Quick, what's the state insect of South Dakota?
If you answered "the European honey bee," you're right. The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is also the state insect of 16 other states: Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
We call "our" honey bee the European or western honey bee because it's non-native. European colonists brought it to this country in 1622 to what is now Jameston, Va. Surprisingly, however, Virginia's state insect is not the honey bee, but the tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus).
California, too, has a non-bee state insect, even though this little agricultural worker arrived here in 1853. The Golden State's choice? The beautiful California dogface butterfly (Zerene Eurydice), a native. California is one of 27 states heralding the butterfly as its state insect. (Not all states have state insects, and some states have more than one. See Wikipedia.)
If you visit the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis campus, at its pre-Halloween open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, you'll see a wall map of the United States with a colorful image of each state insect.
The museum, home of more than seven million insect specimens, is located in 1124 Academic Surge on Crocker Lane (formerly California Drive).
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis, encourages all to wear Halloween costumes. Last year many wore bee and ladybug costumes. Some painted their faces with a butterfly motif.
There will be plenty to see and do. There's even a live "petting zoo" (think Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and a rose-haired tarantula).
If you're unable to attend the open house Saturday, be aware that you can visit the Bohart Museum from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. It's closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission? Free.
The gift shop holds assorted treasures, including t-shirts, jewelry, insect-themed candy, and posters of the California dogface butterfly and dragonflies.
The "boo"--in the way of costumes and decorations--is traditional. The hiss? That's the sound emanating from the Madagascar hissing cockroaches, aka "hissers."
This all will happen from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Bohart Museum on the UC Davis campus. The museum is located in Room 1124 of Academic Surge, Crocker Lane (formerly California Drive).
The event is free and open to the public. Wear a Halloween costume! Ghouls just love to have fun---but so do ghosts and goblins.
The theme, "Insects and Death," focuses on forensic entomology. UC Davis forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the Department of Entomology will be on hand to answer questions about insects as decomposers, and why they’re important.
Bohart Museum officials also will correct myths about “deadly” insects and “creepy crawlers.”
“House flies and mosquitoes cause more human deaths than all other insects combined,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
In addition to the hissers, other live attractions at the open house will be walking sticks and a rose-haired tarantula.
Carved pumpkins, with an insect motif, will decorate the museum.
Over at the gift shop, you can purchase jewelry, T-shirts, sweatshirts, posters, and "entomological" candy. Especially popular around Halloween are scorpion-themed lollipops, chocolate-covered insects and flavored mealworms.
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), is the home of more than seven million insect specimens. More information is available on the Bohart website at or by contacting Tabatha Yang at email@example.com or (530) 752-0493.
If you're trying to rear some Gulf Fritillary caterpillars on your passion flower vine, but the caterpillars seem to be doing a disappearing act, check the leaves.
You might find some assassin bug nymphs.
They look like little cartoon characters as they prowl the leaves, looking for prey.
That prey includes caterpillars.
These assassin bug nymphs, as identified by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, are memorable. The nymphs (family Reduviidae and genus Zelus) on our Passiflora have beady eyes, narrow necks, needlelike beaks, long legs, and I swear, a perennial quizzical look. They're beneficial insects when they eat leafhoppers, aphids and other pests. They're good to have in your garden.
They're not so beneficial when they eat other beneficial insects like lacewings.
Or, when they eat the larvae stages of Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae)--if you're trying to rear a few of these beautiful reddish-orange butterflies.
We've seen adult assassin bugs grab spotted cucumber beetles, inject a lethal saliva, and then suck their bodily fluids with their long feeding tube (rostrum).
We haven't seen one actually prey on a Gulf Frit caterpillar, though.
The folks at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis,call them "jungle gems."
And "gems" they are.
They were recently featured at a Bohart Museum open house.
A sign next to them read: "They pollinate orchids. They also probably have the best memory of any insect. The males memorize the location of all the orchid plants in their patch of forest and visit them periodically during the day."
The "jungle gems" are just a few of the treasures that visitors can see at the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of Academic Surge. The building is on Crocker Avenue (formerly California Avenue). The nearest intersection is LaRue Road.
The Bohart houses a global collection of more than seven million insect specimens and 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.
The Bohart is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. It is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
To allow more visitors to attend, the museum holds a weekend open house once a month. The next weekend open house is set from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27. The theme, in keeping with Halloween, is "Insects of Death."
Stay tuned on what's planned!
Oh, the life of a praying mantis...
You can hang upside down like an acrobat, shading yourself from the sun while waiting for prey and avoiding predators. You can crawl beneath dense leaves, the better to ambush, snatch and eat an unsuspecting bee. And you can mate with a fine-looking specimen like yourself and produce some more fine-looking specimens.
Life doesn't get any better than this if you're a praying mantis. (Unless, of course, you're a male mantid and the female practices sexual cannibalism. Or, if you're a newly emerged offspring and your brothers and sisters are feasting on one another and then...eyeing you.)
Finding praying mantids is not so easy. Sometimes the slightest movement in the leaves will reveal their location. Sometimes when you water a plant, they'll emerge, looking quite irritated--if mantids can look irritated. Other times they're blatantly perched on top of a blossom or lurking beneath it.
Up until recently, we'd never actually seen them mating. But there they were that warm midsummer day on Sept. 17 in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven doing just that. See, the praying mantids like to hang out in the bee garden because that's where the bees are. The half-acre garden is located next to bee research hives at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
Ah, we thought, a "lover-ly" photo to add to the educational collection of Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
So, we took a few photos, being careful not to interrupt them.
If this were a documentary being filmed about the birds 'n the bees, can't you just hear it? The Cole Porter hit, "Let's Do It," softly playing in the background:
...And that's why birds do it
Bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love.
All the while, the Cleveland or blue sage (Clevelandi salvia) stirs with life. A hummingbird, honey bees and carpenter bees drop down to investigate the blossoms and sip a little nectar. A garden spider patrols its sticky web. A scared lizard darts into the shadows.
Ants lumber by with their heavy loads. No sign of any "educated fleas," though.