This particular monarch chrysalis was not the immature stage of a monarch butterfly but a piñata--complete with an emerging parasitoid--cleverly crafted by UC Davis doctoral student Charlotte Herbert Alberts and her husband, George, and recent UC Davis graduate Emma Cluff.
The sculpted larva of what monarch enthusiasts call the "dreaded tachinid fly" protruded from the piñata. It was the first to go, victim of a direct hit.
The annual pre-Halloween party presented by the Bohart Museum Society, draws assorted arthropod costumes, from assassin bugs to praying mantids to peacock spiders, but the annual piñata breaking contest, is always "the" smash hit. You can almost feel the whops, wallops and whammies, along with the one-two-three punches (each hitter gets three swings) as the crowd cheers.
Then there's the scramble for the candy.
The Bohart Museum is the home of some 8 million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and praying mantids) and an insect-themed gift shop. It's directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology. Those who join the Bohart Museum Society look forward to their invitation to the annual pre-Halloween party, which this year featured a parasitoid theme. (See Oct. 29 Bug Squad blog).
How much of a smash hit was the piñata? See the images below and the YouTube video.
The Bohart Museum Society hosted the Bohart Museum of Entomology's 24th annual pre-Halloween party on Saturday, Oct. 27 at the University of California, Davis, billing it as “They Come From Within" and promising a “haunting night full of frights and delights."
You can thank the emerald cockroach wasp or jewel wasp (Ampulex compressa), an entomophagous parasite, for that! It is known for its unusual reproductive behavior, in which it stings a cockroach and then uses it as a host for its larvae, eating it alive.
That was the critter depicted on the invitation.
UC Davis entomology undergraduate student and talented artist Karissa Merritt created the much-applauded, wasp-inspired invitation. "For this year's Bohart Halloween party invite, I set out to create an original--fake--movie poster, inspired by old B-movies such as 'Them' and 'Invasion of the Saucer Men,'" she explained. "I really wanted the invitations to grab people's attention with the bright colors, and grotesque horror as a giant jewel wasp--based on Ampulex compressa--emerges from a living man's chest."
It did. It also grabbed the attention of UC Davis entomology doctoral candidate Charlotte Herbert Alberts, who studies Asilidae (Assassin flies) with her major professor, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology. "I made my costume to honor Karissa's incredible drawing of the invitation," said Charlotte, who anticipates receiving her Ph.D in 2020. Her husband, George, dressed as Dracula. Their Brittany Spaniel, Westley, declined to wear a dinosaur costume and came as himself.
At the entrance, assorted mustaches and masks commanded a table. A sign urged people to "write a name tag, yet disguise yourself if you aren't in costume." (With the addition: "I know it doesn't make sense; just humor us.")
Among those coming as themselves were entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly and moth collection; his wife, Cathy; and Bohart associate and naturalist-photographer Greg Kareofelas.
Senior museum scientist Steve Heydon wore an orange jumpsuit lettered with "Department of Corrections" while his wife, Anita, came dressed as a police officer, complete with badge and handcuffs.
Forensic entomologist Robert "Bob" Kimsey, husband of Lynn Kimsey, donned his traditional ghillie suit.
Bohart Museum director Lynn Kimsey cut a 72nd anniversary cake, a red-velvet, chocolate-frosted cake decorated with--what else?--bugs! After all, the Bohart Museum houses some 8 million specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and praying mantids, as well an insect-themed gift shop.
Meanwhile evolutionary ecologist Scott Carroll, at 6'11", towered over everyone. "I can pick him out in a crowd," quipped his wife, entomologist Jenella Loye.
(See tomorrow's Bug Squad blog for more Halloween images, including the pinata breaking game. The pinata? A replica of a monarch chrysalis.)
Bohart associates sang "Happy Birthday" and cheered when he blew out a candle on the dessert plate.
For the occasion, doctoral student Charlotte Herbert Alberts, who studies with Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis, drew two longhorned bees on his birthday card envelope--the bees replaced the "b's" in his first name. Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at the Bohart Museum, coordinated the event.
Thorp actually celebrated his birthday while he was teaching Aug. 18-28 at The Bee Course, sponsored annually by the American Museum of Natural History, New York at its Southwest Research Station, Portal, Ariz. The nine-day intensive workshop draws conservation biologists, pollination ecologists, and other biologists who seek greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees.
He is the co-author of Bumble Bees of California: An Identification Guide (2014, Princeton University Press) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (2014, Heyday Books). both available in the Bohart Museum of Entomology's gift shop.
Robbin received his bachelor and master's degrees in zoology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and his doctorate degree in entomology from the University of California, Berkeley. He served on the faculty of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology) from 1964 to 1994.
During his long and productive career, Thorp conducted research on pollination of crops pollinated by honey bees, especially almonds. His research also included the use of other bee species in crop pollination, the roles of native bees in pollination of flowers in natural ecosystems such as vernal pools, and the ecology and systematics of native bees. He taught courses at UC Davis in General Entomology, Natural History of Insects, Insect Classification, Field Entomology, California Insect Diversity, and Pollination Ecology, and has given scores of public presentations.
Thorp is a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco (since 1986). Among his many awards: the distinguished team award (shared with Eric Mussen, Neal Williams, Brian Johnson and Lynn Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology) in 2013 from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America for their collaborative work specializing in honey bees, wild bees and pollination issues through research, education and outreach. Their service to UC Davis at that time spanned 116 years.
Although Thorp retired in 1994, he continues to be active. For many years after his retirement, he researched ecology, systematics, biodiversity, and conservation of bees including pollen specialist bees in vernal pool ecosystems, as well as the role of native bees in crop pollination, the role of urban gardens as bee habitat, and declines in native bumble bee populations. He maintains an office at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis where he continues his public service. That includes identifying bees for his colleagues. He recently served as a "bee" advisor for Leslie Saul-Gershenz, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis (2017) and published her first piece in the Proceedings for the Natural Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on “Deceptive Signals and Behaviors of a Cleptoparasitic Beetle Show Local Adaptation to Different Host Bee Species.”
Robbin Thorp is truly a dedicated entomologist who does the University of California proud!
- Read about his work: Robbin Thorp, Distinguished Emeritus Award
- Listen to Extension apiculturist (now emeritus) Eric Mussen interview him about his career.
- Read what CNN wrote about him in its piece on "The Old Man and The Bee" (in pursuit of Franklin's bumble bee, now feared instinct)
Happy "b-day," Professor Thorp! That "b" can stand for bumble bees, honey bees, native bees, carpenter bees, blue orchard bees, leafcutter bees, longhorned bees and more...there are more than 1600 species of undomesticated bees that reside in California.