Posts Tagged: Art Shapiro
Ah, the Gulf Fritillary...
We spotted this orange-reddish butterfly nectaring lantana last Saturday near downtown Vacaville. In fact, the patch of lantana (family Verbenaceae) drew assorted butterflies, including buckeyes, alfalfa, monarchs, and painted ladies. A few honey bees and native bees tried to get their share.
Lantana and Gulf Frits. These multi-colored blossoms and the multi-colored butterfly, both found in the tropics and subtropics, are a study in brilliance.
On his website, butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, says the Gulf Frit (Agraulis vanillae) was introduced into southern California in the 19th century, and was first recorded in the Bay Area before 1908. Once prevalent in the Sacramento area in the 1960s, it "seems to have died out by the early 1970s," he said.
Then in 2009, it began making a comeback in the Sacramento area.
Now it appears to be thriving in some areas, at least where its adopted host plant, the passion flower vine (genus Passiflora), grows. If you have a passion flower vine in your yard, you may very well see the spiny orange-and-black caterpillars feeding on the leaves. And if you have lantana or Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in your yard, don't be surprised if a few adults drop by for a sip of nectar.
No wonder that commercial companies mass-rear these exotic-looking butterflies for release at weddings, garden parties and other social events.
Gulf Fritillary on lantana. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The Gulf Fritillary is one of the showiest butterflies in California, according to butterfly expert Art Shapiro of UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
On its underside, the Gulf Fritillary is spangled in iridescent silver. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
if you're growing plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae--you know, the plants with the square stalks and opposite leaves--you may see a very tiny reddish-orange visitor.
It's so tiny that it's smaller than the leaf of a catmint (Nepeta). Its wing span is probably about 10 to 15 millimeters.
This little critter (below) is a California Pyrausta Moth (Pyrausta californicalis), as identified by butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. Pyrausta is a genus of moths in the Crambidae family.
We spotted this one Saturday morning in our yard, foraging in the catmint. This is one moth you'll see during the day!
"Pyrausta californicalis is a native feeder in the mint family, which is often quite common on cultivated exotic mints, including spearmint, peppermint, etc.," Shapiro said.
In fact, Shapiro found the mint moth in his own garden in Davis for two decades "until I took the spearmint out."
And, it occurs on introduced mint in his Gates Canyon study site near Vacaville, Calif.
What's behind the catmint leaf (Nepeta)? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is a California Pyrausta Moth (Pyrausta californicalis) on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of California Pyrausta Moth (Pyrausta californicalis) on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Don't look now, but a garden spider almost grabbed a tiger by the tail.
The tiger? That would be the Western tiger swallowtail, Papilio rutulus.
The ragged wings of the butterfly (below) show signs of a close encounter with a predator--maybe another spider, a praying mantis or a bird.
The Western tiger swallowtails are drop-dead gorgeous. Sporting a yellow-and-black wingspan of 2.75 to 4 inches (when not tattered by a predator!), these butterflies attract attention as they glide around gardens and parks and in riparian forests.
This is one of the butterflies that distinguished scientist Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis studies. Check out his amazing butterfly website.
LiveScience, in partnership with the National Science Foundation, recently showcased him in a feature story, "Passion for Butterflies Becomes a Study in Climate Change Impact."
You'll want to read how Shapiro first became involved in the wonderful world of butterflies, and how that passion led to a massive butterfly data collection he launched more than 40 years ago.
Despite "the high altitudes, rigorous walks and over cooperative weather, he's still going strong, exploring mountains across central California, pen and notebook in hand," wrote Ayesha Monga Kravtz of the National Science Foundation.
"Through phylogeography, Shapiro is trying to reconstruct the history of the high-mountain butterfly faunas both on the West coast of North America and in the southern parts of South America, such as Argentina and Chile," Kravtz wrote. "By reconstructing the history of these faunas, where they came from, how they moved and when, scientists and researchers can make predictions as to how the fauna will respond to climate change in the future."
And, as Shapiro told Kravtz: "The past is the key to the future."
Indeed it is. And that would include the comings and goings of the Western tiger swallowtail.
Western tiger swallowtail, Papilio rutulus, nectars on a zinnia, unaware of the danger lurking below. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of garden spider tucked beneath the petals. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
We've seen bumble bees, honey bees, sweat bees, wool carder bees and syrphid flies topple into our swimming pool, but never an alfalfa butterfly until now.
This male alfalfa butterfly--the gender identified by noted butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis--bumbled into our pool early one morning. Not sure why it fell into the pool. It spiraled over the catmint, fluttered over the pool, and then dropped into the water. Not very gracefully, either.
We netted it and placed it on a flowering artichoke so it could rest a bit and dry its wings.
The alfalfa butterfly, Colias eurytheme (common name "orange sulphur" or "alfalfa butterfly") is a significant pest of alfalfa, Shapiro says on his website, Art's Butterfly World. It "overwinters as a larva almost entirely in annual vetch at low altitudes, and colonizes alfalfa only as the vetch senesces in May-June. Aside from alfalfa and annual vetches, it also breeds on a variety of clovers and sweet clovers and occasionally on lupines."
"An oddity of sulphurs is that their orange and yellow pteridine pigments are water-soluble," Shapiro told us today. "Had it remained in the water long enough, its scales would have been leached to translucency."
And, he pointed out, "Colias that sit out in the alfalfa during overhead irrigation regularly get water-spotted."
This one not only survived but so did its colors.
Alfalfa butterfly, Colias eurytheme, lands in a swimming pool. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fished out of the pool, the alfalfa butterfly rests on the net. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Placed atop a flowering artichoke, the alfalfa butterfly dries its wings. Several minutes later it fluttered away. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When I last met up with a pipevine swallowtail, it wasn't faring well.
In fact, I didn't recognize it as a pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor), no thanks to it being in the clutches of a hungry praying mantis.
Mantids have to eat, too, but I'd prefer they express an culinary interest in pests such as spotted cucumber beetles instead of beneficial insects.
On his website, butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, calls the pipevine swallowtail "the signature riparian butterfly of our region, occurring along streams in foothill canyons and on the Central Valley floor, essentially everywhere where its only host plant, California pipevine or Dutchman's pipe, Aristolochia californica, occurs."
If you head out to the Storer Garden in the UC Davis Arboretum, you might see a pipevine swallowtail catching the breeze, stopping here and there to nectar a plant.
Maybe this time a praying mantis will catch something else.
Pipevine swallowtail visiting the Storer Garden, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantis devouring a pipevine swallowtail. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)