Saturday, May 30, 2015

Fresh Sheet – May 30, 2015

The last pupae shipment of the month just arrived from Malaysia. In addition to three different species of Lacewings, we have Paper Kites, Clippers, Cruisers, Birdwings, and much, much more – all emerging now. Visit us soon.

Penang Butterfly Farm, Malaysia

60 - Catopsilia scylla (Orange Emigrant)
07 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
70 - Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
11 – Cethosia hypsea (Malay Lacewing)
15 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)
60 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
08 - Lexias dirtea (Archduke)
04 - Papilio memnon (Great Memnon)
80 - Parthenos sylvia (The Clipper)
10 - Tirumala septentrionis (Dark Blue Tiger)
15 - Troides Helena (Common Birdwing)
60 - Vindula dejone (The Cruiser)

Total = 400

“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!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Treating a Colony

When the Animal Care team began observing skin lesions on some of the naked mole rats recently, they called Dr. Maas from ZooVet to diagnose the problem. At first, a handful of animals had fairly obvious skin problems; everything from isolated bumps to reddened areas and swelling. The infections were mostly aesthetic and, from what we observed, were not causing any serious health problems. After careful observation, we found that 41 of our total 61 colony members had at least some sign of the infection. Dr. Maas assessed the situation and set up a treatment plan.

Naked mole rat colonies function as a team. Workers gather and share food, sleep in piles to conserve heat and pool moisture, split up tasks, from cleaning and guarding tunnels to breeding and bearing young. All this communal behavior means that when one colony member has a problem, it will probably impact the whole group.
Dr. Maas suspected that an ongoing decision to lower cage temperatures had made the animals susceptible to skin lesions. If we raised temperatures we could halt its spread but we would still have to treat all the animals showing current symptoms.

Unfortunately there are a great many unknowns about how mole rats interact with medicines. One known is that their guts contain complex groups of beneficial microbes. We wanted an antibiotic that would not harm these vital helpers. Injectable medication bypasses the gut. Giving a shot is also – perhaps surprisingly – less invasive to the animals than squirting medicine into their mouths. We tested our medication of choice, Ceftazidime, on four animals and observed them closely for a few days to make sure there were no serious side effects. When we detected no problems, we began a treatment program for all 41 impacted animals.

Forty-one animals, each given two injections a day for ten days means a lot of shots and a lot of animal sorting. To save sorting time, we marked the mole rats to be treated with a colored marker. Physically separating the medicating group for ten days might risk a battle when they are reintroduced.

So twice a day, the affected animals are pulled out, weighed, and given a medication dose based on their current weight. A full belly can mean several grams difference so they are weighed at every treatment. This treatment will continue for a total of 10 days.

Most of the mole rats are pretty unperturbed by the whole process, with the exception of the ones who take the guard role in the colony. The procedure seriously annoys them.

Midway through the treatment plan, there are no observable problems from the medication and fewer and fewer skin lesions among the animals. Staff is getting better at administering treatments. Of course, everyone is looking forward to the end of this process and having a healthier colony. Especially the naked mole rats.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Pollinators in the News

While we love having animal exhibits that the public can enjoy, we also always have to think about the animals involved in the exhibits as well. Our observation beehive offers a glimpse into the inner workings of these insects but we also need to tell the story of the many problems facing honey bees and the many other pollinators on which so much of our food depends. Last week, this story was in the news: Colony Loss 2014 – 2015, Preliminary Results.

The report is serious and now there is a lot of insistence from the White House to take effective action: See “National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.”

What can we do as individuals? Most importantly, we can educate ourselves and be aware of how our food, land, and energy use impacts pollinators directly and indirectly. Learn more from the Xerces Society on Pollinator Conservation and from these local sources: and

Although they face many problems, pollinators are also fascinating and fun to learn about. For some very up-close stories about pollinators at Pacific Science Center, read some of our past blog articles on bees and pollinators.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fresh Sheet – May 23, 2015

Where will you be hanging out this holiday weekend? Will you be outside at the 44th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival or inside, enjoying our Tropical Butterfly House? Or perhaps both?

Bioproductores de El Salvador
El Salvador

25 - Anea eurypyle (Pointed Leafwing)
10 - Archeoprepona demophoon [males] (Hubner’s Prepona)
25 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
25 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
15 - Catonephele numilia (Halloween Butterfly)
10 - Eurytides epidaus (Mexican Kite-Swallowtail)
25 - Eurytides thymbraeus (White-crested Swallowtail)
25 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
06 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
10 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
12 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
20 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
20 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
25 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
12 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
10 - Archeoprepona demophon [males] (One-spotted Prepona)
10 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
20 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 330

“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!

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Year of Beehive Adventures

Pacific Science Center’s observation beehive is great for seeing bees going about their daily activities. The queen is almost always visible. However, this wide, flat hive isn’t the typical design for a beehive in the wild. Bees would go for a much thicker and more compact construction that allows them to store more eggs and honey, as well as heat the space more efficiently. Therefore, our bees have had difficulty successfully surviving through the winter and into a new season. Our past year’s hive had such an eventful year that it seems worth taking a look back through their adventures.

Not long after our beekeeper, Corky Luster, installed the bees in May 2014, the hive was running low on honey, which was unusual with all the flowers in bloom. But then we realized that we were in a drought and those flowers weren’t producing very much nectar. So throughout the summer, we gave the bees sugar water to supplement their wild diet. Even that wasn’t enough. So in late July, Corky switched some of the empty hive frames, with heavy, honey filled frames from another of his hives. We also supplemented their diet with synthetic and wild pollen and the bees seemed to be doing well.

Then in October, the hive had another big challenge, intruders! A guest actually noticed something that wasn’t a bee in the hive. A couple of yellowjacket wasps had found their way into the hive and were attempting to eat the bees. To assist the bees, we covered most of the outdoor opening to the hive to make it easier to defend, and placed a couple of yellowjacket traps in the vicinity of the hive opening outside. Together, worker bees quickly destroyed the few yellowjackets that made it into the hive.

Something about the yellowjacket interaction or the narrowing of their hive opening must have confused these bees. The next day, when we looked through the Plexiglas, our hive population had dropped dramatically. Outside, there was a tight beard of bees over the opening. It took a day or so, but eventually the bees figured things out and returned to the safety of the hive. It looked like our hive was back on track.

With such a mild winter we were really in good spirits about the survival of our hive to another year; the population was stronger than it had ever been in years past. Maybe the narrowed opening from the yellowjacket incident helped them stay warm over the winter, too. But soon, we started noticing another problem: no babies.

Something was wrong with our queen. She was sticking her abdomen into cells to lay eggs, but clearly nothing was happening. There were no cells with larvae and no evidence of baby bees. We were noticing a buildup of bee feces inside the hive, indicating that the workers weren’t leaving the hive. Without any new young, our hive population started dropping.

Normally, if a queen is growing old, a hive will rear young on royal jelly to make new queens to take her place. But that isn’t possible without any eggs. Our hive was dying. So in late April of this year, Corky came in to remove the last of the bees. The workers would possibly join one of his hives and he had hopes for the queen to possibly lay eggs again after some care in a new hive. We would have to get new bees for PSC’s observation hive.

These new bees were recently installed. After such an eventful year with the previous hive, we’ve seen new challenges and new successes. We’ve learned new strategies to deal with their many adventures and we’re optimistic. This might be the year we get the hive to thrive all the way through!

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fresh Sheet – May 16, 2015

Looking for butterflies? Take a hint from this Nessaea aglaura (Aglaura Olivewing) in the photo above. Look at their food sources. And don’t forget your camera. Our tropical butterflies are very photogenic!

Suministros Entomológicos Costerricenses, S.A.
Costa Rica

05 - Brassolis isthmia (Small-spotted Owl)
10 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
36 - Catonephele mexicana (Mexican Catone)
08 - Catonephele numilia (Halloween Butterfly)
15 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
08 - Hamadryas februa (Gray Calico)
05 - Hamadryas feronia (Variable Calico)
04 - Hamadryas guatemalena (Guatemalan Calico)
15 - Hamadryas laodamia (Starry Calico)
09 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
30 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
10 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
31 – Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
15 - Heliconius hewitsoni (Hewitson’s Longwing)
14 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
27 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
20 - Heliconius sapho (Sapho Longwing)
10 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
31 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
08 - Nessaea aglaura (Aglaura Olivewing)
49 - Papilio thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
31 - Siproeta epaphus (Rusty-tipped Page)

Total = 391

“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!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Introducing New Tide Pool Animals

Please welcome our new tide pool animals, who have just completed quarantine. These animals were generously shared by Highline College’s MaST program.

Decorator Crab, Oregonia gracilis
This crab’s carapace is equipped with specialized hooked setae (bristles). It hooks bits of plant and shell onto these to camouflage its profile. Mature crabs decorate themselves less, but are often colonized by small organisms looking for a place to live. Decorator crabs eat carrion. We will feed it scallops.

California Sea Cucumber Parastichopus californicus
Sea cucumbers can eject their internal organs, or eviscerate, as a defense mechanism. They can then regenerate new sets of organs. They also eviscerate as an annual renewal during October and November. Gross fun fact: Recently this species has been discovered to take up nutrients via the respiratory tree in the anus especially in late winter/early spring when the animal was regenerating its gut. [Brothers et al. (2011)] Feeds on organic detritus and small organisms.

White Sea Cucumber, Eupentacta quinquesemita
Adults rarely expose their tentacles during daylight hours. Typically white sea cucumber have bits of shell and other materials attached here and there to the tube feet. During the evening, it will spread its tentacles to capture small food items and insert them into its mouth.

Leafy Horn Mouth, Ceratostoma foliatum
A large ornate, carnivorous snail eats mainly barnacles and bivalves. It drills through their shell with its radula, injects digestive enzymes and sucks out the dissolved tissue. We hope to keep ahead of this animal through collecting of barnacle rocks and small shellfish. This species can live up to 16 years, growing larger but also eroding its sharper edges as it matures.

Moon Snail Egg Cases, Euspira lewisii
We don’t introduce grown moon snails to the exhibit because they are voracious carnivores but we often find their egg cases on collecting trips. As reported in a previous blog post, moon snail sand collars make a cool discussion topic. They are a combination of sand, mucus, and eggs, which slowly disintegrate and release the eggs.

Hermit crabs, Pagurus hirsutiusculus and others
Hermit crabs have definite shell preferences, but these may be different in different places. The Bering hermit crabs we collect like shells too small to fully retract into. This is also true in the wild; we are not just offering undersized shells. Diet is mainly detritus.

Our tide pool contains hermit crabs that live in snail shells. We also have some of the snails themselves. Unlike the hermit crab, snails create their own shell and keep it throughout their lives. We allow handling of the hermit crabs but ask guests to leave the snails where they are. As on the beach, if something is attached, it is safest for the animal to leave it where it was found.

A good website to checkout more information about local tide pool invertebrates is “Invertebrates of the Salish Sea” - or come by and visit our display tide pool.

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Fresh Sheet - May 9, 2015

Saturday, May 9th is Astronomy Day at Pacific Science Center. Of course, the butterflies and naked mole rats are joining in the celebratory activities and presentations. Why don’t you?

Neotropical Insects NV

06 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
30 - Heraclides thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
30 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
40 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
30 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
40 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
17 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
15 - Biblis hyperia (Red Rim)
42 - Mechanitis polymnia (Polymnia Tigerwing)
20 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 270

Bioproductores de El Salvador

08 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
20 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
20 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
20 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
25 - Eurytides thymbraeus(White-crested Swallowtail)
25 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
10 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
08 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
10 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
10 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
20 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
25 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
25 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
25 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
10 - Archeoprepona demophon [males] (One-spotted Prepona)
20 - Parides montezuma (Montezuma Cattleheart)

Total = 306

Grand Total = 576

“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, May 2, 2015

Fresh Sheet – May 2, 2015

We have a very nice selection of butterflies hanging out this week in our Tropical Butterfly House. Come see them!

Penang Butterfly Farm, Malaysia

70 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
70 - Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
17 - Danaus vulgaris (Blue Glassy Tiger)
03 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)
70 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
50 - Lexias dirtea (Archduke)
80 - Parthenos sylvia (The Clipper)
05 - Tirumala septentrionis (Dark Blue Tiger)
75 - Vindula dejone (The Cruiser)

Total = 440

“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!