In the News

Dr. Shapiro has been in the news on a number of occasions. This page points to some of these sources and also includes an RSS feed on the bottom so that one can stay informed of other news events. Please click the orange box at the bottom, then cut and paste the URL into your RSS feed program (such as Google Reader).

SEPTEMBER SONG, 2013

Click the link to download: SEPTEMBER SONG (.pdf)

Donner Summit Historical Society Newsletter featuring Butterflies

This issue of the of the Donner Summit Historical Society Newsletter features Art's butterfly study, and focuses on the Donner Pass collection site.

‘Butterfly man’ finds clues to climate change

In a functional classroom in a functional building on the UC Davis campus, Arthur Shapiro sits unassumingly in the corner. Rumpled, wearing well-worn Converse All Star tennis shoes, old jeans and a faded, zippered green hoodie, Shapiro could be just another student, except for his weathered face and bushy gray beard.

In fact, Shapiro happens to be one of the world’s leading butterfly experts, a “biodiversity guru,” as one of the students in the class puts it, or “a walking encyclopedia,” says another—and, as it happens, the mastermind behind one of the United States’ leading indicators of a changing climate as well as a changing landscape.

Read the rest of the story at newsreview.com:
http://www.newsreview.com/chico/content?oid=1944090

Painted Ladies, To Be or Not To Be?

Update: During the week of April 11, 5 more migrating Painted Ladies have been observed at various locations, all going N. There thus appears to be a migration afoot, but a minimal one!

Update: On March 12, 2011 at 11:54 AM, a Painted Lady in migratory mode, flying rapidly from SE to NW about 6' off the ground, was observed at Suisun City, Solano County--the first record this year known to me. It was small and pale, of the migratory desert phenotype.

---

I’ve begun receiving inquiries about whether or not to expect a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) migration this spring. In good years they would already be showing up, but there have been no reports so far anywhere in California, to my knowledge. The phenomenon depends on breeding success in the desert wintering grounds, which in turn depends on the rains producing a good crop of annuals for the larvae to feed on. After good late autumn and December rains, the tap was turned off for seven weeks—just like here—and the early annuals either dried up or froze. There were good rains over the President’s Day weekend—almost 2 inches at Anza-Borrego—which have already triggered another round of germination. But is it too little, too late? It all depends on March. 1992 had a very wet March after a dry midwinter. However, the northward migration is controlled by photoperiod (we think), and any butterflies that are around in March will head north rather than try to breed down south. So the timing is dicey. As of now, I would NOT expect a big flight here this spring.

Western Tiger Swallowtails

The "outbreak" of Western Tiger Swallowtails has continued for a second year. Elevated populations are reported at least as far east as Reno and as far west as Fairfield and Vallejo. The "epicenter" seems to be in Davis, however, where it has been on the wing every week since the last week of March, with no clear break between generations (very unusual), and at times in certain neighborhoods (e.g., College Park) one could see 5 or 6 individuals at one time. The phenomenon has attracted a lot of interest from the general public, which is unsurprising--and no, we don't have an explanation for it! (Wish we did.)

Butterflies affected by Climate and Development

A new study covering 159 species of butterfly that were monitored for over 35 years has just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This is the first major paper resulting from the remarkable research program of Professor Art Shapiro at UC Davis. Art's project consists of 11 sites which he visits every two weeks, and extend from Suisun Marsh in the Bay Area, across the central valley, and up and over the Sierra Nevada to a final point at Sierra Valley on the east side.

Their most significant findings:

  • Butterfly diversity (the number of different species present) is falling fast at all the sites near sea level, in the central valley, and the foothills. It is also declining, but more slowly, in the mountains.
  • The highest monitoring sites, at tree line, show an increase in butterfly diversity, as lower-elevation species react to the warming climate by moving upslope to higher, cooler elevations.
  • However, among butterflies adapted to the highest elevations, the number of species is beginning to fall because temperatures are becoming uncomfortably warm for them.

“There is nowhere to go except heaven,” Shapiro said.

Another surprising finding was that ruderal (“weedy”) butterfly species that breed on “weedy” plants in disturbed habitats and are highly mobile are actually declining faster than “non-weedy” species — those that specialize in one habitat type.

Gulf Fritillary colonizes Sacramento and Davis

 
Agraulis vanillae
 

Agraulis vanillae

There’s a new butterfly in town in the Sacramento metropolitan area. Well, almost new: it’s back after about 40 years. The Gulf Fritillary has returned, and it’s even breeding in midtown.

The Gulf Fritillary, whose scientific name is Agraulis vanillae, is one of the showiest butterflies in California. It has long, narrow bright orange-red wings with black spots on the upper surface. But it’s the underside that shines: it’s spangled in iridescent silver. Nothing else in the region looks like it. Its wingspan can reach four inches.

This is a tropical and subtropical butterfly, whose range extends from the southern United States all the way to central Argentina. Its spiny orange-and-black caterpillar feeds only on Passionflower leaves, eating many but not all species of the genus Passiflora. There are no native members of this genus in the state of California, but several are widely cultivated in gardens. The butterfly can only breed where there is a "critical mass" of these plants in a town or neighborhood, according to Arthur Shapiro, professor and butterfly expert at the University of California, Davis.


Vanished butterfly is back

By Kathy Keatley Garvey
August 19th, 2009

Special to The Enterprise

It's almost as UC Davis butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro has a "tiger by the tail."

In this case, it's the Western tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio rutulus), back in the Davis area after a 15-year hiatus.

Shapiro, a professor of evolution and ecology at UCD, says the Western tiger, one of the largest and showiest of butterflies, "was relatively common in Davis until the early 1990s, when it suddenly disappeared."

"Since then, there have been no sightings at all, or at most one or two per year — until this year. Now it looks like it's back as if nothing had happened!"

The butterfly, with a wingspan of 3 to 4 inches, has bright yellow wings edged with a black border. Four diagonal stripes grace the top of the wings, and blue and orange spots on the hind wings, near its tail.

The butterfly's normal range covers much of western North America, from British Columbia to North Dakota in the north to Baja California and New Mexico in the south. It enjoys nectar from many flowers, including thistles, abelia, California buckeye, zinnia and yerba santa.

Shapiro has tallied about 100 sightings in the Davis/Vacaville area since March 26.

Click here for the full article

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) migration 2009

Vanessa cardui

Vanessa cardui

UPDATE: May 1, 2009

The northward migration finally seems to have ended in the past week, albeit with a minor reversed direction again at the very end. So few animals were in migratory mode by then that one cannot confidently separate the phenomenon from directional randomness. Dozens of very battered animals are still hanging around, nectaring and laying eggs, and larvae are becoming easy to find, especially on thistles.

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

This morning, May 1, as I walked in to work at 0740, I disturbed a Painted Lady that had apparently spent the night on the sidewalk in College Park, Davis. It was very large, brightly colored, and obviously very fresh and it flew off to the NNW. The direction may or may not be significant, but its presence is: it presumably enclosed yesterday and is the herald of the locally-bred next wave. From now until early June we are likely to see batches of these large, bright PLs eclose, feed for a few days, and depart for the north. Unlike the desert-born ones, they do have to feed. Historically this generation has swarmed the flowers of Linden (Tilia), shrubs of the Rosaceous genus Cotoneaster, and Pride-of-Madeira (Echium fastuosum). The very long migration period in March-April augurs unsynchronized emergences for the next several weeks. Records, observations and pictures are welcome!

UPDATE: April 20, 2009

Painted Ladies continued to migrate through the Central Valley at relatively low and inconspicuous densities, with day-to-day variations in numbers. On the afternoon of April 12 a concerted reverse flow began toward the SSW at Davis and toward the W near Dixon. This became nearly a due N>S flow for the next 3 days, though at all times a few individuals were seen moving in the normal SE>NW direction. Such reversed flows have occurred for a few days in prior migrations, and are not understood. (They are cited in my book on p. 196.) On April 14 a severe cold N-wind event in the Central Valley limited butterfly activity. From the 15th through the 17th directionality became confused and at times nearly random. From the 18th forward the flow was almost entirely SE>NW again, with many individuals dropping out to feed and reproduce and wing condition becoming very worn. There were a few scattered reports of S-ward movement near the coast, but not on any large scale as was true inland. On April 18 Ron Jurek reported two separate flows at Auburn, Placer County (1200’), one from the S>N/NNW and another from the E>W/WNW simultaneously, suggesting that these had been funneled by the topography. This could be purely local, or it could reflect two major streams with different orientations—wish we had more records like this! Numbers near the coast remained generally low, with occasional brief surges. Two Sierran trips – most recently April 19 --revealed a steady but thin continuing movement toward the NW, very sparse at the highest elevations. Intermittent surges continued to be observed at Reno, with one report from the Sweetwater Mountains. One newly-emerged individual was observed last week in the Sacramento area, presumably from an early-season reproductive event. As of this writing (3 PM, April 20) individuals are moving through the UCD campus at a rate of 1 every 3-4 minutes in my visual field, with at least 90% of them going N to NW and most of the rest going S to SW, with one individual seen headed due E. All of these are seemingly in migratory mode and not stopping to nectar or oviposit. How long can they keep coming?! Your observations continue to be welcome.


Citizen-Scientists help track the Painted Lady Migration 2009

Thanks for all of your email! It has been a real collaborative effort to track the 2009 Painted Lady migration, as they travel northward. This page features some of the email we have received over the past two weeks, which has helped us track the migration northward. Except for the video, we chose to keep these email anonymous, and have only included the sender's initials. As we receive more email, we will add them to this page for everyone's benefit. If you'd like to send us an update, please use our contact form to submit your message.

April 20, 2009

The PLs coming past the house were heading NW:

Time (no.)
12:30-12:40, 10 min. (8)
15:10-15:20. 10 min. (4)
15:56-16:06, 10 min. (4)
-- RJ

April 19, 2009

We saw numerous Painted Ladies at Alpine Meadows on April 12 & 13 - mostly at the summit. I can send pic if you like. -- SM

April 18, 2009

Numbers continue downward:

Time (no.)
11:02-11:03, 1 min. (0)
11:31-11:34, 3 min. (0)
13:17-13:27, 10 min. (3)

These flew west or northwest. Wind from NW

I realized this afternoon that migrants just east of our house were flying from the south and heading north or NNW, while those passing south of the house (the ones I've been counting) were coming from the east and heading west or WNW. Most from each direction maintained their courses, crossing perpendicularly about 100 feet ESE of here, but one from the south took a sharp west turn, and several from the east angled to the NNW or NW. Those from the south probably came out of the canyon near the confluence, and those from the east undoubtedly came up the nearby steep draw running ENE to WSW out of the North Fork. -- RJ

April 17, 2009

I made these counts of PLs flying past the house:

Time (no.)
13:33-13:43, 10 min. (7)
16:05-16:13, 8 min. (4)

About equal numbers flew to the west and to the WNW. From casual observations of a more open area in an adjacent field, I saw two fly across it to the west and one to the NNW. Gusty winds from the west. -- RJ

Syndicate content