Oh, what serious webs they weave.
Perfect concentric circles. Perfect for snagging prey. Perfect for capturing a few photographic images.
Orb weavers take on the classic shape popularized by Charlotte the spider in E.B. White's children's book, Charlotte's Web.
They rid the garden of many flying insects, such as gnats, mosquitoes, and moths.
Occasionally a honey bee becomes entangled in the web. The orb weavers are not particular in what they kill, wrap, and eat. It's part of the fabric of life.
This orb weaver (below) is a western spotted orb weaver, Neoscona oaxacensis, as identified by senior museum scientist Steve Heydon of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis. Notice the round abdomen and the spots.
If you want to see some other garden spiders, check out the UC IPM website. Also, access BugGuide.Net, where scientists and citizen scientists have posted some great images of these amazing western spotted orb weavers.
If you're craving to find out more about insects--specifically how to FIND them--then you'll want to attend the Bohart Museum of Entomology’s open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, June 9.
It's free and open to the public.
Insects aren't difficult to find in the Bohart Museum, which is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis. After all, the museum houses nearly eight million specimens.
You'll also be able to find them outside. You'll learn how to net and trap insects at a demonstration site at the side of the building.
Another highlight will be how to rear cabbage white butterflies. You'll be given a free pamphlet on how to rear cabbage whites. Many classroom teachers try to rear monarch butterflies, but there's a growing movement to raise cabbage whites instead. After all, cabbage whites are more abundant, easily obtained and quite easy to rear. Their host plants include cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and mustards.
The transformation of an egg to a caterpillar to a chrysalis to an adult can not only be witnessed in the classroom, but at your home as a family project.
At the open house, you can also hold such live specimens as Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks. The gift shop (which now accepts credit cards) includes t-shirts, jewelry, insect nets, posters and books, including the newly published children’s book about California's state insect. “The Story of the Dogface Butterfly,” a 35-page book geared toward kindergarteners through sixth graders, was written by UC Davis doctoral candidate Fran Keller and illustrated (watercolor and ink) by Laine Bauer, a 2012 graduate of UC Davis. It also includes photos by naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, a Bohart Museum volunteer. Net proceeds from the sale of this book go directly to the education, outreach and research programs of the Bohart Museum. The book also can be ordered online.
This is the last of the open houses for the 2012-13 academic year. Bohart officials schedule weekend open houses throughout the academic year so that families and others who cannot attend on the weekdays can do so on the weekends. The Bohart’s regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The insect museum is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, is the seventh largest insect collection in North America. It is also the home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946.
For further information, contact Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 752-0493.
In her professional life, she's an entomologist, researcher, teacher, mentor, artist, photographer, and author.
In her private life, she's a wife and mother.
Her specialty: darkling beetles. You'll often find her at her "home away from home," the Bohart Museum of Entomology where she studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, Bohart Museum director and UC Davis professor of entomology.
Fran Keller is the designer and impetus behind the many Bohart Museum of Entomology posters and t-shirts. Posters include Butterflies of Central California, Dragonflies of California, California State Insect (California Dogface Butterfly) and Pacific Invasive Ants. T-shirts spotlight dragonflies, butterflies and walking sticks. (Access them at the Bohart's online gift shop.)
Fran Keller also found time to author a children's book on the California dogface butterfly, with sales benefitting the Bohart Museum.
If you belong to the Entomological Society of America (ESA) or another entomological organization, you've probably seen her leading symposiums, presenting talks, and conferring with other scientists.
There's not much that she CAN'T do.
So, on Wednesday, Fran Keller will probably convince her audience that darkling beetles are more exciting than any other insect. After all, her enthusiasm is well known and led to her UC Davis honor as an outstanding teacher.
Keller's exit seminar, "Taxonomy of Stenomorpha Solier, 1836 (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae: Asidini," will be from 12:05 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, May 29 in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, located on the corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives. Plans call for the seminar to be videotaped for later public viewing on UCTV.
“My research focuses on a very large genus which historically had 88 species and no modern species level work for several taxa for nearly 175 years,” Keller said. “Part of my research focuses on a group of flightless species restricted to the Sierra Transvolcanica or southern Transverse range in Mexico. Using biogeography, morphological analyses and the examination of over 10,500 specimens, I recognize 51 valid species of Stenomorpha Solier, 1836, with seven newly recognized subgenera, while 37 formerly recognized species are synonymized or newly combined."
“Certain Stenomorpha species occur in California vernal pools but are not listed as vernal pool species,” Keller said. She also will discuss the importance of taxonomy in conservation.
If time allows, Keller will discuss her other projects, working in the Bahamas and mentoring students, as well as her recent research on morphology and developmental patterns of gene expression.
Keller received her associate science degree in biology and chemistry, with highest honors, from Sacramento City College in 2001 and then transferred to UC Davis where she received her bachelor’s degree in evolution and ecology (2004), and her master’s degree in entomology (2007).
She served as a teaching assistant for a number of courses at UC Davis and has also presented guest lectures, including “Insect Sex and Mating Systems” and “Insects and the Environment—Ecological Physiology.”
Among her many awards at UC Davis:
- Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award, May 2008
- Division of Biological Sciences (DBS) Commencement Speaker, June 2004
- DBS Departmental Citation for Outstanding Achievement in Academics and Research in Evolution and Ecology, Spring 2004
- Outstanding Senior, 2004
- Undergraduate Research Conference, Oral Presentation, April 2004
- President’s Undergraduate Fellowship, Spring 2003
Her students applaud her teaching skills, her enthusiasm, and her care and concern. Said one student: "It's reassuring to know that out of a maze of 30,000 students and faculty at Davis that there are people like Fran who really care."
Tabatha Yang and her six-month-old son, Karoo, were sitting on their lawn last Sunday at their West Davis home, when she saw red. Literally.
One minute they were enjoying the springlike weather, and the next minute his head was covered with bright red dots. Looking closer, she spotted a tiny insect in his eye, which she quickly removed.
Then her legs began to welt and itch.
They had just encountered no-see-ums, tiny Valley Black Gnats that feed on blood.
“The adults are emerging in large numbers now and need blood so residents need to beware of grassy areas that cover alkaline clay soils,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor entomology at UC Davis. “These insects are ferocious biters. Even though they don't spread any diseases, they are sufficiently annoying to keep people indoors in some areas of California.”
The Bohart Museum is now fielding scores of calls and emails.
“These no-see-ums are smaller than fleas and have a supreme itch,” said Yang, Bohart Museum education and outreach coordinator, who knew immediately what they were.
The biting gnats are particularly troublesome along the west side of the Sacramento Valley, including Davis and Woodland. “They're often in grassy areas, such as in parks and on golf courses on the west side of California's Central Valley,” Kimsey said. “When the soil begins to dry and cracks develop, the adults emerge.” The complete life cycle from egg to adult takes about two years.
The no-see-ums (Leptoconops torrens) belong to the family Ceratopogonidae and are about 1/16-inch long. They are so tiny they could pass through window screens, but they don't, Kimsey said. However, they can and do slip beneath loose clothing, unnoticed, to get a blood meal.
Like mosquitoes, only the female no-see-ums bite. The insects breed when the weather warms in the spring, usually in May and June, and they remain a pest for several weeks, Kimsey said. They need a blood meal to complete their reproductive cycle.
They also bite domestic and wild animals and birds.
The females inject saliva into the skin, which pools the blood just beneath the surface, resulting in a small red dot that becomes excruciatingly itchy. A single bite can welt into a one-or two-inch diameter spot, which lasts about two weeks.
Kimsey cautions people not to scratch the welts, as scratching makes the itchy bites last twice as long and can lead to infected sores.
To avoid being bitten, Kimsey recommends that you limit exposure by not sitting long in places where they are likely to occur, or where you've heard of problem areas. “Move quickly through the area.”
“Repellents,” she added, “aren't effective against these flies.”
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Saturday, May 11 is "Moth-ers Day" at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis.
Moth-ers Day? Yes, moths have mothers, too!
The open house, free and open to the public, will take place at the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus.
The focus is on moths, and moths of all sizes, shapes, colors and patterns will be displayed, said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. Most moths are nocturnal--unlike butterflies which fly during the day.
(As an aside, moth lovers and citizen scientists will unite for National Moth Week, July 20-29. As the website says, "Moths offer endless options for study, education, photography and fun.")
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens and is the seventh largest insect collection in North America.
Visitors can also discover the popular live insects in the "petting zoo": Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks.
The gift shop (yes, credit cards are accepted) includes t-shirts, jewelry, insect nets, posters and books, including the newly published children’s book, “The Story of the Dogface Butterfly,” written by UC Davis doctoral candidate Fran Keller and illustrated (watercolor and ink) by Laine Bauer, a 2012 graduate of UC Davis. The 35-page book, geared toward kindergarteners through sixth graders, also includes photos by naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, a volunteer at the Bohart.
The book tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice), Keller said. Bauer’s illustrations depict the life cycle of this butterfly and the children who helped designate it as the California state insect. Net proceeds from the book sales go directly to the education, outreach and research programs of the Bohart Museum. In addition, the book can be ordered online at http://www.bohartmuseum.com/the-story-of-the-dogface-butterfly.html.
Bohart officials schedule weekend open houses throughout the academic year so that families and others who cannot visit the insect museum on weekdays can do so on the weekends. The Bohart’s regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The insect museum is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
The last open house of the academic year is from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, June 9. The theme: "How to Find Insects."
For further information on Moth-ers Day, contact Yang at email@example.com or (530) 752-0493.