It's a high-flying butterfly--rarely seen and rarely recognized.
Ironically, it's now down-to-earth, frequently seen, and frequently recognized, thanks to the Internet.
Last year the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis published a poster of the California dogface butterfly, the official state insect.
Visitors to the Bohart Museum, located at 1124 Academic Surge on the UC Davis campus, love it. So does Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who received a framed copy in April.
Today images of the butterfly are posted prominently on the “California State Insect” page hosted by netstate.com, an educational site providing information on state symbols, emblems, mottos, population, geography, government and the news media.
The one-of-a-kind poster is the work of Fran Keller, doctoral student in entomology at UC Davis, and Davis naturalist-photographer Greg Kareofelas. It immortalizes the California dogface butterfly, Zerene eurydice.
“We hope the posting on the Web site will continues to spark interest in our state insect and conservation efforts,” Keller said. “The dogface butterfly is found only in California, but it’s losing its natural habitat due to rapid California development.”
Keller described the poster as “a great gift for any California elementary school classroom as elementary students learn about California state history.”
The butterfly, so named because of a poodle-like silhouette on the wings of the male, was adopted as the official California insect on July 28, 1972, but entomologists had selected it as the state insect as early as 1929. Their choice appears in the California Blue Book, published by the State Legislature in 1929.
The butterfly is also known as the California doghead butterfly and the flying pansy, referring to the male’s black and yellow coloring. The female is mostly solid yellow. Its main host plant is False indigo (Amorpha californica), a riparian shrub that grows among poison oak and willows and along stream banks, often in steep and isolated canyons. Dogface butterfly larvae feed on the False indigo.
In addition to posting the Bohart images of the California dogface butterfly, the Web site chronicles the history of how the butterfly received the designation of official state insect; offers tips on how to attract the butterfly to California gardens; and provides informational links about the butterfly.
In 1972, the fourth-grade classrooms of DailyElementary School, Fresno, taught by Betty Harding and Shirley Klein, sparked interest in the insect, leading to State Assemblyman Kenneth L. Maddy’s Assembly Bill designating the dogface butterfly as the official insect.
The fast, high-flying butterfly is elusive except when it nectars on flowers, said internationally renowned butterfly expert Art Shapiro, a UC Davis professor of evolution and ecology who co-authored Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions with T. R. Manolis (UC Press, 2007) and maintains a butterfly Web site.
“I’d say only one of every 10,000 Californians has ever seen the butterfly in the wild,” Shapiro said.
In April of this year, when the BohartMuseum gifted a framed posterl to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, he called the print “striking.”
“Every time I see something like this, I’m even prouder of California’s tremendous natural resources and the many beautiful species who call our state home (not to mention the talents of a certain poster designer),” he wrote in a letter to Keller.Ralph and Patti Sparks of Davis Home Trends donated the frame and framing.
The 18x24 poster is available for $18 laminated or $15 non-laminated at the BohartMuseum, 1124 Academic Surge, UC Davis, firstname.lastname@example.org, (530) 752-0493. It may be ordered online from the BohartMuseum.
The BohartMuseum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, who also chairs the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is dedicated to teaching, research and service, houses the seventh largest insect collection in North Americas. The global collection of some seven million insects focuses on terrestrial and fresh water invertebrates. The museum is the home of the California Insect Survey, showcasing the insect biodiversity of the state’s deserts, mountains, coast and central valley.
POSTER CHILD--This poster, designed by UC Davis entomology doctoral candidate Fran Keller with photographs by Greg Kareofelas of Davis, shows the California state insect, the dogface butterfly. The male (top) is known as "the flying pansy." The female (bottom) is mostly yellow. The poster received praise from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in April. Now it's received more acclaim. (See story above).