Watching it like a hawk...
A variegated meadowhawk dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum, that is.
We look forward to breezes--even strong gusts--in our little pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif., because often we'll see dragonflies touch down.
They'll hunt, perch, and hunt again. The wind threatens to dismount them but they hang tight.
Such was the case on Sept. 28, a time between summer and fall. Clouds parted, the sun burst through, and the Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) and blue spike salvia (Savlia uliginosa) swayed in the breeze.
This dragonfly swayed, too. But the wind did not defeat it. Not this "hawk."
Variegated meadowhawks live near ponds, lakes, and swamps--and if you're lucky, they'll visit your back yard. 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."
Interested in dragonflies? The Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis (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 naturalist-photographer Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart associate whose expertise includes butterflies and dragonflies.
Just call it "my old flame."
Well, it's not mine, but it is a flame of sorts, a flame skimmer dragonfly (Libellula saturata) and it's firecracker red.
We see this species frequenting our pollinator garden in Vacaville, which includes a fish pond, flower beds, and bamboo stakes for their perches.
If you like dragonflies, you may want to purchase a dragonfly poster at the gift shop in the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis. It features 18 species of dragonflies, ranging from the common whitetail and green darner to the Western river cruiser and the bison snaketail. And, of course the flame skimmer.
The poster? It's the work of former UC Davis entomology doctoral candidate Fran Keller, now an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College, and naturalist/photographer Greg Kareofelas of Davis. Keller received her doctorate in entomology, studying with Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
"Bugs from Belize in the Bohart."
It doesn't get any more bugly than that.
That would be the exhibit at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. It's part of the seventh annual Biodiversity Museum Day, an all-day event set from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 17 and showcasing 13 museums or collections. And yes, it's all free and open to the public.
- The following will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology; Bohart Museum of Entomology, Raptor Center, Paleontology Collection, Arboretum and Public Garden; Phaff Yeast Culture Collection; and the Viticulture and Enology Culture Collection.
- The following will be open from noon to 4 p.m.: Nematode Collection, Botanical Conservatory, Center for Plant Diversity Herbarium, Anthroplogy Museum, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, and the Design Museum
But back to the bugs from Belize in the Bohart.
Bohart associates Fran Keller and Dave Wyatt led an expedition there in January--one of many collection trips they've organized--and they'll be at the Bohart from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to display the specimens and answer your questions. Among those participating on the collection trip were Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly-moth collection at the Bohart; Darian Dungey, a 2017 UC Davis graduate in entomology; and Noah Crockette of Davis, a Sacramento City College student studying entomology.
Wyatt is a biology professor at Sacramento City College, where he teaches courses in the feild ecology programs. "I am a wildlife biologist with research interests in mammalogy and entomology and I specialize in working with ringtails (a relative of raccoons, coatis, and kinkajous) and bats," he says. "One of my favorite places to travel to is Belize in Central America - I have been fortunate to be able to go to Belize numerous times during the last decade."
They estimated they brought back 100,000 specimens from their first Bohart Bioblitz Collecting Trip in June 2016. They co-taught a course at Sonoma State for the first two weeks in June and the collecting trip followed.
"Our very first collecting trip to start the National Collection was in June 2014," Keller related. "We then went in June 2015, June 2016, August 2017 and January 2018. The June 2016 and August 2017 were official Bohart Bioblitz Collecting trips (no course attached) with entomologists and insect-loving students helping collect insects for the Belize National Insect Collection, which is currently housed at the Bohart Museum."
The Bohart Museum is the home of eight million insect specimens, collected globally. On Saturday, you'll see scores of specimens, plus the live "petting zoo" of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, rose-haired tarantulas, and praying mantises. UC Davis entomology student Lohit Garikipati will display his praying mantises, which include an orchid mantis and an Australian rainforest mantis.
Be sure to check out all the collections and exhibits during Biodiversity Museum Day. The only dilemna is: "What should we see first?" You can download a map on the Biodiversity Museum Day website. All the collections are within walking distance except for the Raptor Center on Old Davis Road and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a bee garden, on Bee Biology Road.
It's all about exploring the diversity of life--from hawks to honey bees, and from dinosaur bones to butterflies. And bugs from Belize at the Bohart.
The California dogface butterfly, Zerene eurydice, and its Auburn habitat will be featured on KVIE Public Television's "Rob on the Road" show at various times throughout the week. The piece is on prime time at 7:55 p.m. on Thursday, July 13 (in between Antiques Roadshow and Huell Howser's California's Gold). It is also online at http://vids.kvie.org/video/3002661342/
Found only in California, the dogface butterfly thrives at the Shutamul Bear River Preserve near Auburn, Placer County. The 40-acre preserve, part of the Placer Land Trust, is closed to the public except for specially arranged tours.
The butterfly is there 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.
The dogface butterfly, so named because of the 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.)
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."
The California dogface butterfly made the news several years ago when UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology associates Greg Kareofelas and Fran Keller and former UC Davis student Laine Bauer, teamed to publish a 35-page children's book, The Story of the Dogface Butterfly. The trio visited the Auburn site for their research, and Kareofelas also reared and photographed a dogface butterfly at his home in Davis. The author, Fran Keller, is an entomologist and is now an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College. (She received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and professor of entomology). Both Kareofelas provided photos for the book, and Bauer, the drawings, including depictions of the life cycle of the butterfly reared by Kareofelas.
As for the book, it's favored by adults and children and is a classroom treasure. "The ecology, life cycle, taxonomy and conservation issues presented are relevant to grades K-6 that can be used in classroom curriculum,” Keller says. It also includes a glossary.
Kareofelas, who has served for several years as a volunteer docent for the Placer Land Trust's dogface butterfly tours, helped guide the recent tour that included Rob Stewart of "Rob on the Road" and UC Master Gardeners.
He and Keller, along with others, answered questions about the biology and history of the colorful butterfly, also known as "the flying pansy."
Recent dogface sightings elsewhere? Shapiro saw one this year on July 4 at Willow Slough, Yolo County. Kareofelas recently saw one in his backyard, where he is growing a false indigo. And Shapiro remembers seeing one in his driveway in Davis in 1972.
However, the dogface butterfly is more prevalent at the Shutamul Bear River Preserve than anywhere else, and Rob Stewart of "Rob on the Road" and the UC Master Gardeners were delighted to see it.
Fact is, although few have seen the dogface butterfly in the wild, all of us with California driver's licenses have seen it--but probably never noticed it. Look on your driver's license--right beneath your signature--and there it is!
California's state insect, the California dogface butterfly.
It was Saturday, April 18, the 103rd annual UC Davis Picnic Day, a campuswide open house, and several thousand folks filed into the Bohart Museum of Entomology to see the displays. The theme: "Bigger, Better, Buglier: Impressive Science."
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Nematology and Nematology, displayed male Valley carpenter bees he netted in the UC Davis Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven (and later released there).
And in an amazing moment, a young boy, wearing a bumble bee t-shirt, walked up to see the bees. "My kind of guy!" quipped Thorp when he saw Adne Burruss, 6, of Irvine. Thorp is the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: an Identification Guide (Princeton University) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). Adne's mother, Sigrid Burruss, a geneticist, is a UC Davis alumnus.
The male Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta), a green-eyed blond, is also known as "the teddy bear bee." The female of the species is solid black. Thorp urged visitors to touch the carpenter bee. "Boy bees don't sting," he assured them. He also displayed specimens of bumble bees and other native bees.
Bohart Museum associate Wade Spencer, an undergraduate majoring in entomology, brought along his pet scorpions. Assisting him was Crystal Homicz, an animal biology major. She periodically pointed a black light on his scorpion to show the fluorescence. (Visitors were not allowed to touch the scorpions, which are known for their venomous sting.)
Entomologist and Bohart Museum associate Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly and moth specimens, drew in visitors with his colorful butterfly and moth specimens and kept their attention as he talked about the places he's been and the insects he's seen.
Julianna Amaya, 10, of Martinez, was fascinated with the Australia walking sticks. She and sister, Jasmine, 14, and their mother, Rocio, watched it crawl up their hands. "Julianna is really into bugs," mom said.
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 and named for prominent entomologist Richard M.Bohart, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, it is the home of nearly eight million insect specimens; a live petting zoo (including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas); and a year-around gift shop stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
Fran Keller, an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College who received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis (major professor Lynn Kimsey) talked to visitors about insects and also kept busy with sales at the gift shop. Lady beetle t-shirts and monarch t-shirts proved popular.
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.
More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.