Drum roll...Time's up...
If you answered "mealworms"--or the larval form of the darkling beetle, family Tenebrionidae--that's correct.
And if you visit the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house ("Keep Calm and Insect On") from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building, Crocker Lane, you'll encounter them chewing on a Styrofoam head, "The Recycling Man."
“It turns out that mealworms have some hidden talents,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis. “They're not just good for feeding to pet reptiles or eating in snacks from HotLix. “These darkling beetle larvae have some dynamic gut bacteria.”
Enter Entomology undergraduate student Wade Spencer. You may know him from Bohart Associate Fran Keller's video of him costumed as a peacock jumping spider and performing a courtship dance. That video drew more than 2 million hits. (See previous Bug Squad piece on Wade Spencer with a link to Keller's video, or visit the Bohart Museum's Facebook page.)
So for his project, Spencer purchased a Styrofoam head online, obtained a Styrofoam insert from a bicycle helmet, and inserted 60 mealworms. That was on Nov. 18. Meanwhile, they're munching away. “Listen and you can hear them chewing," he said.
"This is a recycling project that's all in the head,” Spencer quipped.
(Learn more about darkling beetles on the UC Integrated Pest Management Program's website.) The insects can be pests of squash, pumpkins, dry beans and figs and the like. The wormlike larvae are commonly eaten by folks engaging in entomophagy.
Also at the Bohart Museum open house on Dec. 5, it's a time for show and tell. Bring insect or spider specimens and ask questions of the entomologists.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, will be available for discussions on bumble bees and other pollinators, and will sign his books. He is the co-author of “Bumble Bees of North America: An identification Guide” (Princeton University) and “California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists” (Heyday).
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. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum. Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and a rose-haired tarantula named “Peaches.” Visitors are invited to hold 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 weekend open houses throughout the academic year. All are free and open to the public and families are encouraged to attend. The 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. There is no admission but donations are appreciated.
More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tabatha Yang (email@example.com) does public education and outreach and conducts groups tours.
Their colleague Anna Davidson, who recently received her doctorate at UC Davis in the Department of Plant Sciences and is now studying for her master of fine arts degree, organizes the UC Davis LASER events.
She's the person behind the scenes--and in front of the podium--who provides the speakers.
Her next event is from 7 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 1 in Room 3001 of the Plant and Environmental Sciences Building. What a program she's lined up! Four speakers who fuse art with science will present 20-minute talks on several disciplines, including medicine, visual art and astrophysics.
The event is free and open to the public.
7 to 7:25 p.m.: Robert Lang, a scientist and artist known as one of the world's foremost origami artists, will speak on “From Flapping Birds to Space Telescopes: The Art and Science of Origami”
7:25 to 7:50 p.m.: Charlotte Jacobs, emeritus professor/physician at Stanford University who currently cares for cancer patients at the Palo Alto Veterans' Medical Center, will speak on "Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio.” She wrote a newly published biography on Jonas Salk (Jonas Salk: A Life), which, she says eradicated the crippling disease, but the scientific community never forgave him.
8:10-8:35 p.m.: Rachel Clarke, artist and educator teaching new media art at California State University, Sacramento, will cover “Merging Spaces,” about her latest art work, which combines physical and virtual modes of making
8:35-9 p.m.: Andreas Albrecht, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Physics, will discuss “What Is Time?” He is a leading theoretical physicist who specializes in understanding the origins of the universe will be talking about “time.”
More about Jacobs: She is the Ben and A. Jess Shenson Professor of Medicine (emeritus) at Stanford University. A native of Kingsport, Tenn., she studied medicine at Washington University, St. Louis. As a professor at Stanford University, she engaged in teaching, cancer research, and patient care. She received numerous awards for excellence in patient care and teaching, as well as the Distinguished Alumni Award from Washington University.
In his origami talk, Lang says he will discuss the techniques used in mathematical origami design, which range from the abstruse to the highly approachable. “I will describe the geometric concepts led to the solution of a broad class of origami folding problems – specifically, the problem of efficiently folding a shape with an arbitrary number and arrangement of flaps.” Lang holds a doctorate in applied physics from California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and during his work at NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Spectra Diode Laboratories, and JDS Uniphase, authored or co-authored more than 100 papers and 50 patents in lasers and optoelectronics as well as authoring, co-authoring, or editing 14 books and a CD-ROM on origami.
Clarke, whose topic is new media art, says her work combines physical and virtual modes of making. “As a comment on extreme consumerism in our contemporary lifestyle, the ephemeral works I create are often comprised of the waste products of that lifestyle – banal junk such as food packaging, advertising mailers, plastic bags – as well as discarded digital information. Through physical and digital processes, the discarded materials become contemplative artworks, in the form of experimental animations, augmented reality sculptures, and installations. While I'm using the technologies developed for 21st century capitalism, the way I'm using them becomes a critique of the corporate model of technology – a model designed for consumption of media, not creativity.”
Professor Albrecht says that “Time is a central part of everyday life, yet it can still seem very mysterious.” He will discuss time from a physicist's point of view “in a way that takes us from every day experiences to deep questions about the cosmos.” He is a member of the new Center for Quantum Mathematics and Physics at UC Davis.
In some of the previous UC Davis LASER events, speakers zeroed in on insects. There's an insect connection with the Dec. 1 event, too. Salk is often quoted as saying "If all the insects were to disappear from the Earth, within fifty years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within fifty years all forms of life would flourish."
Did Salk say that? Probably not. No more than Albert Einstein said "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
For more information on the program, see
For directions to the Plant and Environmental Sciences Building, see
Anna Davidson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fourteen is considered a day of love and romance, as in the 14th of February, Valentine's Day.
But at the Berkeley Aquatic Park, it's also love. Love at first sight. Or love at first site.
For the first year ever in modern history, monarch butterflies are roosting in Berkeley Aquatic Park. And they've been there since at least mid-November.
They're at the 14th hole on the disc golf course. Thousands roost there, and at any given time, dozens of butterfly aficionados and photographers gather there.
The crowd speaks in hushed tones, as if in a sanctuary.
- "There, there they are! See them? They look like dried leaves."
- "Are they all monarchs? Ooh, there goes one!"
- "Hey, everybody! It's important to plant milkweed. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed and that's the only plant the caterpillar will eat. If we want to keep monarchs around, plant milkweed!"
The monarchs are roosting in a shaded ash tree, next to eucalyptus and pine trees. As the sun warms them, they flutter over to the low-hanging leaves of a eucalyptus for more warmth. Just off the paved path, Canadian geese, ducks, mudhens and seagulls provide meaning to "aquatic" park.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, told us this morning that he's had "oodles of communication about this. None of the Bay Area butterfly people seems aware of any previous roosting there. They are also roosting at Rob Hill in the San Francisco Presidio for the first time since, I am told, 1997. Roosts that far north are often abandoned if the weather turns foul; we'll see if they persist."
Shapiro has monitored the butterfly populations of central California for more than four decades and posts research information on his website.
Elaine Miller Bond quoted Shapiro in a Nov. 23rd piece she wrote and illustrated about the Berkeley monarchs in the Berkeleyside, "Berkeley's independent news site."
Shapiro told her: “2015 has been the biggest monarch year in northern and central California in at least a decade,” says Distinguished Professor Arthur M. Shapiro from the Department of Evolution and Ecology, College of Biological Sciences at UC Davis. "And the pattern of breeding returned to the historic one seen in the 1970s-80s.”
On his website, Shapiro says this, in part, about monarchs:
"The Monarch overwinters on the central coast and moves inland, typically in early March. It moves around a great deal, so that it is unusual to see two successive generations in the same location. Females appear to avoid ovipositing on milkweeds already attacked by the oleander aphid (Aphis nerii) or the bright blue-green beetle Chrysochus cobaltinus. The Monarch acquires protective chemicals (cardenolides, "cardiac glycosides") from its host plants. Because different milkweeds differ greatly in their cardenolide content, Monarchs do also. Our commonest milkweeds (Asclepias fascicularis and A. speciosa) are low in cardenolides and produce innocuous butterflies; some relatively rare species, like the serpentine-endemic A. solanoana, are very nasty. The chemical defense is the basis for the famous mimicry by the Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) and other insects, but the Monarch has no mimics here. Population numbers vary greatly, probably reflecting disease; the locations where summer breeding occurs also vary greatly, and some years are mostly east of the Sierran crest. The westward migration begins as early as late July or August, but some breeding occurs well into autumn and adults continue to emerge at Sierra Valley into October. They then have a very short time to get over the mountains before the weather turns hostile. Altogether, there are three to four generations in an average year, but the mobility of the butterflies makes it difficult to pin this down."
The monarch belongs to the family Nymphalidae, also known as the brushfoot family.
"With about 6000 species worldwide, the morphological diversity within the brushfoots is immense," Shapiro writes on his website. "There have been decades of debates about how to classify the group and what traits are important and useful. For our purposes, the uniting characteristic of the brushfoots is the reduction of the front pair of legs into small, brush-like appendages that serve no real function, rather like the human appendix or tailbone. As a result, while they still have 3 pairs of legs (an insect characteristic), only two of those leg pairs are actually functional. Brushfoots are some of our largest and recognizable butterflies, including the monarch (Danaus plexippus), painted lady (Vanessa cardui), California tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica), and mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)."
Meanwhile, the monarchs, aka "brushfoots," are roosting at the 14th hole of the disc golf course in the Berkeley Aquatic Park.
How long they'll be there is anyone's guess. Did anyone say "El Nino"?
“Gimme more, gimme more, gimme more!” seems to be the mantra of the rich and famous and the faux rich and famous.
From my perspective: It's better to watch a monarch caterpillar chew on milkweed leaves than to yearn for a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes. Frankly, I wouldn't know a Jimmy Choo if it stepped on my hiking boots. But I would know if a monarch fluttered down and touched me on the hand.
I cannot recognize the fragrance of the world's most expensive perfume, Annick Goutal Eau d'Hadrien – $441.18 per ounce—I looked it up. But I do know the aroma of a honeysuckle beckoning a honey bee.
I wouldn't know a Louis Vuitton designer bag from or a Chanel but I do know this: the old and tattered camera bag slung over my shoulder is a faithful workhorse with a purpose.
I wouldn't know Dolce & Gabban jeans from Robert Cavall but I do admire the genes of a monarch butterfly and a honey bee.
I wouldn't know a princess-cut diamond from an emerald-cut diamond but I do know that the shape of a lady beetle is a cut above.
For me, the glow of a diamond on a finger pales at the glow of a monarch on milkweed. “Precious” is not the stone but what just eclosed from a chrysalis.
So, today as we give thanks with our family and friends, this question begs for answer: Do we own our possessions or do our possessions own us?
Life should not be about pursuing and protecting our materialistic possessions but pursuing and protecting our passions. Such as exploring the wonderful world of insects...
If you look closely, you'll not only see the cycle of life in your garden, but art as the center of life.
Take the Gulf Fritillaries. They're a stunning orangish-reddish butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) with silver-spangled underwings. It's a delight seeing them laying eggs on their host plant, Passiflora (passionflower vine), watching an egg develop into caterpillar, a caterpillar form a chrysalis, and an adult eclosing.
If the light is just right, the tiny yellow egg, about the size of a period at the end of this sentence, glows. Then see,,,
- A caterpillar inching along on a passionflower vine
- An empty chrysalis or pupal case hanging like a broken chandelier.
- A male and female becoming one
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, says this is a good year for Guld Frits. He has studied the butterflies of central California for more than four decades. Check out his research website, Art's Butterfly World.
Shapiro says the Gulf Fritillary is a long-time resident of California. It was first documented in Southern California in 1870s. "It first appeared in the vicinity of San Diego in the 1870s,” he says. “It spread through Southern California in urban settings and was first recorded in the Bay Area about 1908. It became a persistent breeding resident in the East and South Bay in the 1950s and has been there since.”
Shapiro says it “apparently bred in the Sacramento area and possibly in Davis in the 1960s, becoming extinct in the early 1970s, then recolonizing again throughout the area since 2000.”
Thank goodness for Gulf Frits!