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>
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."