Ridin' the Rails With a Butterfly

Jul 24, 2013

Quick! What butterfly is depicted on the California State Fair monorail train?

Hint: It's the state insect.

"What, we have a state insect?" you ask.

Yes, and it's the California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice).

On the monorail, it's an artistic blue and white and it seems to flutter along for the ride. (See what the Monorail Society wrote about it in 1995.) In real life, the male of the species is yellow and black, and the female, predominantly yellow.

Fran Keller, doctoral candidate in entomology at the University of California, Davis, and her colleague, naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, a volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology identified the insect on the monorail right away. Several years ago they teamed to create a California dogface butterfly poster, which graces many a classroom, office, and den. The poster is for sale in the Bohart Museum's gift shop on Crocker Lane, UC Davis, or online

Keller went on to write a children's book, "The Story of the Dogface Butterfly," with watercolor-and-ink illustrations by Laine Bauer, a 2012 graduate of UC Davis. Kareofelas contributed photographs.

Net proceeds from the sale of the 35-page book, also available at the Bohart Museum or online, benefit the insect museum's education, outreach and research programs.

The book tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly,  and how schoolchildren became involved in convincing the State Legislature to select the colorful butterfly as the state insect.

Bauer’s illustrations depict the life cycle of this butterfly.  As part of their research, Keller, Karofelas and Bauer visited a Placer County habitat of the butterfly last year.

As for the book, “There are also ecology, life cycle, taxonomy and conservation issues presented that are relevant to grades K-6 that can be used in classroom curriculum,” Keller said.  In addition, the book includes information on the butterfly’s host plant, false indigo (Amorpha californica).

So, score one for the California State Fair. And score two for the Bohart Museum.