Despite other major attractions--including the gorgeous spring day and the March Madness basketball tournament--nearly 300 people visited the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology last Saturday during its three-hour open house, themed "Eggs to Wings: Backyard Butterfly Gardening."
They conferred with Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis; Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and a number of Bohart associates, including entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the moth and butterfly display; naturalist Greg Kareofelas, a butterfly and dragonfly enthusiast; entomologists Jessica Gillung and Ziad Khouri, doctoral candidates; Nicole Tam, junior specialist; and Joel Hernandez and Alex Nguyen, recent entomology graduates.
"Hungry, hungry caterpillars!" read one poster, illustrated with photos of the monarch, gulf fritillary and pipevine swallowtail caterpillars and their adult stages. "Having a garden full of flowers provides nectar, an important food source for adult butterflies, but what about their hungry, hungry caterpillars? It seems counterintuitive to grow plants that yu want insects to eat, but that is exactly what butterflies need when they are larvae."
Jeff Smith kept busy showing visitors the drawers of butterfly specimens, including blue morphos, monarchs and swallowtails. As he opened one drawer, he explained that "this drawer contains several species of South American rainforest butterflies, Preponas, in the genus Archaeoprepona." He described them as "extremely strong and fast fliers, but they love to settle on baits such as fermenting fruit on the ground. We (Bohart team) caught several in the ongoing Belize biodiversity work this past year."
Robbin Thorp showed live male Valley carpenter bees, Xylocopa varipuncta, green-eyed blond bees that are also known as "teddy bear" bees. "Boy bees can't sting," Thorp said, reassuring a few leary visitors. The female of the species is solid black. (Following the open house, Thorp returned the bees to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road.)
The bottle is tucked inside a zipped, meshed butterfly habitat and placed indoors or in a screened patio to prevent tachinid flies and wasps from laying their eggs in the caterpillars or chrysalids. Once the monarchs pupate and eclose, they are released to start another generation. This is a small-scale conservation project.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free. Special open houses take place throughout the academic year. The next open house takes place during the annual campuswide Picnic Day on April 22.
More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/
Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart Museum of Entomology associate with expertise on local butterflies, will be at the Bohart Museum's open house on Sunday, March 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. to meet informally with visitors, talk about butterflies and answer their questions.
The open house, themed "Eggs to Wings: Backyard Butterfly Gardening," takes place in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It is free and open to the public. No reservations are required.
“I've always had an interest in butterflies since I was a little kid,” said Kareofleas, a Davis resident who has studied butterflies “seriously” since the late 1970s. "Back then, there was no Internet and books on butterflies in California were minimal and it seemed that most of the books published were on East Coast butterflies or butterflies out of our region. It was the late 1970s, after all, and we couldn't just go on the Internet for butterfly identification.”
It was then that Kareofelas met butterfly guru Arthur Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology. Shapiro, involved in butterfly research for more than four decades, now posts his work on his website.) Shapiro authored Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions (University of California Press, 2007).
Kareofelas, a naturalist and avid photographer, now spends much of his time researching and photographing butterflies, as well as dragonflies and other insects, and speaking to nature-oriented organizations. He is also a regular at the Bohart Museum open houses where he enthusiastically talks about insects he's encountered.
UC Davis offers great resources, Kareofelas says. “For instance, you can get an insect identified at the Bohart Museum, and a plant identified at the Herbarium. And then there are the great resources like the Sacramento Native Plant Society, the UC Davis Botanical Society and the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden."
Kareofelas is pleased to see the growing interest in butterflies and their larval host plants (where butterflies lay their eggs). “All you need is a yard to attract them,” he said. “Plant the larval host plants. Plant nectar plants, such as the butterfly bush, for the adults."
Want monarchs living in our backyard? “Plant milkweed, their larval host plant," Karofelas says.
Kareofelas mentioned a few host plants that will draw specific species:
- Plant pipevine, aka Dutchmen's pipe, for the Pipevine Swallowtails
- Plant passionflower vine for the Gulf Fritillaries
- Plant fennel for the Anise Swallowtails
- Plant baby tears (in the nettle family) for Red Admirals
- Plant snagdragons for Buckeyes
- Plant Rose of Sharon for the Gray Hairstreaks
- Plant mallow for the Checkered Skippers
Kareofelas has reared all the common species, as well some of the rare ones, including the California dogface butterfly, the state insect. With permission, he collected eggs from the rarely seen California dogface butterfly at its most populous breeding site, on Placer Land and Trust acreage near Auburn. The butterfly (Zerene eurydice) lays its eggs on false indigo (Amorpha californica).
Kareofelas, who serves as a guide several times a year for tours hosted by Placer Land and Trust, said that one result of rearing the California dogface butterfly is the publication of the 35-page children's book, "The Story of the Dogface Butterfly," written by Bohart associate Fran Keller (now an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College) with illustrations by then UC Davis student Laine Bauer, and photos by Kareofelas and Keller.
The book, available in the Bohart Museum's gift shop, tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly, and how schoolchildren became involved in convincing the State Legislature to select the colorful butterfly as the state insect. (See Bug Squad.)
The Bohart Museum's open house on Sunday will showcase butterflies in the area. A family craft activity will be making "wiggling caterpillars," with straw and paper, said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart.
Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, the Bohart Museum is a world-renowned insect museum that houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It also maintains a live “petting zoo,” featuring walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches and tarantulas. A gift shop, open year around, offers T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free. Special open houses take place throughout the academic year. The one on March 19 is the second to the last of the 2016-2017 academic year. The last one is Saturday, April 22, the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day.
Like a moth to a flame...
Except this moth headed not for a flame, but to a porch light. Our porch light.
And what a find.
It was a sea-green mottled moth that looked a lot like lichen.
Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, and Bohart Museum of Entomology associate Greg Kareofelas of Davis identified it as a late-winter noctuid, one that simulates lichen. Feralia februalis.
"It's expected this time of the year," noted Kareofelas.
It's a food plant specialist that feeds on oaks.
A Pacific Northwest website on moths indicates that it flies in oak forests in western Oregon in the early spring: "This species is narrowly endemic to the West Coast. In Oregon, it is common in oak woodlands and mixed hardwood forests with oaks at low elevations west of the Cascades. This species is considered to be management sensitive, depending on oaks as a larval food plant."
In the Pacific Northwest, "Feralia februalis is limited to western Oregon in our region," the website says. "Its range extends north to the Columbia River but it has yet to be found in adjacent Washington."
Its global range? "The range extends south through California where it occurs in the western part of the state to the Mexican border. It is also present in the northern Sierra Nevada."
One more thing: "It is nocturnal and comes readily to lights."
Yes and yes!
A perfect perch.
A young male variegated meadowhawk dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum, found a perfect perch--a seed ball of Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif.
It towered over the garden and so did he.
Naturalist Greg Kareofelas, Bohart Museum of Entomology associate, University of California, Davis, has been seeing and photographing some of these migrating dragonflies in his yard in Davis as well.
"Evidently, there was a big migration of lots of these dragonflies south of San Francisco," Kareofelas noted in his Facebook post.
And apparently thousands have been spotted at Half Moon Bay. Dragonfly alert!
Variegated meadowhawks live near ponds, lakes, and swamps. They are largely tan or gray with a pale face that is tan in young males and females but becomes red in mature males, according to Odonatacentral.org. They're found throughout the United States and southern Canada; also Mexico south to Belize and Honduras. "This species may be seen on the ground more than other meadowhawks. It will also readily perch on the tips of grass stems and tree branches. It can be numerous flying over roads, lawns, meadows, marshes and ponds...It is largely tan or gray with a pale face that is tan in young males and females but becomes red in mature males."
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, offers a beautiful dragonfly poster, "Dragonflies of California," in its gift shop. It's the work of entomologist Fran Keller (she received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis and is now an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College) and Kareofelas, whose expertise includes butterflies and dragonflies.
We've seen monarchs, Gulf Fritillaries, Western tiger swallowtails, buckeyes, and fiery skippers nectaring on our Mexican sunflowers. But nary a common checkered skipper.
Where, we wondered, are the common checkered skippers?
Just as we were thinking that the common checkered skipper (Pyrgus communis) is not all that common and is not living up to its name, it appeared. Right on cue.
It nectared on the Tithonia and then fluttered away.
It will be back, according to butterfly guru Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, and Bohart Museum of Entomology associate Greg Kareofelas.
Its host plant is mallow and last spring we planted several tree mallows, Lavatera maritima--those drop-dead gorgeous plants with purple-throated pale lavender flowers. A bonus: unlike we Californians, the mallow loves the drought. It does not get thirsty. Plus, it attracts a variety of insects, and blooms much of the year.
Shapiro, who has monitored the Central California population of butterflies for more than four decades and maintains a website, Art's Butterfly World, says this about Pyrgus communis on his educational website:
"This familiar insect appears to be found from sea level to tree line-but things are more complicated than that. At the molecular-genetic level, the populations along our transect are apparently two different species. One is multiple-brooded and occurs as high as Lang Crossing (5000') on the Sierran West slope, and then again in Sierra Valley at 5000' on the East slope. These populations today breed largely on introduced weeds of the genus Malva (in the Sacramento Valley also on the native Alkali Mallow, Malvella leprosa, and on the now rare Checkerblooms, genus Sidalcea, in tule marshes). The other is single-brooded, occurs above 6000' (including Donner and Castle Peak) and breeds only on native Sidalcea. There are very slight 'statistical' differences in pattern, but the genitalia are the same. There seem to be occasional strays of the lowland animal picked up at Donner, mainly late in the season. In southern California occurs a morphospecies, P. albescens, which differs from communis in genitalia and is, like it, multiple-brooded. This animal, however, is molecularly indistinguishable from the univoltine Sierran (genitalic) communis!
"The lowland animal occurs anywhere in the open where hosts are nearby, including urban vacant lots and around ranch buildings and corrals. The montane animal occurs in open coniferous forest with Sidalcea in the understory, and along wood roads and paths. Both visit a great variety of flowers avidly. The flight seasons are March-November in the Central Valley, June-August in montane sites, and late March/April-October at Sierra Valley. (At Sierra Valley the univoltine animal is as close as the top of Yuba Pass.)
"Males are perchers, generally well off the ground, and extremely energetic fliers. They often appear blue in flight (females, lacking the silky hairs, do not)."
Plant mallow and they will come!/span>