- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Renowned wasp expert Marius Wasbauer (1928-2021) studied them for about six decades. When he died this spring in Brookings, Ore., his family donated his collection of specimens to the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology.
It's a massive collection of more than 50,000 aculeate (stinging) wasp specimens, primarily spider wasps.
Wasbauer, a retired senior scientist/systematist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, in a career spanning 34 years, was a global expert on spider wasps and a scientific collaborator with Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology. He was a member of the Bohart Museum Society and a strong supporter of the museum.
Spider wasps, also known as spider-hunting wasps or pompilid wasps, belong to the family Pompilidae. The worldwide family is comprised of some 5,000 described species in six subfamilies.
“A U-Haul was needed to transport the collection from Brookings to Davis last weekend,” Kimsey said. “The donation consists of a diversity of aculeate wasps but 95 percent are spider wasps (Pompilidae), an estimated 50,000 specimens from all over the world, in 180 drawers, in 13 24-drawer cabinets,” Kimsey said. “This is material he had been accumulating since the 1960s.”
Wasbauer studied entomology and biosystematics at UC Berkeley, where he received his bachelor's degree and doctorate (1958). “Like many entomologists of his generations,” Kimsey said, “Marius was an instructor in preventive medicine in the U.S. 7th Army Medical Service at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.” He joined the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) as a systematist in September 1958.
“He published nearly 50 papers in wasp taxonomy and the biology of a diversity of insects,” Kimsey noted. “His taxonomic research focused on several groups of aculeate wasps, including Pomplidae, nocturnal Tiphiidae and myromosid wasps. Other studies included walnut serpentine leaf miners, tephritid fruit flies, bumble bees and even crane flies.”
Wasbauer was a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences; president and secretary of the Pacific Coast Entomological Society; research associate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), a member of Sigma Xi, the scientific research honor society; a member of the Biosystematists Society; and a research associate at UC Davis.
“He was generous with his time, and worked with many scientists and students around the world,” Kimsey said. “However, aside from his family and wasps, his other greatest love was fishing.”
Marius and his wife, Joanne, longtime supporters of the Bohart Museum, frequently offered annual challenge grants of $5000, matching donations of other donors up to $5000. They hoped to inspire others to give.
The Wasbauers participated in a Bohart Museum Bioblitz to Belize in 2017, a trip led by entomologists David Wyatt, a professor at Sacramento City College, and Fran Keller, now a professor at Folsom Lake College. Keller, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, is a Bohart Museum research associate.
A trio of entomologists—Lynn Kimsey and her husband, forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the Department of Entomology and Nematology; and Bohart Museum research associate Brennen Dyer—prepared a space in the Bohart for the large donation. They unloaded the truck with Kimsey friends, retired Placer County Sheriff Mike Whitney and his wife, Becky.
The Bohart Museum, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a live “petting zoo” comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. The Bohart Museum also inclues a year-around gift shop stocked with insect-themed t-shirts, sweatshirts, posters, books, jewelry and insect-collecting equipment.
Temporarily closed due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions, the Bohart is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.