Butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, knows where they are. As mentioned in a previous Bug Squad blog, he spotted a cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae, on Jan. 16 on the UC Davis campus, just south of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, located at 254 Old Davis Road.
As you probably know, Professor Shapiro always looks for rapae as part of his scientific research; he sponsors the annual Beer-for-a-Butterfly Contest to determine its first flight of the year. COVID-19 canceled this year's contest.
But did you also know that Shapiro found FOUR other butterfly species on his Jan. 16th rounds in Davis, which included Old Davis Road on the UC Davis campus, and residential Davis?
- Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta, seen in Lot 1 landscaping
- Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, spotted in residential Davis, north central
- West Coast Lady, Vanessa annabella, seen on Old Davis Road near the campus hotel.
- Mourning Cloak, Nymphalis antiopa, spotted on Old Davis Road
The links on the species will direct you to his amazing research site, Art's Butterfly World, and the wealth of information.
Our butterfly-spotting record so far: Zero. Zilch. Nada.
But of course, what with the pandemic and all, we haven't been out much. The 100-acre UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden is a good place to stroll, observe and photograph. We remember spotting a Mourning Cloak in the Arboretum's Ruth Risdon Garden on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016 on an identification sign for the silver anniversary butterfly bush, Buddleia “Morning Mist."
It was a good place to warm its wings.
Meanwhile, here are a few images of the butterflies that Shapiro saw on Jan. 16. These images were taken in the two-county area of Yolo and Solano.
If you vacationed at Doran Regional Beach, Bodega Bay, on a Wednesday last year (pre-COVID-19 pandemic), chances are you saw scores of dedicated volunteers pulling out the invasive ice plant, Carpobrotus edulis, along 201 Doran Beach Road. It's hard work but it's rewarding.
Wednesday was--or is--Ice Plant Removal Day. (See the Sonoma County Regional Parks website.)
C. edulis, a succulent native to South Africa, is unwanted in Bodega Bay's wetlands because it chokes out native, endangered plants and alters the soil composition. When it's removed, native plant species return as do a diversity of wanted wildlife.
Yes, nurseries sell ice plant as a ground cover because it's hardy, easy to grow, and spreads quickly. The neon pink blossoms, in particular, are spectacular. (See photo)
C. edulis, though, is as pervasive as it is pretty. It's the flora equivalent of Public Enemy No. 1.
Nevertheless, you'll see "wanted" insects foraging on the "unwanted" plants along the Doran Beach trails. We've seen honey bee and butterflies foraging on the blossoms--including a pollen-packing bee seeking nectar--a short distance from the ice plant removal site. And once we saw a Great Blue Heron snatch a vole from the ice plant growing along the Jetty Campground, Doran Beach.
Beauty and beasts are where you find them, whether they're flora or fauna or wanted or unwanted. Take a hike. Take a camera. Or, better yet, volunteer for an Invasive Plant Removal Day. The California Native Plant Society will thank you.
Step into your garden, walk over to a community park, or hike in the wilderness and see what's out there.
And take along the newly published, newly revised "The Field Guide to California Insects."
It includes more than 600 insect species. Not sure what species of butterfly that is? Want to know if that's a Valley carpenter bee? What's that species of praying mantis you just found? Take a look at the text and photos. Chances are you'll find them in this handy book.
It's a California Natural History Guide and published by the University of California Press. If you're into entomology, you'll probably recognize the names of the four authors:
- Kip Will, entomologist, insect systematist, and former director of the Essig Museum of Entomology at UC Berkeley
- Joyce Gross, noted insect photographer (she works as a computer programmer with the Berkeley Natural History Museums at UC Berkeley)
- Dan Rubinoff, who grew up chasing insects in California and is now a professor of entomology and director of the University of Hawaii Insect Museum
- Jerry Powell, emeritus professor, UC Berkeley, and former director of the Essig Museum of Entomology
We remember reading the first edition, California Insects, published in September 1980 and authored by Professor Powell and (the late) Charles Hogue.
So this revision is 40 years in the making.
It's billed as the only California-specific, statewide book devoted to all groups of insects:
"Engaging accounts focus on distinguishing features, remarkable aspects of biology, and geographical distribution in the state. An accessible and compact introduction to identifying, understanding, and appreciating these often unfamiliar and fascinating creatures, this guide covers insects that readers are likely to encounter in homes and natural areas, cities and suburbs, rural lands and wilderness. It also addresses exotic and invasive species and their impact on native plants and animals. Field Guide to California Insects remains the definitive portable reference and a captivating read for beginners as well as avid naturalists."
The authors point out that worldwide, there are only a million described insects, and that's "more than five times the number of all animals combined." They also note that "estimates of the number remaining to be described and named vary between three million to 30 million or more."
Thirty million! Can you imagine?
The authors define what makes an insect, expanding on growth and reproduction, breathing and circulation, feeding and stinging. They write about the distribution and diversity of the California insect fauna; how insects are classified, and even how to make an insect collection, something most high schoolers will be asked to do.
The book offers you information on dragonflies and damselflies, mantises, stick insects, beetles, fleas, flies, mosquitoes, earwigs, moths and butterflies, and booklice--and more.
It's a fantastic book--well-researched, well-written, well-illustrated, and an opportunity for you to become not a Big Game Hunter, but a Little Game Hunter.
By the end of the book, you may even decide to study entomology. (And there's plenty of opportunities in California, including at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology)
You may also want to become an insect photographer: plant a pollinator garden and they will come. Below are some of the backyard or household images you can capture.
Rising from the Ashes--Some Day
People ask me all the time where butterflies go when it rains. Now they're asking me where they go when it burns.
In a word, to the Elysian fields. They have nowhere else to go!
The unprecedented wildfires have destroyed very important butterfly habitats in 2020, particularly in the High North Coast Range where a million acres – mostly in the Mendocino National Forest – have burned. We have been doing biogeographical survey of the butterfly faunas of this region beginning in 1974. Earlier fires largely removed the fir forest from the upper reaches of Snow Mountain (summit 7056'), leaving it covered in successional montane chaparral. But Goat Mountain (6112'), Hull Mountain (6831'), Anthony Peak (6958'), and Black Butte/Mendocino Pass (7455') still had many intact plant communities containing rare and relict species (many of which were isolated and far-removed from their core ranges in the Sierra Nevada and/or the Klamath Mountains). These included very rare wet meadows (as at Plaskett Meadows near Mendocino Pass) and treeless “balds” on rocky summits, usually facing southwest, producing a simulacrum of alpine fell-fields typically found several thousand feet higher.
We had documented roughly 115 species of butterflies in these places. Some, like the Nevada Arctic (Oeneis nevadensis) and the Arctic Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) were at their southernmost range limits, not just in the Coast Range, but globally. One butterfly new to science, the Bald Hills Satyr (Cercyonis incognita), was discovered at mid-elevation on Goat Mountain (100% of which burned) and in a few spots farther north. All of its known habitats may have burned—we won't know until we can get in, not before next year—and it is possible that it is extinct. In addition, we discovered that the widespread, familiar Pine White (Neophasia menapia) was apparently two sibling species on Goat Mountain and near Seven Troughs Spring in the Mendo Pass area, flying several weeks apart and with morphological differences. We did publish that one! All the known localities for the late-season entity have burned, too. This situation is of special interest because the idea that species could originate through temporal isolation has been discussed for many decades, but rarely if ever firmly documented. (The classic case, in field crickets, has been falsified by DNA analysis.) We have to be thankful that we got the data we did before the holocaust. Now, of course, the pressure is on to digest it.
Recovery of the butterfly faunas cannot occur until the vegetation resources they depend on come back—and they may never do so. Glacial relics, like the unique four-petaled Plaskett-Snow Basin race of the bog shooting-star Dodecatheon jeffreyi –personally, I think it deserves species status—may never come back. Nor many of the stranded alpine and edaphic (soil-specialist) species, because they are so far from any conceivable seed source. We have to hope they have persisted in the soil seed bank and may in time recover. Only then can the butterflies re-establish—if there are sources of potential colonizers. The farther any unburned sources and the weaker the dispersal capabilities of the butterflies, the longer the lag times to recolonization. Only the most vagile and broadly-adapted species are likely to recolonize a burned area of a million acres anytime in the next half-century or more.
The fires of 2020 were fed by the combination of 60 percent of recent mean precipitation in the 2019-2020 rainfall year and extraordinary evapotranspiration demand on the vegetation resulting from the hottest late summer on record. Yes, climate change is real. And our Coast Range butterfly faunas may never be the same again.
- Sympatric, temporally isolated populations of the pine white butterfly Neophasia menapia, are morphologically and genetically differentiated, PLOS ONE, published May 31, 2007. Authors: Katherine L. Bell, Christopher A. Hamm, Arthur M. Shapiro and Chris C. Nice, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176989
- A New Species of Cercyonis (Lepidoptera: Satyridae) from Northern California, Bulletin of the Allyn Museum, Florida Museum of Natural History, published Sept. 5, 2012. Authors: John F. Emmel, Thomas C. Emmel and Sterling O. Mattoon
Contact: Art Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org
The recent wildfire that roared through rural Vacaville, reaching the outer edges of the city, seared the souls of the victims but what's happening now is warming their hearts.
A Vacaville-based artist and philanthropist has turned a catastrophe into creativity: she is creating paintings as a way to provide financial assistance to the fire victims.
Shortly after the August fire, Lisa Rico founded the Vacaville Fire Art Project and recruited 10 fellow artists to join her team. Already they have raised $13,000 of the $20,000 goal. Every single dollar goes to the fire victims.
Their themes include pigs, ducks, cows, chickens, goats, donkeys, horses, rabbits, birds, bees and butterflies. The fire injured or killed many of their subjects. Clay Ford of Clay's Bees (Pleasants Valley Honey Company), Caroline Yelle of Pope Canyon Bees, and her business partner, Rick Schubert are among those who lost most of their bees.
Lisa describes the project on her Facebook page: "An art project to benefit locals affected from the recent LNU fire. Hundreds of homes and farms were destroyed. I will paint one painting a day selling them for $300 each. All proceeds will go to the fire victims. A few of my art colleagues have offered to help as well."
Lisa likes the "immediacy of the medium and richness of the color possibilities." She especially enjoys painting the "faces of people from other cultures and countries" and "local flora and fauna." Her husband, Richard, former editor and publisher of The Reporter, Vacaville, and himself an artist, is a contributor to the Vacaville Fire Art Project.
The couple evacuated from their home as the fire threatened their neighborhood. Sadly, friends lost their homes in Pleasants Valley, Gates Canyon and beyond.
Unknown to many, for the past three years Lisa has challenged herself to "paint one a day" every September. This year the deadly fire turned her commitment to philanthropy. She has created 25 paintings--or one a day--of the 50 pieces submitted in the Vacaville Fire Art Project.
Prospective buyers can access the Facebook page to see and purchase a painting. The artists usually announce beforehand what day or time they will post an image of their work, and the price. It's first-come, first-served. Some are sold within minutes.
Since this is a bug blog, we're sharing some of the amazing insect art that Rico created. One a day...every day...for the past 25 days...
(Note: See the Facebook page for the other incredible art. You'll love those adorable farm animals!)