If you had asked that question at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house at the seventh annual Biodiversity Museum Day last Saturday at the University of California, Davis, the Yellow Shirts would have been proud.
The Yellow Shirts were the volunteers--the insect enthusiasts who share their time, dedication and expertise.
Check out the photos and you can see and feel--and almost hear--the excitement.
- UC Davis student Danny Nguyen coaxing a walking stick to climb his arm.
- UC Davis student Diego Rivera showing Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
- UC Davis doctoral candidate Jessica Gillung encouraging questions from an inquisitive group of youngsters and adults.
- UC Davis entomology graduate Joel Hernandez displaying a walking stick or stick insect.
- UC Davis entomology student Lohit Garikipati showing his orchid praying mantis and others from his collection.
- Bohart Museum associate Noah Crockette, Sacramento City College student, discussing his collection trip to Belize, led by faculty members Fran Keller of Folsom Lake College and Dave Wyatt of Sacramento City College.
- Entomologist Jeff Smith showing the butterfly/moth collection that he curates at the Bohart.
- Professor Dave Wyatt of Sacramento City College discussing the insects he collected in Belize.
The day was still new when someone penned "holding insects" to answer the bulletin-board question, "What do you like best about the exhibits?" Many more comments followed.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, is home to some 8 million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" and a gift shop. It's located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.
If you missed Biodiversity Museum Day, the next major event is the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 21 when the Bohart Museum and other entities will greet thousands of visitors. And it's free.
Meanwhile, the insect museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Admission is free. For more information, contact the firstname.lastname@example.org or access the website or Facebook page.
When Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, glanced at a wall near the entrance of the Bohart Museum during a recent open house, she noticed something that wasn't part of the wall.
A stick insect, aka walking stick.
An escapee from the Bohart's live "petting zoo."
And it was doing what stick insects (Phasmatodea) do--it was molting.
“It should be finished by now,” Kimsey said, periodically keeping an eye on its progress.
"Twiggy" is now back in the petting zoo, awaiting the arrival of visitors to the Bohart Museum during the seventh annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17, when the public can explore the diversity of life at 13 museums and/or collections. For free. Times will vary from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or from noon to 4 p.m. The Bohart, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane and the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (See more information on Biodiversity Day.)
Like all insects, stick insects have a head, thorax and abdomen and six legs. Their elongated bodies mimic a stick or straw. These "bug sticks" don't move fast (is that why they're calling "walking sticks" instead of "running sticks?"), but what a perfect camouflage from predators!
Entomologists tell us that before reaching the adult stage, a stick insect may shed its skin six to nine times, depending on the species and the gender. Its outer skeleton (skin) prevents it from growing so it sheds its skin to do so.
Stick insects are a favorite at the Bohart Museum petting zoo, which also includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, praying mantises, and tarantulas. Visitors love to hold the sticks and photograph them. They can also purchase stick insect T-shirts in the Bohart Museum's year-around gift shop.
A few facts from Wikipedia:
- The genus Phobaeticus includes the world's longest insects and can reach 12 inches long.
- Many species have a secondary line of defense in the form of startle displays, spines or toxic secretions
- Phasmatodea can be found all over the world except for the Antarctic and Patagonia.
- They are most numerous in the tropics and subtropics; the greatest diversity is found in Southeast Asia and South America, followed by Australia, Central America, and the southern United States.
- The island of Borneo has more species of Phasmatodea than any other place in the world: The count: 300 species.
- Many species of phasmids are parthenogenic, meaning the females lay eggs without needing to mate with males to produce offspring.
So when the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, themed "Keep Calm and Insect On," took place last Saturday, an Australian walking stick, Extatosoma tiaratum, got into the act. It promptly walked from the hand of entomology graduate student Charlotte Herbert to her head and pretended to be a barrette. A Phasmid barrette.
This one was a sultry brown female adult stick insect with a decidedly spiked "hairdo." Spiked? The females are covered with thornlike spikes, used for defense as well as camouflage.
According to Wikipedia, "Both sexes, when threatened, stand on the front and middle legs, pointing their abdomen up or to the side in a sort of 'scorpion' pose. They fold back their legs to defend themselves if anything comes in contact with their abdomen. Adults can release a defensive odor that humans might not find offensive as it "is rather reminiscent of peanut butter, vinegar or toffee."
Many of the visitors at Saturday's open house at first overlooked the stick insect barrette. After all, it was camouflaged. But they quickly grasped Charlotte Herbert's enthusiasm for insects as she shared information and encouraged them to ask questions and hold the insects. In between, she led a workshop on how to make buzz kazoos.
"I have known since I was five years old that I wanted to be an entomologist," Herbert said. "Growing up on a farm in New Hampshire allowed me to fall in love with the natural world and the critters that exist in it. To this day, I love nature and especially insects. There is something extraordinarily beautiful about their small size and complexity."
"Four years ago I started to follow my passion of entomology beyond the hobbyists perspective and into research during my undergraduate at St. Lawrence University, Canton, N.Y. Even though my undergraduate school did not offer a degree in entomology, my advisor Dr. Karl McKnight took me under his wing and allowed me to conduct independent entomological research. It was there that I fell in love with the fly (Diptera) family Asilidae, also known as assassin flies or robber flies. There are over 7,500 species of assassin flies found worldwide. They are incredibly diverse, venomous, and aggressive aerial predators"
For the past two years Herbert worked with assassin flies at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. This fall she became a Ph.D student in Lynn Kimsey's lab and a volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Kimsey directs the Bohart Museum and is a professor of entomology in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"I am so happy to be at UC Davis!" Herbert said. "I am following my lifelong passion of entomology, surrounded with other like-minded individuals, and get the pleasure of working at the Bohart, where I can teach people to set aside their fears of insects and instead glimpse into their incredibly complex and beautiful world."
There definitely was no fear when visitors got acquainted with the walking stick in her hair and the one in her hand.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is home to nearly eight million specimens, as well a "live" petting zoo, with critters like Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and a rose-haired tarantula named "Peaches." It also operates a gift shop filled with T-shirts, insect collecting equipment, posters, books, insect-themed candy and jewelry.
Throughout the academic year, the Bohart hosts an open house on specified weekends. The remaining open houses:
- Sunday, Jan. 10 from 1 to 4 p.m.: Parasitoid Palooza II
- Saturday, Feb. 13: Biodiversity Museum Day
- Saturday, April 16, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: UC Davis Picnic Day
- Saturday, July 31, 8 to 11 p.m.: “Celebrate Moths”
Well, why wouldn't anyone NOT want to? That's the question we ought to ask.
Enter doctoral candidate Matan Shelomi of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He will present his exit seminar on "Digestive Physiology of the Phasmatodea" on Wednesday, March 5 from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, UC Davis campus. His seminar is scheduled to be video-taped for later posting on UCTV.
For a preview of his work, watch Shelomi's phdcomics.com video; he cleverly explains his complicated research in two minutes. It's a classic Matan Shelomi.
Shelomi, who studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, will receive his doctorate this spring and will then seek a postdoctoral position.
What will he be covering in his seminar?
Shelomi received his bachelor's degree in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University in 2009, and immediately after, enrolled in graduate school at UC Davis.
His work in Davis is funded by the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship program. Twice he has won the National Science Foundation's East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes' Fellowship: once to work in the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences in Tsukuba, Japan, and once to work in Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan.
Shelomi served as a teaching assistant for Bob Kimsey's forensic entomology class. In addition, he co-taught a freshman seminar with Lynn Kimsey on "Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design." He has guest-lectured for Entomology 10 "Natural History of Insects"; Entomology 100 "Introduction to Entomology"; and Entomology 102 "Insect Physiology."
He has presented at numerous meetings of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA) and organized or co-organized four symposia at those meetings. He participates in the ESA's Linnaean Games and Student Debate teams. For his work with ESA and outside it, he won PBESA's John Henry Comstock Award in 2013.
There's more, much more. Shelomi presented a workshop at the 2012 International Conference on Science in Society, and received first place for his talk this past summer at the International Congress of Orthopterology in Kunming, China. He has published his research in number of peer-reviewed journals.
The doctoral candidate's work has been spotlighted in the Sacramento Bee, California Aggie, DavisPatch, plus blogs and vlogs like LiveScience, PHD TV, and Breaking Bio. In addition, Shelomi answers entomology and biology questions on Quora.com, where he has been a top writer for two consecutive years. Huffington Post and Slate printed some of his Quora answers. You might remember that he won a "Shorty" (social media) award for his post "If you injure a bug, should you kill it or let it live?"
Lynn Kimsey says she doesn't know when he finds time to sleep.
Frankly, we don't, either.
So, they’ve designed a humorous t-shirt inscribed with “Know Your Sticks,” featuring drawings of four sticks: a stick person, a real stick or twig, a Vietnamese walking stick and an Australian spiny stick (family Phasmatidae).
“One of the most popular insects in the Bohart Museum’s live ‘petting zoo’ is the walking stick,” said Fran Keller, who originated the idea of a stick t-shirt, in between studying for her doctoral degree in entomology. “So we thought we’d clarify the sticks.”
Keller designed the shirt, and undergraduate student Ivana Li, president of the UC Davis Entomology Club, drew the illustrations.
The stick person, named Talea persona (Latin for "stick person"), is the kind you might see on a rear windshield, Keller said. The real stick (Twigus stickus) is one you might see in the woods. And the Vietnamese (Medauroidea extradentata) and Australian sticks (Extatosoma tiaratum)? You can see them—and hold them--in the Bohart Museum.
The t-shirts, available in all sizes and many colors, range from $15 (for kids) to $18 (adults) to $20 (adults’ v-neck). They are available online or in the gift shop at the museum, Room 1124 of Academic Surge, located near the corner of La Rue Road and Crocker Lane (formerly California Avenue). Proceeds benefit the museum's educational programs.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of more than seven million insect specimens and is the seventh largest insect collection in North America. It is also the home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946.
The Bohart’s regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. It is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
The Bohart Museum's “petting zoo” includes such permanent residents as Madagascar hissing cockroaches and a rose-haired tarantula, in addition to the walking sticks.
Keller suggests that for a novelty photo, stick a walking stick on your "Know Your Sticks" t-shirt, and have a friend photograph the “sticktoitiveness.”
And that’s not something to shake a stick at.