California Dogface Butterfly Is Making Quite a Splash

The California Dogface Butterfly, the state insect, is making quite a splash, and Placer Land Trust and UC Davis-affiliated scientists are an integral part of that.

It seems as if the image of the dogface butterfly is everywhere. It's on every California driver's license; on postage stamps; on a UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology poster created by Bohart associates Fran Keller and Greg Kareofelas; and in a book authored by Keller.

And now for the splash: the image appears on the labels of two California wines (Dogface Syrah and Dogface Cabernet Sauvignon), produced by Lone Buffalo Vineyards and Winery, Auburn, in collaborative projects with Pacific Land Trust. 

Lone Buffalo is a longtime supporter of Placer Land Trust in its efforts to conserve 10,000 acres of natural and agricultural land in Placer County. 

Keller, now a professor at Folsom Lake College (she holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum) recently visited Lone Buffalo to check out the 2016 Dogface Cabernet Sauvignon and to deliver copies of her children's book.

The history of the dogface butterfly, Zerene eurydice, is fascinating.  

Found only in California, the dogface butterfly thrives at the Shutamul Bear River Preserve near Auburn, Placer County.  The 40-acre preserve, part of the Placer Land Trust, is closed to the public except for specially arranged tours. (See Placer Land Trust's video of the butterfly habitat.)

Why is the butterfly there? Because its larval host plant--false indigo, Amorpha californica--is there. 

The dogface butterfly, so named because of the poodle-like silhouette on the wings of the male,  was adopted as the official California insect on July 28, 1972, but entomologists had selected it as the state insect as early as 1929. Their choice appears in the California Blue Book, published by the State Legislature in 1929. (Read more on how the butterfly became the state insect under the Ronald Reagan administration.)

The state insect made the news several years ago when  Keller, Kareofelas and former UC Davis student and artist Laine Bauer, teamed to publish a 35-page children's book, The Story of the Dogface Butterfly.

The trio visited the Auburn site for their research, and Kareofelas also reared and photographed a dogface butterfly at his home in Davis.  

The one-of-a-kind book is popular in elementary school classrooms. "The ecology, life cycle, taxonomy and conservation issues presented are relevant to grades K-6 that can be used in classroom curriculum,” Keller says. 

Earlier, Kareofelas (photographer) and Keller  (designer) created the Bohart Museum's dogface butterfly poster of the male and female.  Both the book and the poster are available at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, 1124 Academic Surge, on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. (The Bohart is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and precautions.)

KVIE Public Television's "Rob on the Road" show recently featured the butterfly and its Auburn habitat. Kareofelas, who has served for several years as a volunteer docent for the Placer Land Trust's dogface butterfly tour, assisted with the "Rob on the Road" tour. It's online at

The California state insect never had it so good.