UC ANR Vice-President Barbara Allen-Diaz promises to wear bees—honey bees—if she can raise $2500 by Thursday, Oct. 31 for the UC Promise for Education, a fundraising project to help needy UC students. See her promise page to donate.
Veteran professional bee wrangler Norm Gary, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology, promises to come out of retirement (he retired from bee wrangling, academic service and beekeeping) to assist with the project.
If all goes well—that is, if Allen-Diaz can raise $2500 by Oct. 31--this bee stunt will take place next spring at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central UC Davis campus.
However, if she raises $5000, she will eat insects or insect larvae. Entomophagy!
We asked senior museum scientist and world traveler Steve Heydon of the Bohart Museum of Entomology if he has any insect-eating recommendations.
“Crickets,” he said. “Fresh-roasted crickets. They’re really good with a little salt.”
What about termites? “Termites don’t have that much of a taste,” Heydon said.
If Barbara Allen-Diaz needs a little practice, she can enjoy some insect-embedded lollipops available at the gift shop at the Bohart Museum, Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane. The choices are crickets, ants and scorpions. Heydon says the lollipops are especially popular as Christmas stocking stuffers. Cost? $3 each.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, has eaten butterflies, including Cabbage Whites (Pieris rapae). “I’ve eaten several to see if they’re edible to me, ‘though I’m not a bird. They are (edible), but I prefer fried grasshoppers. Yum!"
And what do Cabbage Whites taste like? “Toilet paper,” Shapiro said.
“My former student Jim Fordyce--he has a background in chemical ecology--used to say that he would never work on a bug he hadn't tasted,” Shapiro related. “However, he did work on the Pipevine Swallowtail, which sequesters the two aristolochic acids, which are mutagenic, carcinogenic and can apparently cause kidney atrophy. So I hope he never swallowed it. Fortunately, it tastes awful, or so I hear--I haven't tried it. Female European Large Whites (Pieris brassicae) are somewhat unpalatable and may be the basis of a loose mimicry ring. Larvae of the Large White are gregarious, inedible and smell like spoiled corned beef and cabbage."
According to Wikipedia, more than 1000 species of insects “are known to be eaten in 80 percent of the world’s nations.” Wikpedia lists some of the most popular insects as crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, ants, various beetle grubs (such as mealworms), the larvae of the darkling beetle, various speces of caterpillars, scorpions and tarantulas.
Barbara Allen-Diaz hasn't indicated which insect or insect larvae she will select, but oh, the choices!
But first...the bee promise!
The world's largest hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is huge.
Just how huge?
We photographed a two-inch specimen last week at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis. Among the insect musem's nearly eight million specimens is the giant hornet.
Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, placed a honey bee next to it for size comparison.
The news about this hornet is not good. The Chinese news agency Xinhua declared that the insect is wreaking havoc in northwestern China. Some 42 people have died from its stings since last July and some 1600 others have been injured.
"The problem with this particular hornet is that it's big, sort of thumb-sized, and it packs a lot of venom," Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology told National Geographic News.
"And its nests get fairly large, including maybe several hundred individuals. They are aggressive, they are predatory, and they have been known to kill and eat an entire colony of honey bees," she said.
The hornet destroy the entire colony within minutes.
As Kimsey says, this hornet is a predator and highly aggressive.
That would be Agraulis vanillae.
Visitors to the open house saw Gulf Frit eggs, caterpillars, chrysalids and adults.
UC Davis professor Christina Cogdell, who teaches art design and history, loaned some of her Gulf Frit population, as did Bohart volunteer Greg Kareofelas and yours truly. Fortunately, museum officials collected them on a sunny Friday because the Gulf Frits would not have been flying on rainy Saturday.
The Red Barn Nursery, Davis, loaned a potted passionflower vine, which the entomologists decorated with caterpillars. Tabatha Yang, public education coordinator and outreach coordinator, affixed a sign that read "How many caterpillars can you find?"
As one caterpillar crawled up the sign, Bohart Museum director Lynn Kimsey held up one finger, designating "One!"
As if on a cue, a caterpillar began pupating.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, UC Davis professor of evolution and ecology, stopped by. He had initially planned to go on a butterfly monitoring field trip, but rain dashed his plans.
All in all, it was a Gulf Frit kind of day, despite the downpour.
Seven more weekend open houses are planned throughout the 2013-2014 academic year. The next one, "Beauty and the Beetles," is set from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. The events are free and open to the public. All ages are welcome.
The museum houses nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a "live petting zoo" and a gift shop. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart founded the museum in 1946.
At the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 1 to 4 p.m., at the University of California, Davis, you'll see not one, but two, praying mantids.
And very much alive.
Doctoral candidate Fran Keller collected one, and the other is the one I collected last Saturday when it was preying on a monarch butterfly. (When I lifted the struggling monarch from the lantana, the praying mantis came attached.)
That was five days ago. For her dining pleasure, I have offered "my" praying mantis one cabbage white butterfly, one skipper butterfly, five live crickets, and six wiggly mealworms. We know she is a "she" because she's quite pregnant. But ahem. Someone in my household (no names specified here to protect the guilty) thinks the terrarium she occupies is a "torture chamber." When I popped in a cabbage white butterfly, Mrs. Praying Mantis and Mrs. Cabbage White Butterfly slept side-by-side all night, an inch apart, and then the next morning, Mrs. Praying Mantis ate her.
She left only the wings.
Hey, as butterfly expert Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, says: "A praying mantis has to eat, too."
Now Mrs. Praying Mantis is renting quarters, having bed and breakfast, at the Bohart Museum. I assume she is quite happy with her surroundings and is quite pleased with her menu, which I'm sure includes cabbage whites (pests).
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum, assures me that Mrs. P.M. (that could stand for Pest Management!) cannot fly even if she wanted to. "She's too heavy," she said.
There's a twig in her terrarium for Mrs. P.M. to lay her eggs--if she so desires. I'm not sure she desires.
But, back to the open house. Theme of the open house (free and open to the public), is "Live at the Bohart!" And that includes Mrs. Praying Mantis, aka Mrs. P.M. The venue: Room 1124 of thee Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, formerly California Drive. Although the Bohart houses nearly eight million insect specimens from around the world, it also has a "live" petting zoo that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, a rose-haired tarantula and an elusive jumping spider (that came in as a visitor on a bouquet of roses and subsequently became a permanent resident) and a “Harry Potter bug” (which is an amblypygid commonly known as a whip spider or tailless whip scorpion).
The real attractions this Saturday, however, will be cabbage white butterflies and Gulf Fritillary butterflies: museum officials will tell you how to rear them.
I imagine Mrs. Praying Mantis will concentrate quite heavily on the movements of the cabbage white butterflies and the Gulf Fritillaries.
Waiter! Will you hurry, please? I'm hungry.
It happened so quickly.
The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) fluttered to the lantana for a sip of nectar when the unexpected happened.
A praying mantis, lying in wait, leaped high and grabbed it by its wings.
Unable to fly, the monarch struggled to right itself. The praying mantis kept its viselike grip.
At the time, I was focusing on the butterfly and didn't see the predator. When I saw the butterfly struggling, I walked over to it and lifted it out of the lantana, only to find a praying mantis attached to it.
The butterfly did not make it. The praying mantis, a female about to lay eggs, did. She will be shown at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 1 to 4 p.m. and then released.
Theme of the Bohart open house is "Live at the Bohart!" Live? That's because the open house will feature live insects, such as cabbage white and Gulf Fritillary butterflies, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, a rose-haired tarantula and a “Harry Potter bug,” which is an amblypygid commonly known as a whip spider or tailless whip scorpion.
The Bohart, located on the UC Davis campus in Room 1124 of Academic Surge on Crocker Lane, formerly California Drive, is home to nearly eight million insect specimens, collected throughout the world.
At the open house, museum officials will tell you how to rear a cabbage white butterfly and other butterflies, such as Gulf Fritllaries. You can talk insects with director Lynn Kimsey; senior museum scientist Steve Heydon; public education/outreach coordinator Tabatha Yang, and others. The gift shop will be open for the purchase of t-shirts, jewelry, posters, books, insect nets and other items.
As for the praying mantis, on Saturday she will be freed to catch more prey.
Let's hope it is a cabbage white instead of a monarch./span>