Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Discovery Corps Wants to Know – Part 2

Last week’s questions from Discovery Corps youth specifically pertained to our Tropical Butterfly House. This week, Life Sciences Manager Sarah Moore answers their more difficult questions regarding the unique lives of butterflies.

What are butterflies’ skeletal/support structures like?

Like all insects, butterflies’ bodies are protected by an exoskeleton; an exterior covering that serves the functions of skin in protecting them from the environment, and as rigid support structure. Their muscles attach to this outer covering. Insects exoskeletons are made of a hard substance called chitin.

In the case of winged insects, the wings are kept rigid with veins, which are used for structure as well as to transport fluids and oxygen.

What are butterflies’ main predators?

The list is long. Primates, snakes, toads, birds, lizards, spiders, ants, dragonflies, and wasps are known to eat butterflies. They are also eaten by parasitoids – a special kind of predator that lives inside the host’s body and eats it gradually. These are usually wasps and flies.

A few human cultures eat butterfly pupae.

How do butterfly bodies’ work; i.e. how do butterflies communicate with each other?

I am not 100% sure what this question means, but I’m going to talk about how they communicate because I think it’s cool. A lot of butterfly communication is about mating and territory.

Butterflies have great color vision, but they don’t see detail well from a distance. When a male butterfly sees a shape bobbing up and down in air, he will fly over to investigate. When he gets nearer, he starts to refine his first response.

If he finds another male, or a butterfly of a different species, he will try to chase it away. Usually when you see spiraling butterflies flying around each other, that’s what’s going on. It’s very pretty, but they are enemies!

If it appears to be a female of his own species, he will start to court her. He flies over her and lets her see his wing colors and in some cases, produces pheromones that give her additional information about his species.

If the female is interested, she will stay where she is, take a receptive posture and the butterflies will mate.

She may not be interested. They could be different species, or she could have already found a mate, or she might just not be impressed. In these cases the female will either fly away or will close her wings and take a rejection posture. The male will often keep trying to court a female who has rejected him. If you see a butterfly perched on a plant, with another similar colored butterfly hovering back and forth around it, that’s probably a male trying to entice a female.

But there are more subtle interactions between butterflies as well. Heliconius butterflies (the Longwings) roost and fly as same-species groups because the older individuals have found good nectar sources and safe sleeping places. And migratory butterfly species form groups at certain times of year to pool their resources during long flights.

Discovery Corps is Pacific Science Center’s youth development program for high school students. For more information contact discovery.corps@pacsci.org or call (206) 443-2884.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fresh Sheet – November 24, 2012

The warmest, driest place to walk off your holiday meal is our Tropical Butterfly House. Visit us when you’re in Seattle.

El Salvador

25 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
16 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
10 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
20 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
20 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
12 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
15 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
20 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
50 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
50 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
20 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
25 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
20 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
15 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
25 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
10 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 353

“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, November 20, 2012

Discovery Corps Wants to Know – Part 1

Discovery Corps is a youth development program at Pacific Science Center for high school students who are interested in learning more about science and interacting with the public. Youth in the program practice their communication skills by welcoming our guests to exhibit areas, interpreting science for Tropical Butterfly House and Puget Sound Tide Pool exhibit guests, answering questions and leading guests through hands-on science activities. Along with these job duties, members also participate in special training opportunities, workshops, and field trips.

A recent training session for Discovery Corps youth prepared them for leading conversations and activities with guests about butterflies. They also had a chance to ask Life Sciences Manager Sarah Moore and her staff some interesting questions.

Below are the youths’ first round of questions with Life Sciences’ answers. Check them out here, and then visit our Discovery Corps members in the exhibits of Pacific Science Center to see what they have to show you!

-Portia Riedel, Discovery Corps Coordinator

What is the biggest butterfly we’ve had at the Science Center?

We have two contenders for biggest butterfly. On paper, the Common Green Birdwing, Ornithoptera priamus, is the biggest, with a seven inch wingspan. But in fact, we tend to get much smaller specimens.

The second biggest butterfly we get is Caligo eurilochus, the Giant Forest Owl butterfly. Although their wingspan is “only” five inches, they are heavy, massive butterflies, and perhaps have larger overall wing surface than the birdwing.

How does Animal Care not harm the butterflies when releasing them?

Animal Care staff is very careful when handling butterflies for release into our exhibit. We use a special forceps designed not to rub scales loose. We secure the butterfly by restraining all four of its wings. That way it cannot damage itself by flapping one wing hard enough to break it.

We handle each butterfly the minimum number of times necessary to get it into the exhibit. If a butterfly is very active, we wait until it calms down and try again rather than trying to make it hold still when it’s wriggling around.

But in spite of every precaution, we do occasionally damage a butterfly’s wings. Part of why we feel so strongly that touching butterflies can harm them, is because we have experienced how little margin for error there is in safely handling them.

Do we have any endangered species?

We do not have endangered species featured in the butterfly house. However, the Birdwing butterflies are listed in Appendix II of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) convention. They are not currently endangered but may become so due to either trade or habitat destruction.

We feel confident purchasing them from vendors who breed or farm them, rather than those who capture them from the wild. Raising butterflies in captivity does not harm their wild counterparts, and can help preserve their habitat.

What efforts are put into heating the butterfly house?

The butterfly house has a boiler that moves hot water through a tube around the outer edge of the exhibit. The tube is about six inches in from the glass around the outside edge of the exhibit – you can sneak a peek at it if you look over the concrete blocks at exit. Radiator-like “fins” which spread out the heat into the air surround the tube.

There is also a forced air heater that vents warm air into the exhibit.

And the light bulbs, at 1000 watts each, produce a good deal of heat as a byproduct of their light.

More great questions with more great answers will be posted soon. Stay tuned!

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fresh Sheet – November 17, 2012

Pacific Science Center and our Tropical Butterfly House is open everyday next week with the exception of Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. Have a Happy Holiday friends!

03 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
35 - Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock)
76 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
09 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
22 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
12 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
80 - Parthenos sylvia philippensis (The Clipper)
20 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
11 - Ideopsis juventa (Wood Nymph)
12 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
80 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)

Total = 360

“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, November 14, 2012

Where are the Bees?

Bee populations fluctuate greatly throughout the year, usually peaking in early summer and decreasing with the temperature outside. As long as a colony can keep the queen alive through the harsh winter months, the hive will usually recover. This is normal.

But recently, something happened to many of our bees.

This week, Animal Care Staff discovered that a large number of bees in our observation hive had died. Since there have been continuing losses, we are covering the hive to allow the remaining bees to conserve the heat generated by the workers.

This is not uncommon. Bee colonies often have trouble and not all hives survive the winter. Still, we are very disappointed that what seemed to be a strong and promising hive, now appears to be unlikely to survive.

Installing new bees during the winter months when food sources are scarce is not a good idea. We plan to wait until April 2013 to replace this group if they do not survive. Stay tuned.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fresh Sheet – November 10, 2012

The temperatures are dropping around the Pacific Northwest. Wouldn’t you rather be in the Tropical Butterfly House? Visit us soon!

El Salvador

25 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
20 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
20 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
10 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
20 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
20 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
25 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
25 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
48 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
10 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
20 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
10 - Papilio cresphontes (Giant Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
30 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
14 - Siderone nemesis (Red-striped Leafwing)

Total = 332

“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, November 3, 2012

Fresh Sheet – November 3, 2012

Another shipment of 100 “movie stars” will join the 536 pupae that we are receiving from Costa Rica this week. Enjoy the shows in both the theater and the emerging window!

Costa Rica

09 - Agraulis vanilla (Gulf Fritllary)
11 - Anteos chlorinde (White Angled Sulphur)
08 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
12 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
12 - ≤em>Brassolis isthmia (Small-spotted Owl)
03 - Caligo atreus (Yellow-Edged Giant-Owl)
08 - Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
08 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
34 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
18 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
23 - Dryadula phaetusa (Banded Orange Heliconian)
26 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
16 - Eueudes isabella (Isabella’s Longwing)
16 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
08 - Hamadryas feronia (Variable Calico)
07 - Hamadryas guatemalena (Guatemalan Calico)
13 - Hamadryas laodamia (Starry Calico)
15 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
01 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
40 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
09 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
28 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
21 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
08 - Heliconius sapho (Sapho Longwing)
20 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
19 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
40 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
09 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
17 - Nessaea aglaura (Aglaura Olivewing)
08 - Opsiphanes tamarindi (Tamarind Owl)
14 - Philaethria dido (Scarce Bamboo Page)
18 - Phoebis argente (Apricot Sulfur)
20 - Phoebis philea (Orange Barred Sulfur)
17 - 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!