Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor at the University of California, Davis, who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, annually hosts a water balloon battle for his lab members and staff.
It amounts to 15 minutes of aim (not fame) and it takes place on the Briggs Hall lawn, off Kleiber Hall Drive. Only 15 minutes? That's how fast the water warriors can toss 2000 water balloons.
Researcher Christophe Morisseau, who organizes the annual funfest, says this year's event will take place at 3 p.m., Friday, July 21.
Hammock's lab and staff are international. They're from Canada, Ukraine, France, China, Sweden, Japan, Germany, Korea, Uruguay and the Netherlands, besides the United States. They are post docs, researchers, graduate students, visiting scholars, visiting graduate students, visiting summer students, short-term visiting scholars and student interns.
They will fill 2000 water balloons, place them in plastic tubs, and at 3 p.m., they begin. But just when you think it's all over, it's not. Any water remaining in the buckets will be splashed on unsuspecting water warriors.
Hammock launched the annual event in 2003 as a form of camaraderie and as a means of rewarding the lab members for their hard work. Other professors and their labs are invited to join in.
After the 15 minutes of aim, it's clean-up time. The water warriors leave refreshed (especially in triple-digit temperatures) and the thirsty lawn isn't as thirsty.
Highly honored by his peers (but a target at the annual water balloon battle), Hammock is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, and the recipient of the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. He directs the campuswide Superfund Research Program, National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Combined Analytical Laboratory.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a bug worth?
That question was neither asked nor answered at the 103rd annual UC Davis Picnic Day, a campuswide open house, held April 22, but just about everything else was!
Let's take a look back at all the bug activities at Briggs Hall, home of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (We previously posted a UC Davis Picnic Day blog about the bugs at the department's Bohart Museum of Entomology).
Graduate student Brendon Boudinot, who is studying for his doctorate in entomology (working with major professor and ant specialist Philip Ward), chaired the Picnic Day Committee in between classes and ant research.
For some interesting alliteration, you could say "Brendon Boudinot's Bugs at Briggs."
Several thousand visitors climbed the Briggs Hall steps to
- cheer on the cockroach races (yes, cockroaches move fast!)
- participate in maggot art (dip a maggot into non-toxic, water-based paint and create a drawing. The term Maggot Art was coined by forensic entomologist Rebecca O'Flaherty, former UC Davis graduate student)
- watch fly-tying by the Fly Fishers of Davis
- observe the aquatic insects from the Sharon Lawler lab
- sample honey compiled by Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the department's Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility (this exhibit won a special award, determined by popular vote)
- explore the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program tables (where the staffers displayed publications and gave away lady beetles, aka ladybugs)
- ask questions of The Bug Doctor (graduate student Ralph Washington Jr.); Dr. Death (forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey; the Nemotode Guy (Corwin Parker), and the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District (fight the bite)
- buy insect-themed t-shirts from the Entomology Graduate Students' Association (see website for sales)
- get their face painted by the UC Davis Entomology Club
- sample chocolate chirp cookies (think cricket!)
- greet ants (and uncles, too)
- pose as a cockroach, bee or fly behind the cutout boards
- marvel at the 40-foot-long black widow spider, which won the UC Davis Entomology Club the prize of "best float from an organization" at the UC Davis Picnic Day Parade
- take lots of selfies!
How many people trooped up the Briggs Hall steps? At least 3000.
How many bugs did they see? Hundreds and hundreds.
The cost? Free.
The memories? Priceless!
Sometimes it's found in a parade, where the "fear" turns to cheers and applause.
Take the case of the 40-foot black widow spider--yes, 40-foot spider!--that the UC Davis Entomology Club entered in the 103rd annual UC Davis Picnic Parade on Saturday, April 22.
The spider drew oohs and aahs from the crowd, and judges selected it the winner of the “Best Organization” category. It continued to draw oohs and aahs when the club showcased it in front of Briggs Hall on Picnic Day. Thousands of visitors stopped to look or capture photos with their families or take selfies. Little kids just stood and stared. "What's that, Mommy?"
What a spider! And complete with that distinguishing red hourglass marking.
“We built it three years ago,” related president Maia Lundy. “This year we just had to clean it up and make some modifications, like adding ventilation. It took us two meetings --or about 4 hours- of work this year. When we originally built it, we met several times over about a month to finish it. It's made out of plastic sheeting, chicken wire, pvc pipe, pool noodles, window screening, and held together by lots of duct tape and zip ties!”
The spider came to life in the backyard of entomologists Robert and Lynn Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty. Robert Kimsey, a forensic entomologist, serves as the club's advisor. Lynn directs the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Her specialty is wasps, but she answers all kinds of questions about insects and arachnids at the Bohart Museum.
The black widow spider is no stranger to the parade. It's reminiscent of the one that the UC Davis Entomology Club built for the parade about 25 years ago.
The Entomology Club decided to revive the project in 2015. It all took place in the Kimsey yard, and Robert Kimsey offered a blow-by-blow account then as he watched it develop from plastic sheeting to a black widow spider. “It is huge and currently in pieces as it is getting its skin and pedipalps and other minor body parts and whatnot. It is anatomically correct in every way! The students have been trained well in arachnology!”
“There are legs all over the place,” Kimsey said of the eight legs, each slightly less than 20 feet long. In real life, the body of the black widow spans about 1.5 inches long.
Kimsey said membership in the entomology club is open to all interested persons, including faculty, staff, college and high school students and community residents. (Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.) President Maia Lundy heads the club with Jamie Fong, vice president; Andre Poon, treasurer; Lovey Corniel, secretary; and Chloe Shott, vice secretary.
As for black widow spiders, yes, the bite is venomous. The glands contain the neurotoxin, latrotoxin, which causes the condition latrodectism, both named after the genus, according to Wikipedia. "The female black widow has unusually large venom glands and its bite can be particularly harmful to humans. However, despite the genus' notoriety, Latrodectus bites are rarely fatal. Only female bites are dangerous to humans."
Take a bow, UC Davis Entomology Club. Well done! The prize: a certificate and a glass trophy.
The black widow spider joined seven other parade award winners:
- Best Community Entry: Davis Whymcycle Society
- Most Spirited: DEVO (Davis Enology and Viticulture Organization)
- Best Theme: Biological and Agricultural Engineering
- Best Animal Entry: Canine Companions for Independence
- Best Department Entry: UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
- Best Organization: Entomology Club
- Parade Marshal's Choice: Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan
- Parade Participants' Choice: West Plainfield 4-H Club, Woodland
They are, you know, everywhere.
However, when the 103rd annual UC Davis Picnic Day takes place Saturday, April 22, you'll find them primarily at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's exhibits at Briggs Hall and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology,
"Show Me the Honey" and "Show Me the Bugs."
Two of the department's exhibits are in the running for special awards at the campuswide Picnic Day. One is “Honey Tasting” at Briggs Hall, and the other is “Bigger, Better, Buglier: Impressive Science” at the Bohart Museum.
“Honey Tasting" will feature a selection of varietal honeys in a display that's the work of Extension apiculturist Elina Niño and colleagues at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility.
"We will have the crowd favorites: coffee blossom, sweet meadowfoam, as well as some classics such as orange blossom and blackberry blossom and the 'love-it-or-hate-it' buckwheat honey," Niño said. "This year we will also be featuring our own 2016 crop of UC Davis honey from the apiculture program." The exhibit is one of six competing for awards in the category, "Hunger Fix.”
Overall, the UC Davis Picnic Day Committee selected 30 special exhibits to compete in five categories: "Best in Show," "Fun with Crafts," "Arts and Humanities," "Hunger Fix" and "Secrets of Nature," said UC Davis Picnic Day exhibits director Helen Xie.
The way it works: Picnic Day attendees vote for their favorite exhibits. Winning exhibits will be featured on social media pages such as Picnic Day website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts after Picnic Day. They will also be featured next year, in preparation for Picnic Day 2018.
The poll will open beginning at 8 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. the same day.. All are welcome to vote at: https://orgsync.com/51524/forms/258052.
Last year the Department of Entomology and Nematology won two special awards. By popular vote, "Little Swimmers and Fly Tyers (Briggs Hall)," won the category, "Hidden Treasures," and "Real Insects and Mimics" (Bohart Museum) won the category "Family Friendly."
This year's Briggs Hall activities will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Bohart Museum of Entomology will swing open its doors from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Graduate student Brendon Boudinot is chairing the department's Picnic Day Committee. (See list of activities at Briggs Hall in previous Bug Squad blog.)
Boudinot's special favorite at the UC Davis Picnic Day? Ants. He's studying for his doctorate with ant specialist Phil Ward and is helping with the ant exhibit at Briggs Hall.
It wouldn't be a picnic without ants.
Countdown 'til UC Davis Picnic Day...
UC Davis will welcome thousands of visitors Saturday, April 16 to its 102nd annual Picnic Day, themed "Cultivating Our Authenticity." You can access the schedule of events here.
It promises to be educational, informative and entertaining.
In the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, graduate students are organizing numerous displays and activities in Briggs Hall on Kleiber Hall Drive. Director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, and her crew are working on the displays in the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.
Three of the traditional exhibits coordinated by the department are nominees for special awards. They are:
- "Little Swimmers and Fly Tying” (Briggs Hall), nominated in the category, "Hidden Treasures"
- "Medical Entomology” (Briggs Hall), listed in the category, "Academic Exhibits" and
- "Real Insects and Mimics" (Bohart Museum of Entomology), "Family Friendly" Exhibit.
An online voting poll, available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, will determine the winners. Visitors may vote at https://orgsync.com/51524/forms/194037. Winning exhibits will be featured on social media pages such as the Picnic Day website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts after Picnic Day. They also will be featured next year, in preparation for Picnic Day 2017.
The Briggs Hall open house will be from 9:30 to 4 p.m., and the Bohart Museum open house from 10 to 3 p.m.
Briggs Hall will be the site of a pollination pavilion, maggot art, cockroach races, fly-tying, face-painting, honey tasting, and a bee observation hive, and displays about ants, mosquitoes, aquatic insects and forest insects. The Bug Doctor booth ("The Doctor Is in") will be staffed by faculty and graduate students, while UC Davis forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, aka "The Fly Man of Alcatraz," and entomology graduate Danielle Wishon will staff the Dr. Death table.
Honey tasting? Visitors can taste these varieties: Peppertree, eucalyptus, almond, sage, sweet clover, and pine "honey," according to Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Also at Briggs Hall, the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) will give away lady beetles, aka ladybugs, to kids to take home to their gardens. UC IPM also will provide advice on how to manage home and garden pests with environmentally sound methods.
The Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA) will be selling its popular insect-themed t-shirts.
At the Bohart Museum, the focus will be on "real insects as mimics." You'll see flies that look like bees--and bees that look like flies. In addition, you can hold and photograph the critters in the live "petting zoo," including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, and rose-haired tarantulas. The gift shop, featuring t-shirts, books, posters, insect collecting equipment, will be open.
Meanwhile, here's a look at some of "The Girls" you'll see: lady beetles (commonly known as ladybugs), Painted Lady butterflies, honey bees, all at Briggs Hall, and a rose-haired tarantula named "Peaches" at the Bohart Museum of Entomology.