Who wouldn't, when you get an opportunity to pet a rose-haired tarantula named Snuggles, guide walking sticks "strolling" on your arm, or cradle a Madagascar hissing cockroach? Or marvel at the display of Platypsyllus castoris, an ectoparasite of beavers?
That's what awaited visitors at the Bohart Museum of Entomology during the 104th annual UC Davis Picnic Day last Saturday, April 18.
Although the theme of the campuswide Picnic Day spanned "Where the Sun Shines," Bohart Museum officials focused on "Where the Sun Doesn't Shine." They highlighted nocturnal insects, cave-dwelling insects, and parasites, including a beetle, Platypsyllus castoris, found on the south end of a beaver.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and professor of entomology at UC Davis, kept busy answering questions about the beaver display--a pelt, and a graphic of the beetle.
As Bohart Museum associate and undergraduate entomology student Wade Spencer said: "These beetles look like they are to fleas what halibut are to other fishes. Instead of the lateral compression fleas exhibit, Platyspyllus castoris are dorso-ventrally flattened, which only adds to their alien appearance. Their unique feeding and lodging preferences have given us so many good laughs, we wanted to make them the star of this year's picnic day event at the Bohart."
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly and moth collection at the Bohart, kept busy encouraging visitors to get acquainted with Snuggles. They held him, petted him and photographed him. Little Teddy Owens, 2 of Davis, held by his mother, Dina, high-fived Snuggles.
Another display featured scorpions: graduate student Charlotte Herbert shone a black light on them to illustrate how they glow in the dark. All scorpions fluoresce in ultraviolet light.
Visitors also learned about bees in a display featuring sweat bees, leaf-cutting bees, mason bees, bumble bees, honey bees, sunflower bees, and carpenter bees, as well as Andrena and Melissodes anthophora.
The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids and tarantulas. The museum's gift shop, open year around, offers T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. It is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or emailing email@example.com or Tabatha Yang at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UC Davis alumnus Matt Forister, McMinn Professor of Biology at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), will return to UC Davis campus on Wednesday, April 25 to discuss the research he and his lab are accomplishing on the "colonization of alfalfa by a focal butterfly (the Melissa blue) as well as other arthropods and microbes."
Forister has titled his seminar, set for 4:10 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, "Understand Host Evolution: A Case Study of Alfalfa Colonists Across the Great Basin." This is part of the weekly spring seminars hosted on Wednesdays by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Host range dynamics are central to issues that include diversification, specialization and persistence of populations in the Anthropence," Forister writes in his abstract. "Outstanding questions in this area include the relative importance of different host traits in the colonization process, as well as the underlying genetic architecture associated with the use of alternative host plants. I will cover our attempts to understand the colonization of alfalfa by a focal butterfly (the Melissa blue) as well as other arthropods and microbes. Results will include a detailed look at genetic architecture in the Melissa blue as well as ongoing work on alfalfa phytochemistry to understand how the plant manages host-associated communities." (See his lab research website)
Forister is the co-principal investigator of a 2016-2021 grant from the National Science Foundation to study "Dimensions: Collaborative Research: The Evolution of Novel Interactions within a Network of Plant, Insect and Microbial Biodiversity." The UNR portion of the $1.9 million grant is $540,000.
Keenly interested in monarch butterfly research, Forister also holds a $25,000 U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant titled "Western Monarch and Milkweed Habitat Suitability."
Among his research publications: "The Global Distribution of Diet Breadth in Insect Herbivores," published in 2015 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; and "Global Weather and Local Butterflies: Variable Responses to a Large-Scale Climate Pattern along an Elevational Gradient, published in 2015 in the journal Ecology.
Forister received his doctorate in ecology from UC Davis in 2004, studying with major professor Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology. He then worked as a post-doctoral research associate from January 2005 to July 2006 at Stony Brook University, New York, and then headed to the University of Nevada to accept a position as research assistant professor from September 2006 to July 2008 with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.
Forister joined the UNR Biology Department faculty in July 2008 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in July 2013. His research interests include plant-herbivore interactions; specialization; speciation; hybridization; co-evolution; evolution of diet breadth; niche shifts in herbivorous insects; global change and adaptation to anthropogenic change; analyses of long-term ecological datasets; and monitoring and conservation of insects. His teaching expertise targets ecology, biodiversity, molecular ecology, biodiversity, and biostatistics.
Highly honored by his university, Forister was named the McMinn Professor of Biology in 2015, and selected the recipient of the Hyung K. Shin Award for Excellence in Research in 2014; Regents' Rising Research Award in 2013; the Mousel-Felner Award for Excellence in Research in 2012; and the Stephen Jenkins Mentorship Award in 2012.
The Entomological Society of America honored him in 2005 with the George Mercer Younger Investigation Award for "the most outstanding paper in ecology by a scientist under 40."
Forister made his mark at UC Davis, receiving a $10,000 Faulkner Fellowship, a $11,000 Zolk Fellowship, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship of $86,418.
He and Art Shapiro continue to collaborate on multiple projects.
Well, UC Davis officials and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology did!
All systems are "go" for the 104th annual UC Davis Picnic Day, an all-day event on Saturday, April 21 when scores of visitors, aka picnickers, will stroll the campus. It promises to be both educational and entertaining.
The UC Davis Picnic Day Committee offered a pre-view Thursday noon at the Quad.
Bohart Museum of Entomology representatives--Wade Spencer, Lohit Garikipati, and Diego Rivera, all UC Davis students and Bohart associates--kept busy answers questions about scorpions, stick insects and praying mantids.
Spencer displayed his desert hairy scorpion named Celeste. Okay, surprise, surprise! Celeste turned out to be a male, but his name remains Celeste.
Lohit Garikipati, an entomology student who rears praying mantids, came with his buddy, a Malaysian shield mantis. "What's that?" visitors asked, looking at the shield.
For a hour, the trio entertained the guests. Some expressed awe at Spencer casually holding a scorpion. "I've been handling scorpions since I was three," he said. "I've never been stung."
Rivera showed an Australian leaf walking stick insect that resembled a leaf. The crowd took turns holding and photographing it.
Now it's showtime!
On Saturday, April 21, during the campuswide Picnic Day, you can engage with insects at both Briggs Hall, which houses the Department of Entomology and Nematology administration and most of the faculty, and the Bohart Museum of Entomology, home of eight million insect specimens.
At Briggs Hall, located off Kleiber Hall Drive, activities will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. At the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, the open house is from 10 to 3 p.m.
Here's what's on tap at Briggs, either in front or inside the building:
- Entomology at UC Davis: Enter Briggs Hall and find a wide variety of entomology-themed displays, from classics, including insect forestry to recent additions, such as “Virtual Reality Bugs."
- Honey Tasting Booth: Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño and her staff will operate the honey tasting booth, focusing on berry honeys. They will offer these honey varietals: blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, snowberry, almond and buckwheat.
- Maggot Art: Visitors will create maggot art by dipping a maggot into a water-based, non-toxic paint and position it on paper and let it crawl. Voila! Maggot art, suitable for framing
- Cockroach Races: Crowds can pick their favorite "roach athlete" and cheer it to victory
- Virtual Reality Bugs: Medical entomologist Geoffrey Attardo will set up a virtual reality system to enable people to view three dimensional models of insects. In VR, the models can be made to look life size, 40 feet tall or anywhere in between, he says. Here's the link that to view them in your web browser: https://skfb.ly/6xVru
- Bug Doctor: The Doctor Is In: Graduate students will identify insects and arachnids and answer questions
- IPM Booth: UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program professionals will discuss and answer questions about insect pests, beneficial insects and pest control. They will display their publications and live insects. In keeping with tradition, they will give away free lady beetles (lady bugs), to be released in gardens to devour aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
- Mosquito Abatement: Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District professionals will staff a booth
- Dr. Death: Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey will staff his traditional Dr. Death booth, inviting the visitors to ask questions and look through microscopes.
- Davis Fly Fishers: The anglers will demonstrate fly-tying techniques in Briggs 158
- Scavenger Hunt: Participants will search for and identify insects in a display of 10 drawers in Briggs 122.
- Insect Face Painting: Entomology Club members will face-paint bees, butterflies, lady beetles and other insects
- T-Shirt Sales: Visitors can take their pick or picks among insect-themed t-shirts (popular t-shirts include beetles and honey bees) Selection and prices are online at https://mkt.com/UCDavisEntGrad/
- Bake Sale: The Entomology Club will offer insect-themed baked goods.
- Strike Up the Band: Music composed by Michael Lewis Bollinger (Frank Zalom lab); cover songs possible. The band, dressed in insect costumes, will include Jackson Audley of the Steve Seybold lab, rhythm guitar; Yao Cai of the Joanna Chiu lab, drums; Christine Tabuloc of the Chiu lab, vocals; Wei Lin of the Brian Johnson lab, bass; Jill Oberski of the Phil Ward lab, tenor saxophone; and Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab, bassist.
"The band will be setting up and warming up at 4," said Boudinot. "We'll start our set at 4:30, and wrap up at 5 or so. We are working on tightening up the set list--for now we have four songs. Expect some guitar and drum solos at the least!"
At the Bohart Museum, open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the theme is "Where the Sun Doesn't Shine," a play on this year's Picnic Day theme of "Where the Sun Shines."
"We'll be highlighting nocturnal insects, cave dwelling insects, and yes, beaver butt beetles or Platypsyllus castoris, an ectoparasite on beavers, near their glands, wounds, and skin," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. " We will be holding insects as well."
The Bohart Museum will also showcase its live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks or stick insects, tarantulas and mantids. The museum also offers a year-around gift shop with T-shirts, jewelry, posters, books, insect nets and the like.
"Entomology at UC Davis" (122 Briggs) has been nominated for a special campus award under the category "At One With Nature." The Honey Tasting booth at Briggs has been nominated for a similar award under the category, “Hunger Fix.” Winners of the categories are determined by an Internet vote. (Access the link here to vote from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for your favorite exhibits on Picnic Day). The winners will be publicized on the Picnic Day website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts after Picnic Day.
What's a picnic without bugs?
The sun is expected to shine throughout much of the campus on Picnic Day, Saturday, April 21, but it won't be shining in this place.
Not a chance. It's where the sun doesn't shine.
Think "south end of a beaver."
The Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., will focus on nocturnal insects, cave dwelling insects and "yes, beaver parasitic beetles or Platypsyllus castoris, an ectoparasite on beavers, near their glands, wounds, and skin," according to Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
Entomologist Wade Spencer, an undergraduate student and Bohart Museum associate, explains it this way: “We were inspired by this year's Picnic Day Theme, 'Where The Sun Shines' and to keep it fun and always educational, we thought it to be the perfect opportunity to shed light on some insects we don't normally have a chance to see because they are found 'Where The Sun Don't Shine.'
“And with the help of some lighted magnifying lenses, and my colleague, Brennen Dyer's masterful use of hi-res macro magic, both the cozy residents and their luxurious dwellings will be in full-glory to astound and delight all visitors!” Wade quipped.
These beetles aren't what you might expect to see. "These beetles look like they are to fleas what halibut are to other fishes," Spencer points out. "Instead of the lateral compression fleas exhibit, Platyspyllus castoris are dorso-ventrally flattened, which only adds to their alien appearance. Their unique feeding and lodging preferences have given us so many good laughs, we wanted to make them the star of this year's picnic day event at the Bohart."
One more thing. "To be a tad more descriptive," Spencer says, "they call the beaver's perianal region home; they help keep the beavers clean both inside AND out by feeding on dead skin, secretions of the castor glands (where "natural" and "raspberry" flavorings come from), and if they are in the mood, they'll indulge in a little blood or fluids from oozing wounds.
They're basically like crawling, itchy, toilet paper that occasionally bites and you can never scratch off!
According to BugGuide.net, they're also found on otters.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, the Bohart Museum is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity.
Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold some of the arthropods and photograph them. The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum holds special open houses throughout the academic year. Its regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
More information on the Bohart Museum is available by telephoning (530) 752-0493 or emailing email@example.com.
And when the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology hosts a honey tasting on Saturday, April 21 as part of the UC Davis 104th annual UC Davis Picnic Day, it promises to be "berry, berry good."
"Berry good" as in honey made from berries.
Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño and staff will offer "a taste of honey"--of such honey varietals as blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, and snowberry--plus almond and buckwheat--from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Briggs Hall.
When you think about it, Picnic Day is rather like "Bug Appreciation Day" (starring honey bees, too!), courtesy of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. In fact, Picnic Day officials have nominated "Entomology at UC Davis" (122 Briggs) for a special campus award under the category "At One With Nature." The honey tasting booth in the Briggs Hall atrium is a nominee for a special award in the category, "Hunger Fix." (Access this link to vote from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for your favorite exhibits on Picnic Day). The winners will be publicized on the Picnic Day website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts after Picnic Day.
Here's where the "go-bugs" action is:
- At Briggs Hall, located off Kleiber Hall Drive, hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m.
- At the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, hours are from 10 to 3 p.m.
And here's where more honey is:
- UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, Robert Mondavi Institute, Old Davis Road. Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, says honey will be available for tasting on Picnic Day and for sale all year around.
Coordinating the events at Briggs Hall are forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey and doctoral candidate Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab and the Entomology Graduate Students' Association. Heading the activities at the Bohart Museum are director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, and Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
For a full schedule of insect-themed activities, see the news story on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website. You'll find dozens of activities, including maggot art, cockroach races, fly-tying, and scavenger hunts, to name a few.
And honey tasting. Show me the honey!