- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
This story is about a boy, bugs, a birthday and the Bohart.
Ty Elowe, who seeks a career in entomology, asked his mother for an early 13th birthday present: a visit to the Bohart Museum of Entomology. It houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens and also features a live “petting zoo” of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas.
His mother, Robbin Elowe, readily agreed to the birthday wish--although she acknowledges that she is not particularly fond of insects.
“Ty has had an obsession for bugs since he was a year and a half,” his mother recalled. “He has always wanted to be an entomologist and his trip to the Bohart Museum has only fueled his motivation and determination to make his entomology dreams come true!”
Ty described the visit, Oct. 13-14, as “one of the greatest trips of my life.”
“Everyone was so kind, informative, helpful and welcoming,” the Elowes agreed.
The Elowes spent much of the time with entomology enthusiast and undergraduate student Wade Spencer. Then they were invited to Bohart associate Greg Kareofelas' afternoon seminar Friday afternoon on "The Story and Life History of the Rarely Seen Sierra-Nevada butterfly, Colias behrii, known as Behr's Sulphur, or Sierra Sulphur."
“It was fascinating to sit in on Greg's seminar,” Robbin said. “It made us feel so important and privileged!”
“Wade Spencer was absolutely amazing with Ty,” she said. “He spent so much time and gave Ty so much attention. He is truly a mentor to Ty. “
Ty's interest in bugs extends to room décor. Ty convinced his brothers to let his aunt, Celeste Holley, an accomplished artist, redo the boys' bathroom with a bug theme. “They each picked a bug for Celeste to sketch,” Robbin said.
The Elowes' visit began on Thursday. “They came in while other visitors were viewing the live critters and I began helping them,” Wade said. “When Ty's mother remembered to move their car, I asked him where they were visiting from and he informed me his Mom flew them out from Arizona with the only goal of visiting the Bohart. That blew my mind away! So, when she came back, I asked if what he told me was true, and she elaborated, stating it was because he wants to be an entomologist and it was an early 13th birthday present. I was simply astonished.”
“So, seeing as how awesome this was, I set aside databasing to focus on investing time to inspire a buddy entomologist's mind and make their trip worth while,” Wade related. “He is a very bright young man. He's both knowledgeable and friendly and has the potential to be a great entomologist one day.”
Wade set about giving him “tips and pointers on how to safely navigate out in the field, be it at night or during the day.”
The Elowes left the Bohart Museum at 5 p.m. on Thursday, and were encouraged to return on Friday following their planned visit to the UC Davis Arboretum and the Botanical Conservatory. Ty is also deeply interested in plants.
“They came in Friday afternoon and Ty was telling me all about the Conservatory,” Wade said.
"Ty's is absolutely awesome to do something so special for her son," Wade said. "She didn't like bugs, per se, but with each new bug I brought out for him to hold, she sat within two feet of him and repeatedly commented ‘I'm not afraid right now at all, even though they're so close to me.'
“Just her willingness to take an interest in her son's passion and to take steps toward fueling it speaks volumes to her character and awesome parenting skills,” Wade said.
When they left Friday, Wade “handed him my pair of 12-inch forceps for him to use in the field. It was touching to see how such a simple gift could mean so much to him.”
They also exchanged emails. “Hopefully we'll be in touch with Ty and his family to help him as best as we can,” Spencer said.
“This is what makes everything we do in the museum worthwhile," said Lynn Kimsey, director of the museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis. "Every person we help increases our enthusiasm to teach more and try to reach more people.”
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, was founded in 1946, and is named for noted entomologist Richard Bohart (1913-2007), emeritus professor at UC Davis. The museum is the seventh largest insect collection in North America and is a National Science Foundation and UC-funded facility. Visitors are invited to tour the insect museum Monday through Thursday, view the collection, and learn from the scientists. It also operates a year-around gift shop that includes insect-collecting equipment, books, posters, jewelry, insect-themed candy, stuffed animals (insects), T-shirts and sweatshirts.
During the academic year, the Bohart Museum offers special weekend open houses, all family friendly. In the summer they host “bug camps” for kids. Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, directs the summer camps and organizes and conducts the many classroom tours.