The audience, ranging from toddlers to teens to senior citizens, are inside the the Vacaville Public Library. Some sit on the carpet and others occupy the chairs circling the room.
Some are insect enthusiasts. Some are not. All come to listen to what Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, has to say about the critters that outnumber us on our planet.
Yang displays insect specimens and poses questions as the enthusiasm builds.
One youngster, about 5, announces he has insects in his bathroom. “I don't know what they are but I think we're infested,” he declares.
Other youngsters mention that they like ladybugs (lady beetles) butterflies, and dragonflies.
The excitement continues to build, especially when Yang announces they can hold the stick insects (“walking sticks”) and Madagascar hissing cockroaches ("hissers") from the Bohart's petting zoo. “You can hold them and show them to your neighbor,” she says. “But don't force the insects on them. Make sure it's okay with them. Always ask first.”
The stick insects that resemble green beans prove especially popular. “They are Great Thin Stick Insects (Ramulus nenatodes),” Yang said.
Following the program, Grace, 13, sprawls on the carpet, a Great Thin Stick Insect on her face. Eli, 5, joins her with the same species. It's pure delight. Future entomologists? Maybe.
“The Bohart is essentially a library of insects and so setting up a mini-Bohart at a library actually makes sense,” Yang commented. “These library events are special because they are all about the community. My favorite part is after I have explained the pinned specimens and shown people how to play with the live insects, the families, community members, librarians and I spend the rest of the time casually passing around the insects and swapping stories. I love seeing a diversity of people who don't know each other sharing and having a wonderful time together. We all learn from each other because everyone has some experience with insects. “
"The rest of the week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday), the Bohart is dedicated to university business, visiting researchers, pre-arranged programs and work that takes us away from the museum,” Yang said.
The Bohart Museum, directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, hosts open houses on specific weekends throughout the academic year. The last open house of the academic year is “A Night at the Museum,” (traditionally known as "Moth Night). It will take place from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 22 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, and also outdoors. Scientists plan to set up an ultraviolet (UV) or blacklighting display to collect moths and other night-flying insects. A special treat: hot chocolate and cookies will be served. Admission and parking are free.
"A Night at the Museum" will be dedicated to the late Jerry Powell, an international authority on moths, who died July 8 at his home in Berkeley at age 90. A longtime director of the Essig Museum of Entomology, UC Berkeley, he collaborated with the Bohart Museum for decades. (See news story)
Meet Chryseobacterium kimseyorum, named for UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum, and her husband, forensic entomologist Robert "Bob" Kimsey, both of the Department of Entomology and Nematology.
“We've had a few things named after us but never bacteria--that's a first,” said Lynn Kimsey.
The story begins more than a decade ago when then UC Davis doctoral student Matan Shelomi, now an associate professor of entomology at National Taiwan University, Taiwan, was studying the digestive physiology of the stick and leaf insects, Phasmatodea, for his Ph.D, under the guidance of his major professor, Lynn Kimsey. He isolated and cultured bacteria from the guts and cages of the stick insects. Some of the species seemed new to science, but Shelomi had neither the time nor the resources to prove it then.
He stored the microbes inside the deep freezers of the Phaff Yeast Culture Collection, UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology.
The years slipped by. So did the memory of isolating the bacteria. Then after becoming a professor himself, his graduate student, Chiao-Jung Han, discovered a new bacteria species inside a beetle. That prompted Shelomi to renew his interest in the microbes from the Bohart Museum.
"Thankfully, I kept all my notes from graduate school," says Shelomi, "so I was able to check and see which strains I had flagged as possibly new species. When I saw one of them was the same genus as the new microbe found in Taiwan, I realized this was an opportunity to describe them both together." So Shelomi emailed Kyria Boundy-Mills, curator of the Phaff Collection, “who had my old specimen revived and shipped across the Pacific.”
The abstract begins: “Two strains of Chryseobacterium identified from different experiments are proposed to represent new species. Strain WLa1L2M3T was isolated from the digestive tract of an Oryctes rhinoceros beetle larva. Strain 09-1422T was isolated from a cage housing the stick insect Eurycantha calcarata. Sequence analysis of the 16S rRNA and rpoB genes found both strains to be similar but not identical to other Chryseobacterium species. Whole-genome sequencing suggested the isolates represent new species, with average nucleotide identity values ranging from 74.6 to 80.5?%.”
Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator of the Bohart Museum, relayed the news to a tour group visiting the insect museum on April 20. “I just used this story today with a tour group,” she told Shelomi. “I mentioned how your student was denied her dog's name. I love how this ties the Bohart and the Phaff Yeast collection together and then California and Taiwan.”
As for the stick insect, “It's pretty aggressive for a walking stick,” Lynn Kimsey said, noting that Andy Engilis, curator of the UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, told her about his work in Papua New Guinea. “These walking sticks would actually chase rodents out of their burrows and take over the burrows to rest in,” she related. “That's pretty tough for a walking stick.”
Meanwhile, the Kimseys are enjoying their new namesake. Lynn Kimsey already has seven other species named for her:
- Mystacagenia kimseyae Cambra & Wasbauer 2020 (spider wasp)
- Oligoaster kimseyae Soliman 2013 (tiphiid wasp)
- Exaerate kimseyae Oliviera 2011 (orchid bee)
- Spilomena kimseyae Antropov 1993 (solitary wasp)
- Manaos kimseyae Smith (argid sawfly)
- Spintharina kimseyae Bohart 1987 (cuckoo wasp)
- Neodryinus kimseyae Olmi 1987 (dryinid wasp)
Bob Kimsey has as at least two species named for him: Acordulacera kimseyi Smith, 2010 (sawfly) and Grandiella kimseyi Summers & Schuster (mite).
Shelomi, a Harvard University graduate who received his doctorate from UC Davis in 2014, served as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Germany for two years before accepting a faculty position in 2017 at National Taiwan University.
Shelomi returned to UC Davis in 2017 to present a seminar on "Revelations from Phasmatodea Digestive Track Transcriptomics,” to the department.
And it was all about the beetles: "Beetlemania."
Some 500 visitors browsed the displays at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, chatted with scientists, photographed the specimens, engaged in arts and crafts, and then headed over to the petting zoo to introduce themselves to the Madagascar hissing cockroaches and stick insects.
The event took place from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Bohart Museum's headquarters in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane. Bohart personnel greeted the guests: Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; Brennen Dyer, collections manager; Brittany Kohler, research associate; Jeff Smith, curator of the Lepidoptera collection; and Greg Kareofelas, Lepidoptera host assistant.
- Beetles from Belize: Professor Fran Keller of Folsom Lake College, a Bohart Museum scientist, and her assistant, Iris Bright, a graduate student in the Jason Bond lab.
- Carabid beetles: Kipling "Kip" Will, associate professor with the UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management
- Burying beetles: Tracie Hayes, a doctoral candidate and burying beetle researcher in the laboratory of Professor Louie Yang, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (She presented a video she created, "A Clearance of Death on Behalf of Life" at https://youtu.be/cGLOE7SrbiU.)
- Bark beetles: Curtis Ewing, a senior environmental scientist with Cal Fire's Forest Entomology and Pathology
- Children's tree-related activities: Jonelle Mason, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) employee and coordinator of Project Learning Tree (PLT) California, an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative,
- Tree cores and boring tools: UC Davis graduate student Jennifer Cribbs of the Graduate Program of Environmental Policy and Management
- Diabolical ironclad beetles: Brittany Kohler, Bohart research associate
- Family arts and crafts: Allen Chew, Sol Wantz and Kat Taylor, all UC Davis undergraduate students
- Petting zoo: Kaitai Liu, undergraduate student in the Jason Bond lab; Veronica Casey, graduate student in Shahid Siddique lab; and Grace Horne, graduate student in Emily Meineke lab
The Bohart Museum, dedicated to "understanding, documenting and communicating terrestrial arthropod diversity," was founded in 1946 and named for UC Davis professor and noted entomologist Richard Bohart. It houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo," featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas; and a year-around gift shop, stocked with insect-themed books, posters, jewelry, t-shirts, hoodies and more. The museum is open to the public from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.
When you first meet Brandon DeGroot, 6, of Vallejo, he'll tell you "I love spiders and snakes" and he'll flash a big smile.
He's the kind of youngster that arachnologists, including Professor Eileen Hebets of the University of Nebraska and Professor Jason Bond, of the University of California, Davis, welcome to their fold.
Bond, associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is chairing the American Arachnological Society's meeting June 26-30 at UC Davis with Lisa Chamberland, postdoctoral research associate, Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Joel Ledford, assistant professor of teaching, Department of Plant Biology, College of Biological Sciences.
An open house, "Eight-Legged Encounters," set from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 25 at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, will kick off the conference. Hebets is co-hosting it as part of a U.S. National Science Foundation grant, “Eight-Legged Encounters,” that she developed as an outreach project to connect arachnologists with communities, especially youth. It's free, open to the public, and family friendly.
The open house promises to be one of the biggest events--if not the leggiest!--of the year on the UC Davis campus and beyond. A powerhouse of arachnologists, Bond said, will be at the open house. “There will be everything--spider specimens, live arachnids, activities, artwork, etc."
Some 20 exhibits and activities will be set up in the hallway of the Academic Surge Building, said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. A popular activity at the Bohart is its live petting zoo, comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches or "hissers," stick insects and tarantulas. Youths, especially, delight in holding the hissers and stick insects.
But back to Brandon.
"Brandon has always loved spiders, insects and snakes, starting when he was a toddler looking for bugs in our yard," said his mother, Heather DeGroot. "Brandon was always in the dirt, and my other son, Mason, now 8, was always in the grass." Last Tuesday, June 7, while Heather kept busy coordinating the Solano County Fair exhibits at McCormack Hall, in preparation for the June 16-19 fair, Brandon kept busy looking for critters outside. When he'd find one, he'd excitedly announce his treasure, and even more excitedly, show it to all.
So, in between his bug hunts, we thought we'd interview Brandon.
Bug Squad: "How old are you?
Brandon: "I'm six and I go to kindergarten at Vallejo Charter School. I'm almost in the first grade." (He graduated from kindergarten June 9.)
Bug Squad: "Brandon, how long have you loved spiders and snakes?"
Brandon: "A long time."
Bug Squad: "Cool! Why do you love spiders?"
Brandon: "I like the poison and how they eat."
Bug Squad: "What do you want to be when you grow up, Brandon?"
Brandon: "I want to be a scientist about animals. See my snake tattoo on my arm?" (He displayed the washable tattoo that tattoo artist Jason Meyers of Concord created just for him.)
Bug Squad: "Fantastic! What makes you happy?"
Bug Squad: "Does your brother Mason like snakes and spiders?"
Brandon: "No, he only likes BMX." (Mason will be competing as part of Team USA at a BMX competition in Nance, France in July. The entire family will be there to support him.)
Bug Squad: "Why doesn't Mason like spiders and snakes?"
Brandon: "He doesn't want to get hurt by them."
Bug Squad: "Do you like bees?"
Brandon: "I like bees. They pollinate the flowers and make them change colors. I like ladybugs and I like letting them crawl on me. I like walking sticks. I saw them on YouTube and they look just like sticks."
Bug Squad: "Do you like ants?"
Brandon: "I like ants but I don't like fire ants." (He sees fire ants on family trips to Houston, Texas.)
Bug Squad: "Do you like butterflies?"
Brandon: "I like them because of their colors."
Bug Squad: "Do you like dragonflies?"
Brandon: "I like how fast they fly and they nibbled on my family at the Yuba River but they didn't nibble on me."
Bug Squad: "Brandon, do you like sports or play sports?"
Brandon: "I played basketball and I'm going to learn to play tennis."
Bug Squad: "Do you like girls?"
Brandon (raising his eyebrows): "No, I like dogs."
Bug Squad: "Do you have a dog?"
Bug Squad: What's your favorite food?"
Brandon: "Strawberries and chocolate."
And with that, he opened his lunch box, picked out a strawberry, and shared it with a bug that he had just collected in the McCormack Hall gardens.
"Here you go," Brandon told the bug, later identified by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, as an aphid. "I'm feeding you so you won't get hungry."
Honey bees weren't the only insects at the 2022 California Honey Festival, held Saturday, May 7 in downtown Woodland.
Walking sticks, aka stick insects, grabbed some of the attention, too.
Officials at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, brought along display cases of bee specimens that showed the diversity of bees. They also brought along stick insects for visitors to hold and photograph.
UC Davis undergraduate students Lauren Spellman and Pichawi "Salee" Sangrawiakararat delighted in holding the Peruvian stick insects. Both are first-year students. Lauren is majoring in environmental sciences while Salee is undeclared. When someone suggested that Salee might consider majoring in entomology (science of insects), she smiled.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, houses a worldwide collection o 8 million insect specimens. It also includes a gift shop, stocked with insect-themed gifts such as hoodies, t-shirts, books, posters, and jewelry; and its popular live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas.
The Bohart, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is newly opened to the public this spring after two years of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Groups must make reservations and everyone must follow the UC Davis visitor guidelines.
Upcoming weekend programs, free and open to the public:
- Saturday, May 28, 1 to 4 p.m.
"Bugs in Ag: What Is Eating Our Crops and What is Eating Them?"
- Saturday, June 25, 1 to 4 p.m.
Saturday, July 16. 1 to 4 p.m.
"Celebrating 50 Years of the Dogface Butterfly: California's State Insect"
Local Spider Information (Essig Museum of Entomology)