The two-day fair, downsized from years past, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 30 and Sunday, July 1. Admission is free; parking is $5 per vehicle. (See schedule.)
At McCormack Hall, youth and adult exhibitors are displaying such projects as an insect-themed afghan, photographs of insects; a photograph of a "spider girl"; and a wall hanging of a dragonfly crafted from fan blades and furniture legs.
McCormack Hall superintendent Gloria Gonzalez, a community leader of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, marveled at a bumble bee and other patterns on a Minnesota sampler crocheted afghan, the work of Debra Holter of San Pablo.
The wall hanging of the dragonfly, the work of Tina Saravia of Suisun City, is also drawing interest. Using her imagination and recyclables, Saravia crafted it primarily with fan blades and furniture legs. It's entered in the adult recycling class,
Gary Cullen of Vallejo entered a photo that he titled "Spider Girl," of a smiling girl with a spiderish facial costume.
Ryan Anenson of the Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon, who is enrolled in a beekeeping project, submitted a close-up image of a honey bee. Maya Prunty of Sacramento 4-H submitted an image of a moth.
Those are just a few of the arthropod-related exhibits at the fair. Some of the items are available for purchase in the fair's Competitive Exhibits Program. The highest bidder in the silent auction takes home the exhibit.
That will include the honey bee image by teenage beekeeper Ryan Anenson.
It's a bird! It's a plane! Is it Superman?
No, it's a bird dropping.
If you're growing sweet fennel (anise), you may have noticed what appear to be two species of swallowtail butterflies populating your plant.
You'll see larvae (caterpillars) that are pale green with black bands containing orange spots. But look more closely and you'll see the smaller larvae or early instars. They look like bird droppings. A gift from above?
Those are both the immature stages of the anise swallowtail, Papillo zelicaon, (Check out the beautiful images of the butterfly and its immature stages on the Natural History of Orange County website.)
Butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, says the anise swallowtails have several generations (late February or March-October) "and breed very largely on sweet fennel (anise), Foeniculum vulgare and in the first half of the season, poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)."
These are naturalized European weeds, he says on his website. "We believe this ecotype originally lived in the tule marshes and bred on water hemlock (Cicuta) and another Apiaceous plant named Oenanthe. These are still used but only rarely in comparison ot he weeds; they are the only native hosts available in the Mediterranean summer that could have sustained repeated breeding."
Colors of the iconic anise swallowtail caterpillars also differ. "In hot, dry sites there is more green and less black, while under cool, humid conditions, the green may even disappear!" Shapiro says. And the pupae (chrysalids) may be brown or green.
Meanwhile, our caterpillars are feasting on the fennel and shedding their protective, camouflaged "bird dropping" skin. The California scrubjays that dine on the Gulf Fritillary caterpillars on the nearby passionflower vine (Passilfora) don't seem to notice.
Here's hoping they won't touch the anise swallowtails. Why would they want to eat something that looks like bird poo?
A flash of orange.
Usually we see assorted orange butterflies--Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) or Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) or Monarchs (Danaus plexippus)--on our butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii).
This time the flash of orange proved to be a California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica).
Its wings are pumpkin orange with huge black spots while the underwings are dullish brown and gray, resembling a dead leaf. What a perfect camouflage!
This particular Cal Tortie is probably a female, according to Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. He has monitored the Central Valley butterfly population since 1972 and maintains a research website.
"Along with the Painted Lady, this is a mass migrant that makes news at irregular intervals by tying up traffic!" Shapiro says on his website. "The 'Tortie' overwinters as an adult and can sometimes be seen sunning itself in midwinter on mild days. It is generally common in foothill canyons in late winter, ovipositing on the young, tender growth of various species of Wild Lilac (Ceanothus)."
And just as the Gulf Frits can defoliate its host plant, the passionflower vine, so, too, can the Tortie defoliate its host plant.
"The spiny, black-marked-with-yellow larvae feed gregariously, without a web, and in big years can defoliate whole stands of the plants," Shapiro notes on his website. "They often pupate on the bare, leafless stems en masse, the grayish-violet pupae looking like some strange kind of leaf and twitching in unison when disturbed. Adults emerge in late May to early June and almost immediately emigrate, going north or east and upslope."
They're often misidentified as monarchs, Shapiro told the recent Butterfly Summit at Annie's Annuals and Perennials, Richmond. He also mentions this on his website.
"Breeding localities in summer vary widely from year to year - sometimes in the high southern Sierra, sometimes in the Cascades... sometimes only in far northeastern California or even farther north," according to Shapiro's website. "The migrant females lay on the tender growth of high-altitude Ceanothus such as Tobaccobrush and Snowbrush, which again may be defoliated. Adults emerge in late July and migrate to estivating grounds, generally above tree-line. These are often in the high country of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, but can even be in the Trinity Alps, South Cascades, or (as in 2005) on Mount Rose! Estivating Torties do little but 'hang out,' and many high-altitude hikers have described their encounters with millions of them in mystical terms (they often identify them as Monarchs!). In late September these butterflies scatter downslope to hibernate in the foothills--they are the late-winter butterflies of the new year. Estivators-hibernators thus may live 9 or 10 months as adults." (See more about this amazing butterfly on his website.)
Naturalist and insect photographer Greg Kareofelas, an associate of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, says there are a lot of Cal Torties around now. And when they disperse, "they can end up anywhere, including the valley. So not often seen in the valley, but not all that unusual."
This butterfly ended up on its namesake, the butterfly bush in our Vacaville pollinator garden.
The panels feature mostly native bees.
The project dates back to 2011 when 22 UC Davis students enrolled in an Entomology 1 class, "Art, Science and the World of Insects," taught by entomologist-artist Diane Ullman, professor of entomology at UC Davis and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis.
The half-acre bee garden, located on Bee Biology Road, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road is open from sunrise to sunset for self-guided tours. No admission is charged. The latest news: The Haven will now be staffed every Friday morning from 10 to noon. You can not only see pollinators foraging on the plants, but view all the art, including Billick's six-foot-long mosaic/ceramic sculpture, "Miss Bee Haven," that anchors the garden. On Fridays, you can also see the bee display case, sign up for a "catch and release" bee vacuum, and buy bee guides and plants, according to the academic management officer Christine Casey.
But back to the bee mural. Then doctoral student Sarah Dalrymple of the Rick Karban lab, served as the graphics project coordinator and teaching assistant, guiding the students on design, creation and installation of the panels. She went on to be named the 2011 recipient of the UC Davis Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award and praised for fusing the boundaries of biology, art and culture.
The 22 students portrayed 22 bees, including such natives as mason, sweat, squash, leafcutter, blue orchard, carpenter and bumble bees. Notice that the honey bee is not listed? That's because it's not a native. European colonists brought it to America in 1622, and it wasn't introduced to California until 1853.
Another non-native is the European wool carder bee, first detected in the United States (New York) in 1963, and in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007. The carder bee is so named because the female "cards" fuzz from plants for her nest.
The students celebrated their work and talked about their projects at an end-of-the-year gathering in 2011.
And now visitors to the garden can celebrate--and appreciate--all the dedication, ingenuity and creativity that went into this mural.
(Editor's Note: Who are the students and what species did they study and design? They're all listed on this website, as well as the identification of the students in the group photo below. The configuration of this blog does not allow a long caption.)
The research paper covered the first five years, 2012 to 2016, of the ongoing project. Citizen scientists tagged and released nearly 15,000 monarchs in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia in the late summer and fall. The number recovered? Sixty.
"On average, these butterflies averaged almost 40 miles of travel each day," James told the WSU News Service. "That's pretty remarkable for such a small creature."
One of the monarchs released Aug. 28, 2016 in Ashland, Ore., by citizen scientist Steven Johnson fluttered into our yard in Vacaville, Calif., on Sept. 5, a 457-kilometer journey. We happened to be home and photographed the traveler, a male. The discal cell tag read "firstname.lastname@example.org 6093." WSU is my alma mater, so double excitement!
What was the longest recorded journey? A monarch that David James released in Yakima, Wash. It was recovered near Goleta, Calif., a distance of 845 miles.
When No. 6093 stopped in our yard for some flight fuel, he sipped nectar from Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) and butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) and milkweed (in this case, tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica.)
Scientists believe that monarchs ride warm air currents (thermals) a few thousand feet from the ground. Then, they use strong upper-air currents to navigate.
It's a long, tough journey, averaging nearly 500 miles, and often with strong winds, heavy rain, or triple-digit temperatures. They need food (nectar from flowers) and often they don't escape predators, including birds, praying mantids and spiders, and such diseases as Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, a protozoan parasite.
Perhaps some day migrating monarchs will be microchipped, if a lightweight chip is invented. "Then we can just chip 100 or 200 butterflies and not tag 15,000," James pointed out.
The research paper is titled "Citizen Scientist Tagging Reveals Destinations of Migrating Monarch Butterflies, Danaus plexippus (L.) from the Pacific Northwest." (See this site for the full text).
The fall migration of Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) was studied in an unfunded citizen science project during 2012—16 by tagging 13778 reared and 875 wild Monarchs. More than a third of these Monarchs were reared by inmates of the Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) in Walla Walla, Washington. Sixty (0.41 %) tagged Monarchs were recovered from distances greater than 10 km (mean: 792.9 ± 48.0 km) with most found in California, SSW of release points. One WSP-reared Monarch was found 724 km to the SE in Utah. Monarchs tagged in Oregon flew SSE to California. No Idaho-tagged Monarchs were found in California but two were recovered at locations due south. No wild tagged Monarchs from Washington, Oregon or Idaho were recovered. Monarchs from Washington and Oregon were found during October-February at 24 coastal California overwintering sites spanning 515 km from Bolinas to Carpinteria. A single wild spring Monarch tagged in May in northern California was recovered 35 days later and 707 km ENE in Twin Falls, Idaho. This study provides compelling evidence that many Monarchs in southern and central parts of Washington and Oregon migrate south in the fall to overwintering sites along the California coast. It also provides some evidence for southerly and south-easterly vectoring of migrating Monarchs from eastern Washington and Idaho, indicating the possibility of migration to Arizona or Mexico overwintering sites. In addition to improving our understanding of Monarch migration in the PNW, this study also contributed to conservation by adding nearly 14000 butterflies to the population. The incredible involvement of incarcerated and non-incarcerated citizen scientists generated much community and media interest which in turn led to greater involvement by citizens. Increased awareness of Monarchs, their biology and conservation in the PNW has been an unexpected but important spin-off of this study."
James is grateful for all the citizen scientists assisting with the project. It would not have been possible without them. Indeed, inmates at Walla Walla State Penitentiary alone reared one-third of the monarchs. (See feature story in Entomology Today, published by the Entomological Society of America.)
Here's what you can do to help the migrating monarchs on their journey:
- Plant nectar-rich flowers. They need flight fuel to continue their journey to the overwintering sites along coastal California.
- Don't use pesticides in your garden
- Keep your eye out for tagged migrating monarchs in the late summer and fall and try to photograph them.
- Visit overwintering sites, such as Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz and the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, and look for--and record--tagged monarchs.
- Stay up-to-date by following the Facebook page, Monarch Butterflies in the Pacific Northwest. It now has nearly 5000 followers.