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.
Which team--the UC Berkeley-UC Davis team or the Washington State University team--would win?
That was the white-knuckle scene at the Linnaean Games competition hosted by the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) at its meeting June 10-13 in Reno. The Linnaean Games are a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams.
The teams score points by correctly answering random questions. Per the rules, they often try to answer the question before it is completed.
Was the answer Dutch scientist Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek? Or not?
After hearing a portion of the question, WSU rapidly--and incorrectly--buzzed in the answer, Leeuwenhoek.
It was actually Jan Swammerdam.
The UC Berkeley-UC Davis Team emerged victorious. The team, captained by Ralph Washington Jr., a graduate student in public policy at UC Berkeley, (formerly a graduate student at UC Davis), included UC Davis doctoral students Brendon Boudinot, Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski, all of the Phil Ward lab, and Emily Bick of the Christian Nansen lab.
“Davis vs WSU was the final game of the night,” related Boudinot. “This went into Sudden Death as the teams were tied 90-90 after several UC Davis interrupts reduced their point total. We came back from DOWN to tie at about 15th question, and the sudden death question was specifically selected to be challenging. The key details were ‘Dutch ... microscopist from the 17th century.' WSU buzzed in on the interrupt and stated 'Leeuwenhoek,' which was incorrect, leading to their elimination. The correct answer was Swammerdam."
The complete question: What Dutch scientist, a microscopist, was the first to observe and describe red blood cells? As part of his anatomical research, Swammerdam (1637-1680) "carried out experiments on muscle contraction," according to Wikipedia. "In 1658, he was the first to observe and describe red blood cells. He was one of the first people to use the microscope in dissections, and his techniques remained useful for hundreds of years."
What a close competition! Congratulations to both teams!
PBESA will sponsor the UC Berkeley-UC Davis team at the National Linnaean Games at the Entomological Society of America's annual meeting, set Nov. 11-14, in Vancouver, Canada. Runner-up WSU (my alma mater!) also will compete.
Some of the questions asked at this year's PBESA Linnaean Games, as related by Ralph Washington Jr.:
Question: Name the fungal agent that grows naturally in soils throughout the world and causes white muscardine disease and is commercially packaged as a biological insecticide for the control of termites, whiteflies, and other insect pests?
Answer: Beauveria bassiana
Question: Name the process through which spiders use silk to fly and disperse.
Question: Where are you most likely to encounter a rheophilic insect?
Answer: In moving streams.
UC Davis has done well in the Linnaean Games over the years. It won national championships in both 2015 and 2016; Washington captained both teams. Boudinot was a member of both teams, and Bick, the 2016 team.
Think you can answer some of the questions?
- Watch the 2016 National Linnaean Games Championship Round (won by UC Davis), posted on YouTube
- Watch the 2015 National Linnaean Games Championship Round (won by UC Davis), posted on YouTube
The list of national champions over the last five years:
1st Place: Texas A&M
2nd Place: The Ohio State University
1st Place: University of California, Davis
2nd Place: University of Georgia
1st Place: University of California, Davis
2nd Place: University of Florida
1st Place: North Carolina State University
2nd Place: University of Florida
1st Place: University of California- Riverside
2nd Place: Mississippi State University
The Pacific Branch of ESA is comprised of 11 states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawai'i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming), plus U.S. territories and parts of Canada and Mexico.
As for the parent organization, ESA, it was funded in 1889 and is the largest organization in the world, serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. Its some 7000 members are affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Members are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, pest management professionals, and hobbyists.
A spectacular pollinator garden that's a "must-see" is Kate Frey's pollinator garden at Sonoma Cornerstone.
Kate Frey, a world-class pollinator garden designer, pollinator advocate and author who addressed the UC Davis Bee Symposium in March on "Designing Bee Friendly Gardens," has created a masterpiece. And yes, the pollinator garden is open to the public--no admission fee.
We visited the garden last Saturday and saw a pipevine swallowtail nectaring on Nepeta tuberosa, yellow-faced bumble bees sipping nectar from Stachys bullata, hummingbirds scoring nectar from salvia, and honey bees foraging on everything from Scabiosa "Fama Blue" to a native milkweed, Asclepias speciosa.
This is a happy place.
As she told the crowd at the Bee Symposium, hosted by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology: Whether you plant them, nurture them, or walk through them, bee gardens make us happy.
Frey's sign at the Sonoma pollinator garden explains that "All the plants offer food resources of pollen and nectar for pollinators such as native bees, honey bees, hummingbirds and beneficial insects. Pollen is a protein, mineral and fat source and is primarily a larval food for bees, while nectar is composed of various sugars and is the main food for pollinators and the adult life stage of many beneficial insects. Pollinators need a continuous food source for many months of the year. This garden contains a range of plants that will bloom in succession from early spring to late fall."
Frey's sign also noted that "Pollinators all have preferred plants they feed from, and flowers cater to specific pollinators. Some flower shapes are designed to exclude unwanted pollinators. The long, constricted floral tubes of honeysuckles or many salvia exhibit their focus on hummingbirds as primary pollinators. Other flowers nectar, like coffee berry is easily accessible to all pollinators. This garden contains a wide range of plants to appear to a variety of pollinators. Over 80 percent of flowering plants require insect or animal pollination. What insects or birds do you see visiting each flower type?"
Well, let's see: bees, butterflies, and birds...Apis mellifera, Battus philenor, Bombus vosnesenskii, Papilio rutulus, Calypte anna...
"The same plants that support pollinators," Frey indicated on the sign, "also make us happy."
They do! Happiness is a pollinator garden...