The fair opened Friday, July 13 and continues through Sunday, July 29.
You'll see beneficial insects, such as honey bees and lady beetles (aka lady bugs) and pests that ravage our crops.
"Danger lurks in a backyard garden," a sign informs visitors. "Aphids, cutworms, mealybugs and other pests are preying on your vegetables and flowers. Who's a gardener to turn to for help? Bring in the reinforcements and enlist the aid of Beneficial Bugs that will crusade against the Invasive Species and help keep your pest outbreaks under control. Native plants naturally attract these Beneficial Bugs, equipping your garden with its own pest managers. Low costs and low water--It's a win/win!"
Madagascar hissing cockroaches from the Bohart draw "oohs" and "yecchs." Visitors learn that "these cockroaches inhabit Madagascar, a large island off southeastern Africa. They speed up plant decomposition in their native environment, providing an important ecological service. When provoked, Madagascar hissing cockroaches hiss through their spiracles, the tiny tubes through which insects breathe. Spiracles are visible on adults as tiny black dots on the edges of their bodies."
Another sign meant to engage visitors reads: "If you were a bug, which would you be?" You'll see images of everything from a butterfly to a dragonfly, from a honey bee and lady bug, and from an assassin bug to a praying mantis, not to mention a grasshopper, cockroach, ant, and spider.
- One teenage girl poked her head through the Bug Barn door, glanced at the displays, and dashed off, proclaiming "Bugs give me the creeps!"
- A middle-aged woman declared to all present: "I hate, hate bugs!"
- A preschooler pointed to the butterflies. "Pretty, Mommy, pretty!"
- A toddler left the Bug Barn waving at the honey bees. "Bye, bye, bees!" he said.
The good, the bad and the bugly.
Want to see more insects? The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis, is hosting two summer weekend programs, one in August and one in September. hey're free, family friendly and open to the public:
- "Fire and Ice: Extreme California Insects" from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 19
- "Crafty Insects" from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 22.
"For the Aug. 19 open house, we will be exploring extreme insects from the deserts and the mountains of California," said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. "For Sept. 22 we will be having a two-way museum. We will be displaying crafty--think cunning--insects and we are going to ask people to bring insect crafts that they have made, so all those felted, knitted, carved, and sculpted crafts are welcome. Any and all hand-made, flea-shaped tea cozies are welcomed!"
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses some eight million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and praying mantids) and a year-around gift shop.
Bees, butterflies and sunflowers at the California State Fair?
The state fair, which opened July 12 and ends July 28, is a good place to see a bee observation hive, honey bees on sunflowers, carpenter bees on petunias, and butterflies in the Insect Pavilion, aka Bug Barn.
If the purpose of a fair is to educate, inform and entertain, then that's what this fair does. A recent stop at the 160th annual fair provided a glimpse of what's going on in the entomological world--and what shouldn't be going on in the petunia patch.
At the California Foodstyles in the Expo Center, beekeeper Doug Houck of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers' Association and his daughter, Rebekah Hough, urged folks to find the queen bee, worker bees and drones in the bee observation hive. Then the fairgoers sampled the honey.
At the Bug Barn, mounted butterflies drew "oohs" and "ahs." Just a few of the butterflies: Monarchs, Western Tiger Swallowtails, Great Purple Hairstreaks, Dusty-Winged Skippers, Red Admirals, and Painted Ladies. The Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis, home of nearly eight million specimens, provided some of the butterflies.
Outside the Insect Pavilion, a garden thrived with tall-as-an-elephant's-eye sunflowers. Honey bees and sunflower bees buzzed among the heads--sunflower heads and fairgoers' heads.
The most disconcerting scene: teenagers screaming when they heard and saw the female Valley carpenter bees nectaring petunias. "Ick, big black bees!" said one as she quickly ran off.
"Carpenter bees," a middle-aged bystander commented dryly as she sauntered off to see the sturgeon display.
Another teenager approached the petunia patch, and she, too, bolted. "They're going to sting me!" she yelled.
It's rather sad that the first reaction on seeing bees in a flower bed is not "pollinator" or "pretty flowers" or "pink petunias" but "sting."
When did "Big Fun" become "Big Scare?"
Hint: It's the state insect.
"What, we have a state insect?" you ask.
Yes, and it's the California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice).
On the monorail, it's an artistic blue and white and it seems to flutter along for the ride. (See what the Monorail Society wrote about it in 1995.) In real life, the male of the species is yellow and black, and the female, predominantly yellow.
Fran Keller, doctoral candidate in entomology at the University of California, Davis, and her colleague, naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, a volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology identified the insect on the monorail right away. Several years ago they teamed to create a California dogface butterfly poster, which graces many a classroom, office, and den. The poster is for sale in the Bohart Museum's gift shop on Crocker Lane, UC Davis, or online.
Keller went on to write a children's book, "The Story of the Dogface Butterfly," with watercolor-and-ink illustrations by Laine Bauer, a 2012 graduate of UC Davis. Kareofelas contributed photographs.
Net proceeds from the sale of the 35-page book, also available at the Bohart Museum or online, benefit the insect museum's education, outreach and research programs.
The book tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly, and how schoolchildren became involved in convincing the State Legislature to select the colorful butterfly as the state insect.
Bauer’s illustrations depict the life cycle of this butterfly. As part of their research, Keller, Karofelas and Bauer visited a Placer County habitat of the butterfly last year.
As for the book, “There are also ecology, life cycle, taxonomy and conservation issues presented that are relevant to grades K-6 that can be used in classroom curriculum,” Keller said. In addition, the book includes information on the butterfly’s host plant, false indigo (Amorpha californica).
So, score one for the California State Fair. And score two for the Bohart Museum.
If you head over to the California State Fair, which opened July 14 and continues through July 31, be sure to check out the Insect Pavilion at "The Farm."
It's a treasure house of not only insects, but spiders and assorted other critters.
At the entrance, tuck your head inside the monarch butterfly cutout and have someone take your photo. You can be "Butterfly for the Day."
Then it's off to see the "live" monarchs, a few steps away. The contrast between the painted cutout and the real insects is startling. Nature does a much better job!
Other highlights at the Insect Pavilion include honey bees, wasps and spiders.
The site probably should be called "The Bug Pavilion" because some of the critters, such as spiders, aren't insects.
Beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton, a member of the California State Beekeepers' Association and a volunteer at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, provided the bee observation hive.
Parents exclaim to their children: "Look! Bees!"
Then they usually point out that bees make honey and "No, honey, they can't sting you; they're behind glass."
It shouldn't be about stinging. It should be about their pollination services, not their defensive mechanism. Bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat.
However, a walk through the nearby vegetable garden buzzes home the point that honey bees are invaluable.
Next Tuesday, July 26, the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis will display live insects and specimens at The Big Bugs attraction at the state fair, according to Tabatha Yang, the Bohart's education and outreach coordinator. The specimens will be in the "oh, my" drawers--so called, she says, because that's what folks say when they see them: "Oh, my!"
It's a crucial time for bees, which are the victims of the mysterious colony collapse disorder, probably closely linked with a multitude of issues, including viruses, parasites, pests, pesticides, diseases, stress and malnutrition.
As the guest of veteran beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton, past president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers’ Association and a member of the California State Beekeepers’ Association (CSBA), Bryson will be helping out at the CSBA booth July 16 to 21. The booth is located in the California Foodstyle building.
She also will be working in the insect pavilion at “The Farm,” which includes an observation hive. Bryson will answer questions from the public on Saturday, July 16 from 2 to 3 p.m. and on Wednesday, July 20 from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m.
In addition, she’ll be speaking at the Sacramento Area Beekeepers’ Association meeting set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 19 at 4049 Marconi Ave., Sacramento. The site is located in the second module behind the Town and Country Lutheran Church.
The American Honey Bee Queen competition is sponsored by the American Beekeeping Federation.
“As the American Honey Bee Queen, I travel across the United states promoting beekeeping and the use of honey,” she said. She educates the public with “facts on the beekeeping and honey industry concerning pollination of our nation’s crops and how dependent we are on the honey bee for agriculture, how honey is a healthy substitute for sugar, and how honey also extends the shelf life of baked products and adds that extra special something, such as taste or texture to other products.”
Bryson’s year as American Honey Queen ends in January when she will crown the next queen at the American Beekeeping Federation’s annual conference in Las Vegas.
Bryson is a junior at Hagerstown Community College, Hagerstown, Md., where she is double-majoring in English and forensic science. She is a member of the National Honor Society and has been on the dean’s list for the last two years.
A 4-H member for 10 years, she serves as a leader for two clubs. Bryson has kept bees for three years, and manages five hives in her family's apiary. In her leisure time, she said she enjoys reading, sewing, and caring for the many animals on her family's small farm.
Fishback, a volunteer at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, owns and operates BD Ranch and Apiaries, Wilton.