Friday, December 5, 2014


Ladybugs are gathering again at the UC Botanical Garden. They do this every fall, and then they disappear. I don't know whether they move on or whether they hide in the duff, but the aggregations only last for a few days, so enjoy them while you can. 

Ladybug have bright colors, which is called warning coloration. Have you ever picked up a beetle and gotten yukky stuff on your fingers? They exude a toxic substance from between their leg joints. Birds usually only eat them once; they remember those bright colors and find something else to eat. 

Ladybugs eat aphids and other soft-bodied insects as both immatures and adults. Sometimes they eat a little pollen or nectar, but they are not a threat to any plant. This particular ladybug, Hippodamia convergens, occurs across the US and into Canada and Mexico. In California, it has a complicated migration pattern, which is described here at this website:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Female Pipevine Swallowtail

I released a Pipevine Swallowtail today. Seems a little late in the season. I would have expected this individual to overwinter as a chrysalis. But no, she emerged. Since they overwinter as chrysalides, she has to lay eggs, and they have to hatch and grow, and pupate, before it get really wintery. I hope they make it!

 I know she is a female because of the brown and black wings. Males have a turquoise sheen on parts of their wings. Her colors are more understated, but lovely.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Butterfly Walk at UC Botanical Garden

Some of the participants in the last butterfly walk of the year. We saw some good stuff!!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillars

Are starting to spread themselves out. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pipevine Swallowtails Hatched

I love the way they cuddle when young. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Such a lousy photo! Sorry!

Today was the nuptial flight of the termites. First there is rain (just a little in this case) then sun, then the termites come out of the ground,  and fly off to find a mate. 

I always wondered why I never saw any animals taking advantage of this dense display of insect protein packets. Until Today. Today a dragon fly was catching them on the wing. Seems like it would have been so much easier to sit on the ground and eat them. But a dragon fly never does that! It creates a basket with its legs and catches insects in the basket while it flies. 

Did you see the termites today? 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Caterpillar ID

I think I figured out what that caterpillar is that I posted about on August 15. Genista Broom Moth. More info here.

I found some on lupine a couple of days ago. And someone else reported caterpillars on Genista. I am assuming that they are all the same species.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Exotic Butterflies

These pictures were taken at a butterfly house near Denver, Colorado. The Butterfly Pavilion is in Westminster. But it isn't just butterflies. They have sea creatures like horseshoe crabs and starfish, arthropods like spiders and cockroaches, and other invertebrates. In fact, it was the first invertebrate zoo in the nation. Are there more now? I don't know. Their mission is to foster an appreciation of invertebrates, which, they say, make up 97 % of the species alive today. It was great fun visiting. In addition to the butterfly house, with abundant butterflies, they have petting areas where kids get to touch the animals and gardens where people can find wildlife. Great experience!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bordered Patch

Too bad! So sad! The caterpillars wandered into a garage near Junction, Texas to pupate. They could get in just fine, but after the butterflies emerged, they couldn't figure out how to get out. So they died without ever laying eggs. Luckily, dozens more had pupated on the outside on the garage door and successfully reproduced. Yay!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Butterfly Walk

At UC Botanical Garden yesterday. Since we still had specimens from the class, I brought them to show to people before the walk.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tilden Botanic Garden

Andy and I taught Butterflies for Beginners in Tilden today. Our last butterfly event for June. The class was very enthusiastic and appreciative. After the walk we went back inside to find this family inspecting the specimens. Of course Andy had to explain everything again. Yay!! Another successful butterfly event. 

Ashby Village

Taught a private butterfly class yesterday. Very small group but very appreciative. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

UC Botanical Garden

Bug Discovery Day today. Lots of families. Andy once again created a fabulous display. We are teaching a class in Tilden on June 21. Don't miss it!
Thoroughly enjoyed Peter Oboyski's insect stories. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Lawrence Hall of Science

Had a great time sowing off our insects and giving a talk at LHS yesterday. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Anise Swallowtail

Just emerged from chrysalis. Wings still crumpled. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Coyote Hills Regional Park

Andy and I talked to visitors at our butterfly education table yesterday. We were mobbed!  I was happy so many people expressed so much interest. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Friday, June 6, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Released Butterflies Yesterday

Gulf Fritillaries and Monarchs. . 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Friday, May 9, 2014

Butterfly Class Next Month

My butterfly class is June 21. Some great classes will take place at the Botanical Garden in Tilden, including mine.

Great video, exquisite live specimens, and a butterfly walk in the Garden, during which we are sure to see the pipevine swallowtail, pictured below.

Sign up now!!!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cabbage White on Nasturtium

I went out for the mail yesterday, and saw a Cabbage White laying eggs. I followed her and got a couple. This one was laid on top of the leaf. I love that kind. It is so much easier to show people an egg on top of the leaf instead of the usual egg under the leaf. But this one will hatch long before my nest event. Maybe I will find another.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pipevine Swallowtail on Amsinckia

At the UC Botanical Garden on Monday. It spent several minutes nectaring.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Butterfly Presentation Yesterday

The Native Plant Society in Marin had a plant sale yesterday. There were several people tabling and talking, and Andy and I were among them. The top picture is one of Andy talking to some people who came by our table. And the bottom picture is Andy giving the talk. I also spoke, but the whole presentation was only half an hour. It was all very low-key and lovely.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Butterfly Presentation Today

Andy and I did presentations for two kindergarten classes today at the Dorris-Eaton School  in Walnut Creek. Very sweet kids. And very appreciative teachers. Here is a picture of Andy showing the live specimens to one of the groups. We provided Cabbage Whites for them  to rear. They were not sure if they had any host plants available. But I was sure that they would be able to find nasturtiums. They also purchased a copy of each of my videos. Yay! Great day.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Monarch Film Release Party

Time to PARTY!!! The new film, " The Secret Lives of Monarchs," is now available on Amazon. To celebrate, we are showing the film at the UC Botanical Garden on March 27 at 6 pm. Afterwards, partake of food and drink while listening to live harp music by a local musician. Only $10!! What a deal!! See you there!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Anise Swallowtail Eggs

I saw my first Anise Swallowtail of the season yesterday. It was fluttering around some fennel. When I looked more closely, sure enough, she had laid some eggs. The white dots on the foliage in the pic are eggs.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Painted Lady on Amsinckia

This painted lady really seemed to like the Amsinckia blossoms. While taking pictures, it got spooked, but it came right back.

This plant is endangered. I photographed the UC Bot Garden sign so you can read about it. If you look closely at the pic, you can see why it is called fiddleneck: the buds curl into a spiral, looking a bit like the head of a violin.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cabbage White Eggs

The Cabbage White have become active the past few weeks. These eggs were collected before it got windy. I guess nasturtiums are not their favorite plant, but they seem to take to it pretty well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pipevine Swallowtail Release

We released a pipevine swallowtail yesterday. It had overwintered as a chrysalis. It immediately flew up into the trees to catch some sun. I was unable to get a good picture, but you get the idea.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Gulf Fritillary

My caterpillar is getting big. I should cage it before it wanders.

Friday, March 7, 2014


The Aristolochia is blooming. Can the Pipevine Swallowtails be far behind?

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Andy and I released a butterfly this morning. We put it on a flower at eye level for pictures.  The Monarch really seemed to like the Pride of Madeira. It flew away, and then came back to a flower higher up. It is spring, so maybe it will be heading north now.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Satyr Anglewing at UC Botanical Garden

I know this picture isn't lovely, but the butterfly decided to rest on a pipe, so that is the photo I took. This is a Satyr Anglewing at UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley on 24 February 2014. I had never seen this butterfly there before.

About a year ago, the creek bed under the bridge was cleared of a mass of vegetation and the stinging nettle had more room to spread out. Since nettle is the larval food plant of this butterfly, I think that more food plant led to more butterflies.

I hope Satyr Anglewing will be a regular at the Bot Garden.

Friday, February 7, 2014

New Film

My brother's new Monarch lifecycle film has just been released.

Fantastic detail and videography. There are many lifecycles on Youtube, but this one is different. It is more accurate and has much more information. I'm biased, of course, because I wrote the script and did the narration, but this movie is great! Check it out!

Photos above by Andy Liu.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Gulf Fritillary Egg

This is what a butterfly egg should look like. In the previous post, the butterfly eggs were on dried up tendrils. This one was laid on a nice green passionvine leaf. This is actually Passiflora 'Berkeley." The dark color with the light line indicates that it will hatch soon.