You're on a winning streak when you spot a gray hairstreak.
No, not the streak in Grandpa's hair--the streak on Grandma's flowers.
It's the gray hairstreak butterfly, Strymon mellinus, also known as the common hairstreak.
Butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, says the gray hairstreak does well in towns and cities in the Central Valley. "It is multiple-brooded and has a very long flight season, at sea level from February to November, but rarely seen before June in the mountains where it does not appear able to overwinter," he says on his website. "Early spring specimens are small and very dark with reduced red markings; "albinos," with the red replaced by pale yellow, occur mostly in the spring brood. There is much minor variation. Adults visit an immense variety of flowers, both wild and cultivated. They are particularly addicted to Heliotrope and white-flowered Apiaceae."
Lately we've been seeing the gray hairstreak on our Spanish lavender, although it also frequents mallows, white clover, alfalfa and other plants.
If you're into hairstreaks, be sure to check out the Green Hairstreak Butterfly Festival, a Nature-in-the-City event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, April 15 at the Hoover Middle School, 2290 14th Ave., San Francisco.
We're assured that the Green Hairstreak Butterfly Festival has landed. Or maybe fluttered down...
"Spring is back and so is our local butterfly, the green hairstreak," festival organizers said. "In 2006, the community of District 7 came together to save this butterfly from disappearing. Habitat restoration and community stewardship were our main tools. Now we have a robust corridor, or butterfly highway, where we can find this nickel-sized, brightly green butterfly flying from Hawk Hill to Rocky Outcrop to the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps!"
It's a family event. Plans call for an outdoor classroom "to teach you about the butterfly, how to find it, and how to help maintain its unique habitat for all local pollinators. In addition, there will be contests, prizes, artwork, hands-on activities, access to local nature groups and plants, baked goods and crafts to take home." (Read about the Green Hairstreak corridor.)
The gray hairstreak, Strymon mellinus, and the green hairstreak, Callophrys viridis, belong to the same family Lycaenidae, which includes more than 6000 species worldwide or about 30 percent of the known butterfly species, according to Wikipedia.
Strymon, the genus name, is derived from the Strymon River in Bulgaria and Greece; the species name, melinus, means gray in Greek. The green hairstreak? Its genus name, Callophyrs, is Greek for "beautiful eyebrows" and its species name, viridis, is Latin for green.
Check out Shapiro's web page on Lycaenidae, to see other gossamer-wing family members in the Central Valley...and maybe boost your winning streak./span>
Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart Museum of Entomology associate with expertise on local butterflies, will be at the Bohart Museum's open house on Sunday, March 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. to meet informally with visitors, talk about butterflies and answer their questions.
The open house, themed "Eggs to Wings: Backyard Butterfly Gardening," takes place in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It is free and open to the public. No reservations are required.
“I've always had an interest in butterflies since I was a little kid,” said Kareofleas, a Davis resident who has studied butterflies “seriously” since the late 1970s. "Back then, there was no Internet and books on butterflies in California were minimal and it seemed that most of the books published were on East Coast butterflies or butterflies out of our region. It was the late 1970s, after all, and we couldn't just go on the Internet for butterfly identification.”
It was then that Kareofelas met butterfly guru Arthur Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology. Shapiro, involved in butterfly research for more than four decades, now posts his work on his website.) Shapiro authored Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions (University of California Press, 2007).
Kareofelas, a naturalist and avid photographer, now spends much of his time researching and photographing butterflies, as well as dragonflies and other insects, and speaking to nature-oriented organizations. He is also a regular at the Bohart Museum open houses where he enthusiastically talks about insects he's encountered.
UC Davis offers great resources, Kareofelas says. “For instance, you can get an insect identified at the Bohart Museum, and a plant identified at the Herbarium. And then there are the great resources like the Sacramento Native Plant Society, the UC Davis Botanical Society and the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden."
Kareofelas is pleased to see the growing interest in butterflies and their larval host plants (where butterflies lay their eggs). “All you need is a yard to attract them,” he said. “Plant the larval host plants. Plant nectar plants, such as the butterfly bush, for the adults."
Want monarchs living in our backyard? “Plant milkweed, their larval host plant," Karofelas says.
Kareofelas mentioned a few host plants that will draw specific species:
- Plant pipevine, aka Dutchmen's pipe, for the Pipevine Swallowtails
- Plant passionflower vine for the Gulf Fritillaries
- Plant fennel for the Anise Swallowtails
- Plant baby tears (in the nettle family) for Red Admirals
- Plant snagdragons for Buckeyes
- Plant Rose of Sharon for the Gray Hairstreaks
- Plant mallow for the Checkered Skippers
Kareofelas has reared all the common species, as well some of the rare ones, including the California dogface butterfly, the state insect. With permission, he collected eggs from the rarely seen California dogface butterfly at its most populous breeding site, on Placer Land and Trust acreage near Auburn. The butterfly (Zerene eurydice) lays its eggs on false indigo (Amorpha californica).
Kareofelas, who serves as a guide several times a year for tours hosted by Placer Land and Trust, said that one result of rearing the California dogface butterfly is the publication of the 35-page children's book, "The Story of the Dogface Butterfly," written by Bohart associate Fran Keller (now an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College) with illustrations by then UC Davis student Laine Bauer, and photos by Kareofelas and Keller.
The book, available in the Bohart Museum's gift shop, tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly, and how schoolchildren became involved in convincing the State Legislature to select the colorful butterfly as the state insect. (See Bug Squad.)
The Bohart Museum's open house on Sunday will showcase butterflies in the area. A family craft activity will be making "wiggling caterpillars," with straw and paper, said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart.
Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, the Bohart Museum 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, offers 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. Special open houses take place throughout the academic year. The one on March 19 is the second to the last of the 2016-2017 academic year. The last one is Saturday, April 22, the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day.
Like a moth to a flame...
Except this moth headed not for a flame, but to a porch light. Our porch light.
And what a find.
It was a sea-green mottled moth that looked a lot like lichen.
Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, and Bohart Museum of Entomology associate Greg Kareofelas of Davis identified it as a late-winter noctuid, one that simulates lichen. Feralia februalis.
"It's expected this time of the year," noted Kareofelas.
It's a food plant specialist that feeds on oaks.
A Pacific Northwest website on moths indicates that it flies in oak forests in western Oregon in the early spring: "This species is narrowly endemic to the West Coast. In Oregon, it is common in oak woodlands and mixed hardwood forests with oaks at low elevations west of the Cascades. This species is considered to be management sensitive, depending on oaks as a larval food plant."
In the Pacific Northwest, "Feralia februalis is limited to western Oregon in our region," the website says. "Its range extends north to the Columbia River but it has yet to be found in adjacent Washington."
Its global range? "The range extends south through California where it occurs in the western part of the state to the Mexican border. It is also present in the northern Sierra Nevada."
One more thing: "It is nocturnal and comes readily to lights."
Yes and yes!
There she was--a gorgeous orange-and-black butterfly sipping nectar from a rosemary bush near the Glen Cove Marina, Vallejo.
She seemed so out of place and out of season. It was Sunday morning, Feb. 11, and we were east of the Carquinez Bridge, with the temperature pushing 70 degrees after a raucous winter storm.
The butterfly? A West Coast Lady, Vanessa annabella (as identified by Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology. It's often confused with Vanessa cardui, commonly known as "Painted Lady."
"Adults 'hibernate,' but near sea level can be seen sunbathing and being territorial on sunny, mild days all winter long," he writes on his website. "There is probably some altitudinal migration, but no evidence of latitudinal migration as in V. cardui."
"Host plants are herbaceous Mallows, including Cheeseweed (Malva), Alkali Mallow (Malvella), and Hollyhock (Alcea); not recorded locally on Velvet Leaf (Abutilon theophrasti). The species also uses Urticaceae. Several broods, the entire season at any given location."
Shapiro describes the West Coast Lady as "an earnest and generalist flower visitor. In winter often seen on flowers of Rosemary, Escallonia (an evergreen shrub or hedge) and Salpichroa (nightshade family) in gardens."
Our West Coast Lady soaked up a little sunshine and a little nectar and off she fluttered.
She's only 11 years old, but already she's interested in butterflies.
Selah Deuz of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, entered her display on "How to Create a Butterfly Garden" at the recent Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day, where youths share what they've learned in their projects and gain experience in honing their presentation skills.
"Would you like to add some excitement to your garden?" she asked. "How about butterflies? Butterflies are attracted to specific plants."
Selah went on to list the steps involved in butterfly gardening, including (1) doing research, (2) choosing host plants (3) choosing nectar plants (4) purchasing plants, (5) planting them and (6) enjoying them.
Who knows? She may turn out to be another butterfly guru like Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis who has studied butterflies for more than four decades and maintains a website on his research.
Meanwhile, if you're interested in gardening for butterflies, mark your calendar. The Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis has scheduled an open house for Sunday, March 19 on “Eggs to Wings: Backyard Butterfly Gardening.” The event, free and open to the public, will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. in the museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.
We're in the throes of winter, but spring is rapidly approaching: March 20.