Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fresh Sheet – December 29, 2012

Our last pupae shipment of the year contains many large Owl species and lots of those elusive, little Greta oto (Glasswing) butterflies.

Costa Rica

09 - Agraulis vanilla (Gulf Fritllary)
10 - Anartia fatima (Banded Peacock)
09 - Anteos chlorinde (White Angled Sulphur)
20 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
14 - Brassolis isthmia (Small-spotted Owl)
17 - Caligo atreus (Yellow-Edged Giant-Owl)
17 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
09 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
15 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
21 - Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)
37 - Dryadula phaetusa (Banded Orange Heliconian)
30 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
07 - Eueudes isabella (Isabella’s Longwing)
28 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
07 - Hamadryas amphinome (Red Calico)
09 - Hamadryas februa (Gray Calico)
13 - Hamadryas laodamia (Starry Calico)
12 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
25 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
15 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
10 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
16 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
15 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
11 - Heliconius sapho (Sapho Longwing)
23 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
32 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
44 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
10 - Myscelia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
22 - Nessaea aglaura (Aglaura Olivewing)
09 - Opsiphanes quiteria (Scalloped Owl)
17 - Parides iphidamas (Transandean Cattleheart)
08 - Philaethria dido (Scarce Bamboo Page)
33 - Siproeta stelenes (Malachite)

Total = 589

“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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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Baby Arthropods

It's winter, it's gloomy, and so who doesn't want to think about baby spiders overwintering in a silken sack with their mom? The Giant Crab Spider has produced a wonderful egg case. You can see it up against the front right corner of the cage. Unfortunately for us viewers, Mom is inside there with the babies. She guards them all through their development and will stay with them until they hatch.

The baby Millipedes featured earlier are growing rapidly. Take a look. Their first few sheds will be the most dramatic, but they will continue to grow for several years, until hopefully we have some giants to display.

Our Madagascar Hissing Cockroach colony is thriving, and it just welcomed new additions. Mad Hissers are ovoviviparous, meaning they incubate and hatch their eggs inside the body and then "give birth" to live young. The babies begin life white, but gain pigment in the first few hours outside their mom.

Meanwhile, two other species have produced eggs but so far haven't hatched babies. The Domino Cockroaches produced a fine egg case. And several Blue Death-feigning Beetles laid eggs on the sand in their exhibit but then vanished into burrows where we believe they may be producing more eggs.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Tropical Butterfly House!

Pacific Science Center will be close on Christmas but on Wednesday, December 26, we will celebrate the Tropical Butterfly House's fourteenth birthday. As in the past, the Life Sciences staff is throwing a birthday party for the butterflies. Everyone’s invited!

In honor of the occasion, a colorful birthday fruit "cake" will be offered to our fruit eating Lepidoptera.

Science Interpreters will be on hand to answer questions about our butterflies and plants. As always, entrance to the Tropical Butterfly House is free with admission to Pacific Science Center. Please join us at the warmest, friendliest place in Seattle on Wednesday. Bring friends and family and help us celebrate fourteen years of beauty.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Festivus 2012

Today, as in the past two years, our Naked Mole Rat family is celebrating Festivus. This year the Naked Mole Rats are applauding their move and two new enrichment additions to their chambers: One for digging and one for climbing.

Watch them perform Feats of Strength!

Witness the annual Airing of Grievances!

The Festivus Tree will be out again so come by and have fun with the most curious critters at Pacific Science Center!

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fresh Sheet – December 22, 2012

This week’s pupae shipments from Suriname and El Salvador bring us the trifecta of Prepona: Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona), Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona), and Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button). Stop by our Tropical Butterfly House soon and see if you can find them all!


35 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
05 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
38 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
05 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
35 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
35 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded Shoemaker)
30 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
03 - Hamadryas feronia (Variable Calico)
08 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
20 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
35 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
06 - Mechanitis polymnia (Polymnia Tigerwing)
05 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)
10 - Phoebis sennae (Cloudless Sulphur)

Total = 270

El Salvador

30 – Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
20 – Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
14 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
10 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
10 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
15 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
10 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
10 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
30 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
20 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
20 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
10 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
10 - Parides arcas (Arcas Cattleheart)
15 - Parides iphidamas (Transandean Cattleheart)
25 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
14 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
11 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 299

Grand Total = 569

“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, December 15, 2012

Fresh Sheet – December 15, 2012

Next time you visit the Tropical Butterfly House, look closely into the emerging window. If you see a butterfly emerging from a pupa, perhaps you can become part of our Citizen Science Project. Details here:


80 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
52 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
80 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
80 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
09 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
21 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
80 - Parthenos sylvia philippensis (The Clipper)
15 - Ideopsis juventa (Wood Nymph)
50 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
40 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)

Total = 507

“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, December 11, 2012

Discovery Corps Wants to Know – Part 3

This week’s blog post is the final installment in the series, “Discovery Corps Wants to Know,” but it is not the end of the questions or the curiosity that our DC youths have about science. To read the previous articles, go here and here.

How did butterflies evolve? ?

Scientists have some pretty solid theories about butterfly evolution, but do keep in mind that these delicate insects fossilize very rarely, so most of the evidence comes from relationships between modern groups of butterflies.

You can think of butterflies as a day flying branch of the moth family. The moths are quite diverse; the butterflies are specialists, which probably coevolved with flowering plants, perhaps dating back to the Cretaceous period. The earliest butterflies probably coexisted with some of the later dinosaurs!

Butterflies are closely tied to plants at two stages of their life cycle. As caterpillars, they eat the leaves of plants, with each butterfly species having a small group of plants that it will lay its eggs on and feed on.

As adult butterflies, most species are adapted to drink nectar from flowers. These flowers are often a different species of plant from those the caterpillar eats.

The relationship between butterflies and flowers probably explains a great deal about what makes butterflies unique. The bright colors of flowers attract these day flying insects. The butterfly serves the flower by delivering its pollen from one plant to another and in exchange gets nectar to fuel its flight.

Once butterflies evolved color vision to find flowers, it became important in their mating interactions as well, and their many beautiful wing patterns evolved. As they rely more on vision and less on scent, the butterflies lost the branched antennae we see on moths.

Why do butterflies mimic small animals such as snakes?

Butterflies have no real weapons available to them. They don’t have claws or teeth, or any way to fight off a predator.

Some of them taste bad, but most are edible, and rely on flight or camouflage for protection. But in the darker understory of the rain forest, where light is low, mimicry is also possible. If you saw a yellow eye or a snakehead in the gloom of a dark forest, you might not choose to come closer and investigate. The same markings in a sunnier habitat would probably not fool a potential predator, so you will mostly see these kinds of markings on forest dwelling species.

Is there something that butterflies are better at than us human beings?

I’m guessing this means “something other than flying”?

Butterflies see colors that we can’t. They can see into the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. To them, a flower may have a whole additional set of markings we are unaware of.

The butterfly life cycle isn’t “better” than ours, but it is very well adapted to what it does. A butterfly is able to specialize during each stage of its life, in a way that we don’t. Their growth stage eats different food from their adult stage. This lets them exploit one resource fully as caterpillars and have something else to eat when they grow up. And if a caterpillar eats a whole plant, it can grow up, fly away, and it’s babies can eat another plant somewhere else. These are fabulous adaptations.

Being cold blooded would have its down side during the winter, but many butterflies have amazing adaptations to survive extremes of cold – like developing antifreeze –like liquids in their blood, or entering suspended animation until the weather gets nice.

Butterflies also have amazing instincts that let them do things like navigate journeys they’ve never taken before. We rely less on instinct and more on learning and passing down knowledge. Neither way is better.

Good questions, scientists!

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

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fresh Sheet – December 8, 2012

A warm, friendly, and most attractive home to thousands of butterflies is waiting for you. Visit our Tropical Butterfly House where it’s summer every day!

El Salvador
25 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
15 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
25 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
08 - Hamadryas guatemalena (Guatemalan Calico)
10 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
07 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
08 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
08 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
12 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
15 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
60 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
25 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
15 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
25 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
10 - Parides iphidamas (Transandean Cattleheart)
20 - Prepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)

Total = 313

“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!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Second Chance for the Bee Colony

In an earlier post, we mentioned that our bee colony was not faring well as we entered the winter months. The bees were clearly dying off and the hive was showing some obvious warning signs.

One of the main issues we face when trying to get bees to survive over the winter is heat, which we attempt to combat by insulating the colony over the cold nights. But the other big issue we encounter in wintertime is a lack of food. Flowers just aren’t as plentiful, and bees rarely even attempt to fly out into the cold.

If a hive has been very productive during the summer months, it stores honey for wintertime food. Our small colony has run through its honey supply far too early in the winter. We have attempted a variety of supplemental feeding options in the past. We have a small feeder outside the hive with flavored sugar water to simulate nectar. We’ve also put this nectar substitute inside, next to the hive, so the bees didn’t have to venture quite as far for their food. Neither food source was exciting enough to draw in the bees.

Now we needed some new ideas.

Thinking out-of-the box, Life Sciences Manager Sarah Moore suggested cotton candy as a possible food source. The bees seemed interested in the ball of wadded up sugar and did begin feeding from it. But soon it became clear that even that wasn’t enough to keep the hive going. It was time to call the beekeepers.

In the early morning hours our beekeepers, Corky Luster and his assistant Dave, came in to replace empty frames with new ones that were full of honey. Our bees seemed to be shunning one side of the hive, so it was easy to remove the empty side without disturbing the bees. These frames came from another hive that stored their honey well, but for some reason, didn’t survive. While the old frame consisted of empty cells, this new one was covered with capped honey and was all ready to go.

As soon as the new frames were placed in the hive, the bees were immediately drawn to it. At first, it was just a small number that happened upon it. After those bees finished feeding, we noticed them doing their famous waggle-dance among the rest of the colony. Soon, almost half of the hive was on the new frames eagerly collecting the honey.

The bees weren’t only eating the honey either. Within a few hours we noticed that the bees were actually filling cells from the older frame with honey and capping them off. It is common in the bee world to rob honey from another hive when food is scarce. Our bees might think that this new food source is actually another hive that they have discovered. The important part is that they’re eating it.

Because this is a new strategy, we don’t know how long this honey will last. It does seem like the bees prefer honey to nectar for wintertime food. While we can never guarantee any long-term solution, this new honey has given us new hope for our colony this winter.

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fresh Sheet – December 1, 2012

It’s Owl season in the Tropical Butterfly House. Whoooo can find them all?

Costa Rico

09 - Anteos chlorinde (White Angled Sulphur)
02 - Brassolis isthmia (Small-spotted Owl)
14 - Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
07 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
43 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
02 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
07 - Eryphanis polyxena (Purple Mort Bleu Owl)
29 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
28 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
17 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
29 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
06 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
35 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
55 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
40 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
33 - Papilio polyxenes (Black Swallowtail)
11 - Parides iphidamas (Transandean Cattleheart)
03 - Philaethria dido (Scarce Bamboo Page)
32 - Siproeta stelenes (Malachite)

Total = 402

“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!