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."
Our hearts are with the victims and what we can do to help.
But we briefly stepped out in the backyard yesterday (Oct. 10) in Vacaville to see a sun and sky we did not recognize. Nearby, the brightly colored orange Gulf Fritillary butterlifes (Agraulis vanillae) continued their life cycle on the passionflower vine (Passiflora), their host plant. So unreal to see:
- An egg on the tendrils.
- A caterpillar munching leaves.
- A newly eclosed Gulf Fritillary clinging to its pupal case.
- An adult spreading its wings in the eerie light, ready to start the process all over again.
Mother Nature is not kind. Neither is Father Time./span>
So there they were, the bride and groom, culminating their vows.
We spotted them in Vacaville, Calif., clinging to a passion flower vine (Passiflora), their host plant--just the two of them, the female Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) and the male.
Two's company? Not for long.
Soon other Gulf Frits descended on them.
Two's company, three's a crowd. Where did all those uninvited guests come from? They're everywhere!
All went well, though. The guests fluttered off, leaving the couple alone and allowing the photographer to engage in insect wedding photography.
Gulf Frits are incredibly beautiful, what with their bright orange wings with black markings, and underside, their elongated silver iridescence spots. A touch of the tropics!
Gulf Frits have been around a long time in the Bay Area--more than a century, according to Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis. "This dazzling bit of the New World Tropics was introduced into southern California in the 19th century--we don't know how--and was first recorded in the Bay Area before 1908, though it seems to have become established there only in the 1950s," Shapiro writes on his website. "It can be quite common in the East and South Bay--particularly in Berkeley--and has been found breeding spontaneously as far inland as Fairfield, where, however, it is not established."
"There are scattered records in the Central Valley and even up to Folsom, perhaps resulting from people breeding the species for amusement or to release at social occasions. According to Hal Michael, who grew up in South Sacramento, this species bred there in abundance on garden Passiflora in the early 1960s. It seems to have died out by the early 1970s, however. Intolerant of hard freezes, it still managed to survive the record cold snap of 1990 that largely exterminated the Buckeye regionally!"
Shapiro says that in the Bay Area "this species can be seen flying any day of the year, if it is warm and sunny enough."
Thankfully, that's not all they do.
Coming soon to a passion flower vine near you--eggs, caterpillars, chrysalids, and then those gorgeous butterflies!
They didn't get the memo.
Summer is over. Fall is underway. Winter is coming (Dec. 21).
But the Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) are still laying eggs on the passionflower vine here in Vacaville, Calif. The eggs are hatching. The caterpillars are eating. The 'cats are pupating. And the adults are eclosing from the chrysalids.
And then the cycle of life begins all over again: from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult.
Actually, we've seen Gulf Frits here year around--even photographed them laying eggs on Christmas Day. Gulf Frits don't go through diapause here. They mate year around.
Of course, the survival rate is low. An estimated 95 percent of all butterflies don't make it from egg to adult, scientists say.
We've seen why. Spiders, praying mantids, yellowjackets, European paper wasps, birds, diseases, and such parasitoids as tachinid flies and wasps that lay their eggs in the caterpillars or bore into the chrysalids.
If you look closely, you can sometimes see the parasitoid evidence (hole), such as the one below. Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology and an expert on butterflies, says that judging by the size of this hole, it was a large parasitoid--probably a big tachinid fly or an ichneumonid (wasp).
Just part of the cycle of life...
When you're capturing images of butterflies, seconds count.
They're unpredictable. They move from fluttering to fleeting. And just when you're focused on where they are, they aren't there anymore. Where'd they go? Oh, over there!
Take the case of the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae), aka the passion butterfly. Gulf Frits lay their eggs on their host plant, the passionflower vine (Passiflora). So it makes sense that males will patrol the vine. It's where the girls are.
And where the camera usually isn't.
And if you happen upon a mating pair, and hordes of other Gulf Frit males are disrupting the "passion," they'll take off, intertwined, for another spot. A little seclusion in "the bedroom," please, and then it's off to "the kitchen," where the nectar-producing flowers are.
This pair (below) found one another on the passionflower vine as other males bombarded them. They lumberingly headed for another spot, and the rest is history. Or her-story. Soon the female will be back laying eggs on the Passiflora, and the cycle of egg, caterpillar, chrysalid and adult will begin all over again.
These images were taken with a Nikon D800 equipped with the macro zoom lens, 70-180mm f/4.5-5.6D ED. Settings: ISO 800, f-stop, 13; and shutter speed, 1/640 of a second.
Seconds count. No, not just seconds. Fractions of a second!