A sign on a recycling bin near the Mann Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, clearly reads "Bottles and Cans Only."
It says nothing about wasps.
But there they were: European paper wasps (Polistes dominula) building a nest yesterday beneath the overhanging lid of a bright blue recycling bin meant for "Bottles and Cans Only."
"They make open-faced nests under eaves all over the place," says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Associate professor Amy Toth of the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, who studies European paper wasps (she's also delivered several presentations at UC Davis) says she's seen "many interesting (nest) places— in mailboxes, under the caps of metal gas cylinders, on outdoor thermometers."
They're also meat eaters. We've seen them shred adult Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) butterflies and caterpillars in our yard and fly off with the parts.
Since this is National Pollinator Week, it should be noted that European paper wasps are pollinators.
Take it from Professor Toth who loves her research subjects. It was she who coined and popularized the Twitter hashtag #wasplove.
For a previous Bug Squad blog, we asked what she loves about wasps. Her answers are worth repeating!
- They are pollinators.
- They contribute to biocontrol of lepidopteran pests in gardens and on decorative plants.
- They have been shown to carry yeasts to winemaking grapes that may be important contributors to the fermentation process and wonderful flavors in wine!
- They are the only known insect (Polistes fuscatus) that can recognize each other as individuals by their faces.
- They are devoted mothers that will dote on their young all day long for weeks, defending their families with fury.
- Their social behavior, in my opinion, is the most human-like of any insect. They know each other as individuals, and are great cooperators overall, but there is an undercurrent of selfishness to their behavior,
- They are artists. They make perfect hexagonal nest cells out of paper, which they make themselves out of tree bark + saliva.
- They are extremely intelligent. They're predators, architects, good navigators, and great learners. Among insects, they have large brains, especially the mushroom bodies (learning/memory and cognition area of insect brain).
- They are beautiful, complex, and fascinating creatures!
That they are. However, they have never been known to read or adhere to "Bottles and Cans Only" signs--or stay away from donation boxes filled with paper bills.
And what better time for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology to host an open house than during National Pollinator Week?
It's from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, June 23 at its bee garden, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central UC Davis campus.
Here's what you can expect to see or do:
- learn how to catch and observe bees up close
- see honey bees at work in an observation beehive
- learn about bee diversity and identification
- learn about what and how to plant for bees
- learn about growing and good pollination in home fruit gardens
- see easy-to-grow bee plants and solitary bee houses available for a donation to the garden.
A Little History: The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, installed in the fall of 2009 and located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road, is a half-acre garden devoted to bee pollinator conservation and education.
It was founded and sprang to life during the term of interim department chair, Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who coordinated the entire project.
A Sausalito team – landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki – won the design competition. The judges were Professor Kimsey; founding garden manager Missy Borel (now Missy Borel Gable), then of the California Center for Urban Horticulture; David Fujino, executive director, California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis; Aaron Majors, construction department manager, Cagwin & Dorward Landscape Contractors, based in Novato; Diane McIntyre, senior public relations manager, Häagen-Dazs ice cream; Heath Schenker, professor of environmental design, UC Davis; Jacob Voit, sustainability manager and construction project manager, Cagwin and Dorward Landscape Contractors; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Others with a key role in the founding and "look" of the garden included the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, founded and directed by the duo of entomologist/artist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. Miss Bee Haven, a six-foot long worker bee sculpture, the work of Billick, anchors the garden. The art in the garden is the work of their students, ranging from those in Entomology 1 class to community residents. Eagle Scout Derek Tully planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the garden.
Today. Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, serves as the faculty advisor and director of the garden. Staff member Christine Casey is the academic program management officer. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, plays a key role in the garden. Thorp has recorded more than 80 species of bees foraging in the garden since 2009. He is the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University Press) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). Of the 20,000 bee species identified worldwide, some 4000 are found in the United States, and 1600 in California.
If you've ever watched a mating pair of mantids and seen the male lose his head, or seen other insect mating rituals, then you ought to read entomologist Emily Bick's review of the play, An Entomologist's Love Story, which showing at the San Francisco Playhouse through June 23.
And see the play.
Emily Bick, a doctoral candidate in the Christian Nansen lab, University of California, Davis, recently attended a world premiere showing and penned a review published by the Entomological Society of America (ESA) in its Entomology Today.
Her review is drawing high praise. San Francisco Playhouse tweeted: “Quite possibly the coolest review we've ever received.”
Bick, who holds a bachelor of science degree from Cornell University and a master's degree from UC Davis, is a board-certified entomologist and a member of the 2016 UC Davis Linnaean Games Team that won the ESA national championship for expertise in answering questions about insects and entomologists. Bick also will compete in the 2018 national championships, scheduled in November in Vancouver, B.C., as a member of the UC Berkeley-UC Davis Linnaean Games Team.
In her review, Bick wrote that the play “shows that life imitates art and art imitates life, with insect mating rituals serving as a proxy for human dating behavior.”
“The well-known antagonistic insect mating behavior of bed bugs' traumatic insemination, praying mantids' sexual cannibalism, and honey bees' mating plugs are all accurately described and then used to represent adversarial (human) dating behavior. Fireflies' bioluminescence, meanwhile, is cast in a romantic light.”
“The play brims with entomological humor, from anthropomorphizing bed bugs to a running joke that sometimes volunteers actually make life harder for researchers,” Bick noted. “While the public will be entertained by the gross descriptions of entomological behavior (pun intended), only we insect scientists will know that the “Lou” the protagonists keep referring to is actually Dr. Louis Sorkin of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (and that, yes, he does keep a bed bug colony there). Or, for those of us who have been lucky enough to take a tour, you know the Museum's offices really are that difficult to get to.”
The production team consulted with entomologists at the American Museum of Natural History and the California Academy of Sciences.
“Overall, An Entomologist's Love Story,” Bick wrote, “juxtaposes a range of complex human dating behaviors with a humorous yet biologically accurate description of example insect species' mating behavior. From an entomologist's perspective, I highly recommend seeing An Entomologist's Love Story if you are or will be in the San Francisco area before June 23.”
Bick, who is delighted that Entomology Today published her piece, says she can now list “published theater critic” to her resume.
(Editor's Note: Bick will compete in the Linnaean Games National Championships with the UC Berkeley-UC Team team at the Entomological Society of America's annual meeting, set Nov. 11-14 in Vancouver, B.C. The UC Berkeley-UC Davis team is captained by Ralph Washington Jr., a graduate student at UC Berkeley and a former graduate student at UC Davis. Other members are Brendon Boudinot, Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski, all of the Phil Ward lab. The UC Berkeley-UC Davis team won the Linnaean Games hosted in mid-June by the Pacific Branch, ESA. For a look at the kinds of questions asked, watch the 2016 National Linnaean Games Championship Round (won by UC Davis), posted on YouTube.)
Well, no, they don't.
Some folks scream, smash them, or sprint away from them.
Other folks--including yours truly--sprint toward them, not unlike firefighters racing into a burning building while everyone else is dashing out.
So it's gratifying to see that Feedspot.com has just published a list of the top 25 entomology blogs worldwide. All in one place. Bug lovers, unite!
Founder Anuj Agarwal says the blogs are ranked based on the following criteria:
- Google reputation and Google search ranking
- Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
- Quality and consistency of posts.
- Feedspot's editorial team and expert review
"The best entomology blogs," Agarwal told us, "are from thousands of entomology blogs in our index using search and social metrics. We've carefully selected these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information."
Feedspot, based in the United States, is a "News and blog reader used by over one million users," Agarwal related. "Globally. it's a place where users can read all their favorite websites in one place." The Feedspot editorial team "extensively searched on Google and social media websites to find the best entomology blogs and ranked them," based on several factors such as:
- Blog content quality
- Post consistency
- Age of the blog
- Average number of shares on social sites for your blog posts
- Traffic of your blog and more.
This blog, Bug Squad, which I've written for 10 years every night, Monday through Friday on the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) website, landed on the list as No. 12. Wasn't expecting that! (As an aside, I've never missed a night of posting, even on holidays and vacations.)
Which blog is No. 1? Entomology Today, published by the 7000-member Entomological Society of America.
Note that Feedspot Entomology currently lists the top 24 entomology blogs instead of the top 25, which is why this (list) below is missing one.
The list, along with the links:
- Entomology Today The Entomological Society of America (ESA) is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines
- What's That Bug? - Are we experts yet? In this blog you can send entries for bug identification. Get information about various kinds of bug around the world and more in this blog
- Catalogue of Organisms An entomologist and taxonomist, currently based in Perth, Western Australia
- Bug of the Week Written by "The Bug Guy," Michael J. Raupp, professor of entomology at the University of Maryland
- Bug Eric Get all information about insects, spiders, and other arthropods, focusing on North America north of Mexico. This is by Eric Eaton, principal author of Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America.
- Reddit | Entomology Find the latest news and information about entomology from Reddit.
- Reddit | Bug identification! Find information about all your bug identification needs, whether that be insects, spiders, crustaceans, or whatnot!
- The Jentsch Lab Find information about insect biology, ecology, and management in hudson valley agricultural commodities in this blog. The Jentsch is Peter Jentsch, senior Extension associate
- What's Crawling in the Lab? | Insect Diagnostic Lab | Department of Entomology Patrick (PJ) Liesch, the director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab, gives information about the ecology of bees and other pollinators, and the mechanisms by which they provide the invaluable service of pollination.
- Angler's Entomology Podcast A podcast about re-discovering fly fishing entomology. "We will review the major groups of aquatic insects - both relevant facts for fly fshing, but also interesting twists that make these critters fascinating."
- Blogs from the Natural History Museum | Entomology Blogs from the Natural History Museum | Entomology
- Bug Squad | Agriculture and Natural Resources Blogs This is a blog that appears on the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources website. It's about the wonderful world of insects and the people who study them. (Text and photos by Kathy Keatley Garvey of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of California, Davis)
- Ask an Entomologist In this blog, "you can ask any questions related to entomology or bugs or insects, together we tackle your hardest questions about insects, their biology, ecology, physiology, or whatever else your beautiful and curious mind wants to know."
- Pensoft blog | Entomology Find information about entomology from this blog
- Buglife Buglife is billed as "the only organization in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates everything from bees to beetles, and spiders to snails."
- MYRMECOS – Little Things Matter A personal blog by entomologist and photographer Alex Wild (Alex Wild is the curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin, and holds a doctorate in entomology from the University of California, Davis, where he studied with Phil Ward)
- Wild About Ants Roberta Gibson is an entomologist and writer/blogger. She holds a master's degree in Entomology from Cornell University where she studied carpenter ants.
Beetles In The Bush Get all information about experiences and reflections of a Missouri entomologist
- Entomological Society of Canada The Entomological Society of Canada promotes research and disseminates knowledge about insects. Its flagship journal is The Canadian Entomologist (TCE).
- The Academy of Natural Sciences | Entomology Find information about entomology or insects from this blog.
- MObugs Get updates about Missouri entomology or insects and more by Shelly Cox.
FOCUS on Entomology Get all news about agricultural entomology from the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Lubbock.
- Insects Unlocked Insects Unlocked (directed by Alex Wild) is a public domain project from The University of Texas at Austin's Insect Collection. Background: "In 2015, our team of student and community volunteers crowd-funded a campaign to create thousands of open, copyright-free images. From more than 200 small contributions, we built an insect photography field kit and photo studio. This website holds discussions of the small animals we encounter, updates from the project, and other entomological miscellanea."
- Mastering Entomology | Big Ideas About Little Things This site is run by the Entomology and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) students at Harper Adams University. "Get ideas about bugs or insects and more from this blog."
- (Currently not listed)
Today, June 14, is Flag Day, a time when we celebrate and commemorate our American flag.
Our Continental Congress adopted the "Stars and Stripes" as our nation's flag on June 14, 1777.
Historians tell us that President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day in 1916 and in 1949, Congress officially designated June 14 as National Flag Day.
Today, and every day, flags flutter in the breeze. Sometimes we see majestic monarchs (Danaus plexippus) doing the same thing, fluttering in the breeze.
They were definitely fluttering around back in 1777 and eons before that.
Interestingly enough, the name, "monarch" is linked to royalty. Historians think the name may be in honor of King William III of England. But we know who originally described it: Carl Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae of 1758. He placed it in the genus Papilio. In 1780, Jan Krzysztof Kluk placed it in the new genus Danaus.
So, why not combine the flag and the monarch in one photo on Flag Day?
We did. Happenstance.
Back on Nov. 10, 2015, we released a newly eclosed monarch in our yard as we were replacing the flag on our flag pole.
Hopefully, after the brief photo op, Ms. Monarch fluttered to an overwintering site in Santa Cruz to join her buddies.