“Catch a butterfly and win a beer,” said the headline in last Sunday’s paper.
Yeah, sure. I read about this contest every year, and every year it seems that the Professor of Insects with Floppy Wings who sponsors this contest ultimately declares himself the winner of the beer.
“Collect the first cabbage white butterfly of 2014 in the three-county area of Yolo, Solano or Sacramento and collect a pitcher of beer (your brand) or its cash-prize equivalent from professor Art Shapiro of the UC Davis department of evolution, ecology” and butterflies, the story points out.
How it will be determined that the butterfly in question is a native of Yolo, Solano or Sacramento counties is unclear, but if anyone can figure it out, it’s Shapiro.
I do know that the Yolo County cabbage white butterfly has a large “Go Ags” on the back of its wings, but I’m not sure about the ones from Sacramento or Solano counties. Or even the ones from Sutter County.
“Shapiro launched the annual contest in 1972 to draw attention to Pieris rapae and its first flight.”
Apparently, the butterfly has a fancy scientific name, so let’s just call it Pierre.
“It is typically one of the first butterflies to emerge in late winter,” Shapiro said, noting that “since 1972, the first flight has varied from January 1 to February 22, averaging about January 20.”
Which, if I have my calendar right, would be right at the end of the first month of winter.
“Shapiro, who usually wins his own contest, snagged the first cabbage white butterflies of 2013 on January 20 and 21.”
I realize this contest is generally designed for the good professor’s students, but having once been a UC Davis student myself — I was on the eight-year plan — I’m declaring myself eligible for the contest and its grand prize.
In fact, I actually took an entomology class dealing with flying insects during my undergraduate days, though it did not deal with cabbage white butterflies.
“The cabbage white butterfly inhabits vacant lots, fields and gardens,” and, presumably, Shapiro’s back yard.
“The male has white wings; the female may be slightly buffy.” So now we have Pierre and Buffy. Either will win you the pitcher of beer, but if you catch the male first, you’ll get an order of Buffalo wings with your suds.
“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 during work hours — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.”
Apparently, this is a union butterfly with full benefits.
“All entries must list the exact time, date and location of the capture and the collector’s name, address, phone number, email,” and favorite brand of beer.
“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.”
I don’t know about you, but rumor has it the light goes out when the refrigerator door closes, plunging your delicate captive into utter darkness for hours at a time. Does PETA know about this?
Turns out Shapiro has lost the contest only three times in 41 years, but all-around good sport that he is, when he’s the winner he regularly shares the prize with his graduate students and their significant others.
I’ll tell you right now, when I win this year’s contest I’ll share my prize with Shapiro’s graduate students as well. It’s always fun to get together and swap bug stories.
— Reach Bob Dunning at firstname.lastname@example.org