DAVIS — Find the butterfly. Get the beer.
That is the challenge that University of California, Davis, Professor Art Shapiro again tossed out to anyone living in Solano, Yolo or Sacramento counties – to find, capture and hand over to Shapiro the first cabbage white butterfly of 2013.
The prize is a pitcher of beer, or the cash equivalent, if you don’t like beer.
Shapiro, a professor with the UC Davis’ Department of Evolution and Ecology, has issued this unusual challenge since 1972 to bring attention to the cabbage white butterfly, aka Pieris rapaae, and its first appearance of the year.
“It is typically one of the first butterflies to emerge in late winter,” Shapiro said in a press release from his department. “Since 1972, the first flight has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20.”
The toughest competition will be from Shapiro, who spends more than 200 days a year in the field. He has been beaten to the butterfly only three times.
Two years ago, he found the first one of the year in Suisun City on Jan. 31, 2011. Last year, it was in West Sacramento on Jan. 8.
If you are serious about butterflies and/or beer, the cabbage white butterfly can be found in vacant lots, fields and gardens where its host plants, weedy mustards, grow.
The butterfly must be collected outdoors and delivered live to the Department of Evolution and Ecology, 2320 Storer Hall, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. All entries must list the exact time, date and location of the capture and the collector’s name, address, phone number and/or 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 in your refrigerator but do not freeze it. A few days in the fridge will not harm it.”
Shapiro said the cabbage white butterfly helps him study biological responses to climate change. He points out that the cabbage white butterfly in this area is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago.
He maintains a website on butterflies at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu, which records the population trends he monitors in Central California.
For more information on the beer-for-a-butterfly contest, contact Shapiro at [email protected] or call him at at 530-752-2176.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.