Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Vinnea the Vinegaroon

We are very sorry to say, our off-exhibit vinegaroon passed away this past weekend. Adrian found her Sunday morning. Typical of her easy to care for nature, she was up on top of the soil, so that we didn’t have to dig around for her.

Theoretically, an Animal Caretaker doesn’t have favorites, but likes all the animals equally. In reality, there are exceptions, and Vinnea was one of them. She was an industrious little arthropod who won our love by her methodical, even obsessive digging and tunneling. When she appeared to be gravid, we were like a whole team of aunts and uncles, rooting for her to give us little “mini-garoons” to dote on. And when it became clear that she was suffering from ill health, we all wanted to find the magic bullet that would help this mysterious little animal to get well.

Unfortunately, not much is known about vinegaroon husbandry. We are pretty good at keeping them alive and happy, but not so much with the big life transitions – reproduction, shedding, and death. I believe she had shed her final skin already when we got her, but I will always be sorry she didn’t get to have those babies, if there were any.

Vinnea spent her declining years in the home she excavated for herself, or making periodic visits to the surface to look for crickets and water. She never knew cold, predation, or drought. She had dark places to go, and lighted areas to give her a circadian rhythm. I believe we did whatever was possible to make her happy.

She will be missed.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fresh Sheet – February 25, 2012

Four of the most beautiful Owl species in the tropics are now emerging in our garden window. Check out these butterflies as well as the 19 other kinds of pupae that we received this week.

Costa Rica

06 - Brassolis isthmia (Small-spotted Owl)
08 - Caligo atreus (Yellow-Edged Giant-Owl)
08 - Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
18 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
60 - Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)
32 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
40 - Dryadula phaetusa (Banded Orange Heliconian)
08 - Eryphanis polyxena (Purple Mort Bleu Owl)
04 - Eueides isabella (Isabella’s Longwing)
17 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
11 - Hamadryas laodamia (Starry Calico)
42 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
37 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
11 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
47 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
28 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
06 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
33 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
40 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
12 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
12 - Papilio anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
12 - Papilio polyxenes (Black Swallowtail)
12 - Philaethria dido (Scarce Bamboo Page)

Total = 504

“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.
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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fresh Sheet – February 19, 2012

The trifecta of Archeoprepona demophon, Archeoprepona demophoon, and Prepona omphale pupae have arrived this week from two of our sources. Can you spot the differences?


05 - Parides sesostris (Emerald-patched Cattleheart)
10 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
22 - Heraclides thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
40 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
05 - Papilio androgeus (Androgeus Swallowtail)
07 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
10 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
12 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
10 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded Shoemaker)
40 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
05 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
14 - Biblis hyperia (Red Rim)
40 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
20 - Mechanitis polymnia (Polymnia Tigerwing)
30 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 270

El Salvador

30 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
10 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
16 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
12 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
10 - Doxocopa laure (Silver Emperor)
20 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
20 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
30 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
80 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
10 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
30 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
25 - Parides photinus (Queen of Hearts)
30 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
30 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)

Total = 353

Grand Total = 623

“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.

Read more!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Naked Mole-Rats – Year in Review

Once again, it is time to report the previous year’s statistics for our naked mole-rat colony. The meticulously kept data helps to inform us of any long-term health trends of which we should be aware in addition to giving us insight into the general growth and well being of the colony.

Here are the 2011 highlights:

Naked Mole-Rat Colony Population:
January 2011 – 41
January 2012 – 57

Deaths by year (adults and independent juveniles):
2008 – 9
2009 – 2
2010 – 1
2011 – 2

Total recorded pregnancies: 6
Total recorded births: 6
Total pups born: 120
Average litter size: 20
Total successful litters: 3
Total surviving offspring: 18
Pup survival rate: 15%

Weight Changes Jan 2011 to Feb 2012:
Average weight difference (not including individuals born this year): 3.2 grams
Average weight difference among adults 3 years and older (not including those born in 2009, 2010 or 2011): .06 grams
Average weight difference among juveniles born in 2009 or 2010: 5.6 grams
Average weight of pups born in 2011: 22.4 grams

2011 weight changes by size – groups are divided based on their size in Jan 2011

It was another year of growth for our colony. We welcomed 18 new pups into the colony. While the pups from all three new litters have been growing rapidly, the rest of the colony has maintained a steady weight. If you look at the above graph, you will notice a steady but slight increase across all weight categories, followed by a slight decline at the end of the year. This difference may be due to a new scale that replaced our previous instrument, which broke.

Record of Pregnancies
3/4 – “Galinda”
Pups born = 25
Survived = 0

3/13 – “Elphaba”
Pups born = 17
Survived = 0

5/27 – “Galinda”
Pups born = 20
Survived = 4
Note: Pups from these two recent litters were too small at the time of the tattooing of the colony. As yet, they have no identifying markers and are known as the “Big Babies.”

6/17 – “Elphaba”
Pups born = 17
Survived = 1

8/24 = “Galinda”
Pups born = 25
Survived = 13
Note: Not tattooed but noticeably younger than the “Big Babies,” they are known as the “Little Babies.”

12/19 – “Galinda”
Pups born = 16
Survived = 0

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fresh Sheet – February 12, 20012

If you love Paper Kite butterflies, and who doesn’t, you’re going to love this week’s shipment. We’ve received 152 of them along with 413 other pupae from the Philippines. They’re all now emerging you-know-where.


44 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
12 - Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock)
60 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
152 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
27 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
40 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
50 - Parthenos sylvia philippensis (The Clipper)
30 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
30 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
20 - Ideopsis juventa (Wood Nymph)
100 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)

Total = 565

“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.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Cockroach Spit

Caution: The following article is about whether cockroaches are spitting or vomiting. You may wish to proceed with caution.

If you have ever visited Pacific Science Center’s Insect Village, you may have had an opportunity to handle a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa). Many people have learned a new appreciation for insects from this contact. Some have overcome longstanding fear of bugs. But few know that the cockroaches have to learn not to fear us, too.

While many legends exist about the ability of cockroaches to survive nuclear disaster, microwave ovens, and other dire fates, the experience of our Life Sciences staff has been that these insects are not invulnerable. They enjoy being treated well and show signs of stress when times get tough, just like any other animal.

Roaches show stress in several ways. Most commonly they hiss (hence their common name) the first few times we handle them, before learning we are safe. We also look for loss of muscle tone, and fighting as signs that the animals need more rest and less work.

But there is another sign of stress that has been observed recently, that got us concerned. A couple of people have seen our roaches emitting bubbles of clear liquid from their mouths during handling. Life Sciences manager Sarah Moore had seen this behavior before. It happened once while treating the roaches for mites, something they really hate. It occasionally happens when a roach is accidentally dropped, or when brand new animals are introduced. But it has been uncommon, and when it happens it is of note.

The usual modes of inquiry turned up very little information about this phenomenon, but we did learn this: The liquid is not vomit, but saliva, which roaches produce in large amounts to help mobilize and digest food. German and American roaches are known to use pheromones in their saliva to attract others of their species and also to communicate danger. Depending on the pheromone, other roaches will either approach or flee from this secretion. It is possible that our roaches are doing the same thing.

At any rate, it was clear that the insect doing this was unhappy, and he was moved out of the handling schedule. We are training staff to report this behavior, which we hope will be as rare in the future as it has been up till now.

Photographer’s note: The clear liquid in the photographs is water. No cockroaches were harmed in the making of this story.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fresh Sheet – February 5, 2012

“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)
30 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
10 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
06 - Doxocopa laure (Silver Emperor)
10 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
04 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
20 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
60 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
30 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
15 - Papilio cresphontes (Giant Swallowtail)
20 - Parides photinus (Queen of Hearts)
20 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
30 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)

Total = 275


10 - Argema mimosa (African Moon Moth)
10 - Athyma perius (Common Sergeant)
06 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
04 - Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
16 - Charaxes brutus (White-barred Charaxes)
20 - Charaxes castor (Giant Charaxes)
20 - Charaxes cithaeron (Blue-spotted Charexes)
11 - Charaxes protoclea (Flame-bordered Charexes)
10 - Charaxes varanes (Pearl Charexes)
10 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
10 - Euphaedra neophron (Gold-banded Forester)
10 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)
10 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
30 - Papilio constantinus (Constantines's Swallowtail)
30 - Papilio dardanus (Mocker Swallowtail)
23 - Papilio memnon (Great Memnon)
30 - Papilio nireus (Blue-banded Swallowtail)
10 - Tirumala limniace (Blue Tiger)

Total = 270

Grand Total = 545

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Beetles

Have you ever noticed a big, shiny black beetle wandering about in your garden, and been surprised that Seattle was home to such a large, handsome insect? If you visit the southwest, you might see one three times its size, walking down the sidewalk like it owned the place and you were just a guest. Or one that looked just like ours, only sort of like its shell had been installed inside out. Meet Eloedes , better known as the Clown Beetle or a Stink Beetle, and it’s relative, Embaphion muricatum, the Dish-backed Beetle, both relatives of our native darkling beetles, and new residents in the Insect Village.

The Dish-backed Beetle is one of those insects that are so different as adults and larvae that they have two different names. Many people don’t realize that they are the same insect. Adults are about an inch long. Notice how their wing covers (elytra and pronotum) are upturned, giving these insects’ abdomens a dish-like, concave appearance.

In their larval stage, these beetles are called False Wireworms and are a grain crop pest. In the wild, they also eat the seeds and plants of wild grasses but we’ll most likely feed the adults rat chow.

The other new beetles are from genus Eloedes, large black beetles from the desert. Also known as Stink Beetles or Clown Beetles, these showy beetles eat grains and plant material and are gentle and easygoing. They don’t need to move fast. When threatened, they lower their front end and elevate their rear, thus, the “Clown Beetle” moniker. However, this should be seen as a signal to stay back or prepare to be sprayed! Stink Beetles can emit a smelly chemical that repels potential predators. Animal Caretakers however, are careful around them.

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