- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Well, sort of "on screen." A newly released movie features him and his work.
The plot: "At the urging of his dying wife Thea (Debra Messing), the shy author finds himself in over his head on an epic, life-changing expedition through Washington's Gifford Pinchot National Forest in search of new species of butterflies. Over the course of his six-week adventure, Pyle battles self-doubt, the grueling trail, and the people and creatures who call this forest home. And, somewhere deep in the heart of The Dark Divide, he makes a discovery that challenges everything he knows about the natural world."
You'll have to watch it to see the discovery "that challenges everything."
Pyle, who founded the Xerces Society in 1971, resides in the Columbia River-tributary town of Grays River in southwest Washington.
He draws crowds and questions wherever he goes.
We remember when he toured the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, in July 2019 with fellow members of the Lepidopterists' Society at their 68th annual meeting.
At the time, Pyle had authored 23 publications, including the comprehensive National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies, a go-to reference source. Among his other insect-related books: Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage, which chronicles his 9,000-mile journey to discover the secrets of the monarchs' annual migration. For his book, Mariposa Road: The First Butterfly Big Year, Pyle sought to track, firsthand, the 800 species of butterflies known in the United States. The book is a result of his 88,000 mile journey.
While touring the Bohart Museum, "Bob," as he prefers to be called, took a special interest in the Magdalena alpine butterfly, an all-black alpine butterfly, considered "the most elusive of several rare and beautiful species found on the mountain." He featured the butterfly in his book: Magdalena Mountain: A Novel.
Pyle visited with many of the Bohart crew, including director Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology; senior scientist Steve Heydon; Jeff Smith, curator of the Lepidoptera collection; and Bohart associate and naturalist Greg Kareofelas.
The Bohart Museum houses nearly eight million specimens, including the California State Insect Survey, as well as a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and a gift shop. It's located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, but is temporarily closed due to COVID-19 precautions. More information is available on the website or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 753-0493.)
(Note: The Dark Divide is showing in some theaters and can be streamed online. Xerces Society supporters can save $5 off the streaming rental. Go to The Dark Divide website, select "Virtual Cinema" and then click on the Xerces Society logo. When you reach the checkout, enter XSDD5 for the $5 discount. )
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Butterflies draw smiles instead of scowls, pleasure instead of pain, glee instead of grief.
So, here's Part 1 of the good news. You still have a chance to win the Beer-for-a-Butterfly contest. No one has come forth in the three-county area of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano to deliver the first cabbage white butterfly of the new year to Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. If you collect the first one of 2015 and you're the verified winner, you'll receive a pitcher of beer or its equivalent.
Shapiro, who usually wins his own Beer-for-a-Butterfly contest, hasn't found one either. Every day has amounted to a "No Fly Day" and a "No Beer Day."
Reports are surfacing that the cabbage whites (Pieris rapae) are flying in Santa Rosa, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), Santa Rosa is in Sonoma County, not in Sacramento, Yolo or Solano counties.
Shapiro has sponsored the annual contest since 1972. It's all part of his four-decade study of climate and butterfly seasonality. “It is typically one of the first butterflies to emerge in late winter. Since 1972, the first flight has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20." Shapiro says his long-term studies of butterfly life cycles and climate "are especially important to help us understand biological responses to climate change. The cabbage white is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago here."
Shapiro, who is in the field more than 200 days a year, knows where and when to look. In fact, he's been defeated only three times since 1972, and all by his graduate students. Adam Porter defeated him in 1983; and Sherri Graves and Rick VanBuskirk each won in the late 1990s.
In 2014, Shapiro netted the winning butterfly at 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14 in West Sacramento, Yolo County. It ranked as "the fifth or sixth earliest since 1972.
The contest rules include:
- It must be an adult (no caterpillars or pupae) and be captured outdoors.
- It must be brought in alive to the department office, 2320 Storer Hall, UC Davis, during work hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with the full data (exact time, date and location of the capture) and your name, address, phone number and/or e-mail. The receptionist will certify that it is alive and refrigerate it. (If you collect it on a weekend or holiday, keep it in a refrigerator; do not freeze. A few days in the fridge will not harm it.)
- Shapiro is the sole judge.
Part 2 of the good news about butterflies: a mid-winter gathering of Northern California Lepidopterists and the Bohart Museum of Entomology will take place at an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31 in the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. Hosts are Bohart senior museum scientist-entomologist Steve Heydon and entomologists John De Benedictis and Jeff Smith.
Lepidopterists are researchers or hobbyists who specialize in the study of butterflies and moths in the order Lepitopdera.
All interested persons are encouraged to bring specimens, photos, PowerPoint presentations or slides from collecting trips and tales of collecting triumphs to share with others. Butterfly t-shirts and other entomological merchandise are available from the gift shop.
The museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens, and is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. It was founded by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007).
For more information on the mid-winter gathering of lepitopterists, contact Steve Heydon at (530) 752-0493 or email@example.com.
Meanwhile, The Great White Cabbage Butterfly Hunt is still underway. Can you find one before Art Shapiro does?