- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Ann Sievers, owner, grower and miller of Il Fiorello Olive Oil Co., located at 2625 Mankas Corner Road, Fairfield, recently found and photographed this "lovely beast" on an outdoor patio wall.
Shapiro identified it as “Eumorpha achemon, the Achemon Sphinx. Fairly uncommon. The very large caterpillar, which has several color phases, eats both wild and cultivated grapes (leaves only) and is never common enough to be considered a pest. Lovely beast!”
Shapiro, known for his expertise on moths and butterflies, has been monitoring butterflies of Northern California since 1972 and maintains a research website on the butterflies that pass through his transects.
The larvae of the Achemon Sphinx moth, are sometimes called the "grape sphinx" for good reason: they feed on grape leaves. The caterpillars are huge (about three-and-a-half-inches long) and vary in color from light green to reddish orange, to brown.
Sievers' chickens that roam the Il Fiorello grounds in the daytime (they're “cooped up” at night to protect them from predators like coyotes) occasionally find and feast on caterpillars and other bugs. And grapevines grow by another pen of chickens. Chow time!
Naturalist and photographer Greg Kareofelas of Davis, an associate of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, says he finds the caterpillars on "the native grape (Vitus californica) growing in my yard."
"Because it did use the native grapes as a host, it is a 'resident native,' of the area," he observed.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building UC Davis campus, annuals hosts a Moth Night (see preview story from 2019) but the coronavirus pandemic precautions may turn this year's Moth Night into a virtual one.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Bohart Museum's Lepidoptera section, says "we probably have 2.5 drawers of the Grapevine Sphinx. It's found all across the U.S. but never particularly common in our region. Hindwings are a really attractive pink. This is one of 11 species in the genus Eumorpha, but the only species in California."
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
She has her olive groves, her California olive oil company that mills what's praised as the "finest of the fine" artisan olive oil, and now...drum roll...bees.
Ann and her husband, Mark, own IL Fiorello located at 2625 Mankas Corner Road, Fairfield. They produce oil from their groves and mill oil for clients throughout the area, including UC Davis.
International award-winning olive oils.
The name, IL Fiorelli, Ann explains, means “little flower” in Italian. “IL” is "the" and "Fiorello" means "flower," from the tiny white flowers on the olive trees. Her grandfather, Dominic Fiorello, immigrated from Italy to the United States in the 1860s. She's a third-generation Fiorello.
Ann's background: She's a nationally recognized clinical nurse specialist in otolaryngology (that's head, nose and throat) surgery in the UC Davis Health System. She retired in 2013 from the Advanced Practice in Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgical Oncology. Highly honored for her work, she holds RN, MA and CORLN (certified otorhinolaryngology nurse) degrees.
Then she transitioned from health care to agriculture. Bees are the latest venture.
Back in March, Rick Shubert of Bee Happy Apiaries, Vacaville, and his assistant, Brittany Dye, placed some 286 nuc boxes at IL Fiorello.
They "have honored us with queens," enthused Ann in a blog. "We should be should all be wearing crowns in honor of our most royal guests."
Bee Happy Apiaries delivered 1144 queens in 286 nuc boxes, each divided into four sections to accomodate a queen and her colony. "The bee hives are all different colors for identification of who owns the bees, what size is the box, and light colors for heat reflection," Ann wrote. "Some bee keepers paint their hives with letters and pictures for fun and to help the bees identify their home, like little different landing pads. Brittany tells me these bees' ancestors are originally from Iran, named Carnolian bees. They are known to be gentle and produce tasty honey. These bees are here for queen propagation, not honey. But lots of honey is coming in the next stage."
Ann calls it "just an amazing opportunity to see nature at work. It is so fun to watch the dance of the bees."
Plans call for bee classes "when all the buzzing settles down," Ann says. "Brittany will teach us all about bees, and Sue Langstaff, Applied Sensory Co. will buzz us through the UC Davis Honey wheel and a sweet honey taste extravaganza."
We think her grandfather would be proud.
Dominic Fiorello, known as "The Chief," had a profound respect for traditional agriculture and put his knowledge of Italian methods, Ann recalled. "Raising vegetables and fruit for the family, making wine for their table, and carefully saving seeds from year to year became part of his dreams for the future. Innately respectful of the soil that supported them and dedicated to good stewardship of the land, the Chief passed down a concern for healthy nutrition to his son, Raphael Fiorello, who also relied on traditional practices when providing for his family during the Depression. As Ann grew up, Raphael's homegrown vegetables and grapes helped the family to thrive and enjoy the great pleasures of living close to the land."
Today the Sievers have some 2000 olive trees. Daughters Elisabeth and Katherine helped plant them.
How does health care compare to being an agriculturist?
"Being in farming and having an agro tourism business is really similar to what I did in health care," Ann says. "You take care of people and you take care of trees. You guide people through the process so they learn about olive oil and they enjoy the product. The trees just don't talk back and nothing is really an emergency as occurred daily in the hospital. I am glad I am not responding to airway emergencies anymore. I use all my training in health care and sensory science to pair oils, food, wine, and agriculture. I work just as hard for guests to have a wonderful experience at Il Fiorello. I explain to guests that if I, as a farmer and producer, do not grow food then you will not eat. In this time of water shortages this topic comes up frequently."
The Sievers engage in farming "with an eye to sustainability and good stewardship of the land.” (Read more about what they do on their website.)
Today the rapidly growing IL Fiorello includes a Visitor Center and Olive Mill for tours and tastings, and offers cooking classes in its state-of-the-art kitchen in the Grove Culinary Center.
And now IL Fiorello or"little flower" keeps honey bees. Beautiful honey bees...