A female red rock skimmer, Paltothemis lineatipes, did just that.
She was several feet from our fish pond and several yards from our pollinator garden. And inches from where we stood.
This dragonfly is a species of skimmers in the family Libelluidae, the fame family as those red flame skimmers Libellula saturata. Want to learn more about dragonflies? Check out the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis. It's located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. Dragonflies are not only represented among the insect museum's nearly eight million global insect specimens, but in jewelry, books and on a poster in the gift shop, "Dragonflies of California," the work of Kareofelas and Fran Keller, then a graduate student in entomology at UC Davis and now an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College.
Some folks think dragonflies yield special powers. "In almost every part of the world, the Dragonfly symbolizes change, transformation, adaptability, and self-realization," says one website. "The Dragonfly has been a symbol of happiness, new beginnings and change for many centuries. The Dragonfly means hope, change, and love."
When it landed on our window screen in the early morning, it brought one thing: joy.
"Look! A dragonfly on the screen! Cool! Never seen one there before."
The Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, is one busy place--lots of activities planned this summer and there's a newly announced schedule of summer hours.
Moth Night. The Bohart will celebrate National Moth Night: Exploring Night Time Nature on Saturday, Aug. 3, instead of in July. The event, free and family friendly, will take place from 8 to 11 p.m. Visitors can view the Bohart's world-class collection of moths, make a craft, and search for moths outside with experts. Scientists will set up a blacklight to draw night-flying insects. The set-up includes a white sheet that's illuminated by a generator-powered ultraviolet (UV) light.
Last year Bohart associate and "Moth Man" John De Benedictis listed the species, by family, sighted at Moth Night. Among them
- NOCTUIDAE: Spodoptera exigua (Beet Armyworm Moth), Proxenus sp. (probably P. mindara)
- GEOMETRIDAE: Prochoerodestruxaliata
- PYRALIDAE: Ehestiodesgilvescentella
- TORTRICIDAE: Cydia latiferreana (Filbertworm Moth), Grapholita prunivora (Lesser Appleworm Moth)
- GELECHIIDAE: Leucogniella sp. (probably L. distincta)
- TINEDAE: Oinophila v-flava
- ACROLOPHIDAE: Amydria sp. (cannot tell genus or species without dissecting. Likely Pseudopsalta confusella.)
Lepidopterists' Society Meeting. The Bohart Museum will be closed to the public July 8-12 to accommodate the 68th annual meeting of the Lepidopterists' Society. The Bohart Museum, to host the conference, maintains the seventh largest insect collection in North America with more than eight million specimens. It is also the home of the California Insect Survey.
New Summer Hours. The Bohart Museum will be closed in the mornings to walk-in visitors due to scheduled tours and outreach events, announced Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. The insect museum will be open to visitors from 1 to 5 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays "and we are offering a scavenger hunt."
"On Wednesdays, starting July 3 at 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., we will have casual 30-minute tours for walk-in visitors," she said. "No reservations are required. All of these events are free to the public, but donations are suggested."
Directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, the insect museum is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. The Bohart also houses a gift shop and a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas.
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?
Five entomology-related entries from UC Davis won awards. They involved an administrative tour of the Bohart Museum of Entomology; the publication of the first-ever Bohart Museum calendar; "Bee Man" Norm Gary, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology; the UC Davis Picnic Day performance of "The Entomology Band" comprised of UC Davis graduate students; and an image of a honey bee covered with mustard pollen.
The piece on the Bohart tour chronicled the visit of UC Davis Chancellor Gary May and Dean Helene Dillard of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Director Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, discussed the teaching, education and public service underway at the museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a gift shop and live "petting zoo."
Chancellor May and Dean Dillard expressed a strong interest in the science: the specimens, scientists and research. But the live petting zoo containing Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks (stick insects) and tarantulas? Not so much.
The news coverage, however, scored a gold award (first place) in the ACE competition. Judges lauded the coverage by yours truly (Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology), as "great work, nice coverage" but commented that the chancellor and dean weren't too "keen on interacting with the insects." (No, they did not ask to cuddle a cockroach!)
Communications coordinator Steve Elliott of the Western Integrated Pest Management Center won four awards, including two golds:
- A gold award for writing for the web for his "Preparing for the Invasion: Emerald Ash Borer in Colorado" (See entry: https://bit.ly/2YBaRTT)
- A gold award for writing within a specialized publications for “Learning to Manage – and Live with – Coyotes in Southern California.” (See entry: https://bit.ly/2LLFjZY)
- A silver award (second place) for the center's electronic newsletter, highlighting integrated pest management research, issues, funding opportunities, jobs and meetings each month. Issues available at (See entry: https://bit.ly/2M5mL6s)
- A bronze award (third place), with Will Suckow, for the Western IPM Center website (www.westernipm.org)
Science writer Gregory Watry of the College of Biological Sciences won a silver award in the promotional writing category for his story, ‘Feeding the Future: Growing Stronger Crops.” (Entry: https://bit.ly/2vZYZyz)
Kathy Keatley Garvey also won several other entomology-related awards:
- A silver award for a feature photo of a honey bee covered with mustard pollen. (Entry: https://bit.ly/2I82fi2)
- A bronze award (third place) for "The Bee Man" newspaper story on Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology, book author, and retired bee wrangler (Entry: https://bit.ly/2w3yW9m)
- A bronze award for writing within a specialized publication. "Bugs and Beats," published in Entomology Today, a publication of the Entomological Society of America, featured "The Entomology Band" of UC Davis graduate students (Entry: https://bit.ly/2JHIfEa)
- A bronze award for the Bug Squad blog, "When Queen Bees Get Permanents," showcasing the art of Karissa Merritt, UC Davis entomology student, in a Bohart Museum calendar and the humorous writings of students in Lynn Kimsey classes (Entry: https://bit.ly/2BWV7Ch)
ACE, headquartered in Morton Grove, Ill., and founded in 1913, is a non-profit international association of communications, educators and information technologists.
Wait! They may NOT have been ladybugs, scientifically known as lady beetles, family Coccinellidae.
“I'm still not convinced that the swarms are ladybugs,” Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, told us Friday. “It's pretty late in the season for them and apparently there's no hard evidence for ladybugs except anecdotes that folks have seen a lot of ladybugs in the region. We were seeing a lot of ladybugs in the Imperial Dunes when we were there in March.”
Scientists spotted the cloud, about 10 miles wide and a mile above the ground around 9 p.m. They ruled out bats and birds. The temperature in the air? About 40 degrees or lower—considered too cold for ladybugs.
“Forty degrees is too cold for their flight muscles, but if there's a wind and they've already warmed up, it's possible they could stay airborne,” Kimsey said, adding she'd like to see some hard evidence that these were indeed ladybugs. “Otherwise this is all just speculation.”
The ladybugs were thought to be the migratory convergent lady beetles, Hippodamia convergens. Some 200 species of ladybugs reside in California. (See information on this beetle on the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program website.)
Speculation abounds. Why the huge swarm? Maybe it was the result of a combination of cues, such as temperatures and length of day, climate change (wildfires?), and lack of food? A perfect storm?
Kimsey told reporter Maanvi Singh of The Guardian in a June 7th news story: “It's too bad there wasn't anyone in a private plane up in the air at that time. We could've figured it out based on which dead insects were splatted across the wings.””
Kimsey knows about those bug splats. She was the nation's only entomologist selected for the NASA SPLAT/Boeing team to research how to decrease bug splats on aircraft and thus increase fuel efficiency in commercial jets. NASA engineers developed four different surface treatments designed to repel bugs and Boeing developed wing modifications to test an aircraft at Shreveport, La.
By the way, a Boeing EcoDemonstrator 575 took flight, reaching an altitude of 5000 feet to maximize bug splats. The panels generated 100 and 500 splats each. Kimsey identified all the insects and found that a relatively small number of species caused the bulk of the splats. They included flower flies, aphids, thrips, muscid flies, midges, mosquitoes and love bugs. Kimsey's excellence in teaching, research and public service led to her being named the 2016 recipient of the Academic Senate's Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award and a comment from her nominators that her SPLAT research was a "great public service to NASA, the airline industry and worldwide passengers who depend on air travel."
Naturalist Greg Kareofelas, an associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, has never seen such a cloud but has photographed lady beetles overwintering in California's Coast Range. "When they are at the place they will spend the winter, they hide under leaves and other detritus and unless you dig down to the ground level, you don't really see them or notice they are there. I guess this is the way they are protected from the cold. I know the places I have found them are under snow for the winter. It is only when they are ready to disperse in the spring, do they congregate like on tree trunks and other places above ground level."
UC Davis emeritus professor Hugh Dingle, author of Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move (second edition, 2014, Oxford University Press), a sequel to the first edition published in 1996, says the cloud may have been lady beetles. "I guess lady beetles, but I suspect other insects were in the swarm as well."
"This one was especially large, but yes, there have been other swarms showing up on radars, especially locusts, some moths," Dingle said. "Could also have been moths, grasshoppers, etc. I confess, though, that the swarm was so large that I wonder if there was a glitch somewhere on the radar or something?"
Now if there had just been a plane near that cloud, as Kimsey pointed out, we'd have known exactly what was in that swarm.
Birds, bats, bloom? Unidentified objects?
Splat! Identified objects.