It was Saturday, June 25.
Gregory Zebouni of Davis, program manager of the Bruce Hammock laboratory, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, decided he wanted to attend the UC Davis "Eight-Legged Encounters" open house, co-hosted by the Bohart Museum of Entomology and the American Arachnological Society.
His wife, gastroenterologist-hepatologist Valentina Medici, on the faculty of the UC Davis School of Medicine, was unable to attend.
So he asked his son Niccolo, 7, and daughter, Clio, 9, if they wanted to head over to the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane and participate in the spider and insect activities.
"They first were reluctant to go," he acknowledged. "They preferred to go to the pool and Clio has some level of arachnophobia like her dad!"
"However, when they started walking in the corridors of the building and seeing the stuffed animals and then the insects (in the Bohart Museum), holding walking sticks in their hands, and then discovering the treasures of the butterflies' collections, then they did not want to leave and we spent a couple of hours there!" Zebouni said.
"They visited and played at all the exhibits in the hallway. They gave their first names to be immortalized in the naming of the newly found spider by Jason Bond." (Bond and his lab were inviting students 18 and under to suggest names for a new species of trapdoor spider from the genus Promyrmekiaphila.)
A favorite activity at Eight-Legged Encounters? "We were all very much intrigued by the spider who would throw a sticky ball to catch moths at night."
The open house kicked off the annual meeting of AAS, co-hosted by Bond, associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Tables of exhibits and hands-on activities lined the hallway of the Academic Surge Building. Visitors also toured the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building. The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens, a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and an insect-themed gift shop.
During the Zebouni visit, entomologist Jeff Smith, curator of the Lepidoptera collection, and Bohart associate Greg Kareofelas, a naturalist and insect enthusiast, showed them butterflies and moths.
It was a great Saturday afternoon, the trio agreed. Nobody missed the pool.
And that arachnophobia? Well, it dissipated!
You may know that the California grizzly bear (Ursus californicus) is the official state animal.
You may know that the California quail (Lophortyx californica) is the official state bird.
You may know that the California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) is the official state amphibian.
And you may know that the golden trout (Salmo agua-bonita) is the official state fish.
But...drum roll...did you know that California has an official state insect? No, it's not a lady beetle or ladybug. Or a honey bee. Or a monarch.
It's the California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice), which the state Legislature designed as the state insect 50 years ago--in 1972. The butterfly is found only in California from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to the Coast Ranges and from Sonoma south to San Diego. The male, which sports a yellow silhouette of a dog's head on its wings, is known as "the flying pansy." The female is mostly solid yellow except for a single black spot on its upper wings.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the butterfly's designation as the state insect during the 108th annual UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 23. See the Bohart exhibits at the East Academic Surge entrance from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Entomologist Fran Keller, a professor at Folsom Lake College, a Bohart Museum scientist, and UC Davis doctoral alumnus, will be there with Bohart associate Greg Kareofelas to share their expertise on the butterfly. Kareofelas is a volunteer tour guide for the Placer Land Trust's conservation site in Auburn. It's the most prevalent habitat of the butterfly; it is there because its larval host plant, false indigo (Amorpha californica) thrives there.
Kareofelas has reared--and photographed--a dogface butterfly from egg to adult. And he's also grown false indigo.
Keller authored a 35-page children's book, "The Story of the Dogface Butterfly," with images by Kareofelas and Keller and illustrations by then UC Davis student Laine Bauer. 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.
A Bohart Museum poster by Kareofelas-Keller depicts the male and female butterfly. Both the poster and the book are available for sale in the Bohart gift shop (also online). Net proceeds benefit the insect museum's education, outreach and research programs.
In addition to the California dogface butterfly, the Bohart Museum's Picnic Day activities will focus on monarch butterflies; the traveling display exhibits that graduate students created; and the ever-popular live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas.
Home of worldwide collection of eight million insect specimens, the Bohart Museum is directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology. The staff includes senior museum scientist Steve Heydon; education and outreach coordinator Tabatha Yang, and entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the lepidoptera collection.
Other entomological displays and activities during Picnic Day will take place at Briggs Hall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A new addition at Briggs is caterpillar biology. Grace Horne, a graduate student in the laboratory of Emily Meineke, assistant professor of urban landscape entomology, will display hornworm caterpillars and pupae, and she'll discuss butterfly and moth biodiversity and biology, including urban biodiversity and their interactions with their host plants.
The science-based event, free and open to the public, is set for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, March 6 in the UC Davis Conference Center, 555 Alumni Lane.
This year the Biodiversity Museum Day is geared toward the UC Davis community, particularly undergraduates, said Biodiversity Museum Day co-organizer Tabatha Yang, education and public outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Admission and parking are free, but visitors must adhere to the COVID-19 Campus Ready guidelines. Masks will be required in accordance with campus policies. (See news story)
Sharing the Bohart Museum booth in the Conference Center will be the Jason Bond laboratory. Bond is the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and associate dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
"The arachnid/myriapod section of Biodiversity Museum Day will consist of some live specimens--a tarantula, trapdoor spider, scorpion, and some millipedes, and ethanol preserved specimens of arachnids/myriapods that are pretty common and/or well-known, and a small interactive station where people will be able to use props that mimic an insect flying into a web and learn more about the sensory structures that spiders have to detect those vibration," said doctoral candidate Lacie Newton of the Bond lab, coordinator of the exhibit.
Visitors to the Conference Center will see displays from 11 museums or collections on campus:
- Arboretum and Public Garden
- UC Davis Bee Haven
- Bohart Museum of Entomology
- Botanical Conservatory
- California Raptor Center
- Center for Plant Diversity
- Department of Anthropology Museum
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology
- Nematode Collection
- Paleontology Collection
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection
Visitors can sign up at the Conference Center for special tours:
- The Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane, has scheduled tours at noon, 1 and 2. The Bohart houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens, and also a live "petting zoo" and gift shop. "People will sign up at the Convention Center and be chaperoned over approximately 15 minutes before the hour to the attend their tour," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. "Tours should last 30 to 45 minutes." Entomologist Jeff Smith, curator of the Lepidoptera collection, will be discussing butterflies and moths.
- The UC Davis Bee Haven, located on Bee Biology Road, next to the Harry H.Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus, will offer tours at noon and 2. Established in the fall of 2009, the Bee Haven is a half-acre demonstration garden operated by the Department of Entomology and Nematology. "We'll focus on how best to observe and identify bees in the garden, as well as suggested bee plants that grow well in our area with low water," said Christine Casey, academic program management officer of the Bee Haven.
- The Arboretum and Public Garden will provide two 30-45 minute tours, "Climate-Ready Tree Project: Texas Tree Trials." Groups will leave the Conference Center at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The project mission is to see if trees from west and central Texas will do well in this climate. The project involved collecting seeds, propagating them and planting them in the Arboretum.
- The Phaff Yeast Culture Collection is planning self-guided tours of the UC Davis Brewery, used for teaching and research, according to Kyria Boundy-Mills, curator, Phaff Yeast Culture Collection, Food Science and Technology.
Different yeast strains are used for different styles of beer. These include ale yeast strains, lager yeast strains, and Belgian beer strains that are hybrids of wild yeasts. UC Davis offers an undergraduate major in food science and technology, with an emphasis on brewing science. Training includes chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, quality assurance, engineering, sanitation, packaging, malting and crewing. The program currently includes 18 students studying for their bachelor of science degrees, and three students seeking their master of science degrees.
- The Botanical Conservatory is technically not offering tours, says manager Ernesto Sandoval "but we will be open to the public so people can wander through at their own pace and we'll regulate the number of people in the greenhouse at any one time. They can see our revamped succulent and carnivore rooms as well as our Cacao, aka 'Chocolate Tree,' with fruits as well as coffee and a very happy vanilla plant all amongst an incredible diversity of plants from ferns to an assortment of orchids."
The UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day is traditionally held on the Saturday of Presidents' Day weekend. However, last year's event was virtual, and this year's event is centrally located. For more information, access the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day website and/or connect with Instagram,Twitter, and Facebook.
Another upcoming event is the 108th annual UC Davis Picnic Day, a campuswide open house scheduled April 23./span>
But they can't.
So scientists and butterfly enthusiasts will.
The history is intriguing. The State Legislature designated the colorful butterfly, Zerene eurydice, as the state insect 50 years ago, and Gov. Ronald Reagan signed it into law on July 28, 1972.
Found only in California, the rarely seen butterfly is also known as (1) "the flying pansy," referring to the male's spectacular black and yellow coloring, and (2) as a "dog head" butterfly (the markings on the male resemble a silhouette of a dog's head). The female is mostly solid yellow.
The butterfly's major breeding ground is in Auburn in the Shutamul Bear River Preserve maintained by the Placer Land Trust (PLT). The butterfly is there because its larval host plant--false indigo (Amorpha californica)--grows well there. "The dogface butterfly has a range from San Diego County to Sonoma County and is usually found in mountain and foothill locations," according to an article on the PLT website. (Watch a virtual tour at https://youtu.be/kJUk1AKGtKs)
Meanwhile, the folks at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, including director Lynn Kimsey, museum scientist Fran Keller and Bohart associate Greg Karofelas (he shares his expertise as a docent leading tours and delivering presentations for the Pacific Land Trust), hope to connect with the fourth grade students of Betty Harding and Shirley Klein in the Dailey Elementary School, Fresno, who advocated it as the state insect. The teachers and students enlisted the help of State Assemblyman Kenneth L. Maddy, who authored AB 1834. "His bill was read for the first time on March 15, 1972 and referred to the Assembly Committee on Government Organization, according to a state website.
"On May 25, 1972, with a committee vote of 6-2, Mr. Maddy failed to garner the needed eight votes to recommend the legislation to a floor vote. It wasn't clear why two members voted against the bill, but a bill to designate an official state fossil also gone down to defeat earlier in the day.
"The Fresno Bee wrote, 'Dog-Faced Butterfly Has Wings Clipped.'
"Assemblyman Maddy vowed to fight on and promised a better result when the full committee was present in the next week.
"A month later, on July 20, the Senate voted 29-0 to approve AB 1834.
"On July 28, 1972, Governor Ronald Reagan signed Assembly Bill No. 1834 designating the California dog-face butterfly the official State Insect of California." (Read more on how the butterfly became the state insect under the Ronald Reagan administration.)
The fourth graders, who were then about 10 or 11 years old, are now in their early 60s. Where are they? The folks at the Bohart Museum want to know--they'd love some first-hand information on how the project originated and why. Perhaps they could be involved in a 50th year celebration!
In 2013, Fran Keller, a UC Davis doctoral alumnus and now a professor at Folsom Lake College, published a 35-page children's book, The Story of the Dogface Butterfly that includes includes photos by Kareofelas and Keller and illustrations by then UC Davis student Laine Bauer. They earlier created a poster. Both the book and the poster are available for sale in the online gift shop at the Bohart Museum (The Bohart, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on the UC Davis campus, is temporarily closed to the public due to the COVID pandemic and campus policies.) Net proceeds benefit the insect museum's education, outreach and research programs.
Kareofelas has assisted with news documentaries on the butterfly:
- Rob on the Road, KVIE, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
- Capital Public Radio, National Public Radio (NPR)
The history of how the butterfly became the state insect actually begins in the 1920s with the Lorquin Entomological Society of Los Angeles. In an October 1929 article in The Pan-Pacific Entomologist, a publication of the Pacific Coast Entomological Society, J. D. Dunder of Pasadena credits the Lorquin Entomological Society with seeking "to establish a state insect for California." Out of three choices, the group voted on the California dogface butterfly.
Dunder wrote that the butterfly is "strictly a native California butterfly" and that "thousands of specimens are used each year in entomological art work for trays, bookends, plaques, etc., so the species is already fairly well known to the pubic."
Today its image graces a first-class U.S. stamp and our California driver licenses. It's also depicted on the California State Fair monorail. The Lone Buffalo Vineyards and Winery, Auburn, memorialized it on labels of specially bottled wine, with proceeds helping conservation efforts of the Placer Land Trust to protect the butterfly. It is, indeed, a spectacular butterfly.
Now the question is, why did the fourth graders pursue the project? The butterfly is not found in Fresno. Who or what inspired them? And why?
And how long misinformation can linger...
Take the news about the overwintering 250,000 monarchs recorded along the California coast in the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count spearheaded by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. That's more than a 100-fold increase from the previous year.
Butterfly guru Art Shapiro, a UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology who has been monitoring butterfly populations in Central California since 1972--and maintains a research website at https://butterfly.ucdavis.edu--wants to know where they came from. He acknowledges he does not know, nor does anyone else. Yet. "To paraphrase Socrates, to understand what one does not understand is the beginning of wisdom," Shapiro says.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, says we shouldn't consider the population increase a trend, that it's still too early to figure out what's going on.
Says Bohart associate Greg Kareofelas: "I think it is hopeful, but we will not know for sure until 5 or 10 years have gone by. One year is not a trend."
- "It is great to have more breathing room, but we're not out of the woods yet, in terms of conservation. The current population is still < 5% of our estimates from the 1980's and has only been that large for one year."
- "When populations reach unprecedented sets of conditions (in this case, lower overwintering numbers than we had ever seen before, from 2018-2020), we should expect the unexpected. And one thing to emphasize is"
- "We expect large fluctuations in abundance of butterflies and many other insect species. We need to manage for resilience, because we probably won't be able to understand every crash or rebound." (See her UC Davis seminar)
But a key point is this: "There are NOT two populations of the monarch in North America," says migration expert and monarch scientist Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. "The population is all one and the butterflies from all over North America mix in Mexico during the winter diapause," Dingle wrote in an email today. "The monarchs breeding in the west (of the Rockies) have at least two (and probably three) migration routes in the fall--one is to the California coast, one is down the Colorado River Valley into Mexico, and the probable third is east of the Great Salt Lake and west of the Wasatch down through eastern Arizona and into Mexico. Sample sizes are small for the third route which is why it is only probable. Also genetic data going back 50 years shows that the North American population is all one, that is, work by Walter Eanes and others including recent molecular genetics studies!"
The western migration routes are outlined in Dingle et al. Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society 85:491-500 (2005), and for various evolutionary changes in monarch migration and correlated characters see Freedman, Dingle, et al. B. J. Linn. Soc. 123:265-278 (2018), Animal Migration 5:61-73 (2018), and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 117: 28887-28893(2020) and references therein.
Commented Dingle: "The old saw about two North American populations is a good example of once something gets into the literature--or into the public domain-- it becomes exceedingly difficult to correct."
Now scientists are trying to figure out what contributed to the increase in the population. And where they came from.
Remember back in 2019 when Shapiro declared that the monarch population is on life support?