It's almost time for Halloween, when all self-respecting little ghosts, goblins and ghouls take a special interest in spiders.
We saw this little jumping spider (below) on a pink rose. It doesn't look like it could scare anything--except for maybe a sweat bee or hover fly.
This year the Explorit Science Center of Davis, a hands-on science museum located at 3141 5th St., is taking a special interest in spiders.
The center is sponsoring a number of programs on these critters and posted "Facts About Spiders" on its website.
For one thing, many people think spiders are insects. They're not.
Both spiders and insects are invertebrates, but spiders are not insects.
Insects have a head, thorax and abdomen, and the thorax has three pairs of legs. They also eyes, antennae and mouthparts, the Explorit Science Center website points out. "The entire body is protected by a tough outer covering called an exoskeleton. Animals that share these characteristics are called insects. The group to which they belong is called the Insecta."
Spiders, as the Explorit Science Center explains, have two main body parts. "The body consists of a combined head and thorax called the cephalothorax, and the abdomen. The cephalothorax has the eyes, mouthparts (no antennae) and four pairs of legs. Animals that share these characteristics include ticks, mites, scorpions and spiders. The group is called the Arachnida."
And speaking of spiders, schooolchildren visiting the Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus occasionally ask to "see the spiders." The Bohart is an insect museum (although the officials have been known to showcase a few spiders, too.)
Mark your calendar for Saturday, Oct. 27 for the Bohart's public open house from 1 to 4 p.m. in 1124 Academic Surge on Crocker Drive (nearest intersection is LaRue Road.) This is a pre-Halloween open house and there definitely will be assorted spiders at the insect museum!
What's a picnic without bugs? What's a county fair without bugs?
If you meander through McCormack Hall at the Solano County Fair, Vallejo, you'll see plenty of insects. The Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis is staffing a table of "Meet Your Local Pollinators," including butterflies, bees and bee mimics. Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at the Bohart Museum (home of seven million insect specimens) also brought along honey bee photos, posters and other information from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Department of Entomology.
The museum specimens include two "oh-my!" drawers (that's what people say when they see these fascinating displays); a collection of native bees from UC Davis graduate student Emily Bzdyk; and California butterflies. Accompanying the display is a framed poster of California's state insect, the California dogface butterfly, the project and design of Fran Keller, UC Davis doctoral candidate in entomology. Davis naturalist-photographer Greg Kareofelas scanned the butterfly images.
But be sure to look on the walls where young photographers and graphic artists are displaying their blue-ribbon work. You'll see honey bees, dragonflies, butterflies and other insects. Future entomologists, perhaps?
A three-year-old named Nicholas Razo of Dixon created a colorful paper butterfly, the kind that UC Davis butterfly expert Art Shapiro probably would like to see in real life. Young Nicholas may give Professor Shapiro some competition in a few years.
The fair, which opened today (Aug. 3) and continues through Aug. 7, is themed "There's No Place Like Home."
There's no place like home for us--and the insects who populate the earth.
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.