County fairs are known for cotton candy, corn dogs and cool treats.
But some--such as the 136th annual Dixon May Fair in Solano County--have bugs!
When the fair opens Wednesday, May 4 at 655 S. First St., the Floriculture Building will house gorgeous flowers...and gorgeous bugs.
The Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is providing for public viewing: a bee observation hive; posters offering facts about honey bees and native bees; and macro photos of honey bees.
The bee observation hive is where you can see the queen bee laying eggs, the workers tending to the brood, and drones walking around, being fed by their sisters. If you're lucky, you'll see a retinue of workers surrounding the queen as they fulfill her every need.
Also in the Floriculture Building, the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis will be displaying mounted butterfly and other insect specimens.
The fair opens at 10 a.m. daily through Sunday, May 8, Mothers' Day.
"Insects are the most successful animals that have ever existed on Earth and have been around for just over 400 million years," writes George Gavin in Insects, an American Nature Guide published by Smithmark Publishers, N.Y.
"Of the nearly one and a half million described species of all animals, just over 930,000 of them are insects," Gavin points out. "Thousands of new insect species are described every year and recent estimates from work in the world's diminishing rainforests indicate that there are maybe several million undescribed species."
Yes, insects are nearly everywhere--even at California's oldest fair. When the 134th annual Dixon May Fair opens May 7, continuing through May 10, you'll see a honey bee observation hive--with the queen bee, workers and drones--inside the floriculture building. Also in the floriculture building: Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Vietnamese walking sticks and other arthropods.
Honey bee specialists from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and insect experts from the Bohart Museum of Entomology will be there at various times to answer questions.
Elsewhere on the fairgrounds, you'll see insect photography and insect motifs on quilts, aprons, birdbaths, flower pots and other items. Interior Living Showcase superintendent Debee Lamont (who works year-around as gifts and records management specialist in University Relations, UC Davis) says insect images adorn numerous quilts at the fair. Insects include honey bees, butterflies and dragonflies.
Sorry, no quilts with Madagascar hissing cockroaches or Vietnamese walking sticks.
Plain as day. And they’re not going away.
The estimated ratio of insects to humans is 200 million to one, say Iowa State University entomologists Larry Pedigo and Marlin Rice in their newly published (sixth edition) textbook, Entomology and Pest Management. Rice is the 2009 president of the Entomological Society of America.
Rice is the 2009 president of the Entomological Society of America.
There's an average of 400 million insects per acre of land, they say.
“The fact is, today’s human population is adrift in a sea of insects,” they write in their introduction.
Well, what about biomass? Surely we outweigh these critters?
No, we don't. The
There you go. The insects are the land owners; we are the tenants. “They are the chief consumers of plants; they are the major predators of plant eaters; they play a major role in decay of organic matter; and they serve as food for other kinds of animals,” Pedigo and Rice write.
Insects represent the good, the bad and the ugly.
Insects represent the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good: they give us honey and pollinate our crops. They spin our silk. They serve as natural enemies of pests. They provide food for wildlife (not to mention food for some of us humans). They are scavengers. They provide us with ideas for our art work. They are fodder for our horror movies.
And what scientist hasn't benefitted from the inheritance studies of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogasta? What ecologist hasn't studied water pollution by examining the mayfly population? Mayflies are the counterpart of canaries in the coal mine.
The bad: they eat our food crops, forests and ornamental plants. They devour or spoil our stored grain. They chew holes in our clothing. They pester us. They annoy our animals, too.
The ugly: They can—and do—kill us. Think mosquitoes. Think malaria,
But wait, there's more! Many more. Scientists have described more than 900,000 species of insects but there could be seven times as many out there, the authors point out.
Ironically, despite the huge numbers of insects, many people don't know the meaning of the word, entomology, the science of insects. They should. Insects outnumber us and always will. They've lived on the earth longer than us (400 million years) and adapt to changes better than we do. Most are tiny. Most can fly. And most reproduce like there's no tomorrow.
"Based solely on numbers and biomass, insects are the most successful animals on earth," the authors claim.
You can't argue with that.
I've always loved the wit and wisdom of insect-inspired poets.
God in His wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.
We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics.
- - Richard Vaughan
If you look at the world through a viewfinder--as I have a habit of doing--it’s a wonderful, exquisite place, especially if you capture critters in their natural habitat. They don’t complain when you make them look fat, skinny, nice or ferocious.
Blow flies, honey bees, carpenter bees, spotted cucumber bees, the ten-lined June beetle, and mosquitoes all appear in my viewfinder. Okay, I know. We’re not supposed to like some of these pests (such as the carpenter bees, spotted cucumber bees and the ten-lined June beetles), but hey, all of them are pretty enough to sing the national anthem at the Olympics.
Photography, or writing with light, is just that. Writing with light. Back before the digital technology age, we used to process film, make prints and then hang them out to dry. We "pho-togs" marinated ourselves in Dektol, DK-60 and Hypo.
Our "pheromone" wasn't always appreciated. But the images were.
But the images were.
Bees are black, with gilt surcingles,
Buccaneers of buzz.
- - Emily Dickinson
The mosquito is the state bird of
- - Andy Warhol
I'm standing in line at the photo center, waiting to pay for the dozen 8x10 photos of noted entomologist Richard Bohart that I’d ordered for his UC Davis memorial.
“Doc,” as he was called, died Feb. 1, 2007 in
He was a giant of a man. He towered over his fellow linebackers on the UC Berkeley football team in the mid-1930s, and he towered over his entomology colleagues.
During his career, Doc identified more than a million mosquitoes and wasps, named more than 300 new species of insects, authored 230 separate publications and wrote six books on mosquitoes and wasps, including three editions of Mosquitoes of California. An entire family of insects bears his name: Bohartillidae (twisted wing parasites), genus Bohartilla.
Doc founded the Bohart Museum of Entomology in 1946, the same year he joined the UC Davis faculty. Today the museum, a tribute to much of his lifelong work, houses more than 7 million specimens.
So, here I am, standing in line, thinking of his accomplishments and the passion that drove him and the insects that possessed him.
The photo center line shortens and it’s my turn. I pay for the photos. “Thanks!" I say. "Nice job! These are of the life of Dr. Bohart, a world-renowned entomologist.”
The clerk, probably in her 30s, looks at me, puzzled. “What,” she asks, “is en-to-mol-ogy?”
She quickly apologizes, saying she ought to know that.
“Study of insects,” I say.
Her question is not unusual. Many folks have no idea what entomology is, which is probably why it should be called “insect science.”
Nancy Dullum, administrative assistant in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, says she’s often asked what entomology means and how it’s spelled. A UC Davis employee since 1977 (25 years in entomology, including 13 years with the UC Mosquito Research Program, and five years in the dean’s office in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), she’s even opened mail addressed to “Department of Antomology.”
Antomology! Now that’s creative!
I think “Doc” would have liked that.