Can a Jumping Spider Win the UC Davis Beer-for-a-Butterfly Contest?

Every year butterfly guru and distinguished professor Art Shapiro of the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology sponsors a "Beer-for-a-Butterfly Contest." If you collect the first cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) of the year in one of three counties--Sacramento, Yolo or Solano--you'll win a pitcher of beer or its equivalent.

Suds for a bug! What could be better than that? 

It's all part of Shapiro's scientific research to determine the bug's first flight of the year. The good professor, who launched the contest in 1972, maintains a research website at

It's a little too early to start thinking about cabbage white butterflies, but it wasn't too early for a jumping spider.

For several weeks, we've been admiring a jumping spider hanging out on our Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). Monarchs, Western tiger swallowtails, buckeyes, gray hairstreaks, cabbage whites and assorted other butterflies nectar on it. Our jumping spider (we've named him Herman to distinguish him from the other jumping spiders in our pollinator garden, and besides jumping spiders ought to have a name), nails his share of prey.

So here we are, enjoying a sun spurt on Oct. 30 when a cabbage white butterfly tumbles off the flower as if it were on a bungee cord. A closer look: The butterfly was not alone. 


Can jumping spiders win the Beer-for-a-Butterfly Contest?

Well, no!

It's not that Herman was just a little bit too early, and the butterfly was just a little bit too slow. Nope.

To claim the prize, you have to deliver the specimen to the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology office at 2320 Storer Hall. Herman neither knows where that is, nor does he care.  Plus, the specimen has to be alive, and Herman made sure it wasn't.