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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 752-0493.
You'll not only see honey bees in a bee observation hive, but specimens of bumble bees, cuckoo bees, carpenter bees, long-horned bees, squash bees, plasterer bees, mining bees, leafcutter bees, wool carder bees and sweat bees.
The exhibit is in the Southard Floriculture Building on the May Fair grounds, located at 655 S. First St., Dixon.
Participating are the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility and the Bohart Museum of Entomology, both part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology; and the newly formed UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, headquartered at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.
Beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton, owner of BD Ranch and Apiary and a volunteer at the Laidlaw facility for several years, is providing the bee observation hive, a glassed-in box that enables viewers to observe the activity that goes on inside a bee hive.
Fishback, a past president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers' Association and member of the California State Beekeepers' Association, is an educator as well as a beekeeper. He speaks about bees at schools, organizations and festivals. His daughter, Emily, 2, accompanies him on many of his talks.
“Emily loves bees,” said Fishback, who keeps 125 hives on his property in Wilton. She knows that a bee has six legs, four wings and five eyes, and that each bee has three body parts: the head, thorax and abdomen. She knows that a honey bee eats pollen and nectar, pollinates flowers and makes honey.”
UC Davis graduate students, including squash bee expert Katharina Ullmann and area beekeepers (among them Jesse Loren of Winters and Lindsay Weaver of Sacramento) will be available during part of the fair (weekend) to share their experiences with fairgoers.
Children attending the Dixon May Fair on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 12 can make a "Honey Bee on a Stick," an arts and crafts project that doubles as a hand-held fan and puppet. Executive director Amina Harris of the Honey and Pollination Center, an area beekeeper and a former school teacher, will help the children create the take-home art. The free activity is from from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Southard Floriculture Building. Harris crafts the bee art using a yellow paper plate, duct tape, googly eyes, a stick, and pipe cleaners (for antennae).
The Dixon May Fair's floriculture building, staffed by superintendent Kathy Hicks of Dixon, includes stunning garden displays and a myriad of plants and cut flowers. It is open from 4 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
From toe biters to flame skimmers...
That's what visitors will see on "Aquatic Insect Day" on Sunday, March 24 at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis.
Toe biters (giant water bugs) and flame skimmers (dragonflies) are just some some of the aquatic insects to be featured at the open house from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 Academic Surge, Crocker Lane. The event is free and open to the public.
The toe biters belong to the Belostomatidae family of insects in the order Hemiptera. The largest insects in the order, they are found in freshwater streams and ponds throughout much of the world. In some Asian countries, the giant water bugs are considered a delicacy. The Belostomatids are unique in that the female lays her eggs on the back or wings of a male; the male carries the eggs until they hatch.
The flame skimmers belong to the family Libellulidae and are native to western North America. The red flame skimmer (Libellula saturata) is common in California. The immature flame skimmers or nymphs inhabit warm ponds and streams and feed on the larvae of mosquitoes, aquatic flies and mayflies, as well as on freshwater shrimp, small fish, and tadpoles. You'll often see the adults gliding through the air, catching moths, syrphid flies and bees.
Bohart Museum personnel also will pull out the fly-fisher drawers containing caddisflies, mayflies and stoneflies, said Tabatha Yang, Bohart Museum education and outreach coordinator.
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. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946.
Visitors can hold such live insects as Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks, and buy gifts at the gift shop, which is filled with t-shirts, jewelry, insect nets, posters and books, including the newly published children’s book about the California dogface butterfly, the state insect. The 35-page 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 is geared toward kindergarteners through sixth graders. Naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, a volunteer at the Bohart, provided photos.
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 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 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 remainder of the open houses for the academic year:
Saturday, April 20: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Theme: UC Davis Picnic Day
Saturday, May 11, 1 to 4 p.m.
Theme: "Moth-er's Day"
Sunday, June 9, 1 to 4 p.m.
Theme: "How to Find Insects"
For more information, contact Yang at email@example.com or (530) 752-0493.
So begins Matan Shelomi, Ph.D. candidate in entomology at the University of California, Davis, in a creative video posted on the popular PHD TV website.
It's a compelling site that showcases the work of Ph.D students. In this case, Shelomi is allocated two minutes to describe his work--why he studies walking sticks. There aren't that many doctoral candidates who can describe their thesis in two minutes--and so engagingly!
What's PHD TV all about? As its website says, it "aims to illustrate and communicate the ideas, stories and personalities of researchers, scientists and scholars worldwide in creative, compelling and truthful ways. We believe there is a gap between scientists and academics and how the public perceives what they do and who they are."
Shelomi, who received his bachelor's degree in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University, studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
One of the top writers on the Quora site, Shelomi won a Shorty award last year for his answer to an insect question. He's also engaged in unusual research, such as "Cutting Bergmann's Rule Down to Size" and taking a poke at Pokémon (with two other entomologists).
In his PHD TV piece, titled "The Wild World of Insect Digestion," Shelomi explains why "you should go with your gut" and "follow your heart."
The video is so incredible that when when you finish watching it, you may just want to join Shelomi in studying walking sticks.
Or at least check out the stick insects walking around in the Bohart Museum...