It was like a moth to a flame--or 400 moths to a flame--when a record crowd surged into the Bohart Museum of Entomology Moth Night for its July 30th open house.
After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, "how great it was to have the doors open again for the public," said entomologist Jeff Smith, curator of the lepidoptera collection.
The 400-member crowd, thought to be the largest crowd at the Bohart, other than at UC Davis Picnic Day, was there to learn more about moths, draw images of moths on the sidewalks, enjoy an evening of camaraderie, and head outside to watch moths and other insects fly onto the hanging white sheet, part of the blacklighting demonstration display.
“People could draw whatever they wanted on chalk (outside the Academic Surge Building), but there were a lot of moths, although my kids went rogue and drew a soccer field and a figure,” said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum education and outreach coordinator.
“We ran out of hot water, for the hot cocoa packets, and cookies half-way through!" Yand said, quipping "I thought we would be eating left over chocolate chip cookies at the Bohart all week, but alas that is not the case.”
The blacklighting display (white hanging sheet, ultraviolet light, and a generator) served as a demonstration site. "We had a few small beetles and a few small moths come in," Yang said.
The open house, which drew visitors from as far away as Alameda, took place the weekend before UC Davis summer sessions, so “the popularity among the college set was perhaps because of that, she said. "People were free from studying their required courses and so, on their own, they decided to seek out and learn about moths!”
Kareofelas fielded scores of questions about the Polyphemus moth, Antheraea polyphemus. “They are currently making their appearance in Davis, so a number of folks have seen them and had photos on their phones," he said. "A number of folks came with the desire to see a specific moth, and if we were lucky, it was located in the aisle we had open. Jeff (Smith) had pulled the drawers, from other aisles, with a number of specific species and had them labeled--a lot of questions about these drawers.”
"Some wanted to see the hummingbird moth, so I got to show Hyles lineata to a number of folks," Kareofelas said. "We had a lot of just plain 'good ol' interest' in seeing something and learning something about moths. The night started with a bang and went right to 11:00, still busy!"
"I was surprised at how popular the event was, how busy the store was, and how many folks showed up," Kareofelas said. "It was a great night!"
Smith spent the entire open house demonstrating how to spread the wings of moths. “I couldn't believe how many people came, and I was never ABLE to leave the table where I was demonstrating spreading," Smith said. "There was a constant group of people watching and asking questions, such as 'How did you become interested in this?' and of course, lots of questions on the spreading materials and techniques."
“The moment the door officially opened at 8 p.m., groups came in and headed in all different directions," Smith said. "One couple from Dixon was there with a group of scouts and they must have hung around my demo for 45 minutes with all kinds of interest and questions. People showed me photos on their cell phones of the white-lined sphinx moth, the ceanothus silk moth, and even a buck moth (Hemileuca) from Mono Basin."
Smith said he allowed "at least 10 different young people try their own hand at spreading a moth or two and that was really well received. I had a ziplock bag of surplus, papered moths and let some of the people take some for themselves. When it finally slowed a bit, I finally got up and couldn't believe it was already past 11 p.m." He headed over to the moth aisle where Kareofelas was still showing and answering questions about moths. "Greg did an amazing job. And, I ended up talking to a couple who work on campus until nearly 11:30."
Outside, the crowd marveled at the chalk drawings, including the tiger moths created by Srdan Tunic of UC Davis, a second-year master's degree student in art history. Skilled in street art and in academics (his Linked In profile indicates "Curating: creating bridges between art and people, ideas and objects"), Tunic is the co-founder, researcher and guide of Street Art Walks Belgrade, where he conducts lectures and tours on street art, graffiti, and the history of Belgrade. He holds a bachelor of arts degree (2008) in art history from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, and a master of arts in cultural policy and management (2017) from the University of Arts, Belgrade. He expects to receive his master's degree in art history from UC Davis in May of 2023.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, and directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, houses a global collection of more than eight million insect specimens. It also houses a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and an insect-themed gift shop. The latest t-shirt features a Jerusalem cricket, aka potato bug.
After a two-year hiatus due toCOVID, it's back by popular demand, said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum.
It's free, family friendly and open to the public. Inside, visitors will see the Bohart's special moth collection, and outside, visitors will see moths and other insects land on the hanging white sheet of the blacklighting display, comprised of an ultraviolet (UV) light, and a generator.
The Bohart collection includes the Atlas moth, Attacus atlas, the world's largest moth with the greatest wing area of 10 to 12 inches. The Atlas is found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia.
Another large moth on display will be the "bat moth" or "black witch" (Ascalapha odorata), found in Central America, South America, Bahamas and parts of the southwestern United States. In Mexican and Caribbean folklore, it is considered a harbinger of death. The insect played a role in the movie, "Silence of the Lambs" but the name was changed to "Death's-head Hawkmoth."
Folks are invited to bring photos or moth specimens from their house, yard or neighborhood that they would like help in identifying, Yang said.
There will also be a craft activity, cookies, and "hot cocoa for anyone who needs help staying up past their bedtime," Yang quipped.
Back in 2019, before the COVID pandemic, the blacklighting display drew at least 11 different species from five moth families: Tineidae, Tortricidae, Pyralidae, Geometridae, and Noctuidae, according to Bohart associate and "Moth Man" John De Benedictis.
The families represented:
Opogona omoscopa (Opogona crown borer)
Achyra rantalis (garden webworm)
Ephestiodes gilvescentella (dusky raisin moth)
Spodoptera exigua (beet armyworm)
Spodoptera praefica (western yellow-striped armyworm)
Moth Night (NMW) "celebrates the beauty, life cycles, and habitats of moths, according to the national website. “Moth-ers of all ages and abilities are encouraged to learn about, observe, and document moths in their backyards, parks, and neighborhoods."
NMW, also celebrated worldwide, is traditionally held a week in July. "NMW offers everyone, everywhere a unique opportunity to become a citizen scientist and contribute scientific data about moths," the website relates. "Through partnerships with major online biological data depositories, NMW participants can help map moth distribution and provide needed information on other life history aspects around the globe."
NMW scientists point out:
- Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth.
- Estimates show that moth species number anywhere from 150,000 to more than 500,000.
- Their colors and patterns are either dazzling or so cryptic that they define camouflage. Shapes and sizes span the gamut from as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult's hand.
- Most moths are nocturnal, and need to be sought at night to be seen--others fly like butterflies during the day.
- Finding moths can be as simple as leaving a porch light on and checking it after dark. Serious moth aficionados use special lights and baits to attract them.
In the highly competitive “service award” category of the UC Davis Staff Assembly's annual 2022 Citations of Excellence program, Dyer received the second-place honor or honorable mention. The university employs some 17,000 academic and administrative staff.
Dyer, who holds a bachelor's degree in entomology (2018) from UC Davis, began volunteering at the Bohart Museum in 2015, advanced to a paid internship in 2016, and then in 2018, accepted his current position as the lab assistant.
Dyer overcame three obstacles: a challenging childhood, a marriage that didn't work, and the loss of his home and hometown in the 2018 raging inferno in Paradise known as “The Camp Fire.” He successfully struggled from #ParadiseStrong to #DyerStrong.
“Ninety-five percent of the town is gone,” Paradise council member Michael Zuccolillo told the San Francisco Chronicle in a news story published Nov. 10, 2018. “The remaining 5 percent of buildings are barely standing. I felt like I was living in a bad dream. It was unrecognizable. I had to keep asking, ‘Where are we?' All the landmarks are gone. Block by block, nothing. Anybody who had a house in Paradise probably doesn't anymore.”
Love of Science. Dyer today credits his “love of science” with helping him overcome life's hardships. “And now in return, he inspires others to love science,” wrote his three nominators Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Kimsey described him as “bright, gifted and personable. It doesn't matter what needs to be done in the museum, curation, insect identification, live colony care, computer or software issues, and working with student volunteers, he takes care of it. It is so rare to find someone who can do some of these tasks so well, much less all of them like he can.”
Another faculty member added this to the nomination packet: “(Brennen) is what I would generally characterize as a servant leader, defined by a philosophy and practice that aims to enrich the lives of the people. He works to build a better organization, and create a more caring environment for everyone. He is an exceptionally hard worker who is always available to assist students, staff, volunteers alike.”
An alumnus: “(Brennen) is incredible. He is intelligent, meticulous and proactive, and goes above and beyond to assist peers and colleagues. For example, when I was finishing my PhD thesis, I needed photos of insect specimens to add to my last chapter, but I had neither the time nor the skills to utilize our modern microscope to photograph specimens. He generously offered to help, and did so perfectly and quickly. If he hadn't been so reliable and proactive, I wouldn't have been able to finish my PhD in time.”
Accolades. Other comments from faculty and colleagues:
- “Frankly, we do not know what we would do without him. He is that exemplary. He is always kind, courteous, respectful, reliable, flexible, and eager to help with any project. When you ask for a favor or task from him, you can count on it being done promptly and correctly.”
- “(Brennen) steps up to difficult tasks, such as taking the lead in a landmark, three-year, federally funded project of surveying and databasing insects from three counties in the Sacramento River Delta (to date, 700 species, including 30 new species). He does it all, from organizing collections, coordinating field trips, and training interns, to helping graduate students, faculty and peers with equipment, including the GIGAmacro system and freeze freeze dryer; and assisting them with their projects and publications, such as imaging holotypes and photographing specimens for their publications. With BioQuip closed and supplies scarce, he even designs collecting equipment!”
- “He also serves as the unofficial IT specialist. (Brennen), who learned to dismantle and resassemble computers as a child, troubleshoots the office computers and printers, and assists with the website.
- “He volunteers to drive hundreds of miles to bring back collections, donations or other materials. He eagerly supports UC Davis Picnic Day, (Bohart) open houses, and UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day. He engages with visitors, showing them displays, answering their questions, and encouraging them to ask more!”
- “(Brennen) strongly supports diversity, equity and inclusion. When a colleague's developmentally disabled aunt arrived for a tour, he noticed her limitless enthusiasm and curiosity for insects, so he headed to the Arboretum to bring back a male Valley carpenter bee (a blond, green-eyed bee known as a ‘teddy bear bee') and let the aunt hold it (note that ‘boy bees don't sting') before releasing it. Her joy, glee and excitement were as unforgettable as (Brennen's) kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity.”
- “(Brennen) has been an anchor to the museum, especially these last COVID years. We are a small team who tries to do big things. (Brennen) is the glue that holds everything together and gets the job done. He supports all aspects of the (workplace) from research to outreach and education. He is tireless and very deserving of recognition. He is not someone who likes to step into the limelight, but is definitely behind the scenes making everything happen smoothly. He is also just a caring and kind co-worker and sensitive to inclusivity and equity.”
In summary, the nominators wrote that (Brennen) “epitomizes the excellence of our UC Davis workforce.”
Dyer said he is humbled and honored to be singled out for the award.
The judging criteria in the service award category included
- Provides exemplary services to students, staff, faculty and/or general campus
- Makes notable contributions to the department and/or campus
- Creates and maintains high morale
- Embodies the Principles of Community
In all, the UC Davis Staff Assembly awarded individual honors in five categories: innovation, mentorship, service, supervision, and teaching, as well as a team award and a faculty and staff partnership award. The judges also awarded scholarships to staff and staff dependents. (See award winners)
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 and located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, houses a global collection of eight million insects. It also maintains a live “petting zoo” (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and an insect-themed gift shop.
The open house, free and family friendly, is set from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, July 16 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the year the California State Legislature designated the dogface butterfly out to be the state insect.
Keller will read the book in the Wildlife Classroom, Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, located next door to the Bohart Museum in the Academic Surge Building.
The book features photos by Bohart associate Greg Kareofelas and Professor Keller, and illustrations by former UC Davis student Laine Bauer. The California dogface butterfly, Zerene eurydice, found only in California, thrives at its major breeding ground, the Shutamul Bear River Preserve, a private preserve maintained by the Placer Land Trust (PLT).
It is there because its host plant, false indigo, Amorpha californica, is there, points out Kareofelas, who has reared multiple California dogface butterflies from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult. He serves as a volunteer docent for the PLT's Shutamul Bear River Preserve.
"Most people have never seen a single dogface butterfly (in the wild)," says Kareofelas. On a June 10th tour of the preserve, held specifically for the Bohart Museum, the group saw 75 to 100 dogface butterflies.
False indigo (Amorpha), its only known host plant, "is a rather inconspicuous shrub found with poison oak, willow, etc. near streambanks, often along boulder-strewn tributary streams in side canyons where access is very difficult," Shapiro says on his website.
1 p.m.: Event starts
Tabling: Placer Land Trust information table, Greg Kareofelas with live caterpillar/rearing project
- Craft: Yellow felt dogface butterflies shoe/hair/belt/wrist ornaments
- Craft: Color the dogface butterfly life cycle (paper or for $8.50 for bandanna)
- Craft: Paper caterpillar puppet
- Petting Zoo (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects, tartantulas)
- Butterfly collection exploration with entomologist Jeff Smith, curator of the Lepidoptera collection
- Butterfly banner photo-op
1:30 p.m.: Professor and author Fran Keller reads The Story of the Dogface Butterfly in the Wildlife Classroom
2:30 p.m.: Communication specialist Julia Boorinakis Harper Barbeau of Placer Land Trust shows four-minute video and Bohart associate Greg Kareofelas gives a talk/powerpoint about the history of the dogface (5-10 minutes) in the Wildlife Classroom
3 p.m.: Celebration dessert in the hallway with Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology
3:30 p.m.: Professor and author Fran Keller reads The Story of the Dogface Butterfly in the Wildlife Classroom
4 p.m.: Event ends
The Bohart Museum, directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens. It also maintains a live petting zoo and an insect-themed gift shop (including T-shirts, hoodies, books, jewelry, posters, collecting equipment)
The free, family event takes place in the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. The event will focus on the biology and history of the butterfly. A family arts and crafts activity is also planned.
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 at a 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 Kareofelas (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.
"Good to his word, Mr. Maddy moved the bill out of committee and to approval by the full Assembly on June 19. 1972.
"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.)
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 are available for sale in the Bohart Museum gift shop.
The book tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly, and how schoolchildren became involved in convincing the State Legislature to select the dogface butterfly as the state insect. As part of their research, Keller, Kareofelas and Bauer visited the Placer Land Trust habitat of the butterfly. Kareofelas reared the insect from egg to adult, photographing all stages. At the open house, Keller will do a book reading for youths and their parents at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
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.
Take a look at the amazing images that Greg Kareofelas captured of the life cycle of the California dogface butterfly.