- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
No winner this year.
Shapiro, a UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, saw one in Winters, Yolo County, but he couldn't collect it. No bug. No suds. No winner.
So, Shapiro, who has sponsored the annual contest since 1972 to determine the bug's first flight of the year in the three-county area of Sacramento, Solano and Yolo, isn't claiming victory because he couldn't net it. No specimen. No winner. No beer.
Shapiro spotted the cabbage white in Winters at 11:16 a.m. on Jan. 30 at the Putah Creek Nature Park, but it proved elusive. "It flew back and forth across Putah Creek and then departed the area, flying out of reach above the trees," he noted. He waited around for 90 minutes to see if it would return. It did not.
The point of the contest, the professor says, "is to get the earliest possible flight date for statistical purposes. The rules require that the animal be captured and brought in alive to be verified. That way no one can falsely claim to have seen one, or misidentify something else as a cabbage white."
Shapiro, known for his expertise on butterflies (he maintains a research website at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu/, quipped that he has “100% confidence” in his own ability to sight-identify the species. This is the first time in the 40-year-plus history of the contest that he saw the first one but could not catch it.
"The record stands," he says, "but in fairness to everybody else, I can't declare myself the winner without the specimen. Since the first date is known, there is no scientific need for further records."
But to be fair to potential competitors, Shapiro decided that if anyone brought a cabbage white into Storer Hall before 5 p.m., Monday, Feb. 3, that person would be declared the winner and get the beer.
But no one did. So at 6 p.m., Monday, Shapiro declared the contest closed, with no winner.
The Jan. 30 date is the latest since 2011 and the second-latest since 2005, his records show.
Shapiro warns that this does not mean global warming is a hoax!
And yes, he intends to enjoy a beer with a friend sometime later this week. Suds for a bug, winner or not.