Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fresh Sheet – January 28, 2012

Four different species of Owl pupae arrived this week from Costa Rica. Come meet them at a fruit dish!

Costa Rica

8 - Agraulis vanilla (Gulf Fritllary)
8 - Caligo atreus (Yellow-Edged Giant-Owl)
20 - Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
15 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
23 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
34 - Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)
27 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
21 - Dryadula phaetusa (Banded Orange Heliconian)
08 - Eryphanis polyxena (Purple Mort Bleu Owl)
16 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
06 - Hamadryas februa (Gray Calico)
23 - Hamadryas feronia (Variable Calico)
12 - Hamadryas laodamia (Starry Calico)
20 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
29 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
21 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
26 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
08 - Heliconius hewitsoni (Hewitson’s Longwing)
04 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
20 - Parides iphidamas (Transandean Cattleheart)
06 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
14 - Siproeta stelenes (Malachite)

Total = 504

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Snow Daze

Back in November, we discussed our winter snow plans, and what it would take to ensure that the animals safely survived through closures due to snow. Little did we know how very necessary this training would be. During the snow storms last week, Pacific Science Center was closed for two days, and the Life Sciences team was unable to get to the facility. The animals were in good hands though.

Camp-In Coordinator Merrick Neville was ready for the task on Wednesday. She walked in through the snow, fed all the animals, and had only one real concern. A sea star in the tide pool exhibit was creating a cloud of murky water around itself. Might it be injured, or even dead?

After a series of photos, questions and observations, we concluded that Merrick had probably seen spawning behavior and the sea star was ok.

The next day, Thursday, all of Seattle was under a blanket of ice and snow. The only hint of movement was IMAX Supervisor Jenn Bentz, striding through the snow to come take care of the animals. Because Merrick had discharged her duties with great care, Jenn found things in good condition, but she too had a question. Normally our horticulture crew meticulously grooms the plants and removes any butterflies that may have died in the exhibit space. Jenn was unprepared for the “au natural” appearance of the butterfly house when it does not receive this in-depth care, and called to make sure everything was right.

The Life Sciences Department is deeply indebted to both of these stalwart helpers, and to Data Processor Laura Mazzocchi, who spent Thursday on call in case additional help was needed. We are also most grateful to volunteer Terry Pagos, who came in on an unscheduled Friday because she knew we would need an extra hand.

Without Jenn’s and Merrick’s help, some of the following would surely have happened:

Dangerously low humidity in the mole-rats: Naked mole-rats do not drink water. All of their moisture needs come from food and humidity in the air. With our heated buildings in winter, it is critical to monitor and adjust humidity daily. Had the colony been in a low humidity situation for two full days, they would have suffered from skin problems, and possibly from digestive and respiratory issues as well.

Carnage in the tide pool: Most of our tide pool animals are carnivores, and unlike many exhibits, which sequester by species, ours have free access to all parts of the exhibit. Without someone feeding them, some of our more aggressive anemones and sea stars might have taken matters into their own hands (or tentacles) and eaten their exhibit mates.

Lost butterfly lives: An estimated 60 – 100 butterflies emerge every day, and must be placed on exhibit within a few hours. Without our emergency coverage, they would have languished and died in their emerging chamber, never able to fly.

It is hard to speculate on what other unknowns might have happened. Instead, we are happy to focus on the actual outcome – healthy, happy animals and the knowledge that we have great co-workers who have our backs when things get snowy.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fresh Sheet – January 21, 2012

This week’s pupae shipments arrived safely in spite of delays from the Monday holiday and Seattle’s "Snow-mageddon". And once again, we have representatives of three different species from genus Archeoprepona/Prepona. Visit our Tropical Butterfly House and enjoy the warmth!


05 - Parides sesostris (Emerald-patched Cattleheart)
06 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
28 - Heraclides thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
40 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
10 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
10 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
05 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
30 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
20 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded Shoemaker)
40 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
10 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
06 - Biblis hyperia (Red Rim)
50 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
10 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 270

El Salvador

20 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
25 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
30 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
19 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
12 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
30 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
10 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
23 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
35- Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
20 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
10 - Parides iphidamas (Transandean Cattleheart)
20 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
30 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
12 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 356


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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fresh Sheet - January 14, 2011

“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.


20 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
116 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
20 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
100 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
19 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
27 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
41 - Parthenos sylvia philippensis (The Clipper)
16 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
40 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
20 - Ideopsis juventa (Wood Nymph)
100 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)

Total = 519

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Snake Eyes

Over the last few months, Animal Care staff noticed something a little funny about one of our boa constrictors. Esteban’s eye appeared cloudy, as though a thin white film were covering part of his eye and pupil. While snakes normally experience a brief period before shedding when their eyes cloud over and are nearly opaque, the rest of the time they are usually bright, shiny and clear.

When we brought him to The Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine (BEAM), Dr. Maas used a bright, narrow beam light to pinpoint the source of the clouding. To our relief, it was not deep in the eye like a cataract, but right on the surface of the eye.

To understand what we did next, it is necessary to understand a bit of snake eye anatomy. Snakes are well known for their unblinking stare, and in fact snakes are unable to blink. Their eyelids are greatly modified, into a fused, clear covering over the eye, called a spectacle or eye cap.

This cap is strong enough that snakes can strike their prey, swim, slide through underbrush, and in some species use their heads for digging, all without blinking and without damage to their eyes. The spectacle itself may be scuffed up in the course of daily activities, but luckily it is shed when the snake sheds its skin, so it is always being replaced by a newer, clear covering.

Snakes’ eyes are mobile, and to allow this, there is a layer of liquid, like our tears, between the eye itself and the spectacle. Our concern was that if the eye were infected, bacteria would grow in that liquid layer, and be the source of the clouding.

To see what was going on with Esteban’s eye, Dr. Maas carefully inserted a very small needle between the spectacle and the eye, and removed a small amount of this liquid for testing. What he found was reassuring.

Esteban has no sign of infection in his eye tissue. Most likely, he produced excess protein due to a minor injury, or slight inflammation, and the cloudiness will take care of itself in the next few sheds. If not, we will need to inject minute amounts of anti-inflammatories into the space around Esteban’s eye – not a task for the faint of heart.

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bee Hive Update

As winter begins, the short, wet, cold days are hard on bees and ours are no exception. So it is with pleasure that we see some honey in the combs, signs that our pollen substitute is being accepted, a queen who is still active and surrounded by workers, and a notable absence of dead bees inside the hive.

What do each of these observations tell us?

Honey storage has a lot to do with how well the bees can get through the cold months. With temperatures cold enough to inhibit flight, bees cannot go foraging for nectar – even if there were flowers out at this time of year. Bees that have honey stored in their hive stand a much better chance of making it till spring. Our bees do not appear to have enough honey stored to survive until April flowers. However, the bees are still getting to the jar of sugar water just outside the hive. This means they can replenish their stock - and with luck and good weather - keep enough food to start generating new workers. One new trick we have used with our sugar water this year is flavoring it with mint extract. Mint is said to be a feeding stimulant, and our experience seems to confirm this.

Bee larvae, AKA baby bees, have much higher protein needs than adult workers. This protein comes from pollen. Unfortunately, our hive was completely out of pollen by early December. While we have seen success placing a sugar feeder outside, we never had much luck getting the bees to accept substitute pollen. This year, we tried pushing the pollen directly into the hive area, through the screen on one of their ventilation holes. Pollen substitute is never as well accepted as the real thing, but the bees do seem to be taking it up. Once the colony starts raising workers in spring, this may be a critical factor in whether they are able to rear enough young to replace the current workers.

As expected, the colony is taking a break from rearing workers. The queen takes several weeks off around the solstice, before gradually building up her egg production once again. This makes sense to the hive. In winter, raising extra bees is simply creating more mouths to feed. In spring, it is creating a new work force, able to go out and gather food once the flowers start blooming. Seeing our queen look active and fit gives us every reason to expect that her egg production should kick in shortly. We will be watching closely for this to happen.

The absence of dead bees may seem like a fairly obvious sign of a healthy colony. But in fact, there are some nuances to this, because we know that there are bees in the colony that have died. The population has been slowly declining from November until now. Bees live short lives – from 21 days in the height of summer, to a few months during the less active winter months. So over time, it is natural to expect the colony to shrink if the queen is not laying new eggs.

In a badly functioning colony, a bee that died inside the hive would stay there. In a healthy hive, another worker promptly remove the dead bee, so that her body would not cause health problems for other bees. Therefore, a lack of dead bees doesn’t mean that bees aren’t dying.

As our bees are gathering food for energy and for building up a new workforce with their healthy looking queen, we have high hopes for their success this spring. Of course we temper our hopes with caution. Beekeeping is a challenging activity, and many well-tended hives fail each year. But if we do have success, we will have learned several useful techniques for keeping our small hive healthy in the future.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Fresh Sheet – January 6, 2012

The first two pupae shipments of the new year are now emerging in our Tropical Butterfly House. We have an abundance of butterflies including beautiful longwings and swallowtails that await your inspection!

El Salvador

30 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
30 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
15 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
20 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
12 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
15 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
30 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
30 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
20 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
20 - Morpho peleides(Blue Morpho)
30 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
15 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
30 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio pilumnus (Three-tailed Swallowtail)
15 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
06 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)

Total = 328


10 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing) PHILIPPINES
10 - Charaxes cithaeron (Blue-spotted Charexes) USA
30 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf) PHILIPPINES
02 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay) PHILIPPINES
10 - Hypolimnas bolina (Great Eggfly) PHILIPPINES
04 - Junonia (Precis) almana (Peacock Pansy) THAILAND
02 - Junonia (Precis) lemonias (Lemon Pansy) THAILAND
05 - Kalilima inachus (Orange Oakleaf) THAILAND
60 - Papilio constantinus (Constantines's Swallowtail) USA
10 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail) PHILIPPINES
10 - Papilio memnon (Great Memnon) THAILAND
30 - Papilio nireus (Blue-banded Swallowtail) USA
60 - Papilio ophidicephalus (Emperor Swallowtail) USA
10 - Papilio polytes (Polite swallowtail) PHILIPPINES
14 - Tirumala limniace(Blue Tiger) USA

Total = 267

Grand Total = 595

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