- "What is entomology?"
Quick answer: insect science.
- "What is a monarch?"
Quick answer: An orange and black butterfly that's the icon of the butterfly world.
Science. It's all around us, and learning about science should and must be a priority.
The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Teaching Tools site asks: "Why do we need to teach science in elementary school?"
"Our future depends on a public that can use science for personal decision-making and to participate in civic, political, and cultural discussions related to science," wrote co-authors Julie Cafarella, Amber McCulloch and Philip Bell in January 2017.
"Though we have national goals for science education, science is often pushed to the side—particularly at the elementary school level. There are multiple reasons for science to be a core part of elementary school learning. It can support: (a) development of a knowledgeable citizenry, (b) meaningful learning of language and mathematics, (c) wonderment about how the natural world works, and (d) preparation for STEM-related careers."
In yesterday's Bug Squad blog, we wrote about naturalist Greg Kareofelas, associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, and his nearly month-long project of rearing a monarch egg to adulthood. He named the butterfly "Ruth," after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion of equal rights, who died Sept.19 after a long bout with cancer.
“You're Ruth,” Kareofelas told her as she dried her wings on Sept. 19. “You're alive. You're going to fly.”
What sparked Greg's interest in monarchs and entomology? An elementary school classroom. In 1951, when he was seven years old and a second grade student at the Holy Rosary Academy, Woodland, he wrote and illustrated a wonderful little booklet on the monarch life cycle. His teacher graded it an "A" (we would have, too!).
The booklet, now almost 70 years old, provides an insight into the scientific creativity and wonderment of a young student; his dedicated teacher, Adele Dennison, who apparently delighted in sharing her love of science; and his proud mother, Delores Kareofelas (1923-2018), who treasured the booklet. "She saved it, and all my report cards, too," Greg said.
As the STEM website says:
- Scientific literacy starts in early childhood and continues through elementary school. Scientific knowledge is necessary to fully participate in human culture and democracy—especially as it becomes more technological. The future of our nation depends on a scientifically literate public.The new vision for science education emphasizes the need for consistent science instruction throughout a student's academic career. Scientific literacy is a developmental process that takes years of concerted effort to cultivate.
- Science learning takes significant time—but that time is not being provided. A recent study shows that science instructional time is decreasing in elementary school. Only 20% of K-3 students and 35% of students in grades 4-6 have access to daily science instruction. (See this report on teachers' practices around science instruction).
- Students are ready to reason about science in early childhood. Children enter elementary school with reasoning skills and perceptions of the natural world that provide a sound basis for science learning. A recent report calls for greater attention to monitoring instructional time in elementary science. Multidisciplinary, long-term science projects are often easier to do with students in elementary school years. Elementary science can promote narrow views of how science works. Efforts should be made to broaden what counts as science and engineering.
That means insects, too!
The Entomological Society of America (ESA) sponsors a Chrysalis Fund to foster "the future of entomology through grants to K-12 teachers and other educators who use insects in the classroom to get kids excited about science." See how to apply.
Entomologist and science writer Gwen Pearson, outreach coordinator at Purdue University's Department of Entomology, recently wrote an excellent piece on "Learning at Home with Bugs" for Entomology Today, an ESA publication.
"Kids are full of questions by nature," Pearson wrote, in urging parents to "resist the temptation to quickly provide answers. Use some of the prompts below to gently guide a child to think more deeply:
- What do you see?
- What do you think it is?
- Why do you think that's happening?
- What does that make you wonder about?"
GregKareofelas' keen interest in science and his acute observations glowed when he wrote the monarch booklet. He even added the gold band around the green chrysalis in his illustration. (See below)
And yes, butterflies still fascinate him.
Usually the life cycle--from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult—takes about a month, but this one took only 24.5 days.
“She was in a hurry,” said Kareofelas, an associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, and a retired finance director of the UC Davis School of Medicine.
The egg hatched in 3.5 days. The caterpillar formed a chrysalis 12.5 days later. The monarch emerged or eclosed 8.5 days later. And it took only two hours—usually it's around four—for her to dry her wings and fly away.
“You're Ruth,” Kareofelas told her as she dried her wings on Sept. 19. “You're alive. You're going to fly.”
Kareofelas decided to name her Ruth that morning, 24 hours after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion of gender equality and women's rights.
“I just happened to see her laying an egg on my milkweed,” he said.
Kareofelas documented the life stages on his Facebook page, daily educating his readers about the iconic butterfly, and posting photos that he captured with his “point-and-shoot camera,” a pocket-sized Canon SB890IS.
Kareofelas photographed her limp wings slowly expanding and “hardening.”
“In the wild, the butterfly is very vulnerable at this stage,” he said. “It cannot fly.”
Like her namesake, Ruth the Monarch showed independence, determination and drive.
“So, at 10 this morning (Sept. 19), I took her outside and released her,” Kareofelas wrote on Facebook. “She immediately flew to the top of the plum tree and from there, off she went. Goodbye, Ruth, stay strong and come back next spring.”
He's hoping she'll make it to the overwintering grounds along coastal California and return in February.
Kareofelas first became interested in butterflies in 1951, when as a second-grader at the Holy Rosary Academy, Woodland, he wrote and illustrated a butterfly booklet.
“Luckily, I had the kind of mother that saved this booklet,” Greg said, noting that was almost 70 years ago. “We did not know the name monarch, but you can see that I described a monarch caterpillar, chrysalis and adult butterfly. The drawing shows a green chrysalis, even showing a golden band.”
“There was no one guiding me--neither Mom nor Dad was versed in anything nature, but they were very supportive,” Greg recalled. He read the children's book, “Golden Guide to Insects,” and later borrowed a copy of John Henry Comstock's “How to Know the Butterflies” from the Yolo County Library. “The irony is most of what was in those two books was more for the East Coast, rather than California.”
Kareofelas went on to study business administration at Sacramento State College, serve in the U.S. Army (Korea USS Pueblo Crisis 1968-69) and then accepted a position at the UC Davis School of Medicine. “So, nothing butterfly related there.”
Kareofelas renewed his interest in butterflies in the 1970s when he visited the Bohart Museum of Entomology, named for Professor Richard Bohart and “run by Bob Schuster.” Then located in Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive, the Bohart Museum is now housed in the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. UC Davis entomology professor Lynn Kimsey, a former graduate student of Bohart's, directs the museum, which includes a global collection of nearly 8 million insect specimens, plus a live “petting zoo”(Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and a gift shop.
Kareofelas, a member of the Lepidopterists Society, is always eager to learn and share insect information. He confers with butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology (who hasn't seen a monarch egg or caterpillar all year), and serves as a volunteer at the Bohart Museum, where at special events, he shows butterfly and moth specimens with Lepidoptera curator Jeff Smith.
The Davis resident has led educational trips for Sutter Buttes Foundation, California Native Plant Society, Jepson Prairie Preserve, and the Placer Land Trust. He and UC Davis-trained entomologist Fran Keller, now a professor at Folsom Lake College, teamed to spotlight the California dogface butterfly on posters and in a book, “The Story of the Dogface Butterfly.” Kareofelas continues to lead tours of the Placer Land Trust's dogface butterfly habitat near Auburn.
“I am lucky to have been able to get to know some incredible folks—the Bohart crew and Shapiro—and through the Lepidopterists Society,” Kareofelas said.
Ruth the Monarch is lucky, too. She could have been a meal for a spider, a lady beetle or a milkweed bug, or parasitized by a tachinid fly or wasp.
“You're Ruth. You're alive. You're going to fly.”
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.
We don't normally name the monarch butterflies we rear, but we decided that the first one reared from an egg "The Greg Way" would be named for Greg--naturalist Greg Kareofelas, associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis.
The first one, however, is a girl, so she's "Greta" instead of "Greg."
Over the last five years, we've reared more than hundred monarchs from caterpillar to chrysalis to adult. We collect the 'cats from the three species of milkweed in our Vacaville pollinator garden. This summer, however, we decided to collect a few eggs after seeing Mama Monarchs depositing them on tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, and narrowleaf milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis. (As recommended, we cut back the tropical milkweed before the migratory season begins.)
Here's "The Greg Way":
"I put a single egg on its leaf in a small salsa container (the little plastic ones you would get at a Mexican restaurant)," Kareofelas says. "I take a square of toilet paper and fold it into a small square (3/4 of inch), dampen it and squeeze it so it is not sopping wet, just damp, and set the leaf and egg on the top. Put the lid tightly on the container. This keeps a level of moisture in the container. I check the containers daily, changing the toilet paper square to keep from molding."
The egg hatched. The caterpillar ate. And ate again, again and again. Did we mention "Again?" Again, again and again. She went through five instars, and then she j'd and formed a chrysalis on the ceiling of our indoor, netted butterfly habitat. The entire cycle from egg to larva to chrysalis to adult takes about a month. (See more on Bug Squad blog, Joy of Rearing Monarchs)
So Greta eclosed this morning, big, bold and beautiful. We released her in the pollinator garden, near where Mama deposited her as an egg. Greta inched up on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundiflora) and then took flight. A blur.
Hopefully, she will mate and overwinter in coastal California, avoiding the wildfires, adverse weather conditions and predators.
Safe travels, Greta! (And thank you, Greg!)
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.