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Celebrate our state insect this weekend at UC Davis

Bohart Museum of Entomology salutes the dogface butterfly

Butterfly poster
This poster from the Bohart Museum of  Entomology
shows the male and female California dogface butterflies.
The poster is the work of Fran Keller and Greg Kareofelas.

When you saw the top headline, did you remember the name of the California's state insect? Most of us learned that in 4th grade, along with the state flower (California poppy, of course) and the state bird (California quail). It's the California dogface butterfly ( Zerene eurydice ).

Unlike some of the other state symbols, the dogface butterfly has been the state insect only since 1972. (The California redwood was designated the state tree in 1937. The poppy earned its title in 1903.)

The Bohart Museum of Entomology, on the UC Davis campus, will celebrate those 50 years of butterfly celebrity with a family-friendly open house this Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. It's hardly a coincidence that the California dogface butterfly is part of the Bohart's logo . (The male butterfly has the dog head outline in its peach and black upper wing markings; the female is all yellow with a black spot on the upper wings.)

The butterfly, also called "the flying pansy" for its markings, is endemic to California. It can be found from San Diego to Sonoma County, mostly in foothills or mountain locations, but a major breeding ground is in Auburn, in the Shutamul Bear River Preserve , which is maintained by the Placer Land Trust. According to a U.S. Forest Service information page on the butterfly, its larval stage (caterpillar) feeds on the leaves of the false indigo plant, while the adults feed primarily on flower nectar from plants of the Brassicaceae (mustard) family. It's an important pollinator in its native region.

The impetus for the butterfly's inclusion in California state officialdom came from a 4th-grade class in Fresno, at Dailey Elementary School. Teachers and students persuaded then-Assemblyman Ken Maddy to be author of the bill. Then-Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law on July 28, 1972.

The Bohart Museum is rarely open on the weekend, so this event is a great chance for families and insect fans of all ages to visit. The museum is in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis Main Campus. The nearest intersection is LaRue Road and Crocker Lane. See the map here . Campus parking is free on weekends.

For more information on how UC Davis entomologists discovered the butterfly's Auburn breeding grounds, read this post from The Bug Squad , a blog by Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC Davis communications specialist.

-- Kathy Morrison

P.S. If you visit the State Fair over the next two weeks (it opens Friday), look for the California dogface butterfly images on the monorail cars.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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