So, here I am, an Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) perched on a rose bush in Vacaville, Calif., as dawn breaks. I'm eating aphids and minding my own beetle business, which consists of gobbling aphids and more aphids. And more aphids. Did I say more aphids? More aphids.
Wait, what's that? Something is heading straight toward me, its wings are flapping like crazy. Hey, I was here first. Go away!
Whoa, what are you doing? You've landed and you're licking me. What do you think I am, a honey stick?
That's what happened during a backyard encounter with an Asian lady beetle and a large syrphid fly. The fly, identified by senior insect biosystematist Martin Hauser of the Plant Pest Diagnostic Branch, California Department of Food and Agriculture, is a female Scaeva pyrastri.
Hauser and Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, agreed that the syrphid fly is "going after honeydew on the beetle's head." Honeydew is a sugary, sticky liquid that aphids secrete when they're feeding on plant juices.
"The beetle was full of honeydew from feasting on aphids," Hauser noted, "and that is what the fly was after."
There's an old saying applicable to child-rearing: "First you give them roots, and then you give them wings."
Roots to ground them, to love them unconditionally. And wings for them to lift off and launch new beginnings.
Quote Investigator attributes the origin to newspaper editor Hodding Carter's book, "Where Main Street Meets the River," published in 1953. Carter credited a "wise woman" with saying that:
"A wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these she said is roots, the other, wings. And they can only be grown, these roots and these wings, in the home..."
But have you ever walked through a pollinator garden and been awestuck by the beauty of wings? The iridescence wings of a female Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta?
It was Sunday, May 21 and the feeding frenzy on our showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, was in full swing: it was a pushing, shoving and sipping match for the honey bees, carpenter bees, sweat bees, lady beetles, and syrphid flies.
But it was the wings--and wing venation--of a carpenter bee sparkling in the sunlight that caught our attention.
The wing venation "clearly shows a couple of characteristic features of Xylocopa wing venation: the long slender marginal cell and the 'boot-shaped'" second submarginal ('toe' pointing toward head end)," noted native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and co-author of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, also weighed in. "They are lovely. Not too many wasps or bees wings have this iridescence. That's an old lady by the way. Look how worn her wings are."
The LOL loved the showy milkweed. But she's the one that put on the show.
For the contest, Wilson performed a parody of "Billionaire" ("I Wanna Be a Billionaire") by Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars. She humorously titled it "I Wanna Be an Entomologist."
Watch and listen on YouTube.
Now it appears that the work of entomologists collecting insects in California may be in jeopardy...not to mention teachers in grades K-12 and in college.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, this week proclaimed California's proposed permit rules for insect-collecting as not only “onerous and obtrusive” but will “obstruct the scientific work of researchers and teachers.“
"They amount to a mind-boggling, data-clogging nightmare,” she said.
“This is a major deal for scientific teaching and research,” Kimsey emphasized. “Teachers who assign their students to make insect collections will now have to apply for a permit, and only eight persons are allowed on any one permit. Plus, they have to notify California Fish and Wildlife 48 hours in advance before they collect, and inform them what exactly they will be collecting. It doesn't matter what they're studying—cockroaches, wasps or corn earworms.”
“This will make it even more difficult to study or teach about insects in California,” she said, adding that “Today, California is the only state in the U.S. that requires collecting permits to collect any terrestrial invertebrates, insects, slugs, millipedes, spiders, etc. anywhere in the state, private property, parks, federal lands, cities even, if it's being done for scientific research or teaching in K-12 and college. Ironically, there are no permit requirements for amateur collectors who can collect as much as they want.”
“These requirements,” she said, “will make research and teaching on invertebrates, particularly insects so difficult that it might very well stop our training in entomology and drive researchers to work out of state.”
Kimsey, who received her doctorate in entomology at UC Davis, has directed the Bohart Museum of Entomology, since 1990. The seventh largest insect collection in North America, it houses nearly eight million insect specimens (terrestrial and fresh water arthropods) collected globally. The museum is also home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity of California's deserts, mountains, coast, and the Great Central Valley. Founded in 1946 by its namesake and noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) of UC Davis, the museum is dedicated to teaching, research and service.
In examining the proposed new rules for collecting insects, Kimsey cited seven crucial issues:
1. New Species. There may be as many as 100,000 species of terrestrial invertebrates in California and perhaps 6 percent are new to science. “This is far more species than we have the expertise in-state to identify,” she pointed out. “Sometimes it takes decades for someone to study a particular group. So it's impossible to give CDFW identifications much more detailed than Insecta for the permit paperwork.”
2. All Insects. These permit requirements apply whether “you're surveying the insects of a vernal pool or the distribution of dangerous invasive species, such as the yellow fever mosquito,” Kimsey said. “They also apply to the study of pest species, such as cockroaches and bedbugs.”
3. Bureaucracy. The required fees and detailed reports are onerous, obtrusive and seem to punish researchers and students studying and learning about insects, Kimsey declared. Permits take 6-8 weeks to be awarded and every time a change is needed, an emendation fee applies. “At UC Davis we are on the quarter system, which is 10 weeks. This means that a permit would be awarded by the time a class requiring students to make a collection is nearly over.”
4. Identification. “When we collect insects,” Kimsey explained, “we generally do not know what we've found until the material has been sorted, curated and identified to major group under the microscope--the vast majority of insects cannot be sight-identified and most are less than 1/4 inch long. This could take weeks and months. Specimens then need to be examined by experts who could be anywhere in the world.”
5. Chain of Custody. Every time the Bohart Museum of Entomology, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, ships specimens collected in California to an expert, “we would have to do CDFW chain-of-custody paperwork,” Kimsey said. “We take in an average of 30,000 specimens a year from university researchers and students. We loan up to 1,000 specimens a year to experts around the world. The paperwork would be crushing.”
6. Non-Target Insects. CDFW also requires permitees to account for by-catch, that is, non-target insects. “It's not clear if this includes insects collected on the radiator while driving in the study site,” she said.
7. Crime Scenes. Permits would also be required for the study of insects at crime scenes and any training that pertains to forensic entomology.
Kimsey said the simplest solution to this issue is “to simply remove terrestrial invertebrates from the permit requirements. But after the recent public meeting, that seems unlikely to happen.”
“We cannot see any benefit to the state in requiring permits for invertebrates when the information gained would be close to useless,” Kimsey declared. “California Wildlife and Wildlife informed us that the permit fees were necessary to cover the costs of dealing with the specimen data, but the data will not be useful and it would make much more sense to simply not cover terrestrial invertebrates.”
The entire data collection/permit process would result in a mind-boggling, data-clogging nightmare, she said. “If everyone in the state working on insects and teaching about them sent the specimen data to CDFW, they might be dealing with hundreds of thousands of data entries and thousands of reports annually, most of which would provide very little data. This amounts to an unfunded mandate, which will cost museums, scientists and teachers time and money. Museums would literally have to hire additional personnel to do the paperwork.”
Unfortunately, not many people were aware of the May 8 public hearing, but comments are continuing, although the department requested comments by 5 p.m., May 8, 2017, as outlined in the notice.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Regulations Unit - Scientific Collecting Permits
Attn: Ona Alminas, Environmental Scientist
1416 Ninth Street, Room 1342-A
Sacramento, CA 95814
Meanwhile, entomologists and other insect enthusiasts are weighing in this troubling issue on social media.
The comments include:
- "If California's bizarre new insect collecting regulations go through, it will effectively end entomology in that state."
- "This is absolutely horrific and pointless, I also wonder what the motivation is, who came up with this??"
- "Ironically, there are no permit requirements for amateur collectors who can collect as much as they want."
- "Will there be a special hot line? Hello? I would like to collect a cockroach this weekend. Ok you will need Form Pa111: permission to pick up and hold a cockroach; and Form Pa222: permission to detain a cockroach against its will!"
- "I love the fact that the permits are required only for scientific, educational, and non-commercial propagation purposes. So, if I wanted to collect butterflies to mount and sell, I could take as many as I wanted, no permit, notice, or paperwork required. But if I wanted to tag migratory butterflies and release them, I have to get a permit, give 48 hours notice, and maintain onerous amounts of paperwork."
- "I'm not a scientist and am only collecting these beautiful rare butterflies to feed to my frogs. No permit necessary." (said in jest)
- "We had to fill out more paperwork to collect and photograph common insects in Washington State National Forests than we did to study endangered invertebrates or endangered vertebrates!"
- "PA (Pennsylvania) was this way- for aquatic ecology we took a class field trip to get fishing permits to collect 'bait.'
It was a day for UC Davis employees to bring their offspring to campus to show what they and their peers do, and to interest them in career choices and opportunities.
The David and Sarah Trombly family (David works for UC Davis Utillties) were there with their three sons, Daniel, 5, Joshua, 4, and Joseph, 11 months. Joshua, the entomology fan in the Trombly family, exulted over the bugs, eagerly asking the Bohart scientists for identification. His smile widened each time he received an answer.
Amiyah Robinson, 8, was among the daughters who participated in TODS, joining her mother, Chelsy Robinson, who works in Human Resources. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology, introduced them to the fascinating world of insects.
Bohart associates and UC Davis students Emma Cluff and Wade Spencer showed jewels beetle specimens, and live insects--Madagascar hissing cockroaches ("hissers") and walking sticks--part of the museum's petting zoo. Cluff held a hisser in her hand while a walking stick crawled up her forehead.
Then it went from bugs to snakes! Amiyah walked down the hallway to the display provided by the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology. Owner Donnelly “Papaya” West of Papaya Pythons, Davis, was there for an educational presentation on snakes. Amiyah petted K'uychi, an 8-foot-long, 9-pound rainbow boa, Epicrates cenchria. True to its name, its colors resembled a rainbow in the sunlight.
Want to see more Bohart Museum insects? The Bohart is displaying 17 drawers of insect specimens at the 142nd annual Dixon May Fair, which opened Thursday, May 11 and continues through Sunday, May 14. The specimens are displayed all four days in the Floriculture Building. Scientists will be at the Floriculture Building on two afternoons: Friday, May 12 and Saturday, May 13 with the hissers and the sticks. Fairgoers will be invited to hold and photograph them. On Friday afternoon, an added attraction is Wade Spencer showing his scorpions, Hamilton and Celeste. Then on Saturday, entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly and moth display at the Bohart Museum, will discuss and show his insect specimens, gathered from many parts of the world. (See May 10 Bug Squad blog)
Hamilton will be at the 142nd annual Dixon May Fair on Friday, May 12.
Not the crowd-pleasing Broadway musical, but a crowd-pleasing scorpion named Hamilton, a resident of the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology. He's owned by Bohart Museum associate Wade Spencer, a UC Davis student majoring in entomology.
Spencer will be bringing Hamilton, as well as his scorpion named Celeste, to the Dixon May Fair's Floriculture Building on Friday afternoon for fairgoers to see and photograph (but not to hold; they're venomous).
Throughout the four-day fair, May 11-14, the Bohart Museum will be showcasing 17 drawers of "Oh My" insect specimens in the Floriculture Building. Scientists will be showing live critters and chatting with fairgoers on two days: Friday, May 12 (1 to 6 p.m.) and on Saturday, May 13 (noon to 5 p.m.)
The live critters? They're part of the Bohart Museum's popular "petting zoo," which includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks. Fairgoers can hold and photograph them.
On Saturday, May 13, entomologist and educator Jeff Smith, curator of the butterfly and moth specimens at the Bohart, will be bringing part of his global insect collection of specimens. He and other scientists also will staff the live petting zoo of Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks on Saturday.
Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator, said the 17 drawers of insect specimens spotlight bees, aquatic insects, camouflaged insects, phasmids/mantids, predators/parasitoids, sexual dimorphism, fly-fishing, entomophagy (consumption of insects and arachnids), common California insect pests, leg diversity (Harlequin beetle as center), wing diversity (moth-based), mimicry, orchid pollinators, Hemiptera/Odonata (think dragonflies), cockroaches, and butterflies.
The Bohart display is just one part of the scores of exhibits in the Floriculture Building, organized by superintendent Dave Hutson of Vacaville, a 10-year UC Master Gardener. Exhibits include colorful bee and butterfly motifs.
Elsewhere on the fairgrounds, exhibitors are showing other insect-themed work, such as the scorpion sculpture crafted by Roberto Ortiz of the Dixon FFA. It's displayed in the Youth Building.
Over in the Livestock Barn, you can see Buggy, owned by Sophia DeTomasi, 10, of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville. Buggy, however, is not an insect--it's a fine-looking 275-pound Berkshire hog that Sophia raised. The origin of the name? Sophia's family fondly calls her "Buggy" and she's passed the moniker on to her 4-H project. Buggy shares a pen with a hog named Bea, raised by Sophia's sister, Toni.
Theme of the 142nd annual Dixon May Fair is "Farm to Fair." It's also known as the 36th Agricultural District, the oldest district fair and fairgrounds in the state of California. The fair supports the communities of Dixon, Vacaville, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Elmira, Woodland and Davis, according to chief executive officer Patricia Conklin. The grounds are located at 655 S. First St., Dixon. (For the schedule of events, access thewebsite.)
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 and directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus the live petting zoo and a year-around gift shop. The Bohart Museum is open to the public Mondays through Thursdays.