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
No, don't contact your local opthamologist. Contact your local entomologist.
This is Bug Country.
What's new--and spotted--at the Bohart Museum of Entomology--is a t-shirt adorned with two 12-spotted lady beetles (aka ladybugs).
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis professor of entomology, points out that this native American beetle, Coleomegilla maculate, is commonly known as the “pink-spotted beetle” or the “12-spotted beetle.”
"Think pink" because most of these species are pink.
The t-shirt is the newest item in the Bohart Museum's gift shop. It comes in toddler, youth and adult sizes, with all proceeds benefitting the museum's many educational and outreach activities. It was drawn by graduate student Charlotte Herbert and designed by Fran Keller, assistant professor at Folsom Lake College who received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis.
What about that beetle? Well, it's spot on. On each of the two wing covers (elytron) are six black spots.
Like other lady beetles, it's a predator. It gobbles up aphids, along with mites, scale insect insect eggs and small larvae. You can find it on such aphid-infested crops as wheat, sorgum, sweet corn, alfalfa, soybeans, peas, beans, cotton, potatoes, cole crops, tomatoes, asparagus and apple. “Reported prey include pea, green peach, melon (cotton), cabbage, and potato aphids and greenbug; eggs of European corn borer, imported cabbageworm, fall webworm, and corn earworm; asparagus beetle, Mexican bean beetle, and Colorado potato beetle eggs and larvae,” says BugGuide.net.
The pink-spotted or 12-spotted beetle, however, is quite unusual and not just due to its color and spots. Up to 50 percent of its diet can be plant pollen! Says BugGuide.net: “This is the only North American lady beetle that can complete its life cycle on plant pollen. Common pollen food sources are dandelion, squash, corn, and lily....Because pollen is an essential component of the diet of Coleomegilla, the planting or preservation of refuges, or interplantings, of early-flowering species with a high pollen load may be beneficial especially to provide a food source during late spring before the build up of aphids. Flowering dandelions, for example, have been recorded as a heavily used pollen source for dispersing adults in late spring potato fields.”
Meanwhile, back at the Bohart. Part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, the Bohart Museum is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. It's the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, collected globally; a live “petting zoo” starring such critters as Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and taranatulas; and year-around gift shop stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, butterfly habitats, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The museum, named for its founder, noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007, emeritus professor at UC Davis, traces its history back to 1946. It's open to the public Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
To accommodate the public, the family friendly (and bug friendly) Bohart Museum holds open houses on specified weekends throughout the year. The next weekend open house (and the last of the 2016-2017 academic year) is Saturday, April 22. Set from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the open house is part of the 103rd annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day.
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.
Despite other major attractions--including the gorgeous spring day and the March Madness basketball tournament--nearly 300 people visited the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology last Saturday during its three-hour open house, themed "Eggs to Wings: Backyard Butterfly Gardening."
They conferred with Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis; Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and a number of Bohart associates, including entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the moth and butterfly display; naturalist Greg Kareofelas, a butterfly and dragonfly enthusiast; entomologists Jessica Gillung and Ziad Khouri, doctoral candidates; Nicole Tam, junior specialist; and Joel Hernandez and Alex Nguyen, recent entomology graduates.
"Hungry, hungry caterpillars!" read one poster, illustrated with photos of the monarch, gulf fritillary and pipevine swallowtail caterpillars and their adult stages. "Having a garden full of flowers provides nectar, an important food source for adult butterflies, but what about their hungry, hungry caterpillars? It seems counterintuitive to grow plants that yu want insects to eat, but that is exactly what butterflies need when they are larvae."
Jeff Smith kept busy showing visitors the drawers of butterfly specimens, including blue morphos, monarchs and swallowtails. As he opened one drawer, he explained that "this drawer contains several species of South American rainforest butterflies, Preponas, in the genus Archaeoprepona." He described them as "extremely strong and fast fliers, but they love to settle on baits such as fermenting fruit on the ground. We (Bohart team) caught several in the ongoing Belize biodiversity work this past year."
Robbin Thorp showed live male Valley carpenter bees, Xylocopa varipuncta, green-eyed blond bees that are also known as "teddy bear" bees. "Boy bees can't sting," Thorp said, reassuring a few leary visitors. The female of the species is solid black. (Following the open house, Thorp returned the bees to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road.)
The bottle is tucked inside a zipped, meshed butterfly habitat and placed indoors or in a screened patio to prevent tachinid flies and wasps from laying their eggs in the caterpillars or chrysalids. Once the monarchs pupate and eclose, they are released to start another generation. This is a small-scale conservation project.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free. Special open houses take place throughout the academic year. The next open house takes place during the annual campuswide Picnic Day on April 22.
More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or email@example.com. The website is http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/
Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart Museum of Entomology associate with expertise on local butterflies, will be at the Bohart Museum's open house on Sunday, March 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. to meet informally with visitors, talk about butterflies and answer their questions.
The open house, themed "Eggs to Wings: Backyard Butterfly Gardening," takes place in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It is free and open to the public. No reservations are required.
“I've always had an interest in butterflies since I was a little kid,” said Kareofleas, a Davis resident who has studied butterflies “seriously” since the late 1970s. "Back then, there was no Internet and books on butterflies in California were minimal and it seemed that most of the books published were on East Coast butterflies or butterflies out of our region. It was the late 1970s, after all, and we couldn't just go on the Internet for butterfly identification.”
It was then that Kareofelas met butterfly guru Arthur Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology. Shapiro, involved in butterfly research for more than four decades, now posts his work on his website.) Shapiro authored Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions (University of California Press, 2007).
Kareofelas, a naturalist and avid photographer, now spends much of his time researching and photographing butterflies, as well as dragonflies and other insects, and speaking to nature-oriented organizations. He is also a regular at the Bohart Museum open houses where he enthusiastically talks about insects he's encountered.
UC Davis offers great resources, Kareofelas says. “For instance, you can get an insect identified at the Bohart Museum, and a plant identified at the Herbarium. And then there are the great resources like the Sacramento Native Plant Society, the UC Davis Botanical Society and the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden."
Kareofelas is pleased to see the growing interest in butterflies and their larval host plants (where butterflies lay their eggs). “All you need is a yard to attract them,” he said. “Plant the larval host plants. Plant nectar plants, such as the butterfly bush, for the adults."
Want monarchs living in our backyard? “Plant milkweed, their larval host plant," Karofelas says.
Kareofelas mentioned a few host plants that will draw specific species:
- Plant pipevine, aka Dutchmen's pipe, for the Pipevine Swallowtails
- Plant passionflower vine for the Gulf Fritillaries
- Plant fennel for the Anise Swallowtails
- Plant baby tears (in the nettle family) for Red Admirals
- Plant snagdragons for Buckeyes
- Plant Rose of Sharon for the Gray Hairstreaks
- Plant mallow for the Checkered Skippers
Kareofelas has reared all the common species, as well some of the rare ones, including the California dogface butterfly, the state insect. With permission, he collected eggs from the rarely seen California dogface butterfly at its most populous breeding site, on Placer Land and Trust acreage near Auburn. The butterfly (Zerene eurydice) lays its eggs on false indigo (Amorpha californica).
Kareofelas, who serves as a guide several times a year for tours hosted by Placer Land and Trust, said that one result of rearing the California dogface butterfly is the publication of the 35-page children's book, "The Story of the Dogface Butterfly," written by Bohart associate Fran Keller (now an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College) with illustrations by then UC Davis student Laine Bauer, and photos by Kareofelas and Keller.
The book, available in the Bohart Museum's gift shop, tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly, and how schoolchildren became involved in convincing the State Legislature to select the colorful butterfly as the state insect. (See Bug Squad.)
The Bohart Museum's open house on Sunday will showcase butterflies in the area. A family craft activity will be making "wiggling caterpillars," with straw and paper, said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart.
Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, the Bohart Museum is a world-renowned insect museum that houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It also maintains a live “petting zoo,” featuring walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches and tarantulas. A gift shop, open year around, offers T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free. Special open houses take place throughout the academic year. The one on March 19 is the second to the last of the 2016-2017 academic year. The last one is Saturday, April 22, the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day.