It seems as if the image of the dogface butterfly is everywhere. It's on every California driver's license; on postage stamps; on a UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology poster created by Bohart associates Fran Keller and Greg Kareofelas; and in a book authored by Keller.
And now for the splash: the image appears on the labels of two California wines (Dogface Syrah and Dogface Cabernet Sauvignon), produced by Lone Buffalo Vineyards and Winery, Auburn, in collaborative projects with Pacific Land Trust.
Lone Buffalo is a longtime supporter of Placer Land Trust in its efforts to conserve 10,000 acres of natural and agricultural land in Placer County.
Keller, now a professor at Folsom Lake College (she holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum) recently visited Lone Buffalo to check out the 2016 Dogface Cabernet Sauvignon and to deliver copies of her children's book.
The history of the dogface butterfly, Zerene eurydice, is fascinating.
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. (See Placer Land Trust's video of the butterfly habitat.)
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.)
The state insect made the news several years ago when Keller, Kareofelas and former UC Davis student and artist 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 one-of-a-kind book is popular in elementary school classrooms. "The ecology, life cycle, taxonomy and conservation issues presented are relevant to grades K-6 that can be used in classroom curriculum,” Keller says.
Earlier, Kareofelas (photographer) and Keller (designer) created the Bohart Museum's dogface butterfly poster of the male and female. Both the book and the poster are available at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, 1124 Academic Surge, on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. (The Bohart is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and precautions.)
KVIE Public Television's "Rob on the Road" show recently featured the butterfly and its Auburn habitat. Kareofelas, who has served for several years as a volunteer docent for the Placer Land Trust's dogface butterfly tour, assisted with the "Rob on the Road" tour. It's online at http://vids.kvie.org/video/3002661342/
The California state insect never had it so good.
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.
First, the grant:
Jason Bond, professor and the Schlinger Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, has received a 4-year, $1.4 million National Science Foundation grant to study trapdoor spiders in the California Floristic Province.
“The idea is to look at the genomic diversity of trapdoor spider populations across the California landscape and identify new species and hotspots of diversity,” said Bond, principal investigator of the collaborative award, shared with Marshal Hedin, professor of biology at San Diego State University (SDSU).
“From a research perspective, this is pretty exciting but it also includes a really nice educational component working with Fran Keller at Folsom Lake College (a UC Davis alumnus),” Bond said. “We have REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) funding for students who will be transferring to UC Davis.”
Also working on the grant is co-PI James Starrett, project scientist in the Bond lab.
Trapdoor spiders construct their burrows with a corklike or wafer trap door made of soil, vegetation and silk. They belong to a number of related families placed in the order Araneae, including Euctenizidae and Halonoproctidae.
The researchers also will be using “crowdsourced” data from iNaturalist, involving public sightings of spiders.
The California Floristic Province is a floristic province with a Mediterranean-type climate on the Pacific Coast. In addition to its remarkable spider diversity, this biodiversity hotspot is known for its giant sequoias and coastal redwoods.
“One of the first products from the project will be the description of a new trapdoor spider genus and species from Moss Landing State Beach,” Bond said. Plans call for the public to suggest candidate names for the new species, with the Bohart Museum of Entomology selecting the winner.
The abstract: “Using a combination of original fieldwork, newly developed analytical methods for genetically identifying species and their evolutionary and geographic relationships, this research project will focus on trapdoor spiders and their relatives as an exemplary group for biodiversity knowledge and conservation in the California Floristic Province (CA-FP). Long-term surveys will be conducted at multiple geographic locations that include most major CA-FP habitat types. At these sites, the presence of spider species and the numbers of individuals in each will be measured to provide a statistical baseline for future monitoring efforts. New large DNA datasets, based on analysis of thousands of genes, will be generated by analysis of the genomes of these species.”
“New methods will be applied to this data to identify species boundaries, and formal taxonomic descriptions will be made for all new species,” according to the abstract. “The new information about these new species and their genetic relationships will be used to assess patterns of biodiversity in this spider group across the complex geography of the CA-FP. Statistical comparisons of the geographic patterns of spider species distribution will be made to CA-FP plants and vertebrates, and these results will be used to determine whether biodiversity hotspots coincide with federal, state, and locally protected areas.”
“This project will train students and other researchers in several techniques of field biology research, producing and analyzing new data from genomes, using cutting edge methods. This research will encourage participation and train a select group of community college students from underrepresented groups who plan to transfer to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs in four-year colleges.”
Bond and colleagues recently published research in the journal Systematic Biology that recognizes eight new spider families—five elevations in rank and three brand new family level rank names, along with one new subfamily. This is in addition to other new families that Bond and Hedin proposed last year. Postdoctoral researcher Vera Opatova of the Bond lab (she recently left for a position in Prague), is the first author on the Systematic Biology paper, "Phylogenetic Systematics and Evolution of the Spider Infraorder Mygalomorphae Using Genomic Scale Data," and Bond is the senior author.
Hedin is the principal investigator of a continuing grant, “Collaborative Research: Phylogenomics, Spatial Phylogenetics and Conservation Prioritization in Trapdoor Spiders (and Kin) of the California Floristic Province,” with co-principal investigator and Jeet Sukemaran, SDSU assistant professor who specializes in computational evolutionary biology./span>
It's always a good day when you encounter a dragonfly on Main Street USA.
Such was the case on Wednesday, July 17 when seemingly out of nowhere, a shiny Tramea lacerata "black saddlebags" appeared in front of me on the sidewalk fronting the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce.
Its habitat is near ponds, lakes, ditches, slow streams, or other bodies of water, but there it was.
"It is a freshly emerged female, probably on its maiden flight," said naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, an associate with the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis. "This is its most vulnerable time. If it gets through the next day or so, off to fast flying it will go and you will never get close to it again."
I gingerly picked it up and photographed it on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). Half an hour later, I witnessed it fly over our fish pond, never to be seen again. At least by me!
This species, found throughout North America, is included in a Bohart Museum's poster, "Dragonflies of California." Designed by Fran Keller (then a doctoral student in entomology at UC Davis and now an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College), with images by Kareofelas, the poster is available in the Bohart Museum's gift shop in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus.
The black saddlebags dragonfly belongs to the Order Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), suborder Anisoptera (dragonflies) family Libellulidae (skimmers), genus Tramea (saddlebags) and species lacerata (black saddlebags). "It flies constantly, often gliding, perches infrequently," according to BugGuide.net. The University of Michigan biokids website yields more information.
It's easily distinguishable. Says Wikipedia: "It has distinctive wings with characteristic black blotches" at its proximal ends, "which make the dragonfly look as though it is wearing saddlebags. The black saddlebags is a relatively large dragonfly at about 5 centimeters in length. The body is thin and black, and the female may have lighter spotting or mottling dorsally. The head is much wider than the rest of the body and is dark brown in color...Some populations of this dragonfly undertake migrations. Both the larvae and adult forms are efficient predators of mosquitoes so they are a helpful insect to have in wet areas where mosquito infestations occur." A wonderful predator...
Of predators, sidewalks and black saddlebags...
The gift shop is offering a selection of insect-themed T-shirts, in both adult and children's sizes, for $10, and the Bohart-produced 2019 calendars for $8.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, says that "we have adult sizes in the clubtail and pondhawk dragonfly and dog-faced butterfly designs, and a variety of children's t-shirts."
It's a fun and innovative calendar, with art by UC Davis entomology student/artist Karissa Merritt, based on sentence collections from Kimsey's classrooms. Kimsey collects puzzling or humorous sentences ("What's that again?") written by her students. The calendar is a project of the non-profit Bohart Museum Society.
The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, also maintains a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas.
The Bohart, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. (More information is available on the website or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 753-0493.)