Friday, June 25, 2010

Fresh Sheet -June 25, 2010

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.

El Salvador
20 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
25 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
15 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
10 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
12 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
80 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
25 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
05 - Parides photinus (Queen of Hearts)
20 - Prepona omphale=archeoprepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
08 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 275

Read more!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fresh Sheet – June 19, 2010

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.

Costa Rica

12 - Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
09 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
20 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
06 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded shoemaker)
09 - Chlosyne janais (Crimson Patch)
31 - Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)
40 - Dryadula phaetusa (Banded Orange Heliconian)
28 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
14 - Hamadryas amphinome (Red Calico)
09 - Hamadryas feronia (Variable Calico)
08 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
62 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
43 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
43 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
26 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
70 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
32 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
09 - Papilio cresphontes (Giant Swallowtail)
14 - Papilio polyxenes (Black Swallowtail)
55 - Siproeta stelenes(Malachite)

Total = 540


08 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
08 - Heraclides thoas (Giant Swallowtail)
19 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
07 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
05 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
05 - Colobura dirce (Mosaic butterfly)
15 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded shoemaker)
29 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
15 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
08 - Mechanitis polymnia (Polymnia Tigerwing)

Total = 120

It’s longwing season. Over one-third of this week’s pupae shipment is from the family Heliconiidae. Come visit the Tropical Butterfly House and see if you can spot all the different species!

Read more!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Stick Bug Amnesty – A Reminder

This week, Teacher Marie from the West Seattle Family YMCA Preschool brought us a terrarium of Indian Stick bugs. This is an observation terrarium that lived in one of the school’s classrooms. However, as the population of stick insects began to grow exponentially, they all agreed they could no longer take care of them.

We realize that as we’re heading into the summer, and students and teachers are taking a break, there may be even more classrooms out there with the same problem. This is a reminder that the Life Sciences department of Pacific Science Center is allowed by the United States Department of Agriculture to accept any non-native stick insects from the public. If you or your school would like to donate your stick bug population to Pacific Science Center, please email us at

Remember, stick insects are parthenogenic. That means their eggs are viable without being fertilized, so each stick insect in a terrarium will likely produce many offspring all by herself! The USDA is appropriately concerned that the non-native species might become naturalized in our local environment and become a destructive pest. All it would take is a single misplaced egg! So before you take off on that summer vacation, please make sure your stick insects are appropriately accounted for!
Read more!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fresh Sheet – June 12, 2010

Notice something different about this week’s shipment. We are receiving fewer pupae from our provider in El Salvador and will continue to receive smaller shipments for the next few weeks.

Just as an especially rainy spring in Seattle can affect our local crops (as well as our moods), similar weather patterns in El Salvador have affected the production of healthy caterpillars and pupae in the butterfly farms of El Salvador in Central America. Here is a recent report from our vendor, Francisco Serrano:

Due to a recent full week of intensive, continuous rains, we will be carrying out some modifications in [your weekly] order… mainly trying to make shipments as cost effective as possible. Our main problems have been with the high mortalities associated with these continuous days of high precipitation and lack of sun … Thus, [within the] last week few eggs were laid, many larvae died, and our species composition in terms of numbers will no doubt be affected, especially during the next 2 to 3 weeks.

[It is] interesting to note the parallelisms with the weather up that far north. Perhaps the Pacific Ocean has a greater and more even effect than is generally recognized. It should be interesting to compare notes more often!!
Very grateful for your patience and understanding, we send our very best as always.

Knowing the problems our vendors face brings us closer to them, and helps us connect the butterflies we exhibit, with the visionary folks worldwide who raise them. News like this reminds us that as idealistic as butterfly farming may sound, it is still farming. It takes hard work, and even with the greatest effort, it is subject to circumstances outside the farmers’ control. Here’s hoping for some sunshine, in Seattle and in El Salvador.

30 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
30 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
20 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
10 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
16 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
12 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
15 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
12 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
80 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
25 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
30 - Prepona omphale=archeoprepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)

Total = 315

Read more!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Big Bamboo

Stroll in and around the grounds of Pacific Science Center and you might notice that we showcase a variety of plants – but especially numerous varieties of bamboo. Why bamboo? Jeff Leonard, our Supervisor of Horticulture, noted bamboo enthusiast, and member of the American Bamboo Society finds that many species of these plants happily thrive in our Northwest climate.

Take a tour!

Go into Pacific Science Center at the Denny Way entrance and you will encounter our largest bamboo species, Phyllostacys vivax or Chinese timber. This hardy bamboo has been known to grow over 18 meters tall in Seattle with culms (living canes) 15 cm in diameter! Jeff estimates that new shoots grow about a meter a week!

Surrounding the Chinese timber you’ll find 60 cm tall “leptomorphic” or running bamboo plants, Pleioblastus humilis, dwarf humilis. Running bamboos spread by means of rhizomes. This species is often used for ground cover and erosion control.

Once inside Pacific Science Center’s grounds and out on the pads you’ll find two more bamboo species. The planter closest to Building 1 is home to Phyllostachys aureosulcata, yellow groove bamboo. Their culms are green with yellow sulcus (grooves) where the new branches emerge. Some culms may appear purple because of a deficiency of phosphorus, which is not available in soil at temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).

On the east side of the Adobe Laserdome you’ll find three planters of Fargesia nitida, blue fountain bamboo. All bamboo of the genus Fargesia are “pachymorphic” or clumping bamboos. These plants prefer shade and are therefore situated away from the afternoon sun. Pandas love this bamboo and it’s a dominant species in their habitat.

To finish your tour, visit the Tropical Butterfly House. Once inside, by the east wall you will find a subtropical clumping bamboo, Bambusa multiplex 'Alphonse Karr', commonly known as Alphonse Karr bamboo. This plant has beautifully striped culms but is not extremely cold hardy. The wood is a favorite among crafters and furniture makers.

Jeff explains his love for bamboo:
I became fascinated with bamboo while watching a large stand move in heavy wind. It was to me like a huge, ferocious animal domesticated each time the wind died. It can be domesticated! Bamboo has incredible attributes for Pacific Northwest landscaping.
Visit Pacific Science Center to get your full bamboo experience and check out our other fine plants as well!

Read more!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fresh Sheet – June 4, 2010

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.


50 - Danaus chrysippus (Plain Tiger)
20 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
12 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
50 - Hypolimnas bolina (Great Eggfly)
41 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
10 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
20 - Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock)
20 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
01 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
33 - Parthenos sylvia philppensis (The Clipper)

What?? Only one Papilio rumanzovia? Will it be a male or female? Visit our Tropical Butterfly House and find out!

Read more!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Recipe for a Healthy Axolotl Aquarium

Whenever the time comes to fully clean the axolotl’s aquarium, it’s an all hands on deck experience.

The axolotls need somewhere safe to stay during the process. Since turbulent water is stressful to them, we place them in individual containers with clean water instead of setting them in a recirculating aquarium where water flow would upset them. Where do they stay during this time? In the fridge, of course! Set at the least cold temperature, the refrigerator is actually therapeutic for axolotls and will often put restore a slightly “off” animal to good condition.

Returning the axos to their newly cleaned tank is not as simple as just putting in new water and putting them back. The chemicals used to make tap water clean for drinking can be toxic to aquatic life. We add water conditioners that lock up the chlorine containing molecules that are sometimes added to municipal tap water. We also add a little salt which helps animals maintain the right electrolyte balance. Then we start the system up and make sure it is running well.

The water in the aquarium must be the same temperature as that of the axolotl’s temporary containers. We give the axos plenty of time to warm up to room temp.

The axolotls go back into their home. But that’s not the end of the story either. New aquarium water needs to be colonized by beneficial bacteria. The nitrogen wastes produced by animals start out in a highly toxic form – ammonia. Beneficial bacteria in the filtration system digest ammonia and break it down, first into the less harmful nitrites and finally into nitrates, which is far less harmful. Eventually, nitrates can be further converted back into atmospheric nitrogen, but in most aquariums this step is never reached. Instead, partial water changes remove the nitrates – which make great plant food!

The nitrogen cycle is a whole story in itself, perhaps good for another blog another day. Meanwhile, we welcome the axolotls back to their tank after a short hiatus.

Read more!