Think "Monarch Starter Set."
And it's just in time for open house at the Bohart Museum of Entomology from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, March 19 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane, University of California, Davis. The open house, themed “Eggs to Wings: Backyard Butterfly Gardening,” is free and open to the public. There you'll learn ideas on how to garden for butterflies and perhaps…you may go home with a Monarch Starter Set.
The Monarch Starter Set?
- Take one zippered, meshed butterfly habitat container, available for purchase from the Bohart Museum of Entomology's gift shop (or you can buy a zippered meshed laundry bag elsewhere)
- Add one Patrón tequila bottle, selected because it is a sturdy, chunky bottle with a broad base and a narrow neck.
- Fill bottle with water.
- Add milkweed plants (from your backyard or found in the wild)
- Add monarch caterpillars (from your backyard or found in the wild)
- Place in no-fly zone area, such as inside your house or on a screened porch. That's to deter tachinid flies and the wasps that lay their eggs inside the caterpillars and chrysalids and kill the hosts
- Watch a caterpillar eat its fill, form a chrysalis, and then observe the monarch eclose
- Release the monarch and voila! You're doing your part to help the declining monarch population
Using this method, we reared and released 64 monarchs last year in our small scale conservation project. What's good about the Patrón tequila bottle: the heavy bottle won't tip over, the caterpillars won't drown, and the milkweed will stay fresh. However, be sure to change the milkweed every day to keep the food fresh and abundant for your caterpillars.
Thanks to generous donations from TJ's Tavern on Main Street, Vacaville, the Bohart Museum can now provide the bottles to a limited number of "Monarch Moms" and "Monarch Dads." The butterfly habitats are available in its gift shop for around $20. The bottles are a gift. (Note: Teetotalism runs in our family so when I say "I'm going to the bar," that comment usually draws a raised eyebrow and a giggle or chuckle until I add "umm, to get the Patrón tequila bottle donations.")
The bottles are also perfect for the Bohart's live petting zoo and other uses at the insect museum.
Not to be overlooked is the bee logo--pollinators matter!--on each Patrón tequila bottle. The Patrón Spirits Company, which produces the product in Mexico, chose a bee as its logo "because of the well-known attraction bees have to Weber blue agave," according to Reference.com. "Weber blue agave is the primary plant from which Patrón tequila is made.” Tequila, as most folks know, is made from heart or core of the blue agave plant.
The primary pollinator of the blue agave, however, is the greater long-nosed bat or Mexican long-nosed bat, Leptonycteris nivalis. The lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae) also is a key pollinator. Check out Purdue entomologist Gwen Pearson's informative piece on "Tequila, Booze and Bats" on wired.com. It includes a link to a video of bats pollinating agave. This is a favorite pollinator subject especially during National Pollinator Week, which this year is June 19-25.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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...
He marveled at how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly and said that "science is full of surprises." One of the surprises: his basic research on insects led to a drug for blocking hypertension and neuropathic pain.
Now add Alzheimer's to that list.
This week Hammock announced that a drug developed in his lab yields hope for the prevention of Alzheimer's, a severe and chronic psychiatric disease that affects more than 350 million people worldwide.
Researchers at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan China, used the drug developed at UC Davis to show that the neurofibrillary pathology of an Alzheimer's disease-related protein could be dramatically reduced. Their work was published in December in the Journal of Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
“They further demonstrated the mechanism of action of the UC Davis drug in blocking the oxidative stress-driven phosphorylation events associated with Alzheimer's disease,” Hammock said. The UC Davis drug stabilizes natural anti-inflammatory mediators by inhibiting an enzyme called soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) discovered at UC Davis and recently spotlighted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health's PubMed.
“I was thrilled to see this paper on tau phosphorylation from Huazhong University shows that our drug could block a key event and a key enzyme called GSK-3 beta thought critical in the development of Alzheimer's disease,” said Hammock, who holds a joint appointment in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“We were planning to do this study, but having another laboratory do it with our compound was even better,” he said. “Since our publication last year in PNAS that showed UC Davis soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitors both prevented and reversed depression, we have been excited about trying to block the development of Alzheimer's disease.”
The PNAS paper, “Gene Deficiency and Pharmacological Inhibition of Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Confers Resilience to Repeated Social Defeat Stress,” was co-authored by a 13-member research team led by Hammock and Kenji Hashimoto of Chiba University Center's Division of Clinical Neuroscience, Japan. They found that sEH plays a key role in the pathophysiology of depression, and that epoxy fatty acids, their mimics, as well as sEH inhibitors could be potential therapeutic or prophylactic drugs for depression and several other disorders of the central nervous system. Co-authors of the paper included Hammock lab researchers Christophe Morisseau, Jun Yang and Karen Wagner. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, funded the research.
Hammock credited several UC Davis colleagues for their work leading to the publications. Research from the labs of Liang Zhang and Qing Li at the University of Hawaii--Qing is a former UC Davis doctoral student--pointed out some of the mechanisms involved in cognitive decline which associate professor Aldrin Gomes of the UC Davis Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior and Fawaz Haj of the UC Davis Department of Nutrition “have shown to be blocked by the natural metabolites stabilized by the UC Davis drugs,” Hammock said.
One of the Hammock lab drugs is moving toward human clinical trials for neuropathic pain through a Davis-based company, EicOsis, LLC, and the financial support of the Blueprint Program through NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Hammock founded the company to develop inhibitors to the soluble epoxide hydrolase, a key regulatory enzyme involved in the metabolism of fatty acids, to treat unmet medical needs in human and animals.
“The clinical back-up candidate at EicOsis penetrates the blood brain barrier and should be a perfect compound to test if this class of chemistry can prevent cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease,” Hammock said.
Meanwhile, I'm still thinking about that seminar, "From Butterflies to Blood Pressure and Beyond."
Alzheimer's, a cruel disease characterized by progressive memory loss, language problems and unpredictable behavior issues.
If want to beautify your yard, attract pollinators, and save money at the same time, then you'll want to attend the UC Davis Arboretum Plant Sale on Saturday, Nov. 5. It's the final clearance sale of the season, and it will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Aboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive, UC Davis campus.
Every plant will be marked down at least 20 percent, officials said. See list of plants here. Members save 10 percent and you can join at the door.
Taylor Lewis, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden nursery manager, says that autumn, with its shorter days and cooler temperatures, is "the best time of year for new planting whether you are renovating a lawn area or adding new plants to a mature landscape."
He and Ellen Zagory, director of public horticulture for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, list five reasons why plant establishment is much easier now.
- Less water use – Thanks to recent rains the soil moisture can be kept constant with less irrigation.
- Softer soil – The soil is softer now so it's easier to dig holes!
- Fewer weeds – Unwanted plant life is less prolific thanks to less sun and cooler temperatures.
- Less stress – Cooler temperatures also are less stressful to new plants.
- Hearty roots – When the air temperature is cooler than the soil temperature, plants put more energy into root growth without new top growth, which results in heartier root systems and stronger plants overall.
Zagory points out: “There isn't going to be much growth above ground where you can see it, but just wait . . . come spring your plants will show you how happy they are you planted in fall!”
Many plants at the Nov. 5th sale are geared for pollinators. Some of pollinators' favorite foods include lavender, salvia, catmint, aster, butterfly bush, lantana, borage, salvia, sunflowers, blanket flower, cone flowers, and penstemon. And many more!
Want to attract butterflies? Consider not only the nectar-producing plants but their host plants. For example, monarchs lay their eggs only on their host plant, milkweed (genus Asclepias), the only plant the caterpillars will eat.
A few other host plants of butterflies:
- Gulf Fritillaries: Passion flower vine (genus Passiflora)
- Anise swallowtails: Sweet fennel (genus Foeniculum)
- Checkered skippers: Mallow (genus Malva)
- Western tiger swallowtails: Cottonwood and aspen cottonwood and aspen (Populus), willows (Salix), wild cherry (Prunus), and ash (Fraxinus).
- Pipevine swallowtail: Dutchmen's pipe or pipevine
The website of Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, offers a wealth of information on California butterflies. He's been studying the butterfly populations of Central California for more than four decades.
Calflora is the go-to site for a database of California non-native and native plants, invasive plants and rare plants.
The California Native Plant Society website encourage us to plant native plants.
The UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab website recommends what to plant for native bees.
Books? Yes. Two of the most recently published:
California Bees and Blooms, a Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists is the work of UC-affiliated authors Gordon Frankie, Robbin Thorp, Barbara Ertter and Rollin Coville.
The Bee-Friendly Garden: Design an Abundant, Flower-Filled Yard that Nurtures Bees and Supports Biodiversity, by award-winning garden designerKate Frey and bee expert Gretchen LeBuhn of San Francisco State University, will guide you in selecting bee plants and designing your garden.