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Posts Tagged: butterflies

Ah, Spring!

It's a glorious day, the first day of spring, and what better time to mark the occasion by visiting the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive?

Mother Earth, a mosaic ceramic sculpture by talented Donna Billick of Davis, co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, overlooks a thriving garden populated with honey bees, butterflies, sweat bees, syrphid flies, and ladybugs.

Today we saw the mournful dusky-wing butterfly (Erynnis tristis), the first of the year. (How ironic a butterfly with such a sad name would be in the garden the first day of spring!) The more colorful painted ladies (Vanessa cardui) arrived earlier this month. (See the Central California butterfly monitoring site of Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis for more information on butterflies and his research.) 

The UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery attracts scores of pollinators with such plants as ceanothus, salvia, California fuchsia, cut-leaf lilac, rosemary, bulbine and Spanish lavender.

Meanwhile, the officials at the teaching nursery are gearing up for their next public plant sales, set for three Saturdays: April 5,  April 26 and May 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Garden and irrigation experts will offer guidance for what to plant in your garden, including the Arboretum All-Stars, and offer advice on drought-related resources. A plant doctor clinic is also planned. (Members say 10 percent on plant sales.)

While you're browsing through the plants, don't overlook the pollinators! Indeed, they may just nudge you into buying a specific plant...

A honey bee foraging on ceanothus in the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee foraging on ceanothus in the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee foraging on ceanothus in the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A painted lady, Vanessa carduii, finds a cut-leaf lilac, Syringa × laciniata, quite attractive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A painted lady, Vanessa carduii, finds a cut-leaf lilac, Syringa × laciniata, quite attractive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A painted lady, Vanessa carduii, finds a cut-leaf lilac, Syringa × laciniata, quite attractive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Check out the pollen on this honey bee foraging on ceanothus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Check out the pollen on this honey bee foraging on ceanothus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Check out the pollen on this honey bee foraging on ceanothus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A mournful dusky-wing butterfly (Erynnis tristis) on Spanish lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A mournful dusky-wing butterfly (Erynnis tristis) on Spanish lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A mournful dusky-wing butterfly (Erynnis tristis) on Spanish lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Mother Earth, a mosaic ceramic sculpture by Donna Billick of Davis, overlooks the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Mother Earth, a mosaic ceramic sculpture by Donna Billick of Davis, overlooks the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Mother Earth, a mosaic ceramic sculpture by Donna Billick of Davis, overlooks the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A torrent of emotions on the face of Mother Earth, the work of artist Donna Billick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A torrent of emotions on the face of Mother Earth, the work of artist Donna Billick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A torrent of emotions on the face of Mother Earth, the work of artist Donna Billick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 10:54 PM

'Battus philenor! Battus philenor!'

Pipevine Swallowtail nectaring radish. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
“Battus philenor! Battus philenor!”  

Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, excitedly points to a Pipevine Swallowtail nectaring on roadside  radish. 

“Battus philenor! Battus philenor!”  

It's the earliest he's ever seen the Pipevine Swallowtail in Gates Canyon, Vacaville, one of his 10 fixed study sites in California's Central Valley.  

It is Saturday, Jan. 25. Another day to monitor the butterfly population, something he's been doing for 42 years. He posts much of his information on Art's Butterfly World.

Shapiro has trekked up Gates Canyon since 1976. He aims for 26 visits a year. In 2013 he totaled 32 visits. In a typical season, he finds approximately 30 to 40 butterfly species, "but that's not reached every year by any means," he points out. "Last year the maximum was 31."

It's a long way up and back. Shapiro, who doesn't drive a motor vehicle, rides a bus from Davis to the Vacaville bus station, then walks three miles from downtown Vacaville to Gates Canyon Road; up the road three miles and down three miles; and back to the bus station. That's a total of 12 miles.  

Shapiro works his route easily. He's like an Olympic skater as he walks up the hill: hands folded behind his back and sometimes on his hips; eyes constantly sweeping for the count.  He can, and does, detects the slightest movement, the slightest rustling of leaves, the slightest flutter of wings. 

This Saturday Art Shapiro records eight different species of butterflies or a total of 18 individuals. And not just butterflies: he spots a yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus voznesenskii, nectaring on radish next to a Pipevine Swallowtail. 

The road up Gates Canyon, Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"That's the earliest I've ever seen the Pipevine Swallowtail and the yellow-faced bumble bee in Gates Canyon," he says.

Overall, it's a good day for "earlies." On Saturday, he sees his earliest Pieris napi, a Gray-Veined White, which beats his record of Jan. 31, 1984; his earliest Incisalia iroides, a Western Brown Elfin, eclipsing his previous records of Jan. 31 in 1976 and 1984; and his second earliest Erynnis propertius, Propertius Dusky-Wing, since Jan. 22, 1990.

Gates Canyon is bone dry. The thirsty hills and the dry creek beds ache for water. Alamo Creek, at the lower elevations, holds no water at all. At the higher elevations, the creek bed just trickles.

Shapiro's records shows that on Jan. 24, 1976, "under extreme drought conditions, I had 10 species flying at Gates Canyon. Today (Jan. 25, 2014), I had 8. Of these, only 2 were flying in '76." That amounted to 80 percent from what he detected on Jan. 24, 1976.

Shapiro keeps meticulous notes. His Jan. 25th notes include: 

"Mid-70s, 90 percent sunshine (again, a few patchy altocumulus), light noth wind not getting into the upper canyon at all. No water in Alamo Creek at lower elevations; a bit more above than on Jan. 15, actually trickling audibly in spots. Vegetation little changed: alder and bay, nothing else in upper canyon (got up to ridgetop, where there is patchy bloom of manzanita and winter currant) except a totally anomalous native Lathyrus high on a sunlit, warm rock face, being visited by Battus (but I'm getting ahead of myself); somewhat more Raphanus down below, and very little Brassica. Aristolochia still dormant. The infamous 'poison oak tree' is leafing out but most poison oak is not. A few really small buckeyes are now in early leaf; hardly any green showing on big ones, even S-facing ones. No trace of Asclepias fascicularis. No Dentaria in flower and no detectable rosettes of Dodecatheon! Few birds. Still no Phainopepla. Deer and quail; no newts; no amphibian calls."

The 18 butterfly species he sighted at his Gates Canyon study site on Jan. 25:

  1. Battus philenor (Pipevine Swallowtail): 5 (new earliest at Gates)
  2. Polygonia satyrus  (Satyr Anglewing): 1
  3. Nymphalis antiopa  (Mourning Cloak): 5
  4. Celastrina ladon echo (Echo Blue): 3
  5. Pieris napi  (Gray-Veined White): 1 (female-probably earliest ever)
  6. Incisalia augustinus iroides (Western Brown Elfin): 1 
  7. Erynnis propertius (Propertius Dusky-Wing): 1 
  8. Colias eurytheme (Orange Sulphur or Alfalfa Butterfly): 1

Shapiro worries about the drought. On Tuesday, Jan. 28, he recorded: "Today was the 52nd and last consecutive day with no rain in winter--a record probably never to be equaled in any of our lifetimes (I hope)."

Meanwhile, his other nine study sites in the Central Valley await him. They are all over the map, just as he is. As he says on his website: "Ranging from the Sacramento River delta, through the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains, to the high desert of the western Great Basin, fixed routes at ten sites have been surveyed at approximately two-week intervals since as early as 1972. The sites represent the great biological, geological, and climatological diversity of central California."

If you're lucky enough to accompany him on a survey, you'll hear him point out butterflies as excitedly as a winner yells "Bingo! Over here! Over here!"

Pipevine Swallowtail, Battis philenor, nectaring on radish on Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Pipevine Swallowtail, Battis philenor, nectaring on radish on Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pipevine Swallowtail, Battis philenor, nectaring on radish on Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, and Pipevine Swallowtail,  Battis philenor. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, and Pipevine Swallowtail, Battis philenor. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, and Pipevine Swallowtail, Battis philenor. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro monitoring his study site on Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro monitoring his study site on Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro monitoring his study site on Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The slightest movement attracts Art Shapiro's attention. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The slightest movement attracts Art Shapiro's attention. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The slightest movement attracts Art Shapiro's attention. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Alamo Creek is dry at the lower elevations of Gates Canyon. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Alamo Creek is dry at the lower elevations of Gates Canyon. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Alamo Creek is dry at the lower elevations of Gates Canyon. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 11:05 PM

Thankful for Insects

Of the many things I'm thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for the millions of insects that populate our planet. Scientists have described more than a million species, but there may be 10 million more undescribed.

I am thankful for honey bees. There is no more comforting sound on a warm summer day than the buzz of bees as they pollinate the plants and return to their colonies with nectar and pollen. I am thankful for their role in providing the fruits and vegetables that we eat.

But that's just me.

I am thankful for bumble bees, especially the endangered ones that struggle to overcome the tragic changes to their environment. Bumble bees are social insects but what developers and others are doing to them is definitely anti-social.

But that's just me.

I am thankful for butterflies, nature's flying art that flutter in our garden and touch gently down on blossoms for a lingering sip of nectar. Their beauty overwhelms me.

But that's just me.

I am thankful for the pre-historic looking dragonflies that glide gracefully over our ponds and streams to snag mosquitoes and other undeirable insects. 

But that's just me.

I am thankful for the insects that clothe us: the bees for pollinating cotton plants, and the silkworms for spinning cocoons.

But that's just me.

I am thankful for the beneficial insects, like honey bees, ladybugs, lacewings, assassin bugs, damsel bugs, soldier beetles, big-eyed bugs, syrphids, and parasitic mini-wasps.

But that's just me.

I am thankful for bee gardens, gardeners, entomologists and insect photographers. Frankly, I would rather spend an afternoon photographing insects in my backyard than sitting on a crowded beach in Hawaii with a little umbrella decorating a drink that I don't drink.

But that's just me.

I am thankful I don't engage in recreational shopping, collect pretentious possessions, or focus on five-star restaurants, especially when starving, ravaged and troubled souls sit forlornly outside. I firmly believe that Brown Thursday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday should not be an integral part of our lives, and that “greed” should be replaced by “giving."

But that's just me.

I'm happy with what I have. To me, it's important to “want” what you have, than to “have” what you want.

But that's just me.

Today I'm especially thankful for two Gulf Fritillary butterflies that just emerged from their chrysalids. 

The double emergence may seem like a “minor” thing to be thankful for today but it's the “minor" things that I treasure. And why "happy" should always precede the name of this holiday. 

"THANKS...

GIVING." 

A honey bee heading for a tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee heading for a tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee heading for a tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A Western tiger swallowtail on a Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A Western tiger swallowtail on a Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A Western tiger swallowtail on a Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A flame skimmer dragonfly at rest. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A flame skimmer dragonfly at rest. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A flame skimmer dragonfly at rest. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 12:24 PM

In Search of Butterflies

A gray hairstreak discovered during the tour. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What an enthusiastic group that gathered for Steve Daubert's "Butterfly Ecology Talk and Tour" on Sunday morning, Sept. 29 on the Wyatt Deck, UC Davis Arboretum.

Sponsored by the UC Davis Arboretum, the free event drew a plethora of butterfly enthusiasts of all ages, plus several canines.

Well, the state insect is the California dogface butterfly! That one, however, isn't found in the Arboretum.

Daubert, a molecular scientist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology, knows his butterflies. He also writes short stories, illustrated with his own photographs. He blogs at threadsintheweb.com.

At the butterfly talk and tour, Daubert discussed the flowers that sustain our native butterflies and the plants that support them. 

Daubert encouraged "shout outs" so others would know of the presence of butterflies. The group sighted cabbage white butterflies, alfalfa butterflies and a gray hairstreak.  (And a lady beetle, aka ladybug, and aphids.)

Daubert pointed out the milkweed (Monarch's host plant), pipevine (Pipevine Swallowtail's host plant) and scores of other plants that butterflies visit.

Someone found a caterpillar, which Daubert held up for all to see. He identified it as the moth of a caterpillar,  an Arctiid.

Specificallly, it may have been a fall webworm,  Hyphantria cunea, a moth in the family Arctiidae, according to Art Shapiro, UC Davis professor of evolultion and ecology.

Elaine Fingerett, academic coordinator, UC Davis Arboretum, said the Arboretum may sponsor another butterfly walk and tour with Steve Daubert in the spring.  Stay tuned!

Although the tour participants spotted no Monarchs that morning (it was a little overcast and cool), Steve Daubert did. Following the tour, he saw a "Monarch fly through the Mesozoic Redwood Grove, moving due southwest."

Steve Daubert checks out the caterpillar of a moth, an Arctiid. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Steve Daubert checks out the caterpillar of a moth, an Arctiid. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Steve Daubert checks out the caterpillar of a moth, an Arctiid. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Tour guide Steve Daubert (center, in black t-shirt) talks butterflies. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Tour guide Steve Daubert (center, in black t-shirt) talks butterflies. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Tour guide Steve Daubert (center, in black t-shirt, talks butterflies. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Tour group, partially shown here, proved very attentive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Tour group, partially shown here, proved very attentive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Tour group, partially shown here, proved very attentive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 8:51 PM

Off to See the Butterflies

Steve Daubert (Photo by Catherine Daubert)
If you're not around the University of California, Davis, on Sunday morning, Sept. 29, you should be.

You'll want to join the Butterfly Ecology Talk and Tour presented by naturalist Steve Daubert.

Daubert, a molecular scientist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology, not only writes scientific technical text, but he also writes short stories, illustrated with his own photographs. He blogs at threadsintheweb.com.

The free butterfly tour around campus, sponsored by the UC Arboretum, is set for 11 a.m. to 12:30. He'll discuss the "flowers that sustain our native butterflies and the plants that support these larval stages," according to Arboretum officials.

The participants will meet on the Wyatt Deck at the Arboretum. All ages are welcome. No reservations are required. (See maps)

"I would hope we see at least tiger and pipevine swallowtails, field and duskywing skippers, gray hairstreak, alfalfa sulfur and cabbage white--and when anything else floats by, we will be ready," Daubert told us.

Daubert recently published a 200-page book, The Shark and the Jellyfish: More Stories in Natural History, which a critic says "presents 26 gripping new stories in a sequel to his acclaimed earlier natural history anthology," Threads from the Web of Life: Stories in Natural History.

Daubert "teaches by drawing you into the drama, excitement and beauty of nature," commented Don Glass, host of the National Public Radio-syndicated program, "A Moment of Science." (Vanderbilt University Press, July 2009)

On his website, Daubert writes: "There are countless stories out there in the wild world. They bubble up from the middle of the ocean or from a shady streamside eddy—from anywhere you stop to appreciate the natural out-doors. Those ideas grow and fuse; they evolve when viewed from each other’s perspective. Sometimes they present themselves as narratives that demand to be written down and explored further. Such as the spontaneous inspiration for the tales written on this site.”

Daubert describes himself as a “writer of short stories in ecology, geology, astronomy—topics from the natural world.”  Read more about him here.

Meanwhile, check out his stunning photograph of the variable checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas chalcedona). That alone will draw you into his world of  "spontaneous inspiration."

This photo, by Stephen Daubert, is of a variable checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedona).
This photo, by Stephen Daubert, is of a variable checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedona).

This photo, by Stephen Daubert, is of a variable checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedona.

Participants on the Sept. 29 tour may be able to see an alfalfa sulfur butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Participants on the Sept. 29 tour may be able to see an alfalfa sulfur butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Participants on the Sept. 29 tour may be able to see an alfalfa sulfur butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 9:52 PM

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