If you have a passionflower vine (Passiflora), you probably have cats.
No, not the four-legged ones that meow, chase mice or cavort with catnip.
These 'cats or caterpillars are part of the life cycle of the Gulf Fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae) and Passiflora is their host plant.
Watch for the chewed leaves, the frass (poo) and the chrysalids.
Expect a cat-tastrophe when predators like the California scrub jays, European paper wasps, and praying mantids appear and the 'cats disappear.
The circle of life...
Three noted UC Davis scientists will speak at a special forum from noon to 1 p.m. in Room 194 of Young Hall at the ninth annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day on Saturday, Feb. 15.
The slate of speakers:
- Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, will discuss “Are Our Butterflies in Trouble?” (“Yes, they mostly are in trouble,” he says. He will discuss “How do we know and why?”)
- Gabrielle Nevitt, professor of animal behavior (on leave), will speak on “How Do Sub-Antarctic Seabirds Find their Food in the Vast Ocean?” (“They follow their nose," she says, "and sometimes it gets them into trouble.”)
- Melanie Truan, research ecologist, UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, will cover “Biodiversity Studies at the UC Davis Wildlife Museum.” Biodiversity studies, she says, “can tell us a lot about the world and how it is functioning. This is especially important today where the influence of Homo sapiens is having profound impacts on the planet and its inhabitants.” She will touch on some of the ways that the UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology incorporates biodiversity into its research.
Each scientist will present a 15-minute talk, with a question-and-answer session to follow.
Prominent lepidopterist Art Shapiro, in his 49th year of service to UC Davis, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1971, first working in the former Department of Zoology. He has been monitoring California butterfly faunas since 1972. (See his website.) Shapiro is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the California Academy of Sciences, the Royal Entomological Society (U.K.) and the Explorers Club. Shapiro has authored some 300 scientific publications and the book, Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions. He has mentored 17 doctoral students and a similar number of master's students. Shapiro received his bachelor of arts degree in biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966 and his doctorate in entomology from Cornell in 1970.
Gabrielle Nevitt, a 25-year member of the UC Davis faculty, is a leader in the field of chemical ecology. She is known for her pioneering work in the sub-Antarctic that established a climate regulator, dimethyl sulphide, as a keystone foraging cue in marine ecosystems.
Her research frequently appears in leading scientific journals, including Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and has been featured in many documentaries, including David Attenborough's “Life of Birds.” She is spotlighted in a popular Audubon piece, "Birds Can Smell, and One Scientist is Leading the Charge to Prove It."
Nevitt has served as a contributing lecturer in the International Course on Sensory Ecology at Lund University in Sweden since 2008 and was the first woman ever to chair the Scientific Advisory Board for the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology in Germany.
A graduate of Stanford University, Nevitt received her doctorate in zoology from the University of Washington, and served as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University. She has mentored some 60 undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral scholars in her lab, as well as serving in advisory roles to graduate students at other institutions.
Melanie Truan, 16 years in her current position, received her doctorate in ecology in 2004 from UC Davis, studying the plants and animals of Putah Creek and laying the groundwork for a long-term research program that continues today. She is particularly interested in the art of eco-investigation, “a sort of detective work that employs in-depth observation and species monitoring to infer the structure and function of ecosystems, the results of which can be used to devise habitat reconciliation strategies and management objectives.” She holds a bachelor's degree in biology/environmental studies (1996) from UC Santa Cruz.
Truan says she is a self-professed "biophiliac" (E. O. Wilson 1984), bearing a strong urge to affiliate with other forms of life.
UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day
The ninth annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, an annual science-based event, is billed as a “free, educational event for the community where visitors get to meet and talk with UC Davis scientists from undergraduate students to staff to emeritus professors and see amazing objects and organisms from the world around us,” according to Biodiversity Museum Day coordinator Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Last year's event drew more than 4000 visitors. The event is always held the Saturday of Presidents' Day weekend.
The schedule is online at http://biodiversitymuseumday.ucdavis.edu/schedule.html.
Participating museums or collections and the hours they will be open:
- The Botanical Conservatory, the Greenhouses along Kleiber Hall Drive, will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The following five will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.:
- Arboretum and Public Garden, Shields Oak Grove, alongside the Vet School, Garrod Drive on campus
- Bohart Museum of Entomology, Room 1124 and Main Hall of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane
- California Raptor Center, 340 Equine Lane, off Old Davis Road
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, Room 1394 and Mail Hall, Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane
- Paleontology Collection, Earth and Physical Sciences Building, 434 LaRue Road
Two collections will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.:
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
- Viticulture and Enology Culture Collection, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
These five will be open from noon to 4 p.m.:
- Anthropology Museum, 328 Young Hall and grounds
- Center for Plant Diversity, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
- Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road (take West Hutchison Drive to Hopkins)
- Nematode Collection, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
- Marine Invertebrate Collection, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
All 13 sites are within walking distance except for the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road and the Raptor Center on Old Davis Road. Further information, including a campus map, is available on the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day website.
A spectacular pollinator garden that's a "must-see" is Kate Frey's pollinator garden at Sonoma Cornerstone.
Kate Frey, a world-class pollinator garden designer, pollinator advocate and author who addressed the UC Davis Bee Symposium in March on "Designing Bee Friendly Gardens," has created a masterpiece. And yes, the pollinator garden is open to the public--no admission fee.
We visited the garden last Saturday and saw a pipevine swallowtail nectaring on Nepeta tuberosa, yellow-faced bumble bees sipping nectar from Stachys bullata, hummingbirds scoring nectar from salvia, and honey bees foraging on everything from Scabiosa "Fama Blue" to a native milkweed, Asclepias speciosa.
This is a happy place.
As she told the crowd at the Bee Symposium, hosted by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology: Whether you plant them, nurture them, or walk through them, bee gardens make us happy.
Frey's sign at the Sonoma pollinator garden explains that "All the plants offer food resources of pollen and nectar for pollinators such as native bees, honey bees, hummingbirds and beneficial insects. Pollen is a protein, mineral and fat source and is primarily a larval food for bees, while nectar is composed of various sugars and is the main food for pollinators and the adult life stage of many beneficial insects. Pollinators need a continuous food source for many months of the year. This garden contains a range of plants that will bloom in succession from early spring to late fall."
Frey's sign also noted that "Pollinators all have preferred plants they feed from, and flowers cater to specific pollinators. Some flower shapes are designed to exclude unwanted pollinators. The long, constricted floral tubes of honeysuckles or many salvia exhibit their focus on hummingbirds as primary pollinators. Other flowers nectar, like coffee berry is easily accessible to all pollinators. This garden contains a wide range of plants to appear to a variety of pollinators. Over 80 percent of flowering plants require insect or animal pollination. What insects or birds do you see visiting each flower type?"
Well, let's see: bees, butterflies, and birds...Apis mellifera, Battus philenor, Bombus vosnesenskii, Papilio rutulus, Calypte anna...
"The same plants that support pollinators," Frey indicated on the sign, "also make us happy."
They do! Happiness is a pollinator garden...
It apparently originated during World War II. Remember the 1942 film, "The Flying Tigers," starring John Wayne as Capt. Jim Gordon?
John Wayne, aka Jim Gordon, asks a Rangoon hotel clerk about a missing plane: "Any word on that flight yet?"
The hotel clerk replies that Japanese aircraft attacked the plane, but "She's coming in on one wing and a prayer."
Then there's the 1944 film, "Wing and a Prayer," about "the heroic crew of an American carrier in the desperate early days of World War II in the Pacific theater" (Wikipedia).
Fast forward to today, but this time with migratory monarchs. It seems that, they, too, fly on a "a wing and a prayer."
Over the last two months, we've seen dozens of migratory monarchs-often four or five at a time--stop for flight fuel in our 600-square foot pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif. Many arrive in poor condition, their wings gouged, shredded and tattered. Still, they manage to sip nectar from Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia), butterfly bush (Buddleia) and Lantana, and continue their hazardous journey.
Imagine how incredibly difficult it is for these tiny, fluttering insects to weather the elements, not to mention evading birds, praying mantids and other predators.
Not all will make it. But look for some to arrive in the overwintering spots along coastal California "on a wing and a prayer."
They go together like honey bees on bee balm and bumble bees on tomatoes.
When you attend the 102nd annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 16, be sure to head over to Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive, to see the Pollinator Pavilion, which will emphasize the importance of pollinators in both natural environments and food production.
"It is often said that one in every three bites of food we take is dependent on animal pollination," said Pavilion Pollinator coordinator Margaret "Rei" Scampavia, a doctoral candidate in entomology. "While there are some foods that do not rely on animal pollination, many of the tastiest and most nutritious food does. To this end, we have a series of posters demonstrating what a meal might look like with and without foods that benefit from animal pollination."
"We are going to have a series of exhibits showcasing pollinator diversity, demonstrating their importance in natural ecosystems and food production, and providing information on what members of the general public can do to help native pollinators," Scampavia said.
"We will have information on a wide variety of animal pollinators, including butterflies, flies, wasps, birds, and even bats. But the majority of the exhibit will focus on the most abundant pollinators: native bees."
The highlight is the walk-in Pollinator Pavillion, an enclosure where visitors can "safely view live pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and flies, up close and in person," the entomologist said. "Younger guests can practice scientific observation by filling out specially provided data sheets. Some of the species present will include: blue orchard bees, Monarch butterflies, Red Admiral butterflies, and Painted Lady butterflies."
Scampavia points out that the European honey bee "is the first thing many people think of when they hear the word pollinator. But in reality, this species is only one of tens of thousands of pollinator species; there are more than 20,000 species of bee besides the honeybee, for example. We hope that visitors to this exhibit will leave with a greater appreciation of the amazingly diverse animals that pollinate flowers."
Last year scores of enthusiastic visitors packed the Pollinator Pavilion. It proved to be one of the most popular, well-crafted, well-designed Picnic Day displays. Another eagerly anticipated event awaits Saturday.
And now there's an urgency.
"Many pollinator species are experiencing alarming declines," Scampavia said. "Monarch butterflies, for example, have declined by over 90 percent in the past ten years. To promote awareness of the plight of the Monarch, we have a series of exhibits with live caterpillars, chrysalises, and adults, which also contain important information about this species and what we can do to prevent further losses. There will also be information about ways to enhance outdoor spaces to promote and sustain healthy wild, native pollinators."