Want to Trade a Butterfly for a Beer?
Arthur Shapiro is willing
to trade a butterfly for a beer.
And it’s all in the name
|Cabbage White Butterfly on Catmint. Photo: Kathy Garvey|
If you collect the first
cabbage white butterfly of 2014 in the three-county area of Yolo, Solano or
Sacramento, you’ll collect a pitcher of beer or its cash-prize equivalent from
Professor Shapiro of the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology.
It’s all part of
Shapiro’s 43-year study of climate and butterfly seasonality. He launched
the annual contest in 1972 to draw attention to Pieris rapae and its
“It is typically one of
the first butterflies to emerge in late winter,” he says. “Since 1972, the
first flight has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20.”
Shapiro, who usually wins his own contest, snagged the first cabbage white
butterflies of 2013 on Jan. 20 and 21.
The cabbage white
butterfly inhabits vacant lots, fields and gardens where its host plants, weedy
mustards, grow. The male has white wings; the female may be slightly
buffy. The underside of the hindwing and of the tip of the forewing is
distinctly yellow and the hindwing is more or less overscaled with gray below.
The black markings on the upperside, except the black at the bases of the wings
near the body, tend to be faint or even to disappear early in the season.
The butterfly must be
collected outdoors in Yolo, Solano or Sacramento counties and must be delivered
live to the office of the Department of Evolution and Ecology in 2320 Storer
Hall, during work hours — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. All entries
must list the exact time, date and location of the capture and the collector’s
name, address, phone number and email.
“The receptionist will
certify that it is alive and refrigerate it,” Shapiro said. “If you collect it
on a weekend or holiday, hold it your refrigerator but do not freeze it. A few
days in the fridge will not harm it.”
Shapiro, who is in the
field more than 200 days a year, has been defeated only three times since 1972.
Those winners were all his graduate students, whom he calls “my fiercest
competitors.” Adam Porter won the beer in 1983, and Sherri Graves and Rick
VanBuskirk each won in the late 1990s.
When Shapiro wins, he
shares the reward with his graduate students and their significant others.
All in all, the cabbage
white butterfly contest “helps us understand biological responses to climate
change,” Shapiro said. “The cabbage white is now emerging a week or so earlier
on average than it did 30 years ago here.”
Shapiro maintains a
website on butterflies at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu,
where he records the population trends he monitors in Central California. He
has surveyed fixed routes at 10 sites since as early as 1972. They range from
the Sacramento River Delta, through the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada
mountains, to the high desert of the western Great Basin. The sites, he said,
represent the great biological, geological and climatological diversity of
biologist/writer/photographer Tim Manolis co-authored “A Field Guide to
Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions,” published
in 2007 by the University of California Press.
professor, Shapiro is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement
of Science, the Royal Entomological Society and the California Academy of
more information on the beer-for-a-butterfly contest, contact Shapiro at email@example.com or (530)
Labels: California Ag News, Contest underway: Find the first Cabbage White Butterfly. Arthur Shapiro