FAIRFIELD — Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, a professor in the University of California, Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, again won his own three-county contest by netting the first-flight cabbage white butterfly of the year on Tuesday in West Sacramento.
Shapiro netted a male on the south slope of the railroad tracks where he has caught other winners in past years.
“I caught it in midair with a ballet leap,” Shapiro said in a press release. “There was a little radish but hardly any vegetation there. It was about 40 or 50 feet from where I got the one last year, about one-fourth mile west of Harbor Boulevard. It was flying eastward along the edge of the service road.”
The annual contest, which Shapiro launched in 1972, seeks the first-flight cabbage white butterfly of the year in the three-county area of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano. He has won every year except for three years when his graduate students proved victorious.
The contest is all part of Shapiro’s 43-year study of climate and butterfly seasonality.
“The cabbage white is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago here,” Shapiro said. He estimated his 2014 find ranks as “the fifth- or sixth-earliest since 1972.”
The professor, fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Entomological Society and the California Academy of Sciences, initially calculated he would find the butterfly either Jan. 17 or 18.
Shapiro maintains a website on butterflies at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu, where he records the population trends he monitors in Central California.
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