Do you have a question about wasps or want to learn more about them?
The family arts-and-crafts activity will be to create "gall ghosts."
Visitors are also invited to hold and take images of the insects from the live "petting zoo," which will include Madagascar hissing cockroaches and stick insects, also known as "walking sticks."
Visitors will learn about the smallest fairy wasps to the "murder hornets"; what role wasps play in plant galls and figs; and how to distinguish a parasitoid from a parasite. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, will discuss the Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, dubbed by the news media as “the murder hornet." The Entomological Society of America recently established as its official common name, “northern giant hornet.”
A single colony of the Asian giant hornet was found and destroyed Sept. 18, 2019 in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, Canada, and a single dead hornet was found Dec. 8, 2019 in nearby Blaine, Wash. Since then, it also has been sighted-- and destroyed--in both Canada and Washington state.
Kimsey and two other wasp experts published “The Diversity of Hornets in the Genus Vespa (Hymenoptera: Vespidae; Vespinae); Their Importance and Interceptions in the United States,” in the journal Insect Systematics and Diversity in May of 2020. (See https://bit.ly/3BVZ34Y)
Lead author Allan Smith-Pardo, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and co-authors James Carpenter of the American Museum of Natural History's Division of Invertebrate Zoology, and Kimsey covered 22 species of hornets, including V. mandarinia.
Fairy wasps, which belong to the family of chalcidoid wasps, are tiny insects that include the world's smallest known insect, with a body length of 0.139mm, and the smallest known flying insect, only 0.15mm. All known fairy wasps are parasitoids of the eggs of other insects.
Other special events planned by the Bohart Museum this year include:
Saturday, Oct. 15, 1 to 4 p.m.
Insects, Art & Culture
Visitors will learn about insects through the lenses of art and culture. This event is part of Spirit Week (Oct. 10-16) for Aggie students, parents and alumni, but all are welcome.
Saturday, Oct. 15, 11 to 11:50 a.m.
Special Talk: Plants, Insects and Art: Mary Foley Benson's Scientific Illustrations
Location: Teaching and Learning Complex (TLC) Building, 482 Hutchison Drive, UC Davis campus
This event is part of Spirit Week for Aggie students, parents and alumni, but all are welcome. Srdan Tunic, a candidate for a master's degree in art history and a Bohart associate, will be highlighting the scientific illustrations of Mary Foley Benson (1905-1992), formerly of the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Entomology and the Smithsonian Institution and who later worked for UC Davis entomologists. Much of her work appears on campus. (See research story on the artist by Malcolm Furniss)
Sunday, Nov. 6, 1 to 4 p.m.
Dragonflies are described as "the ultimate predator both in the water and the air." Visitors will meet scientists and natural historians who will share information on the world of dragonflies.
The Bohart Museum is the home of a global collection of eight million insect specimens. It also houses a live “petting zoo,” comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas; and a gift shop with insect-themed items. More information is available on the website at https://bohart.ucdavis.edu or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Should we now worry about those Asian giant hornets becoming residents of our Golden State?
Kimsey, a global authority on wasps, bees and other insects, is a two-term past president of the International Society of Hymenopterists. She recently co-authored “The Diversity of Hornets in the Genus Vespa (Hymenoptera: Vespidae; Vespinae); Their Importance and Interceptions in the United States” in the journal Insect Systematics and Diversity with two other entomologists: lead author Allan Smith-Pardo, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); and James Carpenter of the American Museum of Natural History's Division of Invertebrate Zoology.
The latest news: the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced Oct. 24 that a nest was discovered and destroyed in a tree cavity near Blaine, Wash. This marked Washington's first known nest of Vespa mandarinia. North America's first detected colony of the giant hornets was destroyed in September 2019 on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. A single V. mandarinia was found dead in Blaine, Wash., in December 2019.
But to worry. The hornet won't like California's hot, dry summers and lack of rainfall.
As Kimsey told reporter Kellie Hwang of the San Francisco Chronicle: "It is exceedingly unlikely that these hornets can establish in California. If you look at where they're found in their native range in southern Asia, this region has summer rain. I think California is too dry, except perhaps along the far northern coast.”
Washington State University (WSU) entomologists and their colleagues agree. They recently "examined more than 200 records from the hornet's native range in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, then used a set of ecological models incorporating climate data to predict likely global habitat across six continents," according to a WSU news release.
They found that "Asian giant hornets are most likely to thrive in places with warm summers, mild winters, and high rainfall. Extreme heat is lethal, so their most suitable habitats are in regions with a maximum temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Based on those factors, suitable habitat for the giant hornet exists along much of the U.S. west and east coasts, adjacent parts of Canada, much of Europe, northwestern and southeastern South America, central Africa, eastern Australia, and most parts of New Zealand."
"Much of the interior of the U.S. is inhospitable to the hornet due to extremes of heat, cold, and low rainfall," the news release related. "This includes the eastern parts of Washington state and British Columbia, as well as California's Central Valley, all of which have major fruit and nut crops that rely on honey bee pollination."
Scientists dislike the sensationalized name "murder hornets" (so named because insects can quickly destroy a honey bee colony). The insects defend their colony when it is threatened, but generally will not attack people or pets, according to WSDA. The fear is there, though. "Their stinger is longer than that of a honeybee and their venom is more toxic," WSDA says. "They can also sting repeatedly."
But "murder hornets?"
Maybe we should just call them "giant hornets," you think?
Oh, the questions that Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, fielded at the Bohart's first-ever virtual symposium, held Friday morning, May 22.
For nearly an hour (11 to 11:45), Kimsey answered questions about the Asian giant hornet (aka "the murder hornet," so labeled by the news media); earwigs, native bees, midges, cockroaches, butterflies, yellow jackets and mosquitoes, and others.
Kimsey, a UC Davis professor of entomology and a two-time president of the International Society of Hymenopterists, related how a single colony of Asian giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia) was detected and destroyed on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and a single hornet was found dead in Blaine, Wash. They are the first and only Asian giant hornets detected in North America. There is no invasion.
Unfortunately, she said, other insects are being mistaken for the giant hornets, including the Jerusalem cricket, known as "the potato bug." Even "dog vomit" is being mistaken for giant hornets, she said, pointing out that a Washington state colleague shared with her a photo of dog vomit. Someone figured a dog had swallowed an Asian giant hornet and "that's why it threw up," Kimsey told her virtual audience.
In Asia, "people live with them and they don't find them particularly troubling" any more than we do our yellow jackets, she said.
"In Asia, people eat these things, which shows you how terrified they are of them," quipped Kimsey, mentioning that her former graduate student, Matan Shelomi, now an assistant professor of entomology at the National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan, has dined on the cooked larval and pupae dishes at Taiwanese restaurants.
The UC Davis professor said that the Japanese honey bees are larger than our European bees and form a ball to "cook" an Asian hornet. "They (honey bees) pick up the smell (of a hornet targeting their colony), cover it, and shiver their flight muscles to generate heat. They can raise it (the temperature) to well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which cooks the hornet."
Kimsey showed hornet and bee specimens from the Bohart collection. The hornet is about an inch and a half long, and "rarely gets up to 2 inches," despite what the media is saying, she said. "An inch and a half is still a big animal."
Unlike the honey bee workers, a hornet can sting multiple times. "Because it's such a large animal, it has more venom (than a honey bee)," she said, quipping "You could think about how nice they taste."
Kimsey said she's been stung by hornets and honey bees, and the sting of a honey bee hurts much more.
When she finished her presentation on "murder hornets," UC Davis spider specialist Jason Bond jokingly asked: “is there such a thing as a murder spider?” (A future Bohart Museum virtual house is scheduled to cover spiders. Bond, a noted spider authority and the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, recently discovered a new genus of spiders in Monterey County and is seeking public input on the species name. Suggestions are to be emailed to him at email@example.com by 5 p.m, June 1. See more here.)
Someone also asked Kimsey: "Are there murder mosquitoes?"
Other highlights of the virtual open house:
- On the website, you can access a drawing of an Asian giant hornet and download and color it. It is the work of UC Davis undergraduate student Meghan Crebbins-Oats. In addition, there's a drawing of a western yellowjacket to download and color; it is by artist Melinda Zavala.
- Also on the website, you can access a Swedish cinnamon roll recipe, posted there in connection with the Bohart's celebration of the birthday anniversary (May 23) of Swedish-born Linnaeus, "the father of modern taxonomy." UC Davis doctoral student Charlotte Herbert Alberts, of Swedish heritage, selected the recipe.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, UC Davis campus, is the home of some 8 million insect specimens. It also includes a live "petting zoo" (including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and a gift shop. In keeping with the mandated coronavirus pandemic precautions, the Bohart is closed until further notice.
Access the Facebook Live recorded video here.