- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
She donned her special outfit, a blue butterfly cape, and headed over to the open house at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, to “see the blue butterflies.”
The event, held Saturday afternoon, Jan. 18, primarily featured the research of six doctoral students: Charlotte Herbert Alberts, Yao Cai, Alexander Dedmon, Zachary Griebenow, Crystal Homicz and Ann Holmes. (See Bug Squad blog)
But it was also a time to view the butterflies and moths in the Lepidoptera collection, curated by entomologist Jeff Smith. He and fellow Bohart associate Greg Kareofelas spent three hours discussing the amazing world of butterflies and answering questions about the Lepidoptera collection, which totals nearly 500,000 specimens.
Tien loved seeing the bright blue morpho butterflies. She gleefully spread her wings and smiled delightedly.
Then Brownie Girl Scout Troop 5520 of West Sacramento toured the insect museum. They came prepared. Prior to the tour, they met in the lobby of the Academic Surge building to discuss and share their newly created posters about insects. Lauren Wells, 7, of West Sacramento chose the praying mantis.
Lauren and fellow Brownie Girl Scout member Madeline Louis, 8, of West Sacramento, marveled at the worldwide collection of butterfly specimens and listened eagerly as Kareofelas discussed the tropical ones.
“Our troop, including all of the parents raved about how much fun they had at the Bohart,” said parent Lisa Wells of UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "I think everyone was really surprised by how much fun they had and learned. Great place! In fact, a few parents claimed that it was our best troop outing ever in over 3 years.”
Other visitors drawn to the Lep section included Savanna Miller, 7, and her sister, Olivia, 4, of Vacaville. Their grandmother, retired teacher Genny Miller, accompanied them.
Little Olivia gazed at the first opened drawer and pronounced: “They're dead! They're all dead!”
The scientists assured her that yes, they are; that the butterflies are specimens; and that the Bohart Museum houses nearly eight million specimens for educational and scientific purposes (research). The specimens include the iconic monarch (Danaus plexippus); the lookalike viceroy (Limenitis archippus); the California state insect, the dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice) and the extinct Xerces blue (Glaucopsyche xerces).
When the scientists explained how butterflies fly, Savanna and Olivia listened raptly. They then correctly imitated the flight of a butterfly as bystanders smiled approvingly. "That's how they fly! Well done!"
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is directed by professor Lynn Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Founded by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), it not only houses nearly eight million insect specimens but a live "petting zoo" that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. Its year-around gift shop is stocked with books, insect-themed t-shirts and sweatshirts, jewelry, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum is open to the public Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m., except on holidays. More information on the Bohart Museum is available on the website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu or by contacting (530) 752-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, Bohart Museum officials are gearing up for the ninth annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, set Saturday, Feb. 15. Featuring 13 museums or collections, the science-based event offers an opportunity for visitors of all ages to meet and talk with UC Davis scientists—from undergraduates to staff to emeriti professors. It is free and family friendly.
Participants in the Feb. 15th Biodiversity Museum Day:
- Arboretum and Public Garden
- Bohart Museum of Entomology
- Botanical Conservatory
- California Raptor Center
- Center for Plant Diversity
- Department of Anthropology Museum
- Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven
- Marine Invertebrate Collection (not linked)
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology
- Nematode Collection
- Paleontology Collection
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection
- Viticulture Enology Culture Collection
The 13 museums or collections represent nine departments, all within walking distance on campus except the Raptor Center on Old Davis Road and the bee garden on Bee Biology Road. The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will showcase three museums or collections: Bohart Museum of Entomology, the Honey Bee Haven, and the Nematode Collection.