If so, then when the 107th annual UC Davis Picnic Day, themed "Discovering Silver Linings," takes place virtually on Saturday, April 17, better wear your sunglasses with all that silver blasting at you.
A silver lining is a sign of hope in a negative situation, like the COVID-19 pandemic. So positivity blocks such negativity as "every rose has its thorn" or "there's a fly in every ointment" or "all that glitters is not gold."
All that glitters is silver now.
On April 17, you can discover scores of silver linings at this "all virtual" family-oriented event, which promises to be informative, educational and entertaining.
Picnic Day officials have released the schedule of events and they include entomological exhibits and talks. Think UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Bohart Museum of Entomology and the UC Davis Graduate Student Association. (See yesterday's Bug Squad blog)
Don't miss the pre-recorded talk on the Gulf Fritillary butterfly, Agraulis vanillae, by Greg Kareofelas, Bohart Museum associate and naturalist. These orange-reddish butterflies, with their silver-spangled underwings, are glorious. (See what UC Davis butterfly guru Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, says about them on his website.) Kareofelas will showcase them and show you how to rear them, which is what he did last year during the pandemic.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, the volunteer curator of the Lepidoptera collection at the Bohart, will present a live Zoom event from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday on mimicry in Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies). "I will briefly mention camouflage," Smith says, "and spend most of the time on mimicry for defense--mimics of toxic or distasteful species, mimicry using odors or sounds, mimics of snakes or spiders, and mimics of non-food materials such as bird feces."
To connect, access https://ucdavis.zoom.us/j/92841203978?pwd=ay91SUpFZnl5MEdnVmlzOUxmMFFZQT09
Zoom Meeting ID: 928 4120 3978
Zoom Passcode: 160485
"People who want to submit their questions to Jeff or request to see certain species from the collection can email their requests to email@example.com with Picnic Day in the subject," says Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. "We won't have the time or capacity to access the collection during the event for any requests. Instead, we will pull the items that are requested or relevant to the talk and have those prepared to show. Of course we may not be able to honor everyone's request, but we will do our best."
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane (the museum is closed now due to the pandemic), is directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology. It houses nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a year-around gift shop and a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas.
It's not "officially" spring until we see--and photograph--the spectacular Western tiger swallowtail, Papilio rutulus.
One landed March 30 on an aromatic white lilac bush in Alamo Creek Park, Vacaville. It lingered long enough for a few photos and then fluttered away.
Butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor, Department of Evolution and Ecology, saw his first Papilio rutulus of the year on March 4 in Davis. Butterfly enthusiast and naturalist Greg Kareofelas, an associate of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, saw his first on March 23, also in Davis, "and since then, I've been seeing them regularly."
This butterfly's wings are a brilliant yellow with black stripes. Blue and orange spots accent "the tails" on their hindwings. The one we saw in Vacaville was missing some of its "parts," probably due to a close encounter with a predator, maybe a California scrub jay seeking a quick meal.
Professor Shapiro writes on his website: "The Western Tiger Swallowtail is basically a species of riparian forest, where it glides majestically back and forth along the watercourse. It has expanded into older urban neighborhoods where several of its host genera are grown as shade trees, and behaves as if the street were a watercourse. In the high country and on the Sierran east slope its usual host is Aspen."
"One brood (June-July) at higher elevations; one and a partial second at Washington; 2-3 at lower elevations with a long flight season (late February or March-September or October). An avid puddler. Visits Yerba Santa, California Buckeye, Milkweed, Dogbane, Lilies, Coyotemint, etc., etc. and in gardens frequent at Lilac and Buddleia. Spring individuals are smaller and usually paler than summer. Low-elevation hosts include Sycamore (Platanus), Ash (Fraxinus), Cherry and other stone fruits (Prunus), Willow (Salix), Privet (Ligustrum), Lilac (Syringa) and (in Sacramento County) Sweet Gum (Liquidambar)."
Shapiro has monitored butterfly populations across central California for more than 45 years. It's part of his continuing effort to regularly monitor butterfly population trends on a transect across central California. "Ranging from the Sacramento River delta, through the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains, to the high desert of the western Great Basin, fixed routes at ten sites have been surveyed at approximately two-week intervals since as early as 1972. The sites represent the great biological, geological, and climatological diversity of central California."
And one of the species is the spectacular Western tiger swallowtail, which Shapiro monitors at all 10 of his sites.
"What are YOU doing here?"
It was Saturday morning, Jan. 23, and the monarch caterpillar seemed to be sunning itself on a milkweed leaf in our family's pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif., a Solano County city situated between San Francisco and Sacramento.
Yes, Saturday, Jan. 23. The dead of winter. A third-star monarch caterpillar.
"Mama Monarch" must have laid the egg in late December, surmised butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, who has researched butterfly population trends since 1972 and maintains a research website, Art's Butterfly World.
"Evidence of inland winter breeding," he commented. "Nothing surprises me any more..."
Interestingly enough, on the same day that we spotted the monarch caterpillar was the same day that naturalist-photographer Greg Kareofelas, an associate of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, photographed a newly eclosed Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, in his yard in Davis.
The temperature on Jan. 23 hovered at 60 degrees. Since then, it's dropped into the 30s, with blustery winds, heavy rain and a strong storm uprooting trees and flash-flooding the LNU Lighting Complex burn scar. And it's c-o-l-d--cold enough to borrow Bernie Sanders' heavy overcoat and mittens, and for good measure, add an Elmer Fudd (trapper) hat, the kind you need in Vermont.
But a monarch caterpillar in January in Solano County?
Last year the monarchs in our garden thrived, as the Danaus plexippus population declined throughout the country, and scientists began talking about extinction. Last year we collected more than 300 monarch eggs or caterpillars in our garden, primarily from two of the three milkweed species. We reared and released them, except for the ones we donated to researchers at the University of California, Davis and the University of Nevada to start their own colonies.
Is the January caterpillar healthy? Will it survive?
Seems so. We moved it inside on Jan. 24 in a Bohart Museum butterfly habitat on our kitchen counter, but only time will tell.
Still, it's like spotting the Easter Bunny handing out candy in December or Santa Claus delivering candy canes on Easter Sunday.
- "What is entomology?"
Quick answer: insect science.
- "What is a monarch?"
Quick answer: An orange and black butterfly that's the icon of the butterfly world.
Science. It's all around us, and learning about science should and must be a priority.
The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Teaching Tools site asks: "Why do we need to teach science in elementary school?"
"Our future depends on a public that can use science for personal decision-making and to participate in civic, political, and cultural discussions related to science," wrote co-authors Julie Cafarella, Amber McCulloch and Philip Bell in January 2017.
"Though we have national goals for science education, science is often pushed to the side—particularly at the elementary school level. There are multiple reasons for science to be a core part of elementary school learning. It can support: (a) development of a knowledgeable citizenry, (b) meaningful learning of language and mathematics, (c) wonderment about how the natural world works, and (d) preparation for STEM-related careers."
In yesterday's Bug Squad blog, we wrote about naturalist Greg Kareofelas, associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, and his nearly month-long project of rearing a monarch egg to adulthood. He named the butterfly "Ruth," after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion of equal rights, who died Sept.19 after a long bout with cancer.
“You're Ruth,” Kareofelas told her as she dried her wings on Sept. 19. “You're alive. You're going to fly.”
What sparked Greg's interest in monarchs and entomology? An elementary school classroom. In 1951, when he was seven years old and a second grade student at the Holy Rosary Academy, Woodland, he wrote and illustrated a wonderful little booklet on the monarch life cycle. His teacher graded it an "A" (we would have, too!).
The booklet, now almost 70 years old, provides an insight into the scientific creativity and wonderment of a young student; his dedicated teacher, Adele Dennison, who apparently delighted in sharing her love of science; and his proud mother, Delores Kareofelas (1923-2018), who treasured the booklet. "She saved it, and all my report cards, too," Greg said.
As the STEM website says:
- Scientific literacy starts in early childhood and continues through elementary school. Scientific knowledge is necessary to fully participate in human culture and democracy—especially as it becomes more technological. The future of our nation depends on a scientifically literate public.The new vision for science education emphasizes the need for consistent science instruction throughout a student's academic career. Scientific literacy is a developmental process that takes years of concerted effort to cultivate.
- Science learning takes significant time—but that time is not being provided. A recent study shows that science instructional time is decreasing in elementary school. Only 20% of K-3 students and 35% of students in grades 4-6 have access to daily science instruction. (See this report on teachers' practices around science instruction).
- Students are ready to reason about science in early childhood. Children enter elementary school with reasoning skills and perceptions of the natural world that provide a sound basis for science learning. A recent report calls for greater attention to monitoring instructional time in elementary science. Multidisciplinary, long-term science projects are often easier to do with students in elementary school years. Elementary science can promote narrow views of how science works. Efforts should be made to broaden what counts as science and engineering.
That means insects, too!
The Entomological Society of America (ESA) sponsors a Chrysalis Fund to foster "the future of entomology through grants to K-12 teachers and other educators who use insects in the classroom to get kids excited about science." See how to apply.
Entomologist and science writer Gwen Pearson, outreach coordinator at Purdue University's Department of Entomology, recently wrote an excellent piece on "Learning at Home with Bugs" for Entomology Today, an ESA publication.
"Kids are full of questions by nature," Pearson wrote, in urging parents to "resist the temptation to quickly provide answers. Use some of the prompts below to gently guide a child to think more deeply:
- What do you see?
- What do you think it is?
- Why do you think that's happening?
- What does that make you wonder about?"
GregKareofelas' keen interest in science and his acute observations glowed when he wrote the monarch booklet. He even added the gold band around the green chrysalis in his illustration. (See below)
And yes, butterflies still fascinate him.
Usually the life cycle--from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult—takes about a month, but this one took only 24.5 days.
“She was in a hurry,” said Kareofelas, an associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, and a retired finance director of the UC Davis School of Medicine.
The egg hatched in 3.5 days. The caterpillar formed a chrysalis 12.5 days later. The monarch emerged or eclosed 8.5 days later. And it took only two hours—usually it's around four—for her to dry her wings and fly away.
“You're Ruth,” Kareofelas told her as she dried her wings on Sept. 19. “You're alive. You're going to fly.”
Kareofelas decided to name her Ruth that morning, 24 hours after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion of gender equality and women's rights.
“I just happened to see her laying an egg on my milkweed,” he said.
Kareofelas documented the life stages on his Facebook page, daily educating his readers about the iconic butterfly, and posting photos that he captured with his “point-and-shoot camera,” a pocket-sized Canon SB890IS.
Kareofelas photographed her limp wings slowly expanding and “hardening.”
“In the wild, the butterfly is very vulnerable at this stage,” he said. “It cannot fly.”
Like her namesake, Ruth the Monarch showed independence, determination and drive.
“So, at 10 this morning (Sept. 19), I took her outside and released her,” Kareofelas wrote on Facebook. “She immediately flew to the top of the plum tree and from there, off she went. Goodbye, Ruth, stay strong and come back next spring.”
He's hoping she'll make it to the overwintering grounds along coastal California and return in February.
Kareofelas first became interested in butterflies in 1951, when as a second-grader at the Holy Rosary Academy, Woodland, he wrote and illustrated a butterfly booklet.
“Luckily, I had the kind of mother that saved this booklet,” Greg said, noting that was almost 70 years ago. “We did not know the name monarch, but you can see that I described a monarch caterpillar, chrysalis and adult butterfly. The drawing shows a green chrysalis, even showing a golden band.”
“There was no one guiding me--neither Mom nor Dad was versed in anything nature, but they were very supportive,” Greg recalled. He read the children's book, “Golden Guide to Insects,” and later borrowed a copy of John Henry Comstock's “How to Know the Butterflies” from the Yolo County Library. “The irony is most of what was in those two books was more for the East Coast, rather than California.”
Kareofelas went on to study business administration at Sacramento State College, serve in the U.S. Army (Korea USS Pueblo Crisis 1968-69) and then accepted a position at the UC Davis School of Medicine. “So, nothing butterfly related there.”
Kareofelas renewed his interest in butterflies in the 1970s when he visited the Bohart Museum of Entomology, named for Professor Richard Bohart and “run by Bob Schuster.” Then located in Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive, the Bohart Museum is now housed in the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. UC Davis entomology professor Lynn Kimsey, a former graduate student of Bohart's, directs the museum, which includes a global collection of nearly 8 million insect specimens, plus a live “petting zoo”(Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and a gift shop.
Kareofelas, a member of the Lepidopterists Society, is always eager to learn and share insect information. He confers with butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology (who hasn't seen a monarch egg or caterpillar all year), and serves as a volunteer at the Bohart Museum, where at special events, he shows butterfly and moth specimens with Lepidoptera curator Jeff Smith.
The Davis resident has led educational trips for Sutter Buttes Foundation, California Native Plant Society, Jepson Prairie Preserve, and the Placer Land Trust. He and UC Davis-trained entomologist Fran Keller, now a professor at Folsom Lake College, teamed to spotlight the California dogface butterfly on posters and in a book, “The Story of the Dogface Butterfly.” Kareofelas continues to lead tours of the Placer Land Trust's dogface butterfly habitat near Auburn.
“I am lucky to have been able to get to know some incredible folks—the Bohart crew and Shapiro—and through the Lepidopterists Society,” Kareofelas said.
Ruth the Monarch is lucky, too. She could have been a meal for a spider, a lady beetle or a milkweed bug, or parasitized by a tachinid fly or wasp.
“You're Ruth. You're alive. You're going to fly.”