So we did…Because the Bohart Museum of Entomology is hosting an open house on entomophagy from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane--and you're invited.
The event, free and family friendly, is an opportunity to participate in the joy of eating...drum roll...insects! And for that, you'll get a button proclaiming “I ate a bug at the Bohart."
If you're not into eating insects, you can cuddle and photograph the critters in the live "petting zoo," or view insect specimens. Just remember that 80 percent of the world consumes insects as a protein source. Some 1700 species of insects are edible.
“Many insects are quite edible and if you try them, you might find that crickets are the new shrimp,” says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “Personally, I like flavored mealworms."
"Just think of insects as terrestrial shrimp or crab," adds senior museum scientist Steve Heydon.
Now, what do other entomologists and bug ambassadors think about eating insects?
Danielle Wishon, who holds a bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis, is an entomophagist. She likes baking with mealworms when she's not working five jobs, including (1) teaching assistant in the lab of UC Davis alumnus Fran Keller, assistant professor at Folsom Lake College, and (2) police services officer for the Lafayette Police Department.
“Mealworm cookies are visually fun and taste good,” Wishon said. “It's my understanding that people with nut allergies will sometimes make cookies and cakes with ground-up mealworms because they have a ‘nutty flavor' but don't bother their allergies. Crickets are good as well, but only if they are baked or sauteed.”
Rather than asking "why,” Wishon asks "why not?"
“Most of the world includes arthropods in their diet,” Wishon noted. “We do, too; we just think of them differently because we pull them out of the sea. Depending on the arthropod, they are healthy, abundant, and an eco-friendly alternative to other sources of protein.”
Back in 2014, Wishon participated in a “Beer and Bugs” event (Bugs and Beer—Why Crickets and Kölsch Might Be Matches in Heaven” at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. It featured UC Davis Professor Charles Bamforth, aka “The Pope of Foam,” and David George Gordon, aka "The Bug Chef," extolling the virtues of beer and bugs. Guests sampled eight different insect-inspired creations in what was billed as "an ultimate tasting experience."
Wishon ate a baked cricket. A very large cricket.
She liked it, too!
That's not to say she likes consuming all crickets. “I once ate a boiled cricket and it was absolutely disgusting!”
When we asked entomologist Leslie Saul-Gershenz, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis and is associate director of research, Wild Energy Initiative, John Muir Institute of the Environment, UC Davis campus, if she has cooked with insects and eaten them, she responded:
“Many times! I have baked chocolate chip chirpies, made cricket dip surprise, mealworm pizza and eaten all of them. I have eaten beetle larvae in Papua, New Guinea and Peru and grasshoppers in Mexico. Seriously, they are important sources of protein all around the world and they are eaten regularly in most cultures except ours. We, of course, eat their close relatives the crustaceans without hesitation.”
Bohart Museum associate and naturalist/photographer Greg Kareofelas of Davis remembers when he and colleague Danielle Wishon participated in the “insect-eating affair” at the Mondavi Institute. Frankly, he doesn't make a habit of eating insects. "My favorite is pizza," he says.
Kareofelas can usually be found at the Bohart Museum open houses showing visitors the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moth) section with curator and entomologist Jeff Smith.
“I think it was Dan Janzen (noted evolutionary biologist and conservationist affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania) that used to say he ‘chewed' butterflies and moths to see how they would taste to birds--the “distasteful monarch” thing," Kareofelas related. "Reading that was the closest I have gotten to eating Leps (Lepidopderans).”
“I will try and keep an open mind at the open house,” Kareofelas promised. “But my favorite is still pizza!”
'I Ate a Bug at the Bohart'
Various companies, including Hotlix, Exo and Chirps Chips, are providing samples for the Bohart Museum open house, says education and outreach coordinator Tabatha Yang. Visitors will learn about entomophagy, sample insect-based foods, make buttons (“I ate a bug at the Bohart”), view the collection, and handle insects from the petting zoo, which includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks or stick insects, tarantulas and praying mantids.
The event coincides with "Student Move-in Day," when students head back to campus for the academic year, and family and friends help them move. Many campus visitors are expected to tour the Bohart Museum.
The Bohart Museum, founded by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is home to the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. It also maintains a year-around gift shop, which is stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The insect museum is open to the public Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m., except on holidays. More information on the Bohart Museum is available on the website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu or by contacting (530) 752-0493 or email@example.com. (See list of open houses for the 2019-2020 academic year.)
She's one of the 10 fly researchers who will greet the public and answer questions about insects in the Diptera order and talk about their research and career possibilities. The event, free and open to the public and family friendly, will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus.
The theme is "Time's Fun When You're Studying Flies." That's a take-off of "Time flies when you're having fun."
Wishon, who holds a bachelor of science degree in entomology from UC Davis, worked at the California Department of Food and Agriculture from 2012 and 2016, and as a forensic investigator with the Sacramento Police Department from 2016 to 2017. She has also worked at the Bohart Museum and in the Phil Ward ant lab in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
She is now seeking her master's degree.
"I am in the process of applying to Dr. Trevor Stamper's laboratory in the Entomology Department at Purdue University," she related. "Dr. Stamper is the Forensics Science Program director and works, primarily, on the identification and biology of forensically significant dipteran. Currently, his lab is focused on testing the idea that potential evaporation, and the environmental parameter it comprises, regulate vertebrate decomposition rates across broad geographical space. If accepted, I will be studying humidity as a variable for oviposition behavior in the decomposition process. Additionally, I will use SEM (scanning electronic microscope) and molecular data to support insect identification and develop a practical pictorial key for forensically significant Diptera egg identification."
At her booth, "I will speak to this research as well as general forensic entomology and other research I have participated in, including Dr. Robert Kimsey's fire-death related entomology evidence for determining minimum PMI (post-mortem interval)." She also will display equipment.
Danielle is a past president of the UC Davis Entomology Club, and the recipient of the Department's 2011 Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award. At the plaque ceremony, Kimsey, a forensic entomologist and the club advisor, praised her as "the hardest working student I have ever seen. And, her overwhelming concern for humans of all kinds earns her the title of latter day Florence Nightingale."
Danielle has always loved insects and "anything creepy crawly. for that matter."
We remember featuring her in a 2011 blog. Tracing her love of insects to her early childhood, Danielle acknowledged that while other girls played with dolls, she spent many of her non-school hours collecting and playing with insects, snails and slugs, pill bugs, spiders and other invertebrates.
At age 4, she created a habitat for 30 garden snails in a shoebox. “I took the box up to my room and put it under my bed. Sometime later I came crying down the stairs because all of my snails had left me. Apparently I had not yet learned the concept of a lid. My mother then proceeded to help me collect my snail pets off my bed post, the walls, the nightstand…”
Although Danielle has always loved insects, she was unaware she could make a career out of it. She mentioned that in the third grade, “we had to write an autobiography and description of our desired future.” She wrote that she wanted to become an ice skater and have six children.
“It's amazing how times change,” Danielle commented. “Soon after I completed it, a family friend who knew my affinity for insects, read the autobiography and informed me that I could become an entomologist. It had never occurred to me that I could play with insects as a profession.”
Born on Coronado Island, Danielle moved to Las Vegas at age 11. “My insect collecting was limited while I lived in Las Vegas, but I kept several black widows, jumping spiders, and beetles. I also dipped into herpetology a bit and became the editor of the Southern Nevada Herpetological Society.”
Danielle attended colleges in Las Vegas and San Diego before settling in Rocklin and Davis.
While studying for her entomology degree at UC Davis, Danielle reared bed bugs for several years, sharing them with other scientists and at open houses at the Bohart Museum. She no longer keeps a colony of bed bugs but keeps or retains fond memories of UC Davis and the Department of Entomology and Nematology.
And now, her sights are set on a master's degree in entomology.
"Time's Fun When You're Studying Flies."
Danielle will be joining these fellow fly researchers at the open house:
- Fourth-year doctoral student Charlotte Herbert Alberts of the Lynn Kimsey lab, Bohart Museum, who studies assassin flies
- Graduate student Socrates Letana of the Lynn Kimsey lab, Bohart Museum, who studies botflies
- Doctoral student Caroline Wright Larsen of the James R. Carey lab, who studies non-native non-native tephritid flies, including Mediterranean fruit flies
- Graduate students Cindy Truong and Yao Cai and undergraduate students Cindy Truong and Christopher Ochoa, all of the Joanna Chiu lab, who research fruit flies
- Undergraduate student Kathlyne-Inez Soukhaseum of the Frank Zalom lab, who researches the fruit fly, the spotted-wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii
- Nermeen Raffat, a visiting scholar in the Sharon Lawler lab, who studies "the effect of copper sulphate and other toxicants on the development and anti-predatory behavior of the mosquitoes larvae."
"Besides checking out the flies, this is also a good time for visitors to inquire about graduate school, ask about starting research projects, and to meet people working in forensics, evolution, agriculture, animal behavior, genetics, geography, and home pests, among other topics," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Bohart's butterfly and moth section, will be on hand to open the Diptera section and answer questions. A family craft activity is also planned.
The Bohart Museum houses nearly eight million insect specimens, a live "petting zoo" (think Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and a year-around gift shop. The museum is open to the general public Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., plus occasional, weekend open houses. Admission is free. Further information is available on the Bohart Museum website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/ or contact (530) 753-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're rearing a bed bug colony, they need blood. Yours, if you don't mind.
Someone else's, if there's no one else around.
A big draw at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's recent open house, "Parasite Palooza," was a bed-bug feeding demonstration, featuring bed bugs from a UC Davis-reared colony.
When it was feeding time for the parasitic insects, Cimex lectularius, two scientists stepped forth and offered their arms in the name of science.
Charlotte Herbert, who is studying for her doctorate in entomology, volunteered to be the first "blood donor." Next to step up was nematologist/parasitologist Lauren Camp, who received her doctorate last December at UC Davis.
The particulars: Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart, handed each scientist a bed bug enclosed in fine netting. The netting proved fine enough to prevent escape, but large enough to allow feeding.
"We don't want any escapees," Yang said.
The insects originated from the parent colony of UC Davis entomology graduate Danielle Wishon, now a forensic investigator for the Sacramento Police Department. She began rearing them several years ago, intending to do research. Later she gave some of her bed bugs to UC Davis researcher Jenella Loye of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who in turn loaned some to the Bohart Museum for its "Parasitic Palooza: Botflies, Fleas and Mites, Oh, My."
Wishon says it's fairly easy to rear bed bugs. "If you want a fast growing colony, you can feed them once a week. When I was very actively feeding them, I chose to feed them once or twice a month so the colony didn't get too big too fast. I've gone as much as six months without feeding them, and they repopulated just fine. I started this colony several years back, but I would occasionally add individuals I find on mattresses discarded by UC Davis students during the great fall quarter move."
Wishon acknowledged that in the past, she 'sub-let' feeding responsibilities to forensic entomologist Bob Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty and to entomology student/Bohart associate Wade Spencer. "Hey, they offered!" she said.
Has Wishon ever encountered bed bugs in a hotel room?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): "Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation."
"Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep," the CDC points out on its website. "These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep."
Bed bugs are not known to spread disease, according to the CDC. However, excessive scratching can "sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection."
Wishon noted that some people experience a "pretty negative reaction to the saliva--flu-like symptoms if I remember correctly. That's really the reason I want to keep feeding a colony even though I am not going to be doing research on them anytime soon--most of the older researchers I know who once fed a colony but stopped, or who traveled to countries where they were common and were exposed regularly but then moved back, and were exposed to them many years later, seem to develop hyper sensitivity to bed bug saliva. This could be completely anecdotal and coincidental, but I've heard this familiar story enough times to want to error on the side of caution and continue feeding without years of breaking. I don't want to develop a negative reaction to exposure."
Both Camp and Herbert said they basically didn't feel much of anything when the bed bugs began feeding. Here's why: "When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten," according to the CDC. "Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea -- a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites."
Any reactions? "It took a while, but I did react to the bed bug bites," Camp said. "On the third day (Jan. 25), I saw raised red marks on my right arm, that were a bit itchy. Guess it took me three days to react."
Said Herbert: "I had a very small red mark where it bit, but no lasting marks or feelings. I felt it bite, but just barely. However, I have had bed bugs before while visiting my grandparents in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the bites were pretty terrible! I was itchy and thrashed all night, I didn't realize what was happening until the morning when I was covered in little bite marks and we found the bed bugs on the edges of the mattress. They looked very well fed!
No wonder folks say: "Good night! Sleep tight! And don't let the bed bugs bite."
"Go native" with native bees, that is.
A bee condo is a block of wood drilled with specially sized holes for nesting sites. Bees lay their eggs, provision the nests, and then plug the holes. Months later, the offspring will emerge.
In our backyard, we provide bee condos for BOBs (short for blue orchard bee) and leafcutter bees.
In the summer it's fun watching the leafcutter bees snip leaves from our shrubbery and carry them back to their bee condo. It's easy to tell the nesting sites apart: BOB holes are larger and plugged with mud, while the leafcutter bee holes are smaller and plugged with leaves.
Osmia lignaria, a native species of North America, is sold commercially for use in orchard crop pollination.
If you want to learn how to build them or where to buy them, Thorp has kindly provided a list of native bee nesting site resources on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility website. You can also purchase them at many beekeeping supply stores. (Also check out the Xerces Society's website information.)
Better yet, if you'd like to learn more about native bees and their needs, be sure to register online for the Pollinator Gardening Workshop on Saturday, March 15 on the UC Davis campus. Hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture, it begins at 7:30 a.m. in Room 1001 of Giedt Hall and ends at 2 p.m. with a plant sale at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery and a tour of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. For the small fee of $40 you'll receive a continental breakfast and box lunch and return home with an unbee-lievable wealth of knowledge. Speakers will include several honey bee and native bee experts: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp; pollination ecologist Neal Williams and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen. See the complete list on the website.
You'll be hearing from Robbin, Neal and Eric, but you'll be thinking about BOB.
Most of us remember the old nursery rhyme, "Good night, sleep tight, and don't let the bed bugs bite," and vow to do everything we can to avoid any blood-letting.
Whether we call them "blood suckers," "menace in the mattress," or "human parasites," it's not cool to be bitten by bed bugs.
"Bed bug biting," however, is not part of their job descriptions.
The crowd watched in awe as the reddish-brown blood suckers turned from flat to bulging. The insects, Cimex lectularius, are "visually adorable," Wishon said, noting that they are pests but they don't spread diseases. She keeps two colonies in Briggs Hall for research purposes.
Several visitors told of their personal experiences with bed bugs--in their hotels and homes, and in their bedding and baggage.
Wishon made sure no one took any home.
For more information on bed bugs, check out the Entomological Society of America (ESA) website on bed bug resources. ESA includes the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM). Another good source is the relatively new University of Florida bed bug site.
"Despite their name, bed bugs can infest areas other than beds," according to the University of Florida website. "They tend to locate in cracks and crevices, such as behinds baseboards, wall outlets, and wallpaper; between bed joints, slats, and dresser drawers; and along mattress seams and in linens and clothes. Most bed bug infestations occur in the home, along with hotels, dormitories, and cruise ships. Bed bugs easily transfer from one site to another through infested belongings like clothes, suitcases, second-hand furniture, beds, and bedding."