It definitely wasn't a case of "brotherly love" when a predator--maybe a bird or a praying mantis--grabbed the California Sister in our pollinator garden.
The butterfly, Adelpha bredowii californica, didn't survive.
It's quite common in the area, says Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, who has monitored butterfly populations of central California for 50 years.
He writes on his website, Art's Butterfly World:
"A common species of oak woodlands. Glides back and forth along streambeds and roads; males perch on branches and foliage, frequently in oak. Both sexes visit mud puddles. (This is unusual; in most butterflies only males "puddle.") The female is larger than the male, with broader wings and a less pointed forewing apex. There is no variation in color and pattern. This butterfly has been shown to be mildly distasteful to birds and to be mimicked by the more edible Lorquin's Admiral in California. The genus Adelpha is of New World Tropical origin. Although our Sister is usually classified as conspecific (belonging to the same species) with the desert Southwest form, subspecies eulalia, we suspect the two are good biological species."
"Two to three broods, flying March or April to November at lower elevations. Most abundant in the foothills (Sierra and Coast Range/Bay Area) and lower montane zone. Uncommon or rare, and irregular, on the floor of the Central Valley, but occasionally seen in cities and suburbs. Females are highly dispersive and are most likely to be seen in unusual places. The species is not a permanent resident in our area above 5000' but is seen regularly up to 7000' or higher in late spring-early summer and again in autumn."
"Host plants oaks, especially Live Oaks (Quercus agrifolia, wislizenii and chrysolepis). Adults visit flowers (California Buckeye, Yerba Santa, Dogbane, Giant Hyssop, Goldenrod, Coyotebrush) but also dung, carrion, flowing sap, damaged fruit, etc.--a very tropical lifestyle."
A sneak peak at a couple of Solano County Fair entries...think insects!
The COVID-19 pandemic derailed fairs and festivals, but now they're back on track.
Take the 73rd annual Solano County Fair, themed "Bales of Fun." Located at 900 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo, it opens June Thursday through Sunday, June 16-19, and gate admission is free. Headed by president Lee Williams of Rio Vista, the board of directors includes Valerie Williams of Vacaville, better known as "Mrs. Solano County 4-H." In fact, Valerie has served tirelessly for some 25 years as the Solano County 4-H program representative. The 4-H program is part of the University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources or UC ANR.
Our favorite part of the fair? The exhibits at McCormack Hall, particularly those that are insect-themed.
One entry, by talented photographer Matthew Agbayani, 17, of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, shows a syrphid fly and a honey bee sharing a sunflower. It takes a special kind of patience to be able to capture two species on the same flower.
Many folks mistake syrphid flies, aka hover flies or hover flies, for honey bees. They're both pollinators.
Three of the easiest ways to differentiate a fly from a bee:
- A fly has one set of wings. A bee has two sets.
- A fly has short, stubby antennae. A honey bee doesn't.
- A fly has no corbicula or pollen basket. A honey bee (worker bee) does.
Among the other insect-themed displays: Rio Vista resident Richard Laswell's exquisite watercolor depicting three dragonflies that he entered in the amateur art division; and Vallejo resident Ashley Workman's colorful blue butterfly (oils and acrylics) that she entered in open art division.
Art by Iris Mayhew of American Canyon also caught our eye. She drew inspiration from a safari in Kenya. "I love animals," she said. That includes monarchs and Gulf Fritillaries. She'll be depicting them next.
Early in his career, the late heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) drew international headlines when he uttered that remark before his 1964 fight with then champion Sonny Liston.
It was all over by the seventh round when "The Greatest" emerged victorious. But his comment regarding butterfly and bee behavior lives on.
That begs the question--were any bug people ever champion boxers?
Yes, the late James H. Oliver Jr. (1931-2018) was a Golden Gloves champion.
Two years before Oliver died, entomologist Marlin Rice, a past president of the Entomological Society of America, interviewed him for American Entomologist (Volume 62, Issue 4, Winter 2016), pointing out: "James H. Oliver, Jr. is Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Biology Emeritus at Georgia Southern University and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Oliver is widely recognized as an international expert in medical entomology and acarology, especially the biology and cytogenetics of pathogen-transmitting ticks and parasitic mites."
And Oliver was a Golden Gloves state champion.
Rice asked him a series of questions, including:
"Were you a good student?"
Oliver: "No, not very. I was a good school athlete and party guy. [Laughs.]
You went into boxing at the University of Georgia? Were you a good boxer?
Oliver: "Yeah. I won the state championship in my weight—the Golden Gloves."
Did you ever get knocked out boxing?
Did you ever knock out an opponent?
Oliver: Yeah. [Laughs.]
What's the quickest round you ever won?
Oliver: "Probably second or third round. I was so good at it because I was in good physical condition—great physical condition. I had a coach that said the one's that's in the best physical condition and can keep his left jab going all the time and don't try for a knockout—just hammer him [would win]. It was very good advice, because after the second round my opponent would usually get arm weary and I'd block him by keeping my hands up. That's how I won most of my fights, out of pure physical condition, and I was coordinated and fast. So then I found what I wanted to do; I'm not going to be a veterinarian, I'm going to be a boxer—a professional boxer! Well, that wasn't well thought out. [Laughs.] My brother, and he was always a scholar, said, “My god, you can't do that. You're going to have a brain concussion!” “Yeah, but I'm quick.” I was finally talked into not doing that and leaving the University of Georgia. I went to Georgia Southern 'cause it was only 50 miles away from home and I liked teaching as well. So I'll become a high school biology teacher and coach. That was my goal for several years until I decided I don't want to do that." (Read the entire interview here.)
So, yes, at least one entomologist was a boxing champion. Another professional boxer went into pest control following his retirement. Mike "Irish Mike" Jameson fought the likes of Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield and Randall “Tex” Cobbs before fighting bugs, landing a job as a pest control inspector with Clark Pest Control, Lodi, Calif., according to a feature story on pctonline.com.)
Did they ever say "Float like Lepidoptera, sting like Hymenoptera?"
Well, maybe they said "flutter" instead of "float?"
It's early morning.
A newly eclosed Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, perches alone in the center of a lavender bed in Vacaville, Calif. It's too early for the honey bees.
This Gulf Frit probably eclosed at dusk yesterday and then flew several yards from the host plant, Passiflora, to the lavender bed.
As the sun warms her wings, she unfolds them gingerly. As honey bees arrive, buzzing all around her, she moves a few feet.
Eventually she flutters away as more honey bees arrive, a hummingbird hovers over an agave, and California scrub jays chatter.
Just another day in the Life of a Butterfly and another opportunity to showcase this glorious orange-reddish butterfly with silver-spangled underwings.
"This dazzling bit of the New World Tropics was introduced into southern California in the 19th Century--we don't know how--and was first recorded in the Bay Area before 1908, though it seems to have become established there only in the 1950s," writes butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, on his research website. He's been monitoring butterfly populations in the Central Valley since 1972. "It can be quite common in the East and South Bay--particularly in Berkeley-- nd has been found breeding spontaneously as far inland as Fairfield where, however, it is not established. There are scattered records in the Central Valley and even up to Folsom, perhaps resulting from people breeding the species for amusement or to release at social occasions. According to Hal Michael, who grew up in South Sacramento, this species bred there in abundance on garden Passiflora in the early 1960s. It seems to have died out by the early 1970s, however. Intolerant of hard freezes, it still managed to survive the record cold snap of 1990 that largely exterminated the Buckeye regionally! In the Bay Area, this species can be seen flying any day of the year, if it is warm and sunny enough.
Yes, flying throughout much of the year. We've seen a Gulf Frit laying eggs on Christmas Day. A gift unlike any other. Early mornings are good, too.
Some people are born good-looking. Some have the gift of gab. And some are lucky enough to be born smarter than the rest of us. Whether we like it or not, Mother Nature does not dole these characteristics out evenly.--Simon Sinek
That applies to butterflies, too. Nobody said Mother Nature is perfect.
If you're rearing butterflies, such as Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), expect to see some defects, deformities and death. That chrysalis you've been watching? A butterfly may never eclose. In the cycle of life, the transformation from egg to larva to pupa to adult may never occur.
Nobody said Mother Nature is perfect.
The chrysalis is a withered grayish-brown, perfectly camouflaged on the butterfly's host plant, the passionflower vine (Passiflora). Sometimes you see a burst of reddish-orange wings and sliver spangled underwings, the remains of a butterfly that struggled to eclose.
Then you wait for one that will, one that will eclose.
The next one will take your breath away. Mother Nature is like that.