Naturalist Greg Kareofelas, an associate of the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology and an expert on the California state insect, the dogface butterfly, appeared several years ago on a segment of the PBS program, "Rob on the Road."
In a surprising case of recollection, someone at a Sacramento yard sale recognized him from the TV show and said "The Dogface Butterfly Guy!"
That he is.
And if you missed the program, it's scheduled to be broadcast again on Monday night, Aug. 30 on PBS (at 7:30 p.m. locally). It's also online at http://vids.kvie.org/video/3002661342/.
"We had a lot of fun doing that segment," Kareofelas recalled.
The California dogface butterfly, Zerene eurydice, is found only in California. It thrives in the 40-acre Shutamul Bear River Preserve near Auburn, Placer County. The preserve, part of the Placer Land Trust, is closed to the public except for specially arranged tours.
The dogface butterfly is so named because the wings of the male appear to be a silhouette of a poodle. It is also known as "the flying pansy."
We wrote about Greg Kareofelas and the "Rob on the Road" TV program on Bug Squad in 2017.
We also mentioned the 35-page children's book, The Story of the Dogface Butterfly, the work of entomologist and author Fran Keller, with photographs by Kareofelas and Keller, and illustrations by former UC Davis student Laine Bauer. The trio visited the Auburn site for their research, and Kareofelas also reared a dogface butterfly at his home in Davis and photographed the life cycle. Keller, now a Folsom Lake College professor, holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis. She studied with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology.
Kareofelas and Keller also teamed to create a dogface butterfly poster of the male and female. Both the book and the poster are available online from the the Bohart Museum of Entomology gift shop. The facility is closed to the public due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions.
Why does the butterfly thrive in Auburn? Because its larval host plant--false indigo, Amorpha californica--is there. The plant is difficult to grow outside this habitat, according to Placer Land Trust manager Justin Wages. Perhaps, he says, it's the unique geography and soil near the Bear River.
Think you've never seen the California state insect? Chances are, you have. A tiny image appears on all California driver's licenses and it's also a first-class stamp.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, PLT currently offers no tours of what it calls "a special place," but you can take a virtual tour by watching its newly released YouTube video.
Found only in California, the dogface butterfly is more prevalent at the preserve than anywhere else in the state. It is there because its larval host plant--false indigo (Amorpha californica)--is there. False indigo, a riparian shrub, thrives on the preserve among poison oak and willows and along the banks.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, is closely aligned with PLT and the butterfly habitat. Naturalist Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart associate and an authority on the butterfly, serves as a volunteer tour guide. He and fellow Bohart associate Fran Keller, a UC Davis alumnus and now a professor at Folsom Lake College, created the Zerene eurydice poster offered in the Bohart gift shop. Keller also authored the 35-page children's book, The Story of the Dogface Butterfly, with photos by Kareofelas (and Keller) and illustrations by then UC Davis student Laine Bauer. The book tells the untold story of the rare and elusive butterfly, and how schoolchildren became involved in convincing the State Legislature to select it as the state insect.
When you watch the YouTube video, that's Kareofelas' net holding a dogface butterfly, which he showed to tour participants and then released. He has reared the butterfly from egg to larva to chrysalis to adult and presented programs at the Bohart Museum.
It flies high and it flies fast, Shapiro points out. "Both sexes routinely fly 15-20 feet off the ground," he writes on his website. "They dip down to visit such flowers as California Buckeye, thistles, tall blue verbena, etc. but seldom linger long."
In 2017, KVIE Public Television's "Rob on the Road" featured the California dogface butterfly on one of its shows: http://vids.kvie.org/video/3002661342/
In 2019, the U.S. Postal Service issued a first-class stamp bearing its image.
And now, in the summer of 2020, plans are in the works to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its being named the state insect. At one of Kareofelas' Bohart Museum talks, he mentioned that July 28, 2022 "will be 50 years since the dogface butterfly was named the California state insect and that we should do something to celebrate that fact." PLT officials have similar thoughts. They are collaborating for a memorable celebration.
Stay tuned. The celebration, like the colorful butterfly, will take flight.
Umm, does California have a state insect? The Monarch? The Western Tiger Swallowtail? The Red Admiral? Wait, isn't this National Pollinator Week? Should I know what the state insect is?
Yes, it is National Pollinator Week. And yes, it's a good time to appreciate the state's designated insect--not just for "Insect of the Week" or "Insect of the Year" but for what it is--a fascinating but quite obscure butterfly that's rarely spotlighted.
That's why we were delighted to see the California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice) get some well-deserved attention when Capital Public Radio (CPR) headed off to Auburn last Friday to see the butterfly's major breeding ground. It's at a well hidden, publicly inaccessible site on Placer Land Trust.
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.
Bohart Museum of Entomology associate Greg Kareofelas, a volunteer tour guide for the Placer Land Trust butterfly site for the past three years, is quoted in Bob Moffitt's CPR piece on "Placer County — A Popular Hideout For Rarely Seen Dogface Butterfly,” published last Sunday. Access http://www.capradio.org/articles/2016/06/19/placer-county-popular-hideout-for-rarely-seen-dogface-butterfly/
The butterfly is there because its larval host plant--false indigo (Amorpha californica)--is there. Justin Wages, land manager of the Placer Land Trust, which owns or manages 8,000 acres, says the plant is difficult to grow outside this habitat.
It was also a surprise to see so many dogface butterflies in the space of two hours last Friday. "It's a very good year when I see three dogface butterflies in a single year," Kareofelas said. "They're elusive and hard to see. Last Friday we saw about 10 females and 50 or 75 males."
Kareofelas knows butterflies and he knows the dogface butterfly. To say he's made major contributions to the understanding of the state insect would be an understatement. At his home in Davis, he's reared--and photographed--a dogface butterfly from egg to adult. He's grown the false indigo. His photographs of the female and male appear on a poster that he and entomologist Fran Keller created at the Bohart Museum. His images also appear in a 35-page children's book, "The Story of the Dogface Butterfly," written by Keller with illustrations by then UC Davis student Laine Bauer. Both the poster and the book are available for sale at the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on the UC Davis campus. Net proceeds benefit the insect museum's education, outreach and research programs.
The book 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. Bauer's illustrations depict the life cycle of this butterfly. As part of their research, Keller, Kareofelas and Bauer visited the Placer Land Trust habitat of the butterfly. And Kareofelas reared that elusive butterfly.
As for the book, “There are also ecology, life cycle, taxonomy and conservation issues presented that are relevant to grades K-6 that can be used in classroom curriculum,” Keller earlier told us. It also includes a glossary.
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. (Read more on how the butterfly became the state insect under the Ronald Reagan administration.)
Hint: It's the state insect.
"What, we have a state insect?" you ask.
Yes, and it's the California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice).
On the monorail, it's an artistic blue and white and it seems to flutter along for the ride. (See what the Monorail Society wrote about it in 1995.) In real life, the male of the species is yellow and black, and the female, predominantly yellow.
Fran Keller, doctoral candidate in entomology at the University of California, Davis, and her colleague, naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, a volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology identified the insect on the monorail right away. Several years ago they teamed to create a California dogface butterfly poster, which graces many a classroom, office, and den. The poster is for sale in the Bohart Museum's gift shop on Crocker Lane, UC Davis, or online.
Keller went on to write a children's book, "The Story of the Dogface Butterfly," with watercolor-and-ink illustrations by Laine Bauer, a 2012 graduate of UC Davis. Kareofelas contributed photographs.
Net proceeds from the sale of the 35-page book, also available at the Bohart Museum or online, benefit the insect museum's education, outreach and research programs.
The book 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.
Bauer’s illustrations depict the life cycle of this butterfly. As part of their research, Keller, Karofelas and Bauer visited a Placer County habitat of the butterfly last year.
As for the book, “There are also ecology, life cycle, taxonomy and conservation issues presented that are relevant to grades K-6 that can be used in classroom curriculum,” Keller said. In addition, the book includes information on the butterfly’s host plant, false indigo (Amorpha californica).
So, score one for the California State Fair. And score two for the Bohart Museum.