Some people are born good-looking. Some have the gift of gab. And some are lucky enough to be born smarter than the rest of us. Whether we like it or not, Mother Nature does not dole these characteristics out evenly.--Simon Sinek
That applies to butterflies, too. Nobody said Mother Nature is perfect.
If you're rearing butterflies, such as Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), expect to see some defects, deformities and death. That chrysalis you've been watching? A butterfly may never eclose. In the cycle of life, the transformation from egg to larva to pupa to adult may never occur.
Nobody said Mother Nature is perfect.
The chrysalis is a withered grayish-brown, perfectly camouflaged on the butterfly's host plant, the passionflower vine (Passiflora). Sometimes you see a burst of reddish-orange wings and sliver spangled underwings, the remains of a butterfly that struggled to eclose.
Then you wait for one that will, one that will eclose.
The next one will take your breath away. Mother Nature is like that.
A female and male Gulf Frit find one another.
Near them, Gulf Frit caterpillars hungrily munch the leaves. Soon they will form a chrysalis. From egg to larvae to chrysalis to adult.
If you'd like to learn to rear butterflies, silkworm moths, praying mantids or tarantulas, attend the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on “Arthropod Husbandry: Raising Insects for Research and Fun” from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. It's free and family friendly.
UC Davis student Andrew Goffinet, a former UC Davis Bio Boot Camper, will be on hand to talk about rearing butterflies and moths. UC Davis entomology alumnus Lohit Garikipati will discuss praying mantids. Another entomology alumnus Nicole Tam, will talk about rearing insects in the Geoffrey Attardo lab as part of research projects. Doctoral student and Bohart associate Zaid Khouri's topic is how to rear tarantulas and millipedes for fun.
"We also will be discussing Madagascar hissing cockroaches (hissers) as good options for 'starter pets' for kids, and some of the problems with stick insects (walking sticks)," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. Visitors are invited to hold the hissers and stick insects and photograph them.
At 3 p.m., silkworm moth expert İsmail Şeker, a Turkish medical doctor who wrote a book about silkworm moths and the cottage silk industry in his home town, will show his newly produced video about the silkworm moth life cycle. Seker, also a talented videographer and a photographer, will answer questions following his 13-minute video presentation.
"This will be a fun open house for anyone considering a pet with an exoskeleton," Yang said."It will be good for educators to learn about classroom 'pets,' including those who do work with silk moths for life cycle lesson plans."
"Also, to kick off the holiday season we will have the unique wire jewelry by former entomology major Ann Kao, so people should be prepared to shop for some unique insect-inspired jewelry." A family craft activity is also planned.
This is the last open house of the year. The next open house will be on Jan. 18 when UC Davis graduate students from many different fields "will be talking/displaying about their cutting edge research with insects," Yang said.
The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum. It maintains a live "petting zoo," featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks or stick insects and tarantulas. The museum's gift shop, open year around, is stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
Director of the museum is Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis. The staff includes Steve Heydon, senior museum scientist; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) section.
More information on the Bohart Museum is available on the website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu or by contacting (530) 752-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's Veterans' Day, and after paying tribute to the military veterans (my ancestors have fought in all of our nation's wars, dating back to the American Revolution--and my other half is a U.S. Air Force veteran), I slip out the back door to our pollinator garden to see where the insect action is.
Honey bees and a sole carpenter bee are buzzing on the African blue basil; Gulf Fritillaries are nectaring on the Mexican sunflower (Tithonia); and a cabbage white butterfly is sipping nectar from the Lantana.
But the passionflower vine (Passiflora) steals the show. A Gulf Fritillary has just eclosed from a chrysalis that resembles a thick wad of gum chewed up and spit out and left to mummify; several male Gulf Frits are fluttering around in search of females; and the offspring of previous reunions are crawling on the stems and munching what's left of the leaves.
Overhead, the California scrub jays glance down, as if trying to decide on their luncheon menu: a fat juicy caterpillar or the bird seed scattered in the feeder.
Their choice is clear. They forsake the fat juicy caterpillars for the bird seed. Tomorrow morning, however, there will be several caterpillars missing in action.
Yes, they're still there.
More today than yesterday. That's how it goes in the Magical World of Butterflies.
The Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) are keeping busy, and so is this insect wedding photographer trying to capture their images.
There! A Gulf Fritillary has just emerged from her chrysalis on the passionflower vine, and a suitor descends within minutes. He doesn't use any pick-up lines. He doesn't have to. In seconds, there's a twosome on the passionflower vine, something apparently rarely seen. (The Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, answers telephone calls from folks who excitedly proclaim they've found a "two-headed butterfly.")
Soon another suitor appears...three heads...a three-headed butterfly?...and flutters away.
Meanwhile, other brides and grooms meet and greet. It's like being on the Las Vegas strip with all the wedding chapels occupied.
Just another day in the Magical World of Butterflies.
Love is like a butterfly
A rare and gentle thing
--Love Is Like a Butterfly, Dolly Parton
When Dolly Parton penned her song, "Love Is Like a Butterfly," she probably wasn't thinking of passion butterflies, Gulf Fritillaries.
And when she sings that popular song, neither she nor her audience are thinking of Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), getting together on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifolia.
But Lepidopterists, entomologists, horticulturists and insect photographers are.
It's autumn, approaching Halloween, and the Gulf Fritillaries are doing what comes naturally on their host plant, the passionflower vine. But sometimes you'll find them on the fence line, on the ground, or on a neighboring flower.
Then you make a beeline for your camera. It's insect wedding photography. The bride and the groom and the photographer. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the flowers are producing nectar, the bees are buzzing, the crickets are chirping, and all's right with the world.
Love is indeed like a butterfly, "a rare and gentle thing."