- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Youngsters--and the young at heart--headed over to Briggs Hall during the 109th annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day to create art masterpieces--masterpieces involving maggots.
Using forceps, the artists dipped a maggot in water-based, non-toxic paint and let it crawl around a piece of white paper. Or they guided it. Different color? Different maggot dipped in a different paint.
What a conversation piece! And perfect for framing or posting on a refrigerator door.
Maggot Art has been a traditional part of the UC Davis Picnic Day since the early 2000s.
Rebecca O'Flaherty, a former graduate student of UC Davis forensic entomologist Bob Kimsey's, coined the educational teaching curriculum, "Maggot Art," back in 2001 when she was studying at the University of Hawaii. She was rearing blowflies for her forensic research and wanted an activity to draw the interest of elementary school students. She also wanted to generate interest and respect for forensic entomology.
Her Maggot Art quickly drew national interest. The CSI television show featured one of her works, “Ancient Offering,” which hung on the permanent set in Gil Grissom's office.O'Flaherty also exhibited her work at art shows, including a two-month exhibition at the Capital Athletic Club, Sacramento, in 2007.
And the maggots at the 2023 UC Davis Picnic Day? "The maggots are Calliphora vacinia, the blue bottle fly," Kimsey said. "Realize that there are likely close to 100 species that can be called blue bottle flies. This particular one is very large as an adult and has huge larvae that are perfect for Maggot Art."
"Although at certain times of the year, it is active in California, particularly around cities, it is not as common as others and I do not have a colony," Kimsey added. "There has been a lot of very famous research in entomology done on this species, particularly at University of Massachusetts and Harvard under Vincent Dethier, whose research has provided profound insights into human biology."
The Department of Entomology and Nematology ordered the maggots from Knutson's Sporting Goods, an Internet purveyor based in Brooklyn, Mich., which sells them as live fish bait and as research tools.
Or Maggot Art....