You can find out at the second annual Butterfly Summit, a free event hosted by Annie's Annuals and Perennials in Richmond. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 26 at Annie's nursery, located at 740 Market St.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, will speak at 11 a.m., covering the status of butterflies in the area. The author of Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions (UC Press, 2007), he has collected data over 46 years, tallying 150 species, and maintains a research website at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu/.
The distinguished professor will cover such questions as:
- Are insect faunas in free fall (as reported in Germany)?
- What have we learned from 46 years of butterfly monitoring?
- What are the relative impacts on butterflies of climate change, land use change, introduced species and pesticides?
- Are there differences in how butterfly faunas are behaving near sea level vs. in the mountains?
- Are the scary headlines about the monarch butterflies being "endangered" true? If so, why? If not, why the fuss?
Shapiro began monitoring north-central California butterflies in 1972. His is the largest and oldest such dataset in North America.
The family friendly event will include displays of the life cycle of butterflies and information on creating and preserving habitats. Tables will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to offer information to visitors. The presenters are:
- Tim Wong, aquatic biologist at the California Academy of Sciences and known as "the pipevine swallowtail whisperer."
- Tora Rocha and fellow members of the Pollinator Posse at the Gardens at Lake Merritt, a volunteer group that supports pollinators and rears monarch caterpillars
- Andrea Hurd of Mariposa Garden Design, specializing in permaculture methods and songbird, butterfly and pollinator habitat gardens, using California native and pollinator friendly plants. Hurd will share methods for designing meadows for butterflies.
- Kelli Schley-Brownfield of Wild Flower Garden Design, Devil Mountain Nursery, and Pollinator Posse member, who will demonstrate butterfly puddling spots using Annie's plants.
- Evelyn Orantes, independent curator, arts educator and teaching artist and a new member of the Pollinator Posse, will share visual representations of butterflies in arts and culture.
- Andy Liu, landscape architect and garden design specializing in butterfly habitat, will explain why his neighborhood is alive with swallowtails, gulf fritillaries and "many other winged wonders."
- Sal Levinson, author and entomologist specializing in butterfly habitats. She is the author of Butterfly Papercrafts, which contains 21 indoor projects for outdoor learning.
Another attraction, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. is "Giant Puppets Save the World," featuring the silk and bamboo menagerie of monarchs, hummingbirds "and more" with Toni Tone, an artist, puppeteer and stilt walker. It's billed as "super fun for the kids."
She's the recipient of a prestigious three-year fellowship, a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, for her research proposal, “Promoting Food Security by Optimizing Wildflower Plantings to Support Wild and Managed Bees.”
This highly competitive fellowship, funded by the Department of Defense, drew more than 3600 applicants. Maureen was one of 69 awardees.
“The fellowship is well deserved,” said Williams, her major professor and a pollination ecologist and a UC Davis Chancellor's Fellow. “Maureen is a talented researcher, who shows a real passion for her research that is combined with a highly analytical meticulous approach.”
Of her project, Williams said: “Her work melds careful field sampling with advanced analysis, including computational optimization modeling. It will move existing research to a new level by exploring the nutritional basis of competitive interactions among pollinators. The project builds from a solid foundation but his highly innovative. Its results should be of tremendous value to the scientific community, but are also highly relevant for decision making to promote sustainable food systems for California and beyond.”
Page received her bachelor's degree in biology, cum laude, from Scripps College, Claremont, Calif., in 2016, and then enrolled in the UC Davis entomology graduate program, with a career goal of becoming a professor and principal investigator.
“I became interested in UC Davis because I was interested in working in Neal's lab,” she related. “After my sophomore year of college, I participated in National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF REU) with the Chicago Botanic Gardens. One of the professors I was working with, Jennifer Ison, told me that my research interests aligned well with the work coming out of Neal's lab and I quickly realized she was right.”
Her dissertation research focuses on using plant-pollinator interaction networks to (1) assess the impact of honey bee introductions on native plant pollination and (2) optimize wildflower plantings to simultaneously support honey bee health and diverse native bee communities.
“I've always loved flowers and I think my love of bees grew out of my academic interest in pollination ecology and a desire to apply my talents towards research that would benefit farmers and pollinator conservation efforts,” said Page, a native of San Francisco but who grew up in Ashland, Ore.
As a volunteer researcher for Southern Oregon University, she worked on a watershed project in the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and was named the City of Ashland's Conservationist of the Year in April 2012. The city honored her at its Earth Day celebration.
Keenly interested in bee research, Page received a 2013 Scripps Environmental Research Grant to establish a solitary bee monitoring program at the Bernard Field Station in Claremont. She created a reference collection and species list of bee diversity at the field station, gaining experience collecting, pinning and identifying bee specimens. She presented her findings at the Scripps Undergraduate Research Symposium. Page later worked on a project categorizing pollen deposition by the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenkii to California figwort, Scrophularia california.
An average day?
“My field season has started, so on an ‘average day' I'm at one of my lab's wildflower plantings by 7 a.m. and driving home with coolers of bees and flowers around 7 p.m.,” Page said. “The most fun part of my fieldwork is using something called a ‘mobile bouquet' to measure single-visit pollen deposition by different pollinator taxa to different plant taxa.”
Page was awarded a grant from the Davis Botanical Society earlier this year, and won second place in the graduate students' poster competition at the 2018 UC Davis Bee Symposium for her poster, “Impacts of Honey Abundance on the Pollination of Eschscholzia californica. Last year she received a Northern California Botanists' Grant and a Davis Botanical Society Grant.
Eager to reach youth about the importance of pollinators, Page began volunteering in 2016 for the Center for Land-Based Learning, mentoring students from Sacramento High School, and engaging them in hands-on conservation science at Say Hay Farms, a 20-acre family farm in Yolo County. She has taught students at her Davis area field site about the benefits of providing wildflower habitat for pollinators.
The UC Davis doctoral student has also presented lectures at the Hoes' Down Harvest Festival, Yolo County, on “Pollinators on the Farm” and led a kids' bug hunt. She presented an invited lecture on “Beneficial Insects in Home Gardens” to the El Dorado Master Gardeners, part of the UC Cooperative Extension program, and volunteered at their other activities.
Page serves as secretary of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association. In her leisure time, she enjoys “baking, rock climbing, learning new things, and sketching--mostly-flowers, bees, and sometimes butterflies.”
So we purchased a sky blue Penstemon cultivar with a tag labeled "Penstemon Margarita BOP."
Bureau of Prisons? Bottom of the Pyramid? Business Owner's Policy? Basic Operation Plan? Breach of Peace?
No, none of the above. It's an acronym for "Bottom of the Porch."
Now that's descriptive!
Las Pilitas Nursery, Santa Margarita, Calif., named it that because...well...it was growing at the Bottom of the Porch. The label explains that the "seedling that came up sometime in the early 1980s. Every year it would flower and be gorgeous clear sky blue, fading to purple. We've never watered it nor maintained it. Every year we talked about how beautiful, neat, clean it was. The bicycles, skateboards and dogs have run over it tens of times but it still looks good at the bottom off the porch."
Horticulturists tell us that Penstemon is the largest genus of flowering plants endemic to North America. It's known for its tube-shaped, two-lipped flowers. The name, Penstemon? It's derived from the Greek word, "penta," meaning five, referring to the infertile fifth stamen.
But if you look closely, you can see why its common name is "beardtongue." See the open mouth and protruding fuzzy tongue?
Whatever its origin or structure, it's a magnet for honey bees, bumble bees and butterflies. We observed honey bees engaging in scores of balletlike maneuvers: somersaults, cartwheels and pirouettes.
Or maybe we should just call the moves "bee-bopping."
Just call it "Fire and Fury in a Pollinator Garden."
That would be the firecracker red flameskimmer dragonfly, Libellula saturata.
They fly into our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif., attracted by the lily-padded pond and the all-you-can-eat buffet of flying insects.
They snag their prey in flight--usually a native bee or syprhid fly--and perch on a bamboo stake to eat it.
Table for one, please! No, waiter, I don't need a napkin. Thank you, though.
Native to North America, they are a delight to see and photograph. Sometimes they allow multiple close-up images and that's when we turn into a paparazzi! (To be honest, we'd rather take images of low-flying dragonflies than of high-profile people.)
Their flight reminds us of helicopters. Firecracker red helicopters.
If you've ever thought about the dragonfly being a perfect design for a helicopter, you'd be right.
Check out the website, "Design and the Universe," for its informative piece on "The Dragonfly: The Inspiration for the Helicopter."
"The wings of the dragonfly cannot be folded back on its body. In addition, the way in which the muscles for flight are used in the motion of the wings differs from the rest of insects. Because of these properties, evolutionists claim that dragonflies are "primitive insects."
"In contrast, the flight system of these so-called 'primitive insects' is nothing less than a wonder of design. The world's leading helicopter manufacturer, Sikorsky, finished the design of one of their helicopters by taking the dragonfly as a model.6 IBM, which assisted Sikorsky in this project, started by putting a model of a dragonfly in a computer (IBM 3081). Two thousand special renderings were done on computer in the light of the manoeuvres of the dragonfly in air. Therefore, Sikorsky's model for transporting personnel and artillery was built upon examples derived from dragonflies."
"The body of a dragonfly looks like a helical structure wrapped with metal. Two wings are cross-placed on a body that displays a colour gradation from ice blue to maroon. Because of this structure, the dragonfly is equipped with superb manoeuvrability. No matter at what speed or direction it is already moving, it can immediately stop and start flying in the opposite direction. Alternatively, it can remain suspended in air for the purpose of hunting. At that position, it can move quite swiftly towards its prey. It can accelerate up to a speed that is quite surprising for an insect: 25mph (40km/h), which would be identical to an athlete running 100 metres in the Olympics at 24.4mph (39km/h).
"At this speed, it collides with its prey. The shock of the impact is quite strong. However, the armoury of the dragonfly is both very resistant and very flexible. The flexible structure of its body absorbs the impact of collision. However, the same cannot be said for its prey. The dragonfly's prey would pass out or even be killed by the impact."
"Following the collision, the rear legs of dragonfly take on the role of its most lethal weapons. The legs stretch forward and capture the shocked prey, which is then swiftly dismembered and consumed by powerful jaws."
As for our little male flameskimmer, our firecracker red dragonfly, we watched him ambush prey, unleashing his special brand of fire and fury in a pollinator garden.
Fire and fury in a pollinator garden...
And meet the UC Davis researchers, UC Master Gardeners, students and community members who study them or promote them.
That's what's planned on Sunday, May 20 at an event sponsored by the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden and the UC Master Gardeners from 1 to 4 p.m. at the newly installed Hummingbird GATEway Garden.
It's "Pollinator Discovery Day," and its free and open to the public (all ages). No reservations are required.
"Pollinators are critical to the health of our environment," a spokesperson said. "It's all at this engaging, all-ages event where you can learn how the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden supports pollinators on campus and how you can create a pollinator paradise at home!"
The event will include tours, demonstrations, and interactive investigation stations.
You can visit the 14-plus stations featuring pollination education and family activities. You can build a bamboo bee condo for leafcutter bees. You can learn from the Master Gardeners about the value of native pollinators in our ecosystem and how you can attract them to your garden year-around.
You can chat with Levy Hernandez of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden Learning by Leading™ intern who helped design the Hummingbird GATEway Garden.
The Hummingbird GATEway Garden is located north of the Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive, and east of the newly constructed Veterinary Medicine Student Services and Administration Center.
Expect to see honey bees, bumble bees, sweat bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds! You'll find the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden both pollinator friendly and people friendly!