- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Are you counting down until the much-awaited Virtual Moth Open House, hosted by the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology?
The free and family friendly-event is set from 1 to 2 p.m., on Saturday, July 25, coming to you live on the Bohart Museum's Facebook page. You don't have to have a Facebook account to watch the program.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Bohart's Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) collection, will display moths, talk about moths and answer your questions.
And it's all in keeping with National Moth Week.
Curious as to how he pins and spreads the moth and butterfly specimens? Be sure to check out Sarah Stinson's newly recorded video in which Smith demonstrates how to Pin and Spread Moths and Butterflies. The link is on the Bohart Museum's home page.
"I've been managing the butterfly moth collection for the last 32 years," he says. "And much of what I do has to do with spreading the wings of butterflies and moths so that they're ready and available to be identified."
You'll learn about spreading boards, pins, forceps, and yes, why you should use kitty litter. And you'll learn why you should keep "little bugs" away from your specimens "before you get around to working on them."
"I've done these spreading demonstrations for many, many groups including the (UC Davis) entomology club," he relates. "And as I tell them as I start, I'm going to show you how simple this is. But the first time you do it, you're going to be very, very frustrated."
Smith, who was singled out for the prestigious Friend of the College Award in 2015 by the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is in one word: "incredible." (See news story)
He makes it look easy. It's not.
"Personally, I am astounded by the thousands upon thousands of butterflies and moths that Jeff has prepared for display or scientific study," research entomologist Tom Zavorink, a Bohart Museum associate, told us. "This is no small task because butterfly and moth specimens are usually brought from the field in envelopes or boxes with their wings folded over their backs or around their bodies, and preparing them for display or scientific study involves relaxing them in a humid chamber so their wings and legs can be manipulated, carefully spreading open the wings, positioning them on a flat surface, and securing them in that position until the specimen dries again. This is an onerous task that many entomologists, myself included, shun because we don't have the time, manual dexterity, or patience it takes to prepare quality specimens."
At the Virtual Moth Open House, there's an extra bonus: learn how to set up a blacklighting trap to collect night-flying insects. (See previous Bug Squad blog)
The Bohart Museum is directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, and is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It houses nearly 8 million insect specimens, and about 500,000 of them are butterflies and moths. The museum also houses a live petting zoo (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and an insect-themed gift shop, stocked with T-shirts,jewelry, books, stuffed animals, posters and insect-collecting equipment. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, the museum is temporarily closed until further notice.