Butterfly Summit: Are Butterflies Heralds of Apocalypse?

"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough," wrote the late poet Rabindranath Targoe (1861-1941) of Bengali, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.

There may not be "time enough" for some species that are rapidly declining.

What's going on? 

Butterfly guru Arthur Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology,  will speak on butterflies and the insect apocalypse at the third annual Butterfly Summit, an all-day event that begins 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 27 at Annie's Annuals and Perennials, 740 Market Ave., Richmond. Free and family friendly, it's co-sponsored by the Pollinator Posse, a Bay Area-based volunteer group co-founded by Tora Rocha and Terry Smith.

Shapiro has monitored butterfly population trends on a transect across central California since 1972 and maintains a research website at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu. A member of the UC Davis faculty since 1971 and author of the book, Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento Valley Regions, he has studied a total of 163 species in his transect. His is the largest and oldest such dataset in North America.

Shapiro,  who will address the summit at 11 a.m., is frequently quoted in the regional, national and international news media, including BBC, New York Times and the Washington Post. He was recently interviewed on the National Public Radio Program, Insight with Beth Ruyak, on "Butterflies as Heralds of the Apocalypse." He recently addressed a monarch butterfly summit at UC Davis at which he declared that "California monarchs are on life support." (See his presentation.)

Rocha lists the schedule as follows:

10 a.m.: Bring the kids to see our caterpillars and adult butterflies, talk with our experts and share your experiences.

11 a.m.: Where have all the insects gone? Art Shapiro of UC Davis will share his thoughts on the insect apocalypse happening around the globe and will discuss the state of insects and butterflies in Northern California.

1 p.m.: Angela Laws, monarch ecologist from Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Mia Monroe, volunteer, will discuss how your gardening practices can help the plight of the California monarchs

All day: Stop by the regional information tables to learn about what you can do to help re-establish butterfly populations.

Pollinator Posse: Tara Rocha and Terry Smith, along with Jackie Salas, horticulturist at Children's Fairyland, Oakland, will be available for questions.

Andy Liu: A landscape architect and garden designer specializing in butterfly habitat, Liu will explain why his neighborhood is alive with Swallowtails, Gulf Fritillaries and many other winged wonders.   

Tim Wong: He is known as known as the "Pipevine Swallowtail Whisperer." Wong an aquatic biologist at the California Academy of Sciences.

Andrea Hurd: Hurd, with the Mariposa Garden Design, will share her methods for designing meadows for butterflies. She specializes in songbird, butterfly, and pollinator habitat gardens using California native and pollinator-friendly plants.

Robin North: North, a garden designer specializing in pollinator and songbird habitat gardens in the North Bay, will share ideas for designing Sonoma County habitat gardens. 

Suzanne Clarke:  Clarke, a Sonoma County Master Gardener and "Butterfly Whisperer," will show how to rear caterpillars at her table and discuss the benefits of gardening for habitat.

Alameda County Master Gardeners:  They will be on hand to show how to garden for native pollinators.

What is the Pollinator Posse? It's a group formed in Oakland in 2013 to create pollinator-friendly landscaping in urban settings and to foster appreciation of local ecosystems through outreach, education and direct action, said Rocha, a retired Oakland parks supervisor.  "With eco-friendly landscape techniques at the heart of our work, we teach respect for the creatures which keep Oakland– and the world– blooming."

"We envision a day when life-enhancing, thought-inspiring green spaces will grace every corner of the city and the world beyond," she said.

The Pollinator Posse (see their Facebook page) is heavily into not only butterflies, but all pollinators. "Individuals and groups with separate distinguished achievements in the fields of entomology, horticulture, education, public works and volunteer engagement saw the challenge and opportunity of sustaining the indispensable work of pollinators by expanding habitat and awareness," said Rocha. "A generous gift of $10,000 from our founding sponsor, Clif Bar, launched Posse programs which have established acres of pollinator habitat; maintained existing habitat; and offered outreach and education to Oakland communities.

Their latest events include:

The Pollinator Posse will be a sponsor at the Forgotten Soldier's Earth Day celebration and will be helping youngsters create their own mini "AirBeeNBees."

Another highlight:  the Pollinator Posse will be participating in the third annual California Honey Festival on Saturday, May 4 in downtown Woodland. This is co-sponsored by the City of Woodland the the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.