When there's a Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, visitors come to listen, learn and explore.
Such was the case during the Parasitoid Palooza open house last Saturday, Nov. 18 when area residents, including parents and their children, and grandparents and their grandchildren, visited the museum. They came from as near as Davis and as far as Redwood City, Sonoma, Marin, and San Jose.
They came with questions; they left with answers and a deeper appreciation of insects.
There is much to see and do. The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on the UC Davis campus, is the home of nearly eight million insect specimens including about 320,000 in the Lepitoptera (butterflies and moths) collection, curated by entomologist Jeff Smith.
Those figures, however, are much like a moving target, "as we keep adding collections," commented Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology.
"Yes, we are constantly adding material," Smith said, and "we may received very large donated collections in the next few years." Smith is almost finished spreading some 4000 specimens from an August Belize expedition."
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 insects 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 hosts special open houses throughout the academic year. Its regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 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.
Upcoming open houses (all free and open to the public):
- Bug-Art@The Bohart on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018 from 1 to 4 p.m.
- Biodiversity Museum Day on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, a daylong event featuring 12 UC Davis campus museums and collections, including the Bohart Museum. This will be the eighth annual. See Bug Squad blog regarding the 2017 Biodiversity Museum Day, coordinated by Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator.
- UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 21, 2018 a daylong event
In tomorrow's Bug Squad blog: a close-up look at the family craft activities and human-insect interaction in the petting zoo at the Nov. 18 open house.
If you attended the 2017 Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting, held recently in Denver, you probably recognized a familiar face and his research.
This is the third year he has won first-place honors in the President's Prize competition, an opportunity for graduate students to present their research.
Boudinot, who studies classification and evolution of morphology, delivered a 10-minute oral presentation in the Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity Section on "The Protopodal Theory of Genitalic Evolution in the Hexapoda (Arthropoda: Mandibulata: Pancrustacea)."
Judges evaluate the oral presentations on scientific content (50 percent) and presentation (50 percent). For scientific content, judges score them on introduction and background with pertinent literature cited; objectives clearly stated and concise; materials and methods (study design) clear and concise; results and discussion clear, concise and accurate; and significance of results to field of study. Judges evaluation the presentation on organization, slides and delivery.
For his work, he received a one-year free membership in ESA, a $75 cash prize, and a certificate.
Boudinot's previous President's Prizes were for presentations on the male genitalia of ants, and for providing the first male-based identification material for the ant genera of the New World.
"I study ants because they are a unique evolutionary radiation of wingless, social wasps; through the study of their genetic and morphological diversity, we are better able to understand the ecological and biogeographic components of the process of speciation," Boudinot said today. "I came to study ants through several years of work I did as an undergraduate sorting and identifying ants from thousands of leaf litter samples collected in Central America by the Leaf Litter Arthropods of MesoAmerica project, which I was involved in (see photo of him in Honduras during 2010, as well as a little blurb from the year before he joined UC Davis graduate program)."
Boudinot traces his initial interest in the taxonomic and morphological diversity of ants through direct observational experience. Now, as a member of the Ward Lab, he continues his work, which encompasses three components:
- the diversity and classification of male ants in the New World
- a reclassification of the Formicidae based on phylogenetic analyses combining fossils with living taxa, and
- a study of the morphological evolution of the abdomen of insects, borne out of work done in projects (1) and (2).
Boudinot completed his undergraduate work at the Evergreen State College, Olympia, Wash., and spent a year working as a research technician at the University of Utah before starting his graduate work in 2014 with advisor Phil Ward. He focuses his research on evolution and ecology, approached from the perspective of systematics. “I integrate several lines of inquiry to answer historical evolutionary questions, including morphological and molecular phylogenetics, paleontology, and traditional comparative morphology,” Boudinot related. “I specialize on the skeletomusculature system of the male genitalia of the Hexapoda and the classification of the Formicoidea.”
Ants are highly diverse, with more than 13,000 known species, Boudinot says. "They are, however, but one stitch in the diversity of all insects, and we are entering a new era for the study of morphology in the 21st century."
The genitalia of male insects are fascinating, he said. "Both male and female insect genitalia are derived from the appendages of a pair of abdominal segments. Evidence from the skeletomusculature indicates that these structures are really legs of a crustacean ancestor that have been modified for numerous reproductive tasks--from copulation and insemination, to singing and silk-spinning."
When he's not studying ants, you can find Brendon Boudinot serving as president of the Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA), his second term at the helm. In this capacity, he functions as student liaison to the faculty, and as chair or co-chair of several committees, both for departmental and graduate student events (including the Entomology Seminar Series, Retreat Committee, annual Graduate Student Recruitment Day, Picnic Day, and various graduate student social events).
UC Davis doctoral candidate Sarah Silverman of the James R. Carey lab joined Boudinot in the winners' circle at the ESA meeting. She won a second place award in the President's Prize competition, delivering a 10-minute oral presentation in the Diptera-Mosquitoes category of the Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology Section, on “Population as Cohort: Interpreting the Mortality Patterns of Wild-Caught Adult Mosquitoes of Unknown Ages.”
Her work at UC Davis is in the field of insect demography. “I specifically study insect lifespan in the wild," she said, "as well as the the age-structure of insect populations in the wild using an innovative methodological approach: the capture of live-insects in the wild which are then maintained and observed in the lab until death." Silverman completed her bachelor's degree in environmental science at McGill University in Montreal. For her undergraduate thesis, she studied the phenology of wild Osmia bees./span>
Hopefully, the male didn't lose his head.
Which begs a question asked by a reader: How long after mating does the female lay or produce her egg case (ootheca)?
"Usually it takes a week or two for temperate species, but tropical species can take much longer," says mantis expert Andrew Pfeifer of Monroe County, N.C., administrator for the public Facebook page, Mantis Keepers. "My Plistospilota guineensis took almost a month to lay hers. Mantis mating is a relatively straightforward process. A mature female will release pheromones to attract a male from a distance, hence why his antennae are longer and thicker. Upon getting close, he uses sight to find her. The male will slowly approach from behind, leaping on her back and using his antennae to calm her down by tapping her pronotum. Usually he will immediately curl his abdomen under her body until he meets her ovipositor, where he inserts his claspers. They will copulate for hours, with my longest pairing lasting two days. Eventually he will jump away, usually flying off to a safe distance from the female."
"The laying process itself can take anywhere from an hour to almost five depending on the size of the ooth," Pfeifer says. The Plistospilota guineensis ootheca is about as large as they can be, roughly equal to a large chicken egg."
Pfeifer, recently featured on Bug Squad, kindly shared his images of the adult mega mantids and a ootheca (see below) which is indeed enormous.
And how many mantids does he think might emerge from this mega mantis? "This one can contain upwards of 400," he says.
And THAT is a lot of mantids.
(Editor's Note: Praying mantids are among the insects featured in the live "petting zoo" at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, University of California, Davis, campus. The Bohart, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will host an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18. The theme is "Parasitoid Palooza" (featuring jewel wasps, nematodes and flies) but mantids can also be seen and photographed in the petting zoo. The event is free and open to the public and family friendly. Bohart Museum associate and UC Davis student Lohitashwa "Lohit" Garikipati breeds mantids and donated part of his collection, including an orchid mantis, to the Bohart. He is secretary of the UC Davis Entomology Club, advised by forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, and is a member of the Facebook page, Mantis Keepers).
- You don't know until you try.
- You miss every opportunity you do not take.
- Each answer to a question creates new questions.
So began UC Davis alumnus Matan Shelomi when he returned to the UC Davis campus Wednesday, Nov. 15 to present a seminar on his stick insect research: "Revelations from Phasmatodea Digestive Track Transcriptomics."
Matan Shelomi, a Harvard graduate from New York City, earned his doctorate in entomology in 2014 from UC Davis, studying with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology. He then received a National Science Foundation-funded postdoctoral position at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany. Today he's an assistant professor of entomology in the Department of Entomology at National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan.
Shelomi focused his seminar on the digestive physiology of the stick and leaf insects, Phasmatodea, research that has taken him to three continents.
Kimsey introduced him as a terrific scientist and writer. Shelomi, with his quick wit and wry sense of humor, captivated his audience immediately.
One of his introductory slides read: The Unknown Unknowns
"...there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns--the ones we don't know we don't know."--Donald Rumsfeld.
You may know Matan Shelomi for his informative and entertaining posts on Quora. A top writer at Quora since 2013, he is followed by nearly 4000 subscribers and has answered more than 3000 questions. Or you may know him for his many accomplishments and honors/awards at UC Davis or at the Entomological Society of America meetings. Or his work at the Bohart Museum where he answered scores of questions about insects, greeting scientists, insect enthusiasts, and the general public alike. He was a regular at their regularly scheduled weekend open houses.
But back to his seminar: He defined a transcriptome as "sequencing of RNA expressed in given tissue at specific time and condition" and explained "RNA-sequence make cDNA from mRNA sequence."
Each answer to a question led to more questions.
"Who knew?" he asked.
Shelomi closed his presentation with three points:
- "Transcriptomes reveal unknown unknowns."
- "There's still more left to discover."
- "Science is fun."
Shelomi said there's still many, many more questions to be answered on stick insects. "I'll leave that to others," he said, adding that he's now turned to studying the microbiome of dengue-vectoring mosquito breeding sites.
The take-away message?
"That in biology one cannot assume," Shelomi said. "Some things we thought were universal only seemed that way because we hadn't checked for alternatives, and then stopped looking. But biology is not math: there are few if any axioms. Every species is unique, and every rule has an exception. Sometimes the former rules are the exception, like animal cellulases: once thought nonexistant, we now see that they are the ancestral state, and species lacking them are the exception. Organs, proteins, species may have radically different functions from their most similar relative. There is obviously still a place for educated guesses, but until you check you never know for sure... and the search may reveal things you never even thought to look for."
The applause that followed his talk was loud and long.
Of course you do!
The Bohart Museum of Entomology is hosting an open house, themed "Parasitoid Palooza," from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 18 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It's free and open to the public and family friendly.
First of all, what's a parasitoid?
"An insect parasitoid is a species whose immatures live off of an insect host, often eating it from the inside out," says Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator of the Bohart Museum. "It is part of their life cycle and the host generally dies."
What's a nematode?
In one word, "worms."
“Nematodes are an amazing phylum of organisms--they exist in almost every known environment on the planet, and different species eat everything from bacteria and fungi to plant and animal tissue," says nematode authority Lauren Camp, diagnostic parasitologist at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. She will be at the open house to display specimens and answer questions.
"I find parasites particularly fascinating, because they are dependent on another organism (or organisms) for part or all of their life cycle," says Camp, who received her doctorate from the UC Davis, studying with nematologist Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
They're a group of tiny parasitoids, says Bohart Museum senior museum scientist Steve Heydon, a world authority on Pteromalids. There are some 3,450 described species of Pteromalids. They're found throughout the world and in virtually all habitats. Many are important as biological control agents.
They are "a remarkable group of endoparasitoids of spiders" and members of the family Acroceridae, says Jessica Gillung, a PhD student at UC Davis who studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology. "They are rare and elusive flies lay the eggs on the ground or vegetation, and the little larva is in charge of finding itself a suitable host. Upon finding the host, the larva enters its body and feeds inside until it's mature to come outside and pupate. They eat everything from the spider; nothing is wasted."
These parasitoids will be on display, along with the remains of its caterpillar hosts. The fly is used as a biological control agent for some pests. But those who rear monarch butterflies consider it their enemy when these flies parasitize caterpillars and chrysalids.
The family craft activity will be pop-up cards, said Yang. Participants will craft cards with a monarch on the front, and a pop-up inside of a parasitoid.
The Bohart Museum 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. 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 insects 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 contacting (530) 752-0493 or emailing email@example.com or Tabatha Yang at firstname.lastname@example.org.