healdsburg. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
They made it through the winter: the bitter cold with subfreezing temperatures; the 54-day drought (will it ever rain again?) and the heavy rain that caught us thinking about ark-building.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, was among those concerned about whether the Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) would be able to survive the winter in this area.
They did. And they are.
Shapiro spotted the "signs of life" in the City of Davis (Yolo County) and the City of Vacaville (Solano County). Naturalist/butterfly enthusiast Greg Kareofela, a volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, has also seen them in Davis.
The ones pictured in this blog we found near downtown Vacaville last Monday, Feb. 17, on a passionflower vine (Passiflora): two adults and half a dozen caterpillars. Empty chrysalids, and a few viable chrysalids, plus seed pods from the Passilfora, hung from the branches.
The showy reddish-orange butterfly continues to make a comeback in the Sacramento-Davis area. In the early 1970s, it was considered extinct in that area.
“It first appeared in the vicinity of San Diego in the 1870s,” Shapiro told us. "It spread through Southern California in urban settings and was first recorded in the Bay Area about 1908. It became a persistent breeding resident in the East and South Bay in the 1950s and has been there since.”
Shapiro describes the Gulf Fritillary as “one of the most widespread weedy butterflies in the Americas." However, he points out, it has no “native host plant in California."
Those who want to attract the Gulf Frit can do so by planting its host plant, passionflower vine (tropical genus Passiflora).
If you'd like to learn more about butterflies, ecological communities, and the science of conservation, be sure to attend Art Shapiro's talk at noon on Monday, March 24 at the Commonwealth Club, 595 Market St., San Francisco. His topic is "Ecological Communities and the March of Time."
Ecological communities as we know them are similar to freeze-frames from a long movie. Associations among species are very dynamic on millennial scales, as demonstrated by the evidence since deglaciation 15,000 years ago. Coevolution of species occurs locally in geographic mosaics and can be extremely dynamic as well. Frederic Clements, the father of American community ecology, had a holistic vision. He saw communities as super-organisms. He was wrong.
This program is part of “The Science of Conservation and Biodiversity in the 21st Century”: This series of lectures will present a new way of looking at public policy issues in conservation. The things we've assumed as facts often are not. Traditional approaches are losing ground as science illuminates new pathways for framing and achieving conservation goals.- See more at: http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/2014-03-24/arthur-m-shapiro-ecological-communities-and-march-time#sthash.iJcIhIcg.dpuf
This program is part of Commonwealth Club's “The Science of Conservation and Biodiversity in the 21st Century," according to spokersperson Chisako Ress (firstname.lastname@example.org). This series of lectures is aimed at presenting a new way of looking at public policy issues in conservation. The things we've assumed as facts often are not, she noted. Traditional approaches are losing ground as science illuminates new pathways for framing and achieving conservation goals.
From the Commonwealth Club website: "Ecological communities as we know them are similar to freeze-frames from a long movie. Associations among species are very dynamic on millennial scales, as demonstrated by the evidence since deglaciation 15,000 years ago. Coevolution of species occurs locally in geographic mosaics and can be extremely dynamic as well. Frederic Clements, the father of American community ecology, had a holistic vision. He saw communities as super-organisms. He was wrong."
You can use this coupon code "friendsforshapiro" to get a discount, Ress said. For program detail and registration, access http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/2014-03-24/arthur-m-shapiro-ecological-communities-and-march-time.
Following Shapiro's talk, the next speaker is another UC faculty member; this time it will be Joe McBride of UC Berkeley:
A Gulf Fritillary spotted Feb. 17 near downtown Vacaville, Solano County. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Another Gulf Frit on a passionflower vine on Feb. 17 near downtown Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary caterpillars on the move. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A seed pod from a passionflower vine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, excitedly points to a Pipevine Swallowtail nectaring on roadside radish.
“Battus philenor! Battus philenor!”
It's the earliest he's ever seen the Pipevine Swallowtail in Gates Canyon, Vacaville, one of his 10 fixed study sites in California's Central Valley.
It is Saturday, Jan. 25. Another day to monitor the butterfly population, something he's been doing for 42 years. He posts much of his information on Art's Butterfly World.
Shapiro has trekked up Gates Canyon since 1976. He aims for 26 visits a year. In 2013 he totaled 32 visits. In a typical season, he finds approximately 30 to 40 butterfly species, "but that's not reached every year by any means," he points out. "Last year the maximum was 31."
It's a long way up and back. Shapiro, who doesn't drive a motor vehicle, rides a bus from Davis to the Vacaville bus station, then walks three miles from downtown Vacaville to Gates Canyon Road; up the road three miles and down three miles; and back to the bus station. That's a total of 12 miles.
Shapiro works his route easily. He's like an Olympic skater as he walks up the hill: hands folded behind his back and sometimes on his hips; eyes constantly sweeping for the count. He can, and does, detects the slightest movement, the slightest rustling of leaves, the slightest flutter of wings.
This Saturday Art Shapiro records eight different species of butterflies or a total of 18 individuals. And not just butterflies: he spots a yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus voznesenskii, nectaring on radish next to a Pipevine Swallowtail.
Overall, it's a good day for "earlies." On Saturday, he sees his earliest Pieris napi, a Gray-Veined White, which beats his record of Jan. 31, 1984; his earliest Incisalia iroides, a Western Brown Elfin, eclipsing his previous records of Jan. 31 in 1976 and 1984; and his second earliest Erynnis propertius, Propertius Dusky-Wing, since Jan. 22, 1990.
Gates Canyon is bone dry. The thirsty hills and the dry creek beds ache for water. Alamo Creek, at the lower elevations, holds no water at all. At the higher elevations, the creek bed just trickles.
Shapiro's records shows that on Jan. 24, 1976, "under extreme drought conditions, I had 10 species flying at Gates Canyon. Today (Jan. 25, 2014), I had 8. Of these, only 2 were flying in '76." That amounted to 80 percent from what he detected on Jan. 24, 1976.
Shapiro keeps meticulous notes. His Jan. 25th notes include:
"Mid-70s, 90 percent sunshine (again, a few patchy altocumulus), light noth wind not getting into the upper canyon at all. No water in Alamo Creek at lower elevations; a bit more above than on Jan. 15, actually trickling audibly in spots. Vegetation little changed: alder and bay, nothing else in upper canyon (got up to ridgetop, where there is patchy bloom of manzanita and winter currant) except a totally anomalous native Lathyrus high on a sunlit, warm rock face, being visited by Battus (but I'm getting ahead of myself); somewhat more Raphanus down below, and very little Brassica. Aristolochia still dormant. The infamous 'poison oak tree' is leafing out but most poison oak is not. A few really small buckeyes are now in early leaf; hardly any green showing on big ones, even S-facing ones. No trace of Asclepias fascicularis. No Dentaria in flower and no detectable rosettes of Dodecatheon! Few birds. Still no Phainopepla. Deer and quail; no newts; no amphibian calls."
The 18 butterfly species he sighted at his Gates Canyon study site on Jan. 25:
- Battus philenor (Pipevine Swallowtail): 5 (new earliest at Gates)
- Polygonia satyrus (Satyr Anglewing): 1
- Nymphalis antiopa (Mourning Cloak): 5
- Celastrina ladon echo (Echo Blue): 3
- Pieris napi (Gray-Veined White): 1 (female-probably earliest ever)
- Incisalia augustinus iroides (Western Brown Elfin): 1
- Erynnis propertius (Propertius Dusky-Wing): 1
- Colias eurytheme (Orange Sulphur or Alfalfa Butterfly): 1
Shapiro worries about the drought. On Tuesday, Jan. 28, he recorded: "Today was the 52nd and last consecutive day with no rain in winter--a record probably never to be equaled in any of our lifetimes (I hope)."
Meanwhile, his other nine study sites in the Central Valley await him. They are all over the map, just as he is. As he says on his website: "Ranging from the Sacramento River delta, through the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains, to the high desert of the western Great Basin, fixed routes at ten sites have been surveyed at approximately two-week intervals since as early as 1972. The sites represent the great biological, geological, and climatological diversity of central California."
If you're lucky enough to accompany him on a survey, you'll hear him point out butterflies as excitedly as a winner yells "Bingo! Over here! Over here!"/span>
Pipevine Swallowtail, Battis philenor, nectaring on radish on Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, and Pipevine Swallowtail, Battis philenor. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro monitoring his study site on Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The slightest movement attracts Art Shapiro's attention. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Alamo Creek is dry at the lower elevations of Gates Canyon. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Don't go looking for the first-flight cabbage white butterfly of the year in Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties.
The beer-for-a-butterfly contest is over.
We have a winner!...drum roll...
Professor Arthur Shapiro!
Shapiro, a distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, again won his own three-county area contest by netting the first-flight cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) of the year at 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14 in West Sacramento, Yolo County.
Shapiro netted a male on the south slope of the railroad tracks where “I’ve caught at least half of the first-flight cabbage whites.” The temperature was 62 degrees, but soon rose to 70 degrees.
“I caught it in mid-air with a ballet leap!” Shapiro said, smiling.
“There was a little radish but hardly any vegetation there. It was about 40 or 50 feet from where I got the one last year, about one-fourth mile west of Harbor Boulevard. It was flying eastward along the edge of the service road.”
The annual contest, which Shapiro launched in 1972, seeks the first-flight cabbage white butterfly of the year in the three-county area of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano. He has won every year except for the three years claimed the championship title.
The contest is all part of Shapiro’s 43-year study of climate and butterfly seasonality. “It is typically one of the first butterflies to emerge in late winter. Since 1972, the first flight has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20.”
“The cabbage white is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago here,” Shapiro said. He estimated his 2014 find ranks as "the fifth or sixth earliest since 1972."
Shapiro delivered the butterfly to the Evolution and Ecology office, where it was verified by Sherri Mann and Joe Patrocinio. No one else has submitted an entry.
The professor, fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Entomological Society and the California Academy of Sciences, initially calculated he would find the butterfly either Jan. 17 or 18. “It may have been out Monday (Jan. 13), but I was in Chico delivering a talk to the Northern California Botanists on “What Did Sacramento Valley Butterflies Do Before There Was Yellow Starthistle?”
While searching for the cabbage white on Tuesday, Shapiro also spotted a small male buckeye butterfly, (Junonia coenia) along the trail, and a mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), perched on and flying around leafless willows. “That’s the fourth earliest antiopa in the valley ever,” he said.
Shapiro said he will be celebrating his victory by sharing a pitcher of beer with a friend at an undisclosed Davis venue. “It will be PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) because I get to choose.”
The cabbage white butterfly inhabits vacant lots, fields and gardens where its host plants, weedy mustards, grow. Mustards, however, are late this year, he said, pointing out the drought. “The record for consecutive days without rainfall in the winter here is 44. We’re on the 38th day and I see no chance of rain in sight, so this record will be broken.” However, a "good Pineapple Express," he said, could easily erase the drought.
Now, with the first-flight butterfly caught and in the history/record books, “it is spring because I say so.”
Shapiro maintains a website on butterflies at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu, where he records the population trends he monitors in Central California. He and biologist/writer/photographer Tim Manolis co-authored A Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions, published in 2007 by the University of California Press.
Suds for a bug...this is the cabbage white butterfly that Art Shapiro caught Jan. 14. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Professor Art Shapiro with his newly netted cabbage white butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
And it’s all in the name of science.
If you collect the first cabbage white butterfly of 2014 in the three-county area of Yolo, Solano or Sacramento, you’ll collect a pitcher of beer or its cash-prize equivalent from Professor Shapiro of the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology.
It’s all part of Shapiro’s 43-year study of climate and butterfly seasonality. He launched the annual contest in 1972 to draw attention to Pieris rapae and its first flight.
“It is typically one of the first butterflies to emerge in late winter,” he says. “Since 1972, the first flight has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20.”
The cabbage white butterfly inhabits vacant lots, fields and gardens where its host plants, weedy mustards, grow. The male has white wings; the female may be slightly buffy. The underside of the hindwing and of the tip of the forewing is distinctly yellow and the hindwing is more or less overscaled with gray below. The black markings on the upperside, except the black at the bases of the wings near the body, tend to be faint or even to disappear early in the season.
The butterfly must be collected outdoors in Yolo, Solano or Sacramento counties and must be delivered live to the office of the Department of Evolution and Ecology in 2320 Storer Hall, during work hours — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. All entries must list the exact time, date and location of the capture and the collector’s name, address, phone number and email.
“The receptionist will certify that it is alive and refrigerate it,” Shapiro said. “If you collect it on a weekend or holiday, hold it your refrigerator but do not freeze it. A few days in the fridge will not harm it.”
Shapiro, who is in the field more than 200 days a year, usually wins the contest. He has been defeated only three times since 1972. Those winners were all his graduate students, whom he calls “my fiercest competitors.” Adam Porter won the beer in 1983, and Sherri Graves and Rick VanBuskirk each won in the late 1990s. When Shapiro wins, he shares the reward with his graduate students and their significant others.
All in all, the cabbage white butterfly contest “helps us understand biological responses to climate change,” Shapiro said. “The cabbage white is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago here.”
Shapiro maintains a website on butterflies at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu, where he records the population trends he monitors 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.
Shapiro and biologist/writer/photographer Tim Manolis co-authored A Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions, published in 2007 by the University of California Press.
A distinguished professor, Shapiro is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Entomological Society and the California Academy of Sciences.
For more information on the beer-for-a-butterfly contest, contact Shapiro at email@example.com or (530) 752-2176.
Cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)