And yes, there was. A Madagasar hissing cockroach was one of the critters that UC Davis entomology major Wade Spencer showed to guests at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house last Saturday during the 101st annual campuswide Picnic Day.
Some folks call them "hissers." That's because of the hissing sound they make when when they force air through their spiracles, or respiratory openings. Sometimes they hiss when you touch them or pick them up. Want to hear them hiss? Access George Gavin's program on the BBC website.
Madagascar hissing cockroaches can reach three inches long. They seem to favor rotting logs for their homes. They're vegetarians, so guests at the Bohart Museum don't have to worry about them as predators.
Hollywood producers can't get their fill of them.
And then there was the television series Fear Factor. (The Bohart Museum received some of the excess roaches.)
We also remember when Six Flags Great America sponsored a Halloween contest at its 2006 FrightFest and challenged people to eat a hisser. Eat 36 hissers in one minute and beat the world record. Fortunately, they rescinded the idea and the offer.
The hissers at the Bohart, though, are not for eating. They're for admiring. Some 4000 people visited the Bohart Museum last Saturday to view all the exhibits, which included a pollination display and the ongoing live "petting zoo." Although the crowd favorite is Peaches, a rose-haired tarantula, also popular are the walking sticks and hissers.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, houses nearly eight million insect specimens. Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, it is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and on special weekends.
The next weekend open house is from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, May 17. The theme? “Name That Bug! How About Bob?” Admission is free.
How do you begin? Where do you start?
Distinguished Professor James R. Carey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology led a class on how to do just that several years ago. Under his direction, UC Davis students crafted a playlist of 11 short videos on insect-collecting.
The project, considered the best-of-its-kind on the Internet, won an award from the 7000-member Entomological Society of America.
The videos are online but if you attend the UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 18, you can see the continuous loop of videos being played from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Room 122 of Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive. Fliers printed with the URL and QR codes also will be available.
The entire series can be viewed in less than 10 minutes. The clips range in length from 32 seconds to 77 seconds.
“So in less than 10 minutes, someone can learn how to make an insect collection,” Carey said. The clips are tightly scripted, with an emphasis on brevity, simplicity and low cost."
Making the insect-collection module was a low tech-low cost operation partly by design. “I wanted production to be ‘low tech' so that anyone who could use a point-and-shoot camera and basic movie-editing software could produce a video clip,” Carey said. ”It needed to be low cost not only because of no funding for the project, but because the basic challenge was to produce a set of high-content-high quality video clips at virtually zero cost."
UC Davis forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey provided the introductory narration for each clip. The students chose MovieMaker software (included in the MS Office package) and Sony Vegas Movie Studio. Paul ver Wey, media production manager of the UC Davis Information Educational Technology's Academic Technology Services, taught them the basics of videography and editing; Wes Nelms gave a tutorial on the use of Vegas Movie Studio
So, stop by Briggs Hall and watch the videos on how to make an insect collection. Or access them online.
Hand Collecting (32 seconds)
Using an Aspirator (34 seconds)
Ground Collecting (54 seconds)
Aquatic Collecting (58 seconds)
Using Nets (58 seconds)
Killing (51 seconds)
Pinning (43 seconds)
Point Mounting (50 seconds)
Labeling Specimens (48 seconds)
Spreading (77 seconds)
Storage and Display (32 seconds)
The 101st annual UC Davis Picnic Day is expected to draw as many as 100,000 visitors campuswide. The focus is on entomology at Briggs Hall and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Briggs Hall includes cockroach races, maggot art, honey sampling, fly-tying, a pollination pavilion and many other activities. The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is home of nearly eight million insect specimens. On Saturday it will showcase pollination activities and provide many other events under the theme, "The Good, The Bad and the Bugly."
You'd never know that if you looked in the backyard of UC Davis entomologists Robert and Lynn Kimsey.
The UC Davis Entomology Club, advised by Robert Kimsey, is building a 40-foot-long black widow spider for the UC Davis Picnic Day Parade on Saturday, April 18.
Latrodectus hesperus has never looked so...well...huge!
And so colorful--right down to the distinctive red hourglass.
What's it like seeing a huge spider coming to life in your backyard?
“Well, it is very weird!” said Robert Kimsey, a forensic entomologist and longtime advisor of the club. “It is huge and currently in pieces as it is getting its skin and pedipalps and other minor body parts and whatnot. It is anatomically correct in every way! The students have been trained well in arachnology!”
“There are legs all over the place,” Kimsey said. Each is slightly less than 20 feet long. "Again, it is huge. I have to admit that there are some brilliant artists and engineers in this group! But looking out the windows into the backyard takes your breath away. Any non-biologist would completely go to pieces.”
Along with anyone suffering from arachnophobia.
The last time the the UC Davis Entomology Club entered a float in the UC Davis Picnic Day Parade was about 20 years ago. And yes, it was a black widow spider (see photo below)
“The spider idea collectively came from all members of the cabinet after hearing about past picnic days from Bob,” said Entomology Club vice president Alex Nguyen. “When we presented it to the club we received very positive feedback so we decided to commit to marching in the parade with a float this year.”
The spider represents a month of planning and two weeks of building, Nguyen said.
During the parade, Entomology Club president Marko Marrero will be inside the spider, hoisting it up, and walking with it, along with two people at each leg.
If you want to see the spider, the opening ceremony of the parade begins at 9:25 a.m. in the grandstands on the North Quad Avenue across from Wickson Hall. The parade begins at 10, snakes downtown, and ends at noon. Announcement locations include the beginning of the parade; second and D Street in downtown Davis; F street in front of PDQ Fingerprinting; and third and C Street in downtown Davis.
You can also see the spider after the parade. It will be showcased in front of Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive, where scores of entomological events will take place, including cockroach races, maggot art, honey tasting, and fly-tying. There will be a bee observation hive, ant displays, and displays of mosquitoes, forest insects and aquatic insects.
The UC Davis Entomology Club and the Entomology Graduate Student Association will be working the booths, along with faculty and staff.
Membership in the UC Davis Entomology Club is open to all interested persons (email firstname.lastname@example.org). Members are faculty, staff, students (college and high school) and community residents.
They have at least one thing in common: they're interested in insects and other arthropods, including arachnids (spiders).
Even at picnics...and parades...
The Department of Entomology and Nematology will offer honey tasting from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Briggs Hall courtyard. Last year's event drew some 3000 people. The process is easy: take a toothpick, dip it into the honey container (no double-dipping) and savor.
This year visitors can sample six different varietals of honey: coffee blossom, meadowfoam blossom, buckwheat, creamed clover, cotton and chestnut, according to Extension apiculturist Elina Niño. Across the hallway, in Room 122, folks can check out the bee observation hive from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Niño and staff research associate Billy Synk will answer questions about bees.
Several blocks away, the Honey and Pollination Center, located at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science (RMI), will offer honey tasting: avocado, orange blossom, sage, sweet pea, meadowfoam and UC Davis wildflower. Visitors can purchase the UC Davis wildflower honey, said Honey and Pollination Center executive director Amina Harris. And yes, there will be a bee observation hive at RMI, too. How fast can you find the queen bee?
Meanwhile, the "Wings of Life" will be playing continuously in the RMI's Sensory Theatre. It doesn't get any better than this!
Harris encourages visitors to "bee all you can bee" by wearing bee or honey costumes or "come dressed as your favorite pollinator." Arts and crafts activities for children are also planned. Think bees. Thank them, too. You'll see bees foraging in the Good Life Garden that fronts RMI. Vegetables, fruits, herbs...they're all there.
Saturday is a also a good time to visit the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. Planted in 2009, the half-acre bee friendly garden is operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. It is open from dawn to dusk every day for self-guided tours. There you'll see honey bees from the nearby Laidlaw facility doing what they do best--pollinating. Keep a watch out for other pollinators, too. They include sweat bees, digger bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees and butterflies. Then mark your calendar for May 2 to return to the haven from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the fifth anniversary celebration, coordinated by manager Chris Casey.
Yes, Saturday April 18 promises to be a "honey of a day" and a "honey of a picnic."
But when it comes to UC Davis Picnic Day 101, the "101" doesn't mean inexperience. This is the 101st annual celebration, which means UC Davis has been doing this for a century.
It's an event billed as entertaining, educational and informative--and it is. Plus, it's just plain fun!
Longtime friends and family get to hug ya. Entomologists get to bug ya. Visitors will see plenty of insects and other arthropods from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at two sites: Briggs Hall on Kleiber Hall Drive and the Bohart Museum of Entomology on Crocker Lane.
Theme of the campuswide picnic is “The Heart of Our Community,” but over at the Bohart Museum, the theme is “The Good, the Bad and the Bugly.” The museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, will feature pollinators. The museum houses nearly 8 million specimens. It also houses a live “petting zoo,” comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and a rose-haired tarantula named Peaches, a crowd favorite.
At Briggs Hall, a new event is the Pollinator Pavilion, where visitors can see and learn about bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Pollination ecologist/graduate student Margaret “Rei” Scampavia is coordinating the project. “We're going to have painted lady butterflies, monarchs, male blue orchard bees, and a live bumblebee colony,” she said. Other events at the Pollinator Pavilion will include puppet shows, a chance to practice pollinator observations, museum specimens, and information on how individuals can help support healthy pollinator populations.
Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey will portray “Dr. Death,” showing methods used in forensic entomology in 122 Briggs. The Phil Ward lab will assemble a display on the incredible diversity of ants. The Sharon Lawler lab will display aquatic insects and answer any questions about them.
Visitors can sample six different varietals of honey at a honey tasting table in the Briggs courtyard. The flavors are coffee blossom, meadowfoam blossom, buckwheat, creamed clover, cotton and chestnut, said Elina Niño, Extension apiculturist. A bee observation hive will be set up in across from the courtyard, where Niño and staff research associate Billy Synk will answer questions about bees.
Also at Briggs: graduate student Stacy Hishinuma and forest entomologist Steve Seybold, a chemical ecologist with the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Davis, and an affiliate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will display forest insects. Medical entomology graduate students will set up displays about diseases vectored by mosquitoes and other insects. The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District will provide an educational exhibit about mosquito abatement. Exhibits also will include such topics as fly fishing/fly-tying.
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) will be giving away lady beetles, aka ladybugs, in front of Briggs Hall. They will answer questions about insects and display many of their books.
The Graduate Student Entomology Association (GMSA) and the Entomology Club will be out in force, coordinating and staffing the many insect activities. If you like bugs, you can buy an entomology t-shirt or have a bug painted on your face. The Bohart Museum also will be selling t-shirts and other items in its gift shop, which is open year-around.
If you're going to the parade, which starts at 9:30 a.m., be sure to check out the Entomology Club's float. It will not be an "itsy bitsy spider." It will be one ritsy gigantic spider! Following the parade, the float will be showcased in front of Briggs Hall.
What a day it promises to be...the good, the bad, and the bugly...