Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, figured it was too rainy and too cold to head over to West Sacramento to look for the first cabbage white butterfly of the year, so he walked around campus Thursday.
And he found it.
Shapiro nabbed the cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae, at 1:56 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 19 in the student gardens near the Solano Park Apartments.
He again won the annual Butterfly-for-a-Beer contest, which he launched in 1972 as part of his long-term studies of butterfly life cycles and climate.
The contest rules indicate that the first person who finds the first cabbage white butterfly of the year in the three-county area of Yolo, Solano and Sacramento receives a pitcher of beer or its equivalent.
Shapiro, who has been defeated only four times in the contest (and all by UC Davis graduate students) said this was the first find on the campus.
“Earlier today I was asked when P. rapae would come out, given the very wet January this year. I replied that when it stopped raining. we'd probably get into tule fog…and that would take us into February for any decent butterfly weather.”
Jan. 19 dawned with a “a cold, unstable air mass overhead,” Shapiro recalled, describing it as “an ideal convective day, with showers and thundershowers popping up.”
With the ground and the vegetation sopping wet, he figured this would not a “potential rapae day.”
“When I got out of class at noon it was bright and sunny, clear overhead but with cumulus building to the west over the Coast Range. It felt warm and I might have gone to West Sacramento, but decided by the time I got there it would have clouded over and perhaps even be raining. So I got lunch and then walked over to the student gardens near the Solano Park Apartments just to gather host plant for my rapae culture--yes, I'm mass-rearing the bugs for photoperiod studies, and have some 100 live ones in a refrigerator."
“It remained sunny and got quite warm—55 or 56, I'd say," Shapiro related. "The vegetation was indeed sopping wet. At 12:59 I saw—a rapae. It was sitting quietly, wings folded, on a cultivated Brassica. It had not opened its wings to body-bask, that is, warm the body by exposure to incoming solar radiation. If it had, it almost certainly would have flown and, being netless, I would have lost it. Instead it just sat there as I picked it off the plant. I always carry one glasseine envelope in my eyeglass case. Into the envelope it went. It's a winter-phenotype male and, I imagine, had just emerged this morning and not yet flown.”
“This is the second year in a row that the first rapae was found in a garden rather than one of the conventional ‘warm pockets,' Shapiro noted. “What does it all mean?”
Davis resident Cindy McReynolds, program manager of the Bruce Hammock lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, spotted some cabbage white butterfly chrysalids in her garden two weeks ago. "They were on the cabbage when I was removing the vegetation."
Colleague/collaborator Matthew Forister, McMinn professor of biology at the University of Nevada, Reno (his major professor was Shapiro), said that Shapiro's find was right on time. "You couldn't have hit closer to the trend line if you'd tried," he told him, sending him the illustration below. "This year in red," he pointed out, noting that "the slope has not changed from last year."
The cabbage white was not the only butterfly Shapiro found on Jan. 19. He also noticed a “fresh-looking female West Coast Lady, Vanessa annabella, nectaring at a crucifer in the same garden—first one of those this year too, but it's a hibernator.”
Shapiro launched the "Beer-for-a-Butterfly" contest in 1972 to draw attention to Pieris rapae and its first flight. “Since 1972, the first flight has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20.” The butterfly is emerging earlier and earlier as the regional climate has warmed, said Shapiro, who researches 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."
The professor, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Entomological Society and the California Academy of Sciences, said the cabbage white butterfly inhabits vacant lots, fields and gardens where its host plants, weedy mustards, grow.
Shapiro teaches his students well. The other winners were his own graduate students: Adam Porter defeated him in 1983; and Sherri Graves and Rick VanBuskirk each won in the late 1990s.
Shapiro, who is in the field more than 200 days of the year, monitoring butterflies of central California, knows where to find the cabbage whites. He has collected many of his winners in mustard patches near railroad tracks in West Sacramento, Yolo County. Over the last seven years, five of the winners came from West Sacramento; one in Davis, Yolo County; and one in Suisun, Solano County.
Coincidentally, Shapiro caught the 2013 and 2009 winners on President Obama's Inauguration Day. This year he missed President Trump's Inauguration Day by a day.
Shapiro maintains a research website on butterflies, where he records the population trends. He and artist 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.
Did you read the abstract published Jan. 17 in the journal ZooKeys about the newly discovered and named moth, Neopalpa donaldtrumpi?
No? Well, you probably read the news story. It went viral.
Somewhat overlooked was the role that scientists at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, played. The tiny moth was part of a desert insect collection that the UC Davis researchers loaned to evolutionary biologist and systematist Vazrick Nazari of Canada.
In sifting and sorting through the Bohart specimens, the brightly colored miniscule moth drew Nazari's attention. A new species! The yellow scales on the tiny moth's head reminded him of President-Elect Donald Trump's hairstyle.
Like a moth to a flame, Nazari decided on a name: Neopalpa donaldtrumpi.
Species: N. donaldtrumpi
“The reason for this choice of name is to bring wider public attention to the need to continue protecting fragile habitats in the U.S. that still contain many undescribed species,” Nazari wrote in ZooKeys.
Bohart Museum associate/research entomologist Thomas "Tom" Zavortink and colleagues collected the tiny moth with the orange-yellow and brown wings in the Algodones Dunes, bordering Arizona and the Mexican state of Baja California. Tiny? It has a wingspan of less than one centimeter.
"We surveyed the insects of the Algodones Dunes for more than six years with a contract from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management," Kimsey said. "It was a really fun/interesting project. We collected nearly 2,000 species of insects from about 200 square mile of 'sand.' Six percent were new to science. The moth was collected in a Malaise trap in one of the washes on the east side of the dunes."
As for Zavortink, he's been a Bohart Museum associate since 2001. He's a former professor and chair of the University of Francisco Department of Biology. His career also includes research entomologist with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington, D.C. He holds a doctorate in zoology from UCLA, where he also received his master's degree.
Zavortink is known for his mosquito identification for vector/mosquito control districts, California Department of Public Health, Latin American culicidologists and professional colleagues, and his bee identification for professional colleagues. He completed and published a survey of the bees of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, Imperial County, for the Bureau of Land Management.
One of the bees he's researched is the European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum), discovered in New York in 1963 and in California in 2007. (See Bug Squad.)
Naming critters for people--from citizens to celebrities to presidents to other public figures--isn't new. President Barack Obama has nine species named for him (more than any other president). His namesakes include a long-legged, resourceful Northern California spider, Aptostichus barackobamai, and a colorful spangled darner, a perchlike fish, Etheostoma obama.
Having your name associated with a new species is considered an honor, scientists say. It's a permanent legacy, unlike the names of many streets, schools, other buildings, and parks, which can be subject to removal.
But here's a good thing: if you're interested in naming an insect for you or a loved one, the Bohart Museum offers a biolegacy program. For a sponsorship of $2000 (which helps fund the museum's research program), you can select a species for naming, and receive a framed photo and documentation (publication).
The Bohart Museum scientists describe as many as 15 new species annually, and their associates, "many more," Kimsey says. "We could use your help with the selection of new species names in the course of our research."
Then think of watermelons and pumpkins.
All those crops will be discussed in a series of free webinars on Ensuring Crop Pollination in U.S. Specialty Crops, set Jan. 24 through March 28.
The webinars will feature five researchers with the Integrated Crop Pollination Project (ICP), including ICP co-principal investigator and pollination ecologist Neal Williams of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. They are free and open to the public. Each will be 45 minutes to 60 minutes long.
Coordinating the series are Katharina Ullmann, national crop pollination specialist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and Extension apiculturist and professor John Skinner of the University of Tennessee. Closely linked to UC Davis, Ullmann received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Williams.
"The majority of U.S. specialty crop growers depend on bees for pollination of their crops," Ullmann said. "Growers know that without adequate pollination, they would not be profitable. But what are the best pollination strategies for fruit, vegetable, and nut crops? What farm management practices can growers use to support bees and the crop pollination they provide?"
First to present will be Theresa Pitts-Singer, who collaborates with Williams. She will discuss Ensuring Almond Pollination on Jan. 24 and also deliver the ending seminar on March 28 on How to Manage Solitary Orchard Bees for Crop Pollination.
Williams will speak Feb. 28 on On-Farm Pollinator Benefits for Watermelon Pollination. An associate professor of pollination and biology and a Chancellor's Fellow, Williams serves as the faculty co-director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and is a member of UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute. His applied research addresses the integration of wild and managed bees for pollination of diverse agricultural crops including seed production, row crops and orchards.
His research addresses a series of questions:
- Under what contexts, in terms of local management and landscape context, can native pollinators provide sufficient pollination for different crops?
- How can we enhance habitat and diversify agricultural systems to promote managed and wild bees?
- Do pollinators like honey bees and wild bees interact in ways to increase the overall effectiveness of crop pollination?
The answers to these questions will help alleviate the stress placed on honey bees, Williams says, and also "inform ways to more sustainability manage agricultural systems to promote biodiversity and production."
Williams has worked extensively in agro-ecosystems in California's Central Valley and in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. His work in the East and West has helped form the basis for pollinator conservation planting guidelines. A continuing goal, he says, is to provide practical information that can be used to improve the long-term stability of pollination for agriculture in California, as well as promote pollinator conservation and management.
All speakers will discuss their research, and engage with the audience in discussing pollination of wild bees, honey bees and other managed bees in almond, blueberry, tree fruit, pumpkin, and watermelon. Each registered attendee will later receive a link to the slides.
To register, attendees can click on each link (note that all times here are 11 a.m., Pacific Time (consult your time zone):
- Jan. 24: Ensuring Almond Pollination (Theresa Pitts-Singer, USDA-ARS and Utah State University)
- Jan. 31: Pollinating Highbush Blueberries: Bees Bring Bigger Berries (Rufus Isaacs, Michigan State University)
- Feb. 14: Pollinating Apples and Cherries East of the Rockies (Julianna Wilson, Michigan State University)
- Feb. 28: On-Farm Pollinator Benefits for Watermelon Pollination (Neal Williams, University of California, Davis)
- March 21: Ensuring Pumpkin Pollination (Shelby Fleischer, Pennsylvania State University)
- March 28: How to Manage Solitary Orchard Bees for Crop Pollination (Theresa Pitts-Singer, USDA-ARS and Utah State University)
The webinar series will be hosted by eXtension.org, an online Cooperative Extension network. Funding will be provided by the Integrated Crop Pollination Project, a USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative Grant (#2012-51181-20105). Plans are to offer continuing education credits for certified crop advisors.
How much do you know about nematodes?
What would you like to know?
You'll be able to learn more about both, plus fleas, mites, lice, bed bugs, botflies and other critters, when the Bohart Museum of Entomology of UC Davis hosts an open house on “Parasite Palooza: Botflies, Fleas and Mites, Oh, My” from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 22 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane.
It's free and open to the public. You can meet scientists one-on-one and ask questions.
Senior public health biologist Mike Niemala of the California Department of Public Health will participate in the three-hour open house, discussing ticks and other health issues, and handing out fliers and brochures. He received his master of science degree from UC Davis.
What are nematodes? That's a question often asked of nematologists.
"Nematodes are a large group (phylum) of roundworms," Camp said. "Most nematodes are not parasites, but people may be familiar with some of the parasitic species. Some well-known nematode parasites of humans are pinworm, Ascaris, hookworm, and guinea worm. Dogs and cats can also become infected with nematodes including heartworm, hookworm, or Toxocara."
Camp, who grew up in rural northern Indiana, received her bachelor's degree in biology in 2005 from the University of Chicago and her master's degree in biology in 2007 from Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C. As a UC Davis graduate student, she focused on the evolutionary relationships and genetic diversity of Baylisascaris procyonis, a nematode parasite of raccoons. Her career plans? Researcher in infectious diseases or genetics/genomics or a science communicator.
"I first became interested in parasites during my undergrad degree at the University of Chicago," Camp said. "My specific interest in nematode parasites developed when I read some of Dr. Nadler's work on the evolutionary relationships of nematodes for an invertebrate biology class. Nematodes are an amazing phylum of organisms- they exist in almost every known environment on the planet, and different species eat everything from bacteria and fungi to plant and animal tissue. I find parasites particularly fascinating, because they are dependent on another organism (or organisms) for part or all of their life cycle."
The Bohart Museum event is free and open to the public. For the family craft activity, attendees will attach stickers of parasites on origami paper hats.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is a world-renowned insect museum that houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It also maintains a live “petting zoo,” featuring walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches and tarantulas. A gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The colorful butterfly seemed to flutter from a blanket that Solano County 4-H'er Erica Lull was sewing last Saturday, Jan. 14, at a “Cuddle Me Close” community service project.
Erica, 14, a junior leader in the Tremont Countywide 4-H Service Learning Project, has made 700 blankets for new nursing mothers. The soft, flannel blankets or "cover-ups" provide privacy to breast-feeding mothers and their newborns.
Audrey Ritchey, an x-ray technician at the North Bay Medical Center, Fairfield, who triples as president of the Solano County 4-H Leaders' Council, leader of "Cuddle Me Close," and as a co-community leader of the Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon, launched the service project in 2013.
Erica took to it like a needle to thread.
“Erica has made about 60 percent of the blankets,” Ritchey said. “She's amazing.”
Ritchey, a nine-year 4-H adult volunteer (email@example.com) says the six youngsters in her community-service project not only learn how to sew, but learn how to connect with one another and how to budget while fulfilling a public service need. The project, Ritchey said, “promotes mother-baby bonding through skin-to-skin contact, supports positive and physical and mental development, is healthier for mother and child and is inexpensive in comparison to formula."
Studies show that breast milk contains antibodies that help babies fight off viruses and bacteria and lowers the risk of allergies, ear infections, respiratory illnesses and bouts of diarrhea, said Ritchey, adding that breastfed babies also have a lower risk of childhood obesity.
Last Saturday Erica was sewing blankets during the Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day, held at the Community Presbyterian Church, Vallejo. Earlier she delivered a presentation on “The Digestive System of Chickens”--and judges awarded her a showmanship pin, signifying excellence. Then she headed upstairs to the "Cuddle Me Close" demonstrations, to sew and to teach other 4-H'ers how to sew.
Does she like butterflies? Insects? She does. “When I was a little girl, I used to be obsessed with bugs,” she acknowledged.
Odds are that the butterfly blankets she's making—the patterns also depict colorful flowers and cuddly animals—will be treasured by the new moms. “I was told that one mom started to cry when she got the cover-up,” Ritchey said. “She stated that it was the only thing she had for her baby.”
But back to the butterflies. They glowed red and green. Is this butterfly "real," that is, does it have a counterpart in nature? Could Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, identify it? Shapiro, who has studied the butterflies of central California for more than four decades, maintains a website on butterflies at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu/, where he records population trends. A noted Lepitopderist, he authored A Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions, illustrated by Tim Manolis, and published in 2007 by the University of California Press. The book covers more than 130 species.
Shapiro checked out the red and green butterfly. "Nobody I know," he said. "(It's) one God hasn't gotten around to creating yet!"
Or, one Shapiro hasn't discovered yet...