California Dogface Butterfly Steals the Show

The California dogface butterfly stole the show at the Bohart Museum of Entomology pop-up tent at Briggs Hall during the 110th annual UC Davis Picnic Day.

Visitors received free posters of the colorful butterfly, the state insect; learned how to use an insect net to catch a paper butterfly; and posed for images behind the dogface butterfly face banner.

At the California dogface butterfly table, entomologist Fran Keller, a professor at Folsom Lake College who doubles as a Bohart Museum scientist and a UC Davis doctoral alumna, discussed her children's book, The Story of the Dogface Butterfly, published in 2013. 

Popular in kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms, and in private and public collections throughout the country, the 35-page book tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice), and how a classroom successfully mounted a campaign to convince the California State Legislature to name it the state insect in 1972. 

The book depicts the life cycle of the butterfly and also discusses the larval host plant, false indigo (Amorpha californica).  The photos, primarily taken in Auburn on Placer Land Trust private land, are by Bohart associate Greg Kareofelas and Keller. Laine Bauer, then a UC Davis undergraduate student, created the illustrations. The book is available at the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane.

The posters, also the work of Keller and Kareofelas, show a male and female dogface butterfly. The male is nicknamed "the flying pansy," and sports a doglike yellow silhouette on its wings. The female is mostly solid yellow except for a single black spot on its upper wings.

The giveaway poster depicts the male California dogface butterfly (top) and the female.
The California dogface butterfly poster depicts the male (top) and the female.
Bohart Museum graduate student/researcher Socrates Letana and Keller tossed paper butterflies in the air as the visitors snagged them with their nets. Six-year-old Aren Natarajen liked it so much he practiced multiple times. "He loves bugs," said his mother, Reina Engle-Stone, associate professor, Department of Nutrition.

In the live petting zoo, visitors held thorny stick insects and tomato hornworm caterpillars. The caterpillars wlll become the five-spotted hawkmoth,  Manduca quinquemaculata,  family Sphingidae. 

The Bohart Museum's Picnic Day display followed the theme, "Bonding with the Bohart," in reference to Professor Jason Bond, the newly announced director, as of Feb. 1. He succeeds UC Davis distinguished professor emerita Lynn Kimsey, who served 34 years as director. Bond is the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, and the associate dean, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He also serves as president-elect of the American Arachnological Society.

The next Bohart Museum open house will take place Sunday, May 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. The theme:  "Bees, Both Wild and Managed," featuring the research of scientists from the Department of Entomology and Nematology. The event is free and family friendly. Parking is also free.