- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Mellow yellow! The butterflies are back!
We spotted a bright yellow butterfly nectaring a bush germander on Feb. 7 in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, identified it as a male orange sulphur (Colias eurythme) "and of the late-spring phenotype."
He said it "counts as the first Valley record in 2011."
The orange sulphur butterfly, also known as "the alfalfa butterfly," often reaches "very high densities in alfalfa fields in midsummer to autumn," Shapiro says. When the alfalfa is cut, it "may emigrate en masse, even flooding into cities. This is also our most variable butterfly, seasonally and individually."
Its presence on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, probably had something to do with the unseasonable warm weather--or that enticing-- oh, so enticing--bee friendly garden.
It's friendly to other pollinators, too!
Like orange sulphur butterflies...
Shapiro's the professor who sponsors the "beer for butterfly" competition; for 40 years he has issued a call for the first cabbage white butterfly of the year in Yolo, Solano or Sacramento. (He usually wins; he collected the first one of 2011 in Suisun City, Solano County, on Jan. 31.)
Perhaps Professor Shapiro should sponsor a "wine for a butterfly" contest: the first orange sulphur butterfly of the year photographed in the garden receives a....drum roll...bottle of wine. Or, maybe the first to find a yellow-faced bumble bee in the haven could receive...ahem...a jar of honey. And Kool-Aid for the first cuckoo bee!
No matter, it's a treat to find such a glorious butterfly--and so early in the year.