On a chance encounter, Quincy Hansen of Arvada, Colo., and Noah Crockette of Sacramento, both recipients of the global Coleopterists Society's Youth Incentive Awards, recently met for the first time. Beetle mania reigned. Reigned supreme.
Quincy, 15, won the 2016 Coleopterists Society Award, junior category, and Noah, 18, won the 2015 Coleopterists Society Award, senior category. The society launched the awards program in 1989 “to recognize young people (grades 7-12) studying beetles.”
Quincy was at UC Davis to try out for a spot on the U.S. Under 16 National Football Team roster. “If I make the team, I'll be playing football internationally for the United States,” he related. “While I was at UC Davis, I wasn't going to miss the chance to check out the entomology department and the Bohart Museum, so I stopped by.”
Said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator: “He knew all about Noah, so there was a little hero worship.”
Quincy, a 10th grader this fall at Faith Christian Academy High School, Arvada, submitted his successful grant proposal on “Survey of Coccinellidae of Adams County Colorado: Species Population Density, Seasonality, Weather Effects, Etc., Especially in Agricultural Areas.” He said his grant involves “seeing how they change throughout the summer in the presence of different variables.”
Noah's grant proposal was titled “Survey of the Dung Beetles of Stann Creek, Belize.”
Both Quincy and Noah have been interested in insects as long as they can remember.
Said Noah: “I have always been interested in bugs but my interest in entomology started in sixth grade. “I mostly became interested in insects through my internship at the Bohart and participating in the undergraduate UC Davis Entomology Club (open to all interested persons). Before then I had only known that I was interested in zoology and started going to the Ent Club after learning about it from talking to (UC Davis forensic entomologist and club advisor) Robert “Bob” Kimsey at UC Davis Picnic Day. After attending the club for awhile, Danielle Wishon (club president and entomology major) and Bob got me connected with the Bohart to start the internship from which my interest grew.”
Noah, a 2017 graduate of The Met Sacramento High School, plans to enroll in Cornell in the fall of 2018. “They gave me a one-year transfer contract so I am now spending a year at community college until I can go to Cornell in the fall of 2018,” he said. “I'm not sure exactly what I want to do career wise yet. I know for sure I want to major in entomology at Cornell. After that, I think that I would like to continue on with entomology and work in research. I also really love venom so I have also thought about going into venom research but would like to grow more familiar with it before considering it more.”
What are some of the things they've done, in and out of entomology?
Noah served as an intern for the past seven years at the Bohart Museum. He's collected insects twice in Belize on Bohart-affiliated collecting trips “where I was able to get field work experience in entomology as well as herpetology and ornithology.” The trips were led by Fran Keller, assistant professor, Folsom Lake College, and David Wyatt, an entomology professor at Sacramento City College. Keller, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis mentored Noah and showed him the ropes--along with the bugs, bats, butterflies, birds and frogs.
“My last trip to Belize was when I completed my Coleopterists Society project in which I designed and constructed 12 baited pitfall traps which I used to survey the dung beetle species on the property as well as determine their preferred bait, between human feces, pig feces, chicken manure, rotten chicken, and rotten fruit,” Noah said.
Noah's other endeavors: “I've also gotten the chance to teach an entomology class to elementary students during my freshman year and organize a museum day at Shriners Hospital for Cildren for my senior project.”
Outside of entomology, Noah's interests include hiking, kayaking and birdwatching. “I really love the outdoors,” he said. “Last year after my trip to Belize I was also given the opportunity through my school to go on a month-long backpacking and kayaking trip through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Alaska. I also played rugby for C.K. McClatchy High School during my senior year which was a fun experience and I now plan on continuing with the sport. At home I like to keep reptiles and invertebrates--mostly tarantulas--as pets and enjoy collecting zoology related books and objects.”
Do they have a favorite insect?
“That's a hard one,” said Quincy. “I have several that I might consider my favorite, but at the moment I'm going to say that Asbolus verrucosus - the blue death-feigning beetle, is my favorite insect.”
And Noah? “I have a tendency towards scarab beetles. I particularly like the tribe Cyclocephalini, the masked chafer beetles. “I really like that they are a Dynastines like the Hercules beetles but lack any sort of horns or other glitzy features. Even though they are small and brown, I love the subtle beauty of the markings which remind me of the Rorschach ink tests.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, plans to include "The Beetle Boys' encounter at the Bohart" in her news newsletter. Coincidentally, her major professor, the late Richard M. Bohart, for whom the Bohart Museum is named, also played football--on the UC Berkeley team.
Commenting on the meeting at the Bohart: “Noah was kind enough to show me through the massive beetle collection UC Davis possesses,” Quincy said. “I feel like we bonded pretty well over a shared interest in insects, and I think we both had a good time sharing information and checking out the specimens. When we'd had our fill looking through everything from Lycids to Lucanids we moved our attention to non-beetle insects. We had a pretty good time, and Noah was, of course, very knowledgeable and kind.”
Noah delighted in meeting a fellow beetle enthusiast. “At first it was surprising to me that he knew who I am and that he was familiar with my scarab work in Belize. As I talked to Quincy more, I became very impressed with his knowledge and passion for entomology. I helped him look through the collection, and I could see how much he loves the science from the evident fact that he has studied and practiced entomology driven purely by his own interest.”
“He was very familiar with many of the groups I showed him even though he had not necessarily seen them before which further proved his continuous study of the field. Back when I applied to the Coleopterist Society Youth Incentive Award, I wondered what other high schoolers would have the interest or familiarity with the society to apply for the award," Noah said. "Meeting Quincy, I finally got to see who else would apply to the grant. I am glad to see that there are other young students who choose to immerse themselves in the field of insect research that I have learned to love so much. I am sure he will do great on his project and succeed in his future goals in the field.”
Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, said the Coleopterists Society's awards should encourage other youth to apply. Recipients hail from all over the world, from California to Kenya. The organization pledges to provide up to $600 each year.
The objectives of the Youth Incentive Award, as listed on the society's website, are to:
- provide encouragement and assistance to young beetle enthusiasts (grades 7-12).
- promote the study of beetles, the most diverse group of insects, as a rewarding lifelong avocation or career.
- provide opportunities for young people to develop important life skills such as leadership, cooperation, communication, planning and conducting a scientific study, grant writing and managing funds.
- provide some financial support to enrich activities or projects.
Talk about a butterfly ballet...
A large Western tiger swallowtail, Papilio rutulus, with a wingspan of about four inches, flutters into the Vacaville, Calif. pollinator garden and lands on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). It proceeds to nectar, unaware that the patch "belongs" to a male territorial longhorn bee. The bee, probably a Melissodes agilis, is saving it for the female of the species, not for "intruders."
The bee targets the brightly colored yellow and black butterfly. It buzzes the wings, returns, executes a barrel roll and dive-bombs the butterfly. Again. Again. And again. From all sides.
What to do? Continue sipping nectar or flee?
The Western tiger swallowtail takes flight, but just heads to another Tithonia blossom where the aerial assault continues.
Have you ever seen a snakefly?
Not a snake. Not a fly. A snakefly!
They're predators but rarely seen. They eat insects such as aphids and mites. They have a long neck, or technically, an elongated prothorax, their most distinguishing characteristic.
We've seen them sprawled out--quite dead--on our porch lights. And we recently saw one spinning in a spider web in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif. Imagine, a predator caught by a predator, in this case an orbweaver.
Snakeflies are fascinating insects. They're in the order Raphidiptera, which is comprised of two families, Raphidiidae and Inocellidae and "consisting of roughly 260 species," according to Wikipedia. "Members of this order have been considered living fossils, as the phenotype of a species from the early Jurassic period (140 million years ago) closely resembles modern-day species."
They certainly do look prehistoric. The order's name? Its derived from the Greek "raphio," meaning needle, and "ptera," meaning "wing."
Washington State University Extension entomologist Arthur Antonelli says in a WSU paper: "Snakeflies occasionally inhabit various area of houses by accident, but mostly live outside on trees. Though seldom seen, these insects are common in wooded areas, usually in association with bark."
Not this time. It bumbled into a spider web stretched between two butterfly bush branches.
A little haggard, a little worn, a little ragged, a little torn.
But there she was on Monday, Aug. 1, the first monarch of the season to lay eggs in our little pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif.
She found the milkweed, but that was AFTER the aphids, milkweed bugs, praying mantids, assassin bugs and assorted spiders claimed it.
It's always a joy to see the majestic monarch fluttering through a pollinator garden. On Sunday, July 31, a male lingered for two hours, nectaring on the Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) as the male territorial longhorn bees tried to chase him away. No welcome mat for him! No place setting for him!
Then today, a female arrived, first stopping by the showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, to lay eggs and then fluttering over to the tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, to lay more.
It's amazing how the monarchs, Danaus plexippus, know how to put their "resources" in multiple places. Like the idiom that cautions "don't put all your eggs in one basket," instinctively they seem to know that if they put all their resources in one place, they could lose them all. There's a better chance of offspring survival if they spread the eggs around.
The Western Apicultural Society, headed by president Eric Mussen of UC Davis, Extension apiculturist emeritus, wanted a unique bee T-shirt design for its 40th anniversary conference, set Sept. 5-8 at UC Davis.
"We wanted a design depicting a honey bee riding a penny farthing or high wheel bicycle," Mussen said, noting that Davis has been described as the "Bicycle Capital of the United States" (due to the city's "high rate of bicycle use and its long history providing its thousands of pedalers with a cyclist-friendly environment"--David Takemoto-Weerts).
"We wanted something cartoonish," added Mussen, who is serving his sixth term as president. WAS was founded at UC Davis by Norm Gary, Mussen and Becky Westerdahl. Gary, now professor emeritus, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, spearheaded the founding.
Eric Mussen knows bees. He retired in 2014 after 38 years of service, culminating a career that drew national and international attention.
Mussen selected UC Davis graphic artist Steve Dana, a veteran artist who appreciates bees.
Dana, a 1987 graduate of California Polytechnic Institute (Cal Poly), has worked at UC Davis and the UC Davis Medical Center as a graphic designer and illustrator for more than 25 years. A lifelong resident of Dixon, he also has a freelance graphic design and illustration business that he's owned since 1990.
"I grew up on a farm just east of Dixon, and rode motorcycles and sketched cartoons whenever possible, always wishing that I could be as good as my older brother, Jim," Steve recalled.
Steve said his parents both enjoyed various forms of art from acrylic painting to metal sculpture and his nephew Sutton Betti is a professional sculptor in Colorado.
No stranger to bees, Steve created the popular logo for the Dixon May Fair's 2016 theme, "Buzzing with Excitement." He considers it "my favorite" of the seven posters he's generated for the fair.
Mussen predicts the WAS t-shirt also will become a favorite. And come Sept. 5, many of those attending the WAS conference will be wearing one.
Those wishing to purchase a t-shirt (attendance at the conference is not mandatory to purchase a t-shirt) can obtain more information on the WAS site at http://www.westernapiculturalsociety.org/2017-t-shirts/
WAS, a non-profit organization, represents mainly small-scale beekeepers in the western portion of North America, from Alaska and the Yukon to California and Arizona. Beekeepers across North America will gather to hear the latest in science and technology pertaining to their industry and how to keep their bees healthy.
The conference is open to all interested persons. Among the speakers is Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture. See schedule of speakers and register here. Those who pre-register by July 31 receive a $50 discount, Mussen said.