Well, many funny things.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, teaches a course on general entomology and you ought to read some of the "facts" that students write about insects.
Now you can.
Kimsey just authored an article, "Entomological Musings in the Classroom," in the current edition of American Entomologist that details the unusual, puzzling and entertaining things students have penned about insects.
"One of the outcomes of teaching a general entomology course to undergraduates for many, many years is that I have taken on a new appreciation for science fiction and fantasy," Kimsey begins. "This happens, in part, because every year, a student makes some new scientific discovery about an insect that causes me to slap my forehead and say 'They do what!?' The other part is how little students (or the public in general) know about insects, in contrast to how much they think they know. Most of my students are not entomology majors, and many aren't even majors in the biological sciences, so there are a lot of misconceptions. Nonetheless, there is huge entertainment in enlightenment."
For the article, Kimsey divides choice sentences into categories, including social insects, agricultural pests, mosquitoes and medical entomology, aquatic insects, butterflies and "sundry."
A few examples:
- Honeybees were able to find their way home by navigating around the sun.
- Because the males in the Hymenoptera social structure do no work, they are considered a waste of the colony's energy, and as such, they are only laid when the colony can stand the strain.
- Normally, locusts are introverted creatures; they do not socialize unless it is for reproduction.
Mosquitoes and Medical Entomology:
- 300,000 to 500,000 new cases [of malaria] occur annually, of which 2.7 million are fatal.
- Aerial spraying should be done as a last resort since this leads to mosquito resistance, affects American lobsters and human health.
- The infected fleas can harbor rats, ground squirrels, rabbits, and occasionally, even house cats.
- Water bodies are usually slow moving and narrow so that they may burrow, crawl along the bottom and climb vegetation.
- Although caterpillars are vulnerable and young, their ability to protect against predators has helped them become successful predators.
- Fleas do not “jump” like mammals do; fleas charge their elasticated legs with tensity, like a drawn bowstring, then shoot themselves through air.
- Some West African tribes are known to be very fond of certain insects, although sometimes more with the children.
Kimsey concluded: "I can't wait for next year to learn more about new things that insects do and how they do them. Through all of this, I'm hoping to create the next generation of entomologists, while teaching them how to write and continuing to collect more wonderful sentences."
Some of the statements found their way into the 2019 Bohart Museum of Entomology calendar, illustrated by talented graphic artist and undergraduate entomology student, Karissa Merritt.
As for the American Entomologist, it's a publication of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA), the world's largest entomological organization.
Kimsey, who received both her undergraduate degree (1975) and her doctorate (1979) from UC Davis, joined the entomology faculty in 1989. The director of the Bohart Museum and executive director of the Bohart Museum Society since 1990, she has also served as interim chair and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Kimsey won the UC Davis Academic Senate's Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award in 2016. The annual award recognizes a faculty member's significant public service contributions that benefit the local, regional, national, and/or international community. She twice served as president of the International Society of Hymenopterists, and is a former board member of the Natural Science Collections Alliance. She is active in ESA and the Washington Entomological Society. The Pacific Branch of ESA (PBESA) honored her and colleagues Eric Mussen, Robbin Thorp, Neal Williams and Brian Johnson—“the UC Davis Bee Team”--with the outstanding team award in 2013. Kimsey also received the PBESA Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity Award in 2014.
Meanwhile, read the American Entomologist article.
However, at the end of the day, a pit-building antlion is a fat sack of poop that lies motionless at the bottom of a hole waiting for food to fall directly into its jaws, and that's a lifestyle I fully endorse.
It does WHAT?
Honey bees own the flower beds at the Solano County Fair, 900 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo.
But bees and other insects claim the exhibit halls, as well. They're depicted on everything from quilts and photos to graphic arts displayed in McCormack Hall.
Indeed, pollinators are an integral part of the exhibits at the 70th annual Solano County Fair, which opens Thursday, June 27 and continues through Sunday, June 30. The annual family-based fair aims to inform, educate and entertain.
Gloria Gonzalez, superintendent of McCormack Hall, and a community leader with the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, called attention to the colorful bees framing a 9-patch maple leaf quilt showcased in the adult division. It is the work of Tina Frothy of Vallejo.
And some of the youth entries?
- Jessie Means of the Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, entered a close-up photo of a honey bee.
- Maya Prunty of the Pleasants Valley 4-H Club submitted a photo of a caterpillar.
- Alana Boman of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club sketched a moth.
- Madeline Giron of Benicia drew a bee.
Butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, identified it as Parthenos sylvia ssp. lilacinus from Southeast Asia. "Its English name," he said, "is the Blue Clipper."
Locally, you can see Blue Clipper specimens in the Bohart Museum of Entomology in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis. "We have 11 specimens of this subspecies and specimens of 4 other subspecies of Parthenos sylvia, as well as specimens of two other species in the genus," said entomologist Jeff Smith, curator of Lepidoptera at the Bohart. He describes the butterfly as "beautiful with a strong wingbeat." Smith remembers collecting one in Thailand when he was serving with the U.S. Air Force.
Gonzalez said some of the items entered in the fair are tagged for the silent auction; the highest bidder takes the entry home.
Admission to the Solano County Fair is free all four days. Parking is free the first day only. Gates are from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, and from noon to 8 p.m., Friday through Sunday. See more information on the website.
Cheers to 70 years! And cheers to the exhibitors who picked pollinators!
What's for dinner?
A crab spider, camouflaged in our lavender patch, didn't catch a honey bee, a butterfly, an ant or a syrphid fly.
No, it nailed a green bottle fly.
We couldn't help but notice. The fly's metallic blue-green coloring stood in sharp contrast to the white spider.
One venomous bite to kill it. And soon the fly, Lucilia sericata, was toast. Milk toast.
Crab spiders don't build webs to trap their prey. They're cunning and agile hunters that spring into action when an unsuspecting prey appears on the scene. They belong to the family Thomisidae, which includes some 175 genera and more than 2100 species. And they're ancient: spiders date back 400 million years ago.
Do you like spiders? You should.
“Spiders are an incredibly diverse group with more than 50,000 species described with probably another 200,000 remaining to yet be discovered,” says spider expert Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
It's worth repeating what Professor Bond said about spiders at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, “Eight-Legged Wonders,” on Saturday, March 9.
The five good reasons to like spiders:
- Spiders consume 400-800 million tons of prey, mostly insects, each year. Humans consume somewhere around 400 million tons of meat and fish each year.
- Spider silk is one of the strongest naturally occurring materials. Spider silk is stronger than steel, stronger and more stretchy than Kevlar; a pencil thick strand of spider silk could be used to stop a Boeing 747 in flight.
- Some spiders are incredibly fast – able to run up to 70 body lengths per second (10X faster than Usain Bolt).
- Athough nearly all 47,000-plus spider species have venom used to kill their insect prey, very few actually have venom that is harmful to humans.
- Some spiders are really good parents –wolf spider moms carry their young on their backs until they are ready to strike out on their own; female trapdoor spiders keep their broods safe inside their burrows often longer than one year, and some female jumping spiders even nurse their spiderlings with a protein rich substance comparable to milk.
If you attended the Lavender Festival last weekend at the six-acre Araceli Farms at 7389 Pitt School Road, Dixon, you were in for a real treat.
Planted in April 2017, the fields glowed with seven varieties of lavender: Grosso, Provence, White Spike, Royal Velvet, Violet Intrigue, Folgate, and Melissa.
This is a family-owned business: parents Robert and Araceli and daughter Justina grow pesticide-free lavender and produce handmade, all natural products. They also host lavender festivals, lavender U-Pick, events, and workshops. (See the family's website and Facebook page.)
Last Saturday the lavender fields buzzed with honey bees from "Clay's Bees," belonging to Clay Ford, who owns the Pleasants Valley Honey Company. He and his wife, Karen, sell their honey at Farmers' Markets in Vacaville and Fairfield and other venues. Soon they'll be adding lavender honey.
But back to the fields: visitors delighted in wreathing lavender around their heads and necks, purchasing lavender products, and photographing one another in the fields. They came with tripods, professional cameras, and cell phones. But most of all, with smiles!
A day in the country with rows and rows of aromatic lavender definitely yields lots of smiles, joy and laughter.
Virtually unnoticed were the insects: Cordovan honey bees, the color of pure gold, rushed to gather the pollen and nectar, as if they knew the fields would be harvested Monday, June 24. We spotted a few yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii), cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae), and scores of migratory painted ladies (Vanessa cardui). "This is the second post-desert generation (Vanessa cardui), so altogether three generations have been involved," butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, told us Sunday, June 23. "The flight began here March 17--so today is the 98th day!"
Visitors browsed the vendor booths, all offering products or information. Drawing bee enthusiasts was Tora Rocha of the Pollinator Posse, a Bay Area-based organization that she and Terry Smith founded in Oakland in 2013 to create pollinator-friendly landscaping in urban settings and to foster appreciation of local ecosystems through outreach, education and direct action. Rocha, a retired Oakland parks supervisor, says that eco-friendly landscape techniques are at the heart of their work. They envision a day "when life-enhancing, thought-inspiring green spaces will grace every corner of the city and the world beyond." And spaces filled with bee condos for native bees! They make and sell AirBeeNBees for leafcutter bees and mason bees. (Check out their Facebook page.)
The owners of Araceli Farms love being lavender farmers. "Like anything in life, there wasn't a linear path to this," Justina relates on her blog. "Looking back on it now, I see how I was being prepped for this role, but I had no idea. After college, I landed a highly-sought after job with tons of prestige; it was incredible and I was so excited, but after some time I knew it wasn't my future. It didn't spark passion nor fuel my envisioned."
The lavender farm does.
One of the Araceli Farms employees, Maria Gonzalez of Dixon, sporting a curved harvesting knife, a wide-brimmed hat and an even wider smile, said she's been working the fields for two years.
And lovin' the lavender.
It's easy to love.
(June 17-23 is National Pollinator Week.)
"How many? Does anyone know?"
No one did, but by the end of the Pollination Education Program, sponsored by CAMBP, all 72 youths from the Sutter Creek and Ione area of Amador County did: 20,000.
They also learned that there are 4000 species of bees in the United States, 1600 species in California, and 350 in Yolo County.
And they learned that pollinators include honey bees, bumble bees, butterflies, sweat bees, hummingbirds and syrphid flies.
"Can you all say entomologist?" Mather asked. "Does anyone know what entomology means?"
"Insects," said one youth.
"Yes, entomology is the scientific study of insects," Mather told them. That's what each and everyone of you is today: entomologists! Okay?
She explained the life cycle of a bee: from egg to larva to pupa to adult. "Males are called drones," she said. "Females are called worker bees."
Toward the end of the program, Mather told the students: "You are ready for the university. As soon as you graduate from high school, I hope to see you guys here. You are all excellent, very respectable, responsible and mature scientists. I want you to please take the knowledge that you gathered here today and share it with family and friends."
The Pollinator Education Program (PEP), developed two years ago by CAMPB director and Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, along with staff research associate Bernardo Niño, aims to provide a fun, immersive educational experience "to help kids of all ages understand the importance pollinators play in the lives of humans."
At the recent session, Mather shared data on native bees, explained the life cycle of a honey bee, encouraged students to be citizen scientists, and demonstrated how to carefully collect bee specimens with a bee vacuum in a catch-and-release activity.
Volunteer Robin Lowry managed the “Planting for Pollinators” and “Be a Beekeeper” station. Students tried on beekeeping suits and tested the equipment, including a smoker and hive tools.
Volunteer Julia Wentzel introduced the concept of "pollinator specialists" and engaged the students in creating a "pollinator" which they then used to transfer "pollen" to different shaped flowers. Diverse floral sources are integral to honey bee health, she said.
Matthew Hoepfinger, staff research associate in the Niño lab, opened a bee hive (inside a screened tent) and showed the students the queen, workers and drones.
Just before boarding the buses for home, the students sampled several varietals of honey. "This is really good!" a girl said. "I want more."
Ron Antone of the UC Master Gardeners of Amador coordinates the annual program, working with Amador school officials, parents and master gardeners. This year he coordinated two groups:
- Jackson Elementary. 62 third graders, 3 teachers, 2 aides, 3 parents and 2 Master Gardener volunteers from Amador County.
- Ione Elementary. 72 third graders, 3 teachers, 7 parents, 3 Master Gardeners and 3 volunteers from Farms of Amador.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology operates the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, with Elina Lastro Niño serving as the garden's faculty director and Christine Casey as the manager. Two others from the Niño lab--staff research associate Charley Nye, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, and staffer Christine Torres--assisted with the pollinator education programs.
"It takes a village as they say," Mather said.
That it does.
A tip of the bee veil to CAMBP, PEP, the Niño lab, and the UC Master Gardeners of Amador County for their roles in educating youth about pollinators.