Butterfly Summit Features UC Davis Expert Art Shapiro

How's the butterfly population faring in north-central California? What do you plant to attract and sustain them?

You can find out at the second annual Butterfly Summit, a free event hosted by Annie's Annuals and Perennials in Richmond.  The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 26 at Annie's nursery, located at 740 Market St.

Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, will speak at 11 a.m., covering the status of butterflies in the area. The author of Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions (UC Press, 2007), he has collected data over 46 years, tallying 150 species, and maintains a research website at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu/.

The distinguished professor will cover such questions as:

  • Are insect faunas in free fall (as reported in Germany)?
  • What have we learned from 46 years of butterfly monitoring?
  • What are the relative impacts on butterflies of climate change, land use change, introduced species and pesticides?
  • Are there differences in how butterfly faunas are behaving near sea level vs. in the mountains?
  • Are the scary headlines about the monarch butterflies being "endangered" true? If so, why? If not, why the fuss?

Shapiro began monitoring north-central California butterflies in 1972. His is the largest and oldest such dataset in North America.

Speaking at 1 p.m. is Tora Rocha, founder of the Pollinator Posse, a volunteer group that creates pollinator corridors around the East Bay. A retired Oakland parks supervisor, she will share how landscaping practices affect pollinators, and offer tips on the best plants and practices "for making a pollinator-friendly difference no matter what size your garden." Her specialties are fostering monarch caterpillars and butterflies "and creating much-needed habitat in the urban jungle." The Pollinator Posse keeps its members and the general public updated on its Facebook page.

The family friendly event will include displays of the life cycle of butterflies and information on creating and preserving habitats. Tables will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to offer information to visitors. The presenters are:

  • Tim Wong, aquatic biologist at the California Academy of Sciences and known as "the pipevine swallowtail whisperer."
  • Tora Rocha and fellow members of the Pollinator Posse at the Gardens at Lake Merritt, a volunteer group that supports pollinators and rears monarch caterpillars
  • Andrea Hurd of Mariposa Garden Design, specializing in permaculture methods and songbird, butterfly and pollinator habitat gardens, using California native and pollinator friendly plants. Hurd will share methods for designing meadows for butterflies.
  • Kelli Schley-Brownfield of Wild Flower Garden Design, Devil Mountain Nursery, and Pollinator Posse member, who will demonstrate butterfly puddling spots using Annie's plants.
  • Evelyn Orantes, independent curator, arts educator and teaching artist and a new member of the Pollinator Posse, will share visual representations of butterflies in arts and culture.
  • Andy Liu, landscape architect and garden design specializing in butterfly habitat, will explain why his neighborhood is alive with swallowtails, gulf fritillaries and "many other winged wonders."
  • Sal Levinson, author and entomologist specializing in butterfly habitats. She is the author of Butterfly Papercrafts,  which contains 21 indoor projects for outdoor learning.

Another attraction, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. is "Giant Puppets Save the World," featuring the silk and bamboo menagerie of monarchs, hummingbirds "and more" with Toni Tone, an artist, puppeteer and stilt walker. It's billed as "super fun for the kids."