- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The Beer-for-a-Butterfly Contest is not over.
Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology who annually sponsors the contest in the three-county area of Sacramento, Solano and Yolo to determine the first flight of the cabbage white butterfly, sighted one on Thursday, Jan. 30 at the Putah Creek Nature Park, Winters, Yolo County, but did not collect it.
He spotted the butterfly, Pieris rapae, basking on a malva leaf at 11:16 a.m., but it took off before he could net it.
Shapiro says that since he didn't collect it—no collection, no voucher—the contest is still underway. The prize always goes to the first person who collects the first cabbage white of the year.
"Now that I know the bug is out, there's no scientific reason to want more records," he wrote in a email. "To be fair to potential competitors, the first person to catch a rapae in the contest area before 5 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 2, wins the beer. I will not try to beat them to a voucher." Shapiro says this was the latest first flight date for Valley rapae since Jan. 31, 2011,
Shapiro collected the 2019 winner on Jan. 25 near the Suisun Yacht Club, Solano County. Since 1972, when he launched the contest, the first flight has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20. The rules are here: https://bit.ly/2GE5coY
The contest rules include:
- It must be an adult (no caterpillars or pupae) and be captured outdoors.
- It must be delivered alive to the department office, 2320 Storer Hall, UC Davis, during work hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with the full data (exact time, date and location of the capture) and your name, address, phone number and/or e-mail. The receptionist will certify that it is alive and refrigerate it. (If you collect it on a weekend or holiday, keep it in a refrigerator; do not freeze. A few days in the fridge will not harm it, Shapiro says.)
- Shapiro is the sole judge.
The UC Davis professor has monitored butterfly population trends on a transect across central California since 1972 and records the information on his research website. His 10 sites stretch from the Sacramento River Delta through the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains to the high desert of the Western Great Basin. He visits his sites every two weeks "to record what's out" from spring to fall, weather permitting. He has studied more than 160 species of butterflies in his transect. The largest and oldest database in North America, it was recently cited by British conservation biologist Chris Thomas in a worldwide study of insect biomass.