When a Butterfly Looks Like a Penguin

Mar 13, 2015

A sharp-eyed youngster noticed the resemblance.

When entomologist Jeff Smith, a volunteer associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, was showing elementary school students the museum's moth and butterfly collection, a boy took one look at a drawer of south African butterflies and exclaimed "They look just like penguins!"

And indeed they do--at least in the drawer! The Protogoniomorpha parhassus aethips, commonly known as the mother-of-pearl, a species of Nymphalidae.

They're just one of the species of butterflies in the 400,000-specimen Lepidoptera collection that Smith curates.  He has spread the wings of 200,000 butterflies and moths since 1988 for the Bohart. He does incredible work.

The butterfly specimens will be an integral part of the Bohart Museum's open house, "Pollination Nation," from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 14 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. You'll see pollinators ranging from bees to butterflies to birds to bats.

Said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis: "Also, we are borrowing specimens of pollinating birds, bats and lemurs from the UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology to cover non-insect pollinators, which should be fun."  The event is free and open to the public. Specialists will be on hand to answer questions.

Many of the butterflies are simply breathtaking. Some, like the bright blue Morphocpress cyanide, will elicit a "Wow!" or maybe a double or triple "Wow!"  As will the owl butterfly.

And if you haven't seen a single monarch butterfly yet this year, not to worry. You'll see dozens of specimens at the Bohart.

(Note: If you can't make it to the open house on March 14, the Bohart Museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. It's closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.  Home of nearly eight million specimens, the Bohart houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and  the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M.Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum. Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches,  walking sticks and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold the insects and photograph them. The museum's gift shop includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy. More information is available by accessing the website at  http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/; or telephoning  (530) 752-9493; or emailing bmuseum@ucdavis.edu.)