Wednesday, October 31, 2012

They Touch Butterflies, Don’t They?

As most of our readers know by now, “Flight of the Butterflies” is playing at the Boeing IMAX Theater in 3-D to the delight of audiences of all ages. The movie tells the story of Dr. Fred Urquhart’s 40-year quest to uncover the Monarchs’ migration secrets.

SPOILER ALERT: Read no further if you haven’t seen the film and would like to discover the story on your own. But be sure to come back and read this article after seeing the film!

In the course of the movie, there are several scenes showing people actually touching butterflies – a definite no-no in our Tropical Butterfly House. So what’s the difference?

Like all Animal Care Staff, the citizen scientists in the film were trained on how to handle these delicate creatures without hurting them or damaging their wings. Butterfly wing tagging is performed with the least amount of handling necessary and the butterflies don’t appear to be encumbered by the tags. Currently there is no better way to track a butterfly’s migratory patterns, although the tags have gotten smaller. Citizen scientists are essential to information gathering. By tagging of a small percentage of the Monarch population, scientists learn a great deal about this species. This data helps us to better understand butterflies and their migration patterns.

In our Tropical Butterfly House, we have no good reason to touch butterflies with our fingers. Even Animal Care Staff carefully gather butterflies from the emerging window with forceps and release them as gently as possible. When forceps are use, Staff is trained to gather all four wings firmly but efficiently to cause as little stress to the butterfly as possible.

We have so much to learn from these amazing insects, it is only fair that we treat them with respect while they are in our care.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fresh Sheet – October 27, 2012

Have you ever seen a butterfly emerge from a pupa? You’ll have at least 639 more chances this week when you visit our Tropical Butterfly House. Stop by soon!

El Salvador

25 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
25 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
25 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
05 - Hamadryas guatemalena (Guatemalan Calico)
12 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
12 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
20 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
08 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
12 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
20 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
48 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
12 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
25 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
10 - Papilio cresphontes (Giant Swallowtail)
25 - Parides arcas (Arcas Cattleheart)
20 - Parides iphidamas (Transandean Cattleheart)
10 - Parides montezuma (Montezuma Cattleheart)
10 - Prepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
20 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)

Total = 369


10 - Parides sesostris (Emerald-patched Cattleheart)
10 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
40 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
55 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
55 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded Shoemaker)
50 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
50 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)

Total = 270

Grand Total = 639

“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!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fresh Sheet – October 20, 2012

In our Tropical Butterfly House this week, we welcome 439 emerging Philippine pupae in addition to the Monarch “movie stars.” See the movie and then drop by to meet the stars!


80 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
11 - Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock)
42 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
80 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
30 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
11 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
05 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
80 - Parthenos sylvia philippensis (The Clipper)
10 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
50 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
40 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)

Total = 439

“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, October 17, 2012

Make Way for the Monarchs!

In honor of the upcoming IMAX film “Flight of the Butterflies”, additional monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) will be displayed in the Tropical Butterfly House.

This has proven somewhat challenging. Monarchs are bred seasonally during the spring and summer months, and supplies are limited right now. This makes sense. In the wild, they would be in reproductive diapause all winter long. They would be conserving all their energy to survive the winter, and their reproductive organs would shut down until spring. Much as we might admire their adaptation, it has made finding them harder!

To hedge against possible late season pupa failure, we have purchased both butterfly chrysalis and adult butterflies for the opening week of the film. Did you know that butterfly vendors store adult butterflies in the fridge, sometimes for weeks or months at a time? It simulates the natural overwintering behavior of the butterflies and they are none the worse for wear when they get back up to warmer temperature. It’s not as simple as just sticking them in the vegetable drawer though. Temperature and humidity must be carefully monitored to stay within the safe range, or the butterflies may not recover.

Here is a short video of our Monarch release.

Monarch butterflies are attractive at every stage of development. If you've never noticed it, take a look at the giant chrysalis hanging by the emergency exit door of the Ackerley Family Gallery, near the orb of the Boeing Imax theater. Admire it, and then see the real thing in the emerging window. If you are lucky, you may see the pupae shortly before the adult emerges. At that point the wings have taken on adult color and are visible through the walls of the pupa.

One more note. Monarch butterflies are not typically a big part of indoor, tropical butterfly exhibits. They tend to be less zippy than some other species. However, they should flock together in groups, and they should all seek the same types of flowers and locations. It will be interesting to see how they use our space. We’d love to hear your observations!
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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fresh Sheet – October 13, 2012

This week ‘s shipments include 324 delightful pupae from El Salvador plus sixty movie stars from Florida! Come see them in person!

El Salvador

30 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
30 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
30 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
20 - Colobura dirce (Mosaic butterfly)
18 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
25 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
10 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
20 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
48 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
25 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
30 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
10 - Parides iphidamas (Transandean Cattleheart)
12 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
06 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)

Total = 324


60 - Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)

Grand Total = 384

“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, October 10, 2012

Baby Millipedes: The Pitter-Patter of LOTZ of Little Feet

African Giant Millipedes are some of the most beloved animals in our exhibit. They are huge, gentle, vegetarian, and (need we mention) they have lots and lots of legs. They are also very expensive. Formerly imported from the wild, the sale of wild millipedes is now strictly controlled, and every effort is being made to breed them in captivity.

This has proven frustrating. Some facilities report millipedes breeding with abandon, whenever males and females are housed together. Others, including Pacific Science Center, have tried to replicate the conditions with no success. Until now.

Adrian Eng had set a personal goal of getting our Millipedes to breed. Building on the general guidelines for their care, he set up a tank with deep litter, high humidity, and nice places to explore. We offered a variety of foods, including sources for minerals, and plenty of their favorite food, cucumbers.

Months passed, with now sign of babies. No one had even observed them mating as we had in the past. After careful thought and research, Adrian decided that, as decomposers, the millipedes needed the broken down dead leaves and waste we had been removing when we cleaned the cage. In the wild this litter is always part of a millipede’s habitat, and may provide beneficial microorganisms.

We reduced the amount of cleaning we gave the cage. The millipedes seemed to thrive, but without breeding.

Eventually, Adrian accepted a job elsewhere, and began to volunteer only on weekends. The task of millipede care was moved over to Chris.

Chris has continued Adrian’s careful work with the millipedes, and today we found good evidence that their care has paid off. Chris had decided to try a new system, and was about to move the millipedes into a smaller cage with deeper bedding. Instead, he found success. The cage was full of eggs and young millipedes!

Millipedes hatch out as white, immobile neonates, but quickly shed their skins to become active, mobile, miniatures of their parents.

Thanks to the teamwork of the animal care staff, especially Adrian and Chris, who seamlessly carried on Adrian’s techniques, we have a new generation of millipedes. In three to eight years, they should mature into fine adult specimens.

Animal caretakers are very patient people.

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fresh Sheet – October 6, 2012

A shipment of 536 pupae, all beautiful butterflies from Costa Rica, are now emerging in our Tropical Butterfly House. Don’t you wish you were here?

Costa Rica

20 - Agraulis vanilla (Gulf Fritllary)
05 - Anteos clorinde (White Angled Sulphur)
25 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
12 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
08 - Caligo atreus (Yellow-Edged Giant-Owl)
08 - Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
08 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
05 - Catonephele mexicana (Mexican Catone)
20 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
08 - Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)
18 - Dryadula phaetusa (Banded Orange Heliconian)
15 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
04 - Eryphanis polyxena (Purple Mort Bleu Owl)
20 - Eueudes isabella (Isabella’s Longwing)
15 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
08 - Hamadryas februa (Gray Calico)
10 - Hamadryas feronia (Variable Calico)
18 - Hamadryas laodamia (Starry Calico)
08 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
11 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
10 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
08 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
25 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
22 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
20 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
18 - Heliconius sapho (Sapho Longwing)
15 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
06 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
40 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
15 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
18 - Nessaea aglaura (Aglaura Olivewing)
08 - Opsiphanes quiteria (Scalloped Owl)
08 - Papilio cresphontes (Giant Swallowtail)
08 - Papilio polyxenes (Black Swallowtail)
09 - Parides iphidamas (Transandean Cattleheart)
12 - Philaethria dido (Scarce Bamboo Page)
14 - Phoebis philea (Orange Barred Sulfur)
04 - Phoebis sennae (Cloudless Sulphur)
14 - Siproeta epaphus (Rusty-tipped Page)
12 - Siproeta stelenes (Malachite)

Total = 536

“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!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Brie’s Last Day

Animal Care Lead Brianna Todd has left the sanity and security of full-time employment to pursue a Masters in Science Teaching at Evergreen State College (Go Geoducks!). She will be a great teacher. We will all miss her calm, competent, and organized approach to animal husbandry as well as her totally original sense of humor.

All of us are happy/sad for Brie's success, although we each express it differently. Recently, Brie had a short conversation with one of her charges. Here is her version:

On my last day of work, Cindy the centipede was like, "No! Don't go!"

And I was like, "You got this. You don't need me anymore."

And she was like, "Okay! Kisses!"

The staff would like to remind everyone that kissing a centipede is not advised. They are venomous.

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