When the 105th annual UC Davis Picnic Day takes place Saturday, April 13, thousands of visitors will explore the campus. It promises to be informative, educational and entertaining.
But over at Briggs Hall, home of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nermatology, “special guests” will include bugs.
There will not only be cockroach races, maggot art, and displays of bees, ants, aquatic insects—and more!—but huge images of vectors, the incredible macro photography of medical entomologist/geneticist Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Virtual Reality Bugs
Attardo will be demonstrating “Virtual Reality Bugs” where youths and adults can watch 40-foot tall, three-dimensional insects and spiders. And in his medical entomology display, he will be exhibiting metal prints of vectors, including a tsetse fly, kissing bug, deer tick, mosquito, stable fly, cat flea and bed bug.
You wouldn't want to encounter a bed bug in your bed, or a flea or tick on your dog, or a mosquito on your arm. You may not even know what they look like up close. But with these images, you can see what's bugging you or your pets.
And with the Virtual Reality Bugs, participants can select what they want to see--or what's towering over them. The list includes a black widow spider, ant, beetle, grasshopper, damsel fly, cicada, cockroach, and a tsetse fly. Each person will be limited to about 30 seconds to accommodate the crowd.
The Briggs Hall activities run from 9 a.m. to about 4:30, while activities at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, will be offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
TheBohart Museum will focus on the theme, "Will Travel for Bugs: TheBohart Museum of Entomology's Collections from Around the World." It's nominated for a people's choice award, as is the honey tasting exhibit at Briggs Hall. Participants will sample meadowfoam, sage, cotton and buckwheat. QR codes will be at each site. (See news story about the activities at both sites.)
But back to the vectors. Did you know that the Bohart Museum provides information or fact sheets on its website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/insect-info-sheets.html?
You can learn about some of the vectors that will dwarf you when you visit Briggs Hall.
For example, ticks!
"Ticks are blood-feeding external parasites of mammals, birds, and reptiles throughout the world," writes Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology. "They are not insects rather they are arachnids, the same group that includes spiders and scorpions. There are two different groups of ticks, the hard ticks (Ixodidae) and soft ticks (Argasidae). Both are important vectors of pathogens to humans and animals throughout the world. Some diseases of current interest in the United States caused by tick-borne pathogens include Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and tick-borne Relapsing Fever (soft ticks)
"Many ticks seek hosts by 'questing.' Questing ticks crawl up the stems of grass or perch on the edges of leaves in a typical posture with the front legs extended. Certain chemicals, such as CO2, as well as heat and movement cause questing behavior. Ticks climb onto a potential host that brushes against their extended front legs. Once on a host hard ticks may feed for several days to several weeks.
"Fleas are bloodsucking parasites of humans, livestock and pets," Kimsey writes. "Only adult fleas feed on blood, which they obtain with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Adult fleas blood feed on birds and mammals.Adult fleas are laterally flattened, wingless insects. They have a small eye spot on the side of the head, and a row of stout spines along the side of the head and the back of the thorax. Adult fleas travel rapidly by jumping, using their legs and a spring-like mechanism in the body. They are capable of spectacular leaps, covering distances up to one hundred times their body length
"The most common flea found on household pets, such as cats and dogs, is the cat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis."
Read the Bohart fact sheets and then check out Attardo's images.
If you'd rather wear your bug on your shirt, the Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA) can oblige. They have scores of insect-themed t-shirts, ranging from beetles and honey bees to wanna bees. The newest t-shirts in the line-up include two designed by talented doctoral student/ant specialist Jill Oberski of the Phil Ward lab. One is a take-off of American Gothic, the 1930 painting by Grant Wood, except with entomologists holding a net in front of Briggs Hall, UC Davis campus, instead of the farmers holding a pitchfork in front of their farmhouse. The other Oberski t-shirt celebrates the 45th anniversary of UC Davis Picnic Day cockroach races. Roaches rock! Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, co-chair of the department's displays at Picnic Day, rears cockroaches in his lab, but on Picnic Day, they're ready to race! Doctoral candidate Brendon Boudinot, EGSA president and co-chair of the department's displays, says the roaches will race on a new racetrack.
Doctoral student/nematologist Corwin Parker of the lab of Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, also came up with a clever idea for a t-shirt. You know how cicadas can be REALLY loud? He drew one plugged into an amp. Now, that's REALLY loud! You can buy EGSA t-shirts at Briggs Hall on Picnic Day or order them online at https://mkt.com/UCDavisEntGrad/ after Picnic Day.
Be sure to head over to Briggs Hall on Saturday, April 13 during the 105th annual UC Davis Picnic Day to see or participate in medical entomologist/geneticist Geoffrey Attardo's virtual reality (VR) demonstration. It's free and family friendly.
Attardo describes VR as a "computer-generated simulation used to simulate real or imagined environments. It immerses the user by stimulating visual, auditory and touch-based senses."
In other words, VR is an interactive, three-dimensional, computer-generated experience. You'll enter the fascinating, breathtaking world of insects and arthropods on a scale you've never before imagined. Tiny critters that are easy to overlook can't be overlooked in the VR world.
Attardo, an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Nematology, drew crowds all day long at last year's "Virtual Reality Bugs" at UC Davis Picnic Day, and no doubt he'll do so again. Briggs Hall activities begin at 9 a.m. and conclude around 4:30.
Attardo presented a seminar titled "Using Virtual Reality to Engage and Instruct: a A Novel Tool for Outreach and Extension," at the 2018 Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting in Vancouver, B.C.
"Recent developments in computer and display technologies are providing novel ways to interact with information," he told the ESA attendees. "One of these innovations is the development of Virtual Reality (VR) hardware. Innovations in hardware and software have made this technology broadly accessible with options ranging from cell phone based VR kits made of cardboard to dedicated headsets driven by computers using powerful graphical hardware. VR based educational experiences provide opportunities to present content in a form where they are experienced in 3 dimensions and are interactive."
Attardo says that "VR has great potential as a new way to present entomological content including aspects of morphology, physiology, behavior and other aspects of insect biology. This demonstration allows users of all ages to view static and animated 3D models of insects and arthropods in virtual reality."
The system he uses? A HTC Vive driven by a VR ready laptop. You can see his three-dimensional insect models on Sketchfab.com, using the Firefox web browser. In addition, you can view the models in two dimensions on any computer with most web browsers.
In his presentation to ESA, Attardo commented: "This isn't your parents' virtual reality! Early computers and monitors could not produce the frame rate/resolution required. Early attempts at VR were heavy, awkward and motion-sickness inducing. Increased processing power, smaller computers and high resolution screens have solved these issues."
How does VR work? For software, you need a graphical engine to build a world, content for inclusion in the world, and interactivity, with the world responding to the user via artificial intelligence. You need headsets, your windows into the virtual world. Controls assist the user in interacting with the world.
Attardo says that VR can be used for surgical training, data visualization, engineering, and "making big things small and small things big." It can also be used for physical and psychological therapy, such as evaluation of cognitive function in Alzheimer's patients, anxiety reduction in dementia patients, reduction in pre-surgery anxiety,post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) therapy, and reduction in pain associated with dental procedures.
How can VR be used in education? At the ESA meeting, the UC Davis faculty member listed these six educational benefits:
- Reduces or eliminates distractions
- Experienced-based learning
- VR-based experiences facilitate better recall due to spatial associations
- Content is interactive and explorable at the student's pace
- Visual classrooms allow long-distance learning
He attributed "better recall to spatial associations" to a research paper, Virtual Memory Palaces: Immersion Aids Recall, by E. Krokos, et al., published in 2018 in Virtual Reality.
Yes, there are some negatives along with the positives. The system can be expensive, you can encounter potential technical issues, it's limited to available content, and you'll need multiple sets of hardware. Plus, content development software has a steep learning curve, he said.
Attardo joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2017 from Yale University School of Public Health, New Haven, Conn., where he served as a research scientist. A native of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., he received a bachelor's degree in entomology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1994 and his doctorate in genetics from Michigan State University, East Lansing, in 2004.
At UC Davis, his lab focuses on aspects of the physiology of tsetse fly reproduction.
“As a scientist, I have taken my fascination with the magnifying things to the extreme in that my work tends to focus on the molecular biology underlying the physiology of insect adaptations," he told us in a 2017 interview. "The molecular adaptations are just as amazing as the morphological ones. However, they are even harder to visualize and explain to lay people. I enjoy illustration and artwork as well, so when it is not possible to take a picture of something I am working on, I try to create a visual representation of it.”
“I also really enjoy digital illustration and have recently gotten into 3D modeling. My first model is a tsetse fly for which I was able to use my macro photos to texture." See https://sketchfab.com/models/263750e5a9c54c56a77d63ac06f2f317
Attardo demonstrated his system at a recent Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, where participants of all ages engaged with three-dimensional gigantic spiders. Several members of a Brownie Girl Scout Troop from Vacaville giggled and held on to each other. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum, looked at the spiders, looked at them and said "I just want to collect them!"
You can see them at the Bohart Museum of Entomology during the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day, set Saturday, April 13. The theme is "Will Travel for Bugs: The Bohart Museum of Entomology's Collections From Around the World."
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., a change from last year's hours. The shorter hours will allow the Bohart Museum folks to help with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's displays at Briggs Hall and the “Black Widow-on-Parade” entry in the UC Davis Picnic Day Parade.
"At the Bohart, we are focusing on the various countries from around the world and some of their insect fauna," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. The 12 countries that the Bohart is highlighting are:
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Papua New Guinea
- Republic of South Africa
- United States
“So for anyone who is from there, has lived there, has visited there, or who wants to visit there, please come and take a peak at some unique insects from around the world,” Yang said. “Some people enjoy traveling to explore cuisine and culture, but traveling for the flora and fauna of the world is equally wonderful. Insects are an important part of nature, so be curious, not afraid.”
There's also something special about this year's display at the Bohart. Its exhibit, "Will Travel for Bugs: The Bohart Museum of Entomology's Collections From Around the World," has been nominated for the Planet Earth Award. "Visitors will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite exhibits in five award categories," according to Madhuri Narayan, UC Davis Picnic Day exhibits director. A QR code, linked to the voting survey, will be displayed at the museum. Or folks can vote here from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. April 13. The prize for earning the most votes? "An awesome certificate and bragging rights," Narayan said.
Briggs Hall. At Briggs Hall, home of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, the honey tasting booth has also been nominated for a special award. The Honey tasting is being organized by Extension apiculturistElina Lastro Niño. Briggs Hall will also offer maggot art, cockroach races, a bee observation hive and displays featuring aquatic insects, forensic entomology, and ants, among others, according to co-chairs forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey and doctoral student Brendon Boudinot. The Bug Doctor, the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District, and the Davis Fly Fishers will staff booths. Also planned: insect face painting, t-shirt sales and a bake sale. Both the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association, headed by president Boudinot, and the UC Davis Entomology Club, advised by Kimsey, will participate in the day's events.
Campuswide Picnic Day. The 105th annual UC Davis Picnic Day is free (free parking, free admission). It serves as the university's annual open house for prospective and current students, families, alumni, staff, faculty, and the greater Davis and regional communities. Picnic Day begins with the parade opening ceremony at 9:30 a.m., and the parade begins at 10 a.m. Most events will run from 10 a.m. to 4 or 4 p.m. (See website.)
Popular traditional events:
- The Battle of the Marching Bands
- Doxie Derby Race
- Chemistry Magic Show
- Children's Discovery Fair
- Fashion Show
- Cockroach Races
- Student Organization Fair
- Entertainment Stages
Bohart Museum. The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis. was founded in 1946 by UC Davis entomologist Richard “Doc” Bohart (1913-2007). It is the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a year-around gift shop and a live "petting zoo" that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects, tarantulas and praying mantids. The gift shop is stocked with books, jewlery, t-shirts, insect-collecting equipment, insect-themed candy, and stuffed animals.
The Bohart Museum is open to the general public Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., plus occasional, weekend open houses. Admission is free. Further information is available on the Bohart Museum website.
Yes, I'll have some mustard, please.
Yes, both the pollen and the nectar, thank you.
We watched a honey bee buzz into our little mustard patch, her proboscis (tongue) extended, and pollen weighting her down. If she were at the airport, someone would have volunteered to carry her bags.
But there she was, determined to bring back both pollen and nectar to her colony. It's nature's equivalent of gold. It's spring and time for the colony build-up.
In peak season, the queen bee lays 1500 to 2000 eggs a day. Everyone has a job to do, and if you're a bee scientist or a beekeeper, you'll see them all: nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue" specialists, air conditioning and heating technicians, guards, and undertakers.
What's thrilling this time of year, though, are the worker bees bringing home the mustard.
Want to learn more about bees? Be sure to stop by Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive, on Saturday, April 13 during the campuswide 105th annual UC Davis Picnic Day. You'll see a bee observation hive, as well as smokers, hive tools and veils, all part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology displays. You can talk to the bee scientists. And you can sample many different varietals of honey.
Briggs Hall also will feature cockroach races, maggot art, t-shirt sales, face-painting, aquatic insects, forensic entomology, Integrated Pest Management Program display, fly-tying and much more. It's free and family friendly.
And over at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, more entomological excitements await. It's the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a gift shop and a live "petting zoo" of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects (walking sticks), tarantulas and praying mantids. Stay tuned!
They're featured in a recent Entomology Today blog, published by the Entomological Society of America (and written by yours truly) and headlined "Bugs and Beat."
Well, move over. Think about the three-cornered alfalfa hopper (Spissistilus festinus) and the male insect organ, the aedeagus.
A group of seven graduate students in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology performed such tunes as “E Major Homeboy (Spissistilus festinus),” “Tragedy (of the Clocks),” and “Jackson's Song (Aedeagal Bits),” as well as a cover song, “Island in the Sun” by Weezer. All are members of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association, headed by Brendon Boudinot, president.
Graduate student Michael Bollinger of the lab of Frank Zalom (a former president of the Entomological Society of America) composed the first three tunes.
The performance capped a day of insect-related activities that included maggot art, cockroach races, nematode identification, scavenger hunts, and honey tasting. Bugs rule!
- Molecular geneticist and drummer Yao “Fruit Fly” Cai of the Joanna Chiu lab dressed in a fruit fly costume (Drosophila melanogaster), which he described as “our favorite model organism in Insecta!”
- Bark beetle specialist and rhythm guitarist Jackson “Darth Beetle” Audley of the Steve Seybold lab portrayed an Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis).
- Honey bee researcher and bass guitarist Wei “Silverfish” Lin of the Brian Johnson lab wore a costume that celebrated his moniker (Lepisma saccharina), a small, wingless insect in the order Zygentoma.
- Ant specialist and keyboard artist Zachary “Leptanilla” Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab dressed as “a generic male leptanilline ant (Formicidae: Leptanillinae).” However, he noted “the yellow color is not anywhere near so vivid in real life.”
- Systematist and tenor saxophonist Jill “Jillus Saximus” Oberski of the Phil Ward lab dressed as a “generalized heteropteran,” which she described as “most likely a member of the family Acanthosomatidae (shield bug) or Pentatomidae (stink bug). My family and friends have called me Jillybug, so I came to be the band's representative of Hemiptera.”
- Molecular geneticist and vocalist Christine “The Clock” Tabuloc of the Joanna Chiu lab wrapped herself in butterfly wings.
- Ant specialist and bass guitarist Brendon “Hype Man-tis” Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab dressed in a green helmet, a blue and gold EGSA bee shirt, and a UC Davis cow costume to showcase his department and campus-wide love of bovines.
Drummer Yao Cai, who grew up in Southeast China and holds an undergraduate degree in plant protection and a master's degree from China Agricultural University, has been playing drums since age 17. “We formed as a short-lived band for a show. After that, I realized that I really wanted to keep playing and improved my drum techniques. Thus, we started another band in college and played for six years in college, as an undergrad and graduate student.
“It is very interesting that I was in a band that was the first band in Department of Entomology in China Agricultural University and now we started the first band in Department of Entomology at UC Davis,” Cai added.
Rhythm guitarist Jackson Audley said he “started learning to play the guitar when I was about 11 or 12-ish. The first band I joined was a Blink-182 cover band, in which I played the bass guitar, and we played together for most of eighth grade. Then in early high school I joined a Smashing Pumpkins/Radiohead cover band as the second guitarist. Shortly after joining that band, we started making predominantly original music. By the end of high school, we had played a few small shows around the Atlanta area and had recorded a few songs. Unfortunately, the band did not survive the transition into university and we broke up.”
Since then he's mostly played “for fun, and I like to jam with folks.”
Jill Oberski, a native of Twin Cities, grew up mostly in Chaska, “a sleepy suburb of Minnesota.” She received her bachelor's degree in Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she double-majored in biology and German studies.
“I started playing the piano in kindergarten and switched to saxophone in fifth grade,” Oberski related. “I played classical and jazz in my school bands from sixth grade through college and pit orchestra, pep band, and marching band in high school as well. I've always been better at classical than rock, jazz, or Latin.”
“I probably reached my highest point in late high school, when I served as co-section leader for the saxes in the Minnesota all-state symphonic band,” Oberski said. “We even got to play a concert in Minneapolis' orchestra hall. These days I'm only involved in the entomology band and some very casual ukulele playing.”
Brendon Boudinot, who received his bachelor's degree in entomology at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, performed on a metallic sky-blue bass and served as emcee. “I just love art,” said Boudinot, president of the UC Davis EGSA. “Music is a family thing for me in a number of different ways. Although I have played instruments alone or in groups for many years, nothing really clicked in me until I heard Michael and Yao play together. They shred.”
Vocalist Christine Anne Tabuloc, who grew up in the Los Angeles area and received her bachelor's degree from UC Davis in biochemistry and molecular biology, says she does not play an instrument. “I'm far less talented than everyone else in the group,” she quipped. “I've been singing for as long as I can remember. I've been writing lyrics since elementary school. However, I never got around to getting music written for them. I was in choir before and have had solos but that's pretty much it.”
Bass guitarist Wei Lin, who grew up in Xiamen, “a beautiful island in southern China,” received his bachelor's and master's degree at China Agricultural University, majoring in plant protection and entomology. “This was my first experience in a band. I just started to learn bass last year when this band was built.”
Following the four-set gig, Boudinot told the appreciative crowd, “That's all we know!”
Pending performances? “The band,” he said, “is on hiatus.”
(Editor's Note: Listen to a clips of their music on YouTube.)