If you're rearing a bed bug colony, they need blood. Yours, if you don't mind.
Someone else's, if there's no one else around.
A big draw at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's recent open house, "Parasite Palooza," was a bed-bug feeding demonstration, featuring bed bugs from a UC Davis-reared colony.
When it was feeding time for the parasitic insects, Cimex lectularius, two scientists stepped forth and offered their arms in the name of science.
Charlotte Herbert, who is studying for her doctorate in entomology, volunteered to be the first "blood donor." Next to step up was nematologist/parasitologist Lauren Camp, who received her doctorate last December at UC Davis.
The particulars: Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart, handed each scientist a bed bug enclosed in fine netting. The netting proved fine enough to prevent escape, but large enough to allow feeding.
"We don't want any escapees," Yang said.
The insects originated from the parent colony of UC Davis entomology graduate Danielle Wishon, now a forensic investigator for the Sacramento Police Department. She began rearing them several years ago, intending to do research. Later she gave some of her bed bugs to UC Davis researcher Jenella Loye of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who in turn loaned some to the Bohart Museum for its "Parasitic Palooza: Botflies, Fleas and Mites, Oh, My."
Wishon says it's fairly easy to rear bed bugs. "If you want a fast growing colony, you can feed them once a week. When I was very actively feeding them, I chose to feed them once or twice a month so the colony didn't get too big too fast. I've gone as much as six months without feeding them, and they repopulated just fine. I started this colony several years back, but I would occasionally add individuals I find on mattresses discarded by UC Davis students during the great fall quarter move."
Wishon acknowledged that in the past, she 'sub-let' feeding responsibilities to forensic entomologist Bob Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty and to entomology student/Bohart associate Wade Spencer. "Hey, they offered!" she said.
Has Wishon ever encountered bed bugs in a hotel room?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): "Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation."
"Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep," the CDC points out on its website. "These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep."
Bed bugs are not known to spread disease, according to the CDC. However, excessive scratching can "sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection."
Wishon noted that some people experience a "pretty negative reaction to the saliva--flu-like symptoms if I remember correctly. That's really the reason I want to keep feeding a colony even though I am not going to be doing research on them anytime soon--most of the older researchers I know who once fed a colony but stopped, or who traveled to countries where they were common and were exposed regularly but then moved back, and were exposed to them many years later, seem to develop hyper sensitivity to bed bug saliva. This could be completely anecdotal and coincidental, but I've heard this familiar story enough times to want to error on the side of caution and continue feeding without years of breaking. I don't want to develop a negative reaction to exposure."
Both Camp and Herbert said they basically didn't feel much of anything when the bed bugs began feeding. Here's why: "When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten," according to the CDC. "Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea -- a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites."
Any reactions? "It took a while, but I did react to the bed bug bites," Camp said. "On the third day (Jan. 25), I saw raised red marks on my right arm, that were a bit itchy. Guess it took me three days to react."
Said Herbert: "I had a very small red mark where it bit, but no lasting marks or feelings. I felt it bite, but just barely. However, I have had bed bugs before while visiting my grandparents in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the bites were pretty terrible! I was itchy and thrashed all night, I didn't realize what was happening until the morning when I was covered in little bite marks and we found the bed bugs on the edges of the mattress. They looked very well fed!
No wonder folks say: "Good night! Sleep tight! And don't let the bed bugs bite."
UC Davis nematologist/parasitologist Lauren Camp gets asked that a lot.
In one word: "Worms."
Her display table last Sunday, Jan. 22 at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's "Parasite Palooza" open house drew dozens of fascinated visitors of all ages.
“Nematodes are an amazing phylum of organisms--they exist in almost every known environment on the planet, and different species eat everything from bacteria and fungi to plant and animal tissue," said Camp, who received her doctorate from UC Davis last December, studying with nematologist Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"I find parasites particularly fascinating, because they are dependent on another organism (or organisms) for part or all of their life cycle."
Camp staffed the table from 1 to 4 p.m., enthusiastically answering all kinds of questions and talking about her displays, which included nematodes from the stomach of a Minke whale (specimen from the California Academy of Sciences), the heart of a dog (pointer) infected with heartworm, and a tomato plant with nematode-damaged roots.
"I got a lot of That's gross! and That's cool!" Camp recalled. "People were amazed by the whale stomach worms. Many were saddened by the dog heart infected with heartworm, but understood the importance of giving their dogs medication for heartworm."
Regarding heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) in dogs, Camp pointed out that the parasite is transmitted to dogs through mosquito bites, and more than 70 mosquito species can transmit it. Dirofilaria immitis is distributed across the United States, although its prevalence is higher in some U.S. regions, she said. A good resource? Check out https://www.capcvet.org/capc-recommendations/canine-heartworm/, a website that also includes maps of prevalence in the U.S. from 2011 and 2012.
The tomato plant, infected with Meloidogyne incognita, came from postdoctoral fellow Rasa Cepulyte-Rakauskiene of the Valerie Williamson lab, UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology. "Meloidogyne species
Camp, who hails from rural northern Indiana, first became interested in parasites as an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago, where she received her bachelor's degree in biology in 2005. She went on to earn her master's degree in biology from Wake Forest University in 2007. "My specific interest in nematode parasites developed when I read some of Dr. Nadler's work on the evolutionary relationships of nematodes for an invertebrate biology class. Her career plans: a researcher in infectious diseases or genetics/genomics or as a science communicator.
Meanwhile, if you missed Camp's presentation at the Bohart Museum open house, not to worry. She's booked one more presentation this month and nematologists will table an event at the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day.
Science Night Live Program: Camp will speak on "Nematode Need-to-Know: Roundworms Are All Around You” at the Science Night Live Program at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 1 at the World of Wonders (WOW) Science Museum, 2 North Sacramento St., Lodi. The two-hour event is billed as a “conversation with the parasitologist.” She will display nematodes ranging in size from less than one millimeter to eight meters long, or 30 feet.
UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day. Nematologists Corwin Irwin and Chris Pagan, both graduate students, will discuss and show nematodes from noon to 4 p.m. in the Sciences Lab Building, UC Davis campus. This will be a part of 12 collections on display throughout the campus. The event, open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (some collections are open from 9 to noon, and some from 1 to 4 p.m.) will "showcase natural history, biodiversity and the cultural-ecological interface," according to Biodiversity Museum Day coordinator Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (See Bug Squad blog)
Camp also appeared Sunday, Jan. 22 on Good Day Sacramento's "Parasite Palooza" show with entomologist Jeff Smith, curator of the moth and butterfly specimens at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. They shared and showed specimens and live insects. Camp mentioned a 30-foot-long whale nematode. (See http://gooddaysacramento.cbslocal.com/video/category/spoken-word-good-day/3610653-parasite-palooza/) She also spoke Feb. 1 to Capital Public Radio. See http://www.capradio.org/88726.
"It's fun to talk about nematodes with the public," she said.
Did you read the abstract published Jan. 17 in the journal ZooKeys about the newly discovered and named moth, Neopalpa donaldtrumpi?
No? Well, you probably read the news story. It went viral.
Somewhat overlooked was the role that scientists at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, played. The tiny moth was part of a desert insect collection that the UC Davis researchers loaned to evolutionary biologist and systematist Vazrick Nazari of Canada.
In sifting and sorting through the Bohart specimens, the brightly colored miniscule moth drew Nazari's attention. A new species! The yellow scales on the tiny moth's head reminded him of President-Elect Donald Trump's hairstyle.
Like a moth to a flame, Nazari decided on a name: Neopalpa donaldtrumpi.
Species: N. donaldtrumpi
“The reason for this choice of name is to bring wider public attention to the need to continue protecting fragile habitats in the U.S. that still contain many undescribed species,” Nazari wrote in ZooKeys.
Bohart Museum associate/research entomologist Thomas "Tom" Zavortink and colleagues collected the tiny moth with the orange-yellow and brown wings in the Algodones Dunes, bordering Arizona and the Mexican state of Baja California. Tiny? It has a wingspan of less than one centimeter.
"We surveyed the insects of the Algodones Dunes for more than six years with a contract from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management," Kimsey said. "It was a really fun/interesting project. We collected nearly 2,000 species of insects from about 200 square mile of 'sand.' Six percent were new to science. The moth was collected in a Malaise trap in one of the washes on the east side of the dunes."
As for Zavortink, he's been a Bohart Museum associate since 2001. He's a former professor and chair of the University of Francisco Department of Biology. His career also includes research entomologist with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington, D.C. He holds a doctorate in zoology from UCLA, where he also received his master's degree.
Zavortink is known for his mosquito identification for vector/mosquito control districts, California Department of Public Health, Latin American culicidologists and professional colleagues, and his bee identification for professional colleagues. He completed and published a survey of the bees of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, Imperial County, for the Bureau of Land Management.
One of the bees he's researched is the European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum), discovered in New York in 1963 and in California in 2007. (See Bug Squad.)
Naming critters for people--from citizens to celebrities to presidents to other public figures--isn't new. President Barack Obama has nine species named for him (more than any other president). His namesakes include a long-legged, resourceful Northern California spider, Aptostichus barackobamai, and a colorful spangled darner, a perchlike fish, Etheostoma obama.
Having your name associated with a new species is considered an honor, scientists say. It's a permanent legacy, unlike the names of many streets, schools, other buildings, and parks, which can be subject to removal.
But here's a good thing: if you're interested in naming an insect for you or a loved one, the Bohart Museum offers a biolegacy program. For a sponsorship of $2000 (which helps fund the museum's research program), you can select a species for naming, and receive a framed photo and documentation (publication).
The Bohart Museum scientists describe as many as 15 new species annually, and their associates, "many more," Kimsey says. "We could use your help with the selection of new species names in the course of our research."
How much do you know about nematodes?
What would you like to know?
You'll be able to learn more about both, plus fleas, mites, lice, bed bugs, botflies and other critters, when the Bohart Museum of Entomology of UC Davis hosts an open house on “Parasite Palooza: Botflies, Fleas and Mites, Oh, My” from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 22 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane.
It's free and open to the public. You can meet scientists one-on-one and ask questions.
Senior public health biologist Mike Niemala of the California Department of Public Health will participate in the three-hour open house, discussing ticks and other health issues, and handing out fliers and brochures. He received his master of science degree from UC Davis.
What are nematodes? That's a question often asked of nematologists.
"Nematodes are a large group (phylum) of roundworms," Camp said. "Most nematodes are not parasites, but people may be familiar with some of the parasitic species. Some well-known nematode parasites of humans are pinworm, Ascaris, hookworm, and guinea worm. Dogs and cats can also become infected with nematodes including heartworm, hookworm, or Toxocara."
Camp, who grew up in rural northern Indiana, received her bachelor's degree in biology in 2005 from the University of Chicago and her master's degree in biology in 2007 from Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C. As a UC Davis graduate student, she focused on the evolutionary relationships and genetic diversity of Baylisascaris procyonis, a nematode parasite of raccoons. Her career plans? Researcher in infectious diseases or genetics/genomics or a science communicator.
"I first became interested in parasites during my undergrad degree at the University of Chicago," Camp said. "My specific interest in nematode parasites developed when I read some of Dr. Nadler's work on the evolutionary relationships of nematodes for an invertebrate biology class. Nematodes are an amazing phylum of organisms- they exist in almost every known environment on the planet, and different species eat everything from bacteria and fungi to plant and animal tissue. I find parasites particularly fascinating, because they are dependent on another organism (or organisms) for part or all of their life cycle."
The Bohart Museum event is free and open to the public. For the family craft activity, attendees will attach stickers of parasites on origami paper hats.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is a world-renowned insect museum that houses a global collection of nearly eight 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's regular hours are 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 email@example.com.
Looking back at 2016, monarch butterflies reigned supreme--or at least they did in this Bug Squad blog!
Finding--and photographing--a tagged monarch butterfly (firstname.lastname@example.org A6083) in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif. on Labor Day, Sept. 5, highlighted the year. The migratory butterfly, a male, was part of a research project led by Washington State University entomologist David James, who maintains a network of Pacific Northwest citizen scientists who rear, tag and release monarchs (Danaus plexippus).
Turns out that Steve Johnson of Ashland, Ore., a member of the Southern Oregon Monarchs Advocates (SOMA), reared A6083. Johnson tagged and released the monarch in Ashland on Aug. 28, which means "that it flew 285 miles in 7 days or about 40.7 miles per day" to reach Vacaville on Sept. 5, James related.
Amazing! Amazing and serendipitous for several reasons: (1) I'd written a piece about James' research in October 2014, alerting readers to watch for tagged monarchs (and never expecting to see or photograph a WSU-tagged butterfly in our own backyard) (2) WSU is my alma mater, and (3) our family rears monarchs as a small-scale conservation project to help the declining monarch population.
Our pollinator garden caters to bees and butterflies. For the monarchs, we provide four species of milkweed, ranging from narrow-leaf to broadleaf, and grow such nectar-producing plants as Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) to butterfly bush (Buddleia), and Lantana.
This year our monarch-rearing season proved quite lengthy; it crept into winter. Monarchs continued to lay their eggs throughout November, with chrysalids forming in December. Today the reared-and-released tally is 62 and counting...counting because No. 63 eclosed Dec. 29 and has not yet been released, and No. 64 is still a chrysalis.
"Monarch Moms" and "Monarch Dads" and "Monarch Kids" differ in their rearing activities, but the concept is the same: protect them from predators and parasites. Otherwise about 97 percent of the eggs never complete the cycle of egg, caterpillar, and chrysalis to adult. We rear our caterpillars indoors in a zippered, meshed butterfly habitat (purchased from the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis), but some laundry bags will suffice. We fill a heavy, flat-bottomed, narrow-necked tequila bottle with water and just add milkweed and 'cats. There they munch on milkweed, pupate, and eclose. The best part of rearing monarchs? Releasing them. The lift-off, the flutter of wings, and it's time to be a butterfly.
A look back at the WSU traveler and a view of the monarch life cycle that unfolded in our pollinator garden: