How much do you know about moths? Do you know the difference between a moth and a butterfly? Have you ever seen some of the world's largest moths, such as the Atlas moth? Have you ever collected noctuid moths on your front porch light?
In keeping with "International Moth Week, Exploring Nighttime Nature (July 23-31)," the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, will celebrate moths at its evening open house from 8 to 11 p.m., Saturday, July 30. The theme, appropriately enough, is "Celebrate Moths!"
And that's exactly what will happen! It promises to be informative, educational and fun!
Activities, free and open to the public, will take place inside the museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, and outside the building, where black lighting will be set up to observe and collect moths and other insects.
Entomology graduate student Jessica Gillung will participate, "so there will be an entomologist fluent in Spanish and Portuguese on site," said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. In addition to her fluency in English, Spanish and Portuguese, the multilingual Gillung speaks a little German.
A fourth-year graduate student, Gillung studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology. Gillung is a member of the reigning championship Linnaean Games team, the UC Davis graduate student team that won the national championship last fall at the Entomological Society of America meeting in Minneapolis. The Linnaean Games is a college-bowl type competition in which student teams answer questions about insects and entomologists. The 2015 questions included "What is the smallest insect that is not a parasite or parasitoid?” (Answer at the end of this blog.)
At Moth Night, visitors are invited to view the Bohart Museum's vast collection of worldwide moth specimens and participate in family friendly craft activities featuring a moth motif. Scientists will explain how to differentiate a moth from a butterfly. Free hot chocolate will be served.
Moths continue to attract the attention of the entomological world and other curious persons. Scientists estimate that there may be more than 500,000 moth species in the world. They range in size from a pinhead to as large as an adult's hand. Most moths are nocturnal, but some fly during the day, as butterflies do. Finding moths can be as “be as simple as leaving a porch light on and checking it after dark,” according to International Moth Week officials. “Serious moth aficionados use special lights and baits to attract them.”
The Bohart Museum is a world-renowned insect museum that houses a global collection of nearly 8 million specimens. It also maintains a live “petting zoo,” featuring walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches and tarantulas. A gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free. More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: Answer to the Linnaean Games question: "What is the smallest insect that is not a parasite or parasitoid?" If you guessed, "Beetles in the family Ptiliidae," you're right!)
Umm, does California have a state insect? The Monarch? The Western Tiger Swallowtail? The Red Admiral? Wait, isn't this National Pollinator Week? Should I know what the state insect is?
Yes, it is National Pollinator Week. And yes, it's a good time to appreciate the state's designated insect--not just for "Insect of the Week" or "Insect of the Year" but for what it is--a fascinating but quite obscure butterfly that's rarely spotlighted.
That's why we were delighted to see the California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice) get some well-deserved attention when Capital Public Radio (CPR) headed off to Auburn last Friday to see the butterfly's major breeding ground. It's at a well hidden, publicly inaccessible site on Placer Land Trust.
The butterfly is also known as the California doghead butterfly and the flying pansy, referring to the male's black and yellow coloring. The female is mostly solid yellow.
Bohart Museum of Entomology associate Greg Kareofelas, a volunteer tour guide for the Placer Land Trust butterfly site for the past three years, is quoted in Bob Moffitt's CPR piece on "Placer County — A Popular Hideout For Rarely Seen Dogface Butterfly,” published last Sunday. Access http://www.capradio.org/articles/2016/06/19/placer-county-popular-hideout-for-rarely-seen-dogface-butterfly/
The butterfly is there because its larval host plant--false indigo (Amorpha californica)--is there. Justin Wages, land manager of the Placer Land Trust, which owns or manages 8,000 acres, says the plant is difficult to grow outside this habitat.
It was also a surprise to see so many dogface butterflies in the space of two hours last Friday. "It's a very good year when I see three dogface butterflies in a single year," Kareofelas said. "They're elusive and hard to see. Last Friday we saw about 10 females and 50 or 75 males."
Kareofelas knows butterflies and he knows the dogface butterfly. To say he's made major contributions to the understanding of the state insect would be an understatement. At his home in Davis, he's reared--and photographed--a dogface butterfly from egg to adult. He's grown the false indigo. His photographs of the female and male appear on a poster that he and entomologist Fran Keller created at the Bohart Museum. His images also appear in a 35-page children's book, "The Story of the Dogface Butterfly," written by Keller with illustrations by then UC Davis student Laine Bauer. Both the poster and the book are available for sale at the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on the UC Davis campus. Net proceeds benefit the insect museum's education, outreach and research programs.
The book tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly, and how schoolchildren became involved in convincing the State Legislature to select the colorful butterfly as the state insect. Bauer's illustrations depict the life cycle of this butterfly. As part of their research, Keller, Kareofelas and Bauer visited the Placer Land Trust habitat of the butterfly. And Kareofelas reared that elusive butterfly.
As for the book, “There are also ecology, life cycle, taxonomy and conservation issues presented that are relevant to grades K-6 that can be used in classroom curriculum,” Keller earlier told us. It also includes a glossary.
The butterfly, so named because of a poodle-like silhouette on the wings of the male, was adopted as the official California insect on July 28, 1972, but entomologists had selected it as the state insect as early as 1929. Their choice appears in the California Blue Book, published by the State Legislature in 1929. (Read more on how the butterfly became the state insect under the Ronald Reagan administration.)
Sometimes the red flameskimmer dragonfly (Libellula saturata) will let you approach it.
Sometimes it's having a bad hair day or a bad predator/prey day or a just-leave-me-alone day and won't let you near it.
This one (below) let me approach it. "Hey," I told my new flame, "I'm not going to hurt you. I promise not to poke you, prod you or pin you. I just want to photograph you."
Of course it helps if you have:
- a fish pond or another body of water in your yard (check!)
- bamboo stakes to perch on (check!)
- a supermarket (aka pollinator garden) filled with bees, flies and other delicious insects (check!)
It also helps if you don't act like a predator. Don't go barging toward it as if you're going to take a selfie or charge toward it carrying a big stick (or tripod).
"When I was a kid, I used to call that dragonfly the 'Radio Antenna dragonfly' because when I was a kid, all cars had radio antenna and this dragonfly like to land on it," said Bohart Museum of Entomology associate and naturalist Greg Kareofelas, who takes incredible images of dragonflies, butterflies and other insects. (See his work on posters at the Bohart Museum, available for purchase.) "I now have a couple of sticks, in the back yard here (in Davis) and they function the same way and the dragonfly likes to perch on them."
Agreed! Every garden should have a few bamboo stakes drilled into the ground--perfect for perching.
They're everywhere. They're zigzagging around your yard, bumping into walls and windows, landing on your screen door and fence, and clustering on your porch lights, all the while searching for mates. They're in your garden, home and garage. They're in your office. They're in your car. They're everywhere.
There are tons of these spring insects this year. Why so many?
"Perhaps because of the previous years of drought, followed by good rainfall this winter, we have had a remarkable emergence of crane flies in the Central Valley, with unusually large numbers emerging over the past month or so," says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Writing in the current edition of the Bohart Museum Society newsletter, Kimsey says that they're often falsely called mosquito hawks or mosquito eaters, but they don't eat mosquitoes. "In fact, adult crane flies generally don't eat at all," she points out. "Their entire brief adult lives are spent searching for mates and laying eggs."
With their long, stilt-like legs dangling, they look goofy when they fly. In fact, they're nicknamed "daddy long legs." They're not to be confused with arachnids; crane flies are members of the family Tipulidae of the order Diptera (flies).
Crane fly larvae, known commonly as leatherjackets, eat algae, microflora, and living or decomposing plant matter. Who knows--as larvae they may also scoop up a few mosquito eggs if they're in their habitat.
Adults are short lived and "generally live only a few days," Kimsey says.
Yes, and some of them may live only a matter of hours or minutes--especially when they're snared in a spider web.
That's what will happen on Thursday, April 28 during the annual "Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work" day at the University of California, Davis.
The UC Davis event, nicknamed TODS Day, coincides with the national workplace celebration, a day when employers spring open their doors to the offspring of their employees.
"Kids will have the opportunity to see how our UC Davis community functions, instructs, learns and grows," a spokesperson said.
Insects? Not to worry. Yes, there will be insects. The Department of Entomology and Nematology is planning special activities at its Bohart Museum of Entomology and at its bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo," is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. The half-acre bee garden is located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
"The haven will have activities for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day from 11:30 to 1:30," reports Christine Casey, staff director of the haven. "Learn how to safely catch and observe bees, learn about bee diversity, and have your lunch in our picnic area."
Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at the Bohart Museum, says the Bohart will be open to TODS participants in the afternoon from 2 to 5. Education interns from EDU 142, an environmental education class, will provide insect life cycle activities. Visitors can hold and photograph the critters in the pettzing zoo, including walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches and rose-haired tarantulas.
Among the many things to do:
- Make pottery and grind acorns with the Anthropology department.
- Experience what it's like to work in agriculture and plant some vegetables to bring home.
- Enjoy a reprise of the famous Picnic Day Chemistry Show.
- Meet the UC Davis dairy cows.
- Listen and dance to Band-Uh and explore the “Instrument Zoo.”
- Explore Chinese culture with Chinese crafts and food at the Confucius Institute.
- Visit feathered friends at the Raptor Center.
- Taste honey and see how wine is made at the Robert Mondavi Wine and Food Science Center.
- Enjoy a “Walk in the Woods with Chemistry.”
- Check out the famous double-decker buses and see UC Davis keeps them running.
- Get a peek at animal skins, nests, eggs, and skeletons collected by scientists/explorers from creatures around the world at the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology.
- Discover plants from the world's deserts and tropical forests, some which are carnivorous!
- Sound the police siren and spray the fire hose at the police and fire atations.
- See what it's like to be an Aggie football player and experience the stadium from inside-out.
- Check out the tiny world of plants and animals through the eyes of a microscope .
- Explore the backstage of the Mondavi Center for Performing Arts.
- Explore the artifacts, bones, stones and pottery at the Archaeology Lab.
Educational. Informative. Entertaining. And there's an added bonus: It's an opportunity for youngsters to envision their own future.