DAVIS — Arthur Shapiro is willing to trade a butterfly for a beer – all in the name of science.
The person who collects the first cabbage white butterfly of 2014 in Yolo, Solano or Sacramento counties will also collect a pitcher of beer or its cash-prize equivalent from Shapiro, a professor in the University of California, Davis, Department of Evolution and Ecology.
It’s part of Shapiro’s 43-year study of climate and butterfly seasonality. He launched the annual contest in 1972 to draw attention to the cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) and its first flight.
“It is typically one of the first butterflies to emerge in late winter,” he said in a press release. “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 last year on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21, 2013.
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 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 on the UC Davis campus, during work hours – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. All entries must list the exact time, date and location of the capture and the collector’s name, address, phone number and email.
Those who collect a butterfly on a weekend or holiday are asked to hold it a refrigerator but not to freeze it. A few days in the fridge will not harm it, Shapiro said.
In 2011, the first cabbage white butterfly was found by Shapiro in Suisun City.
Shapiro, who is in the field more than 200 days a year, has been defeated only three times since 1972. He maintains a website on butterflies at www.butterfly.ucdavis.edu, where he records the population trends he monitors in Central California.
For more information on the beer-for-a-butterfly contest, contact Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-752-2176.