It's up for discussion. Take the painted lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui. In real life, it is spectacular but the average fan may never be able to photograph it well in the wild. In art, you can depict it as you see it, or how you think it should be depicted. Either way, these butterflies draw attention.
Artist Roberto Valdez finds them fascinating, too. His Dixon May Fair entry in oils and acrylics, adult fine arts, won a well-deserved "best of show" in the Professional Fine Arts category.
No thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dixon May Fair--which dates back to 1876 and is renowned as the oldest district fair and fairgrounds in the state of California--canceled its 2020 and 2021 fairs. This year, however, the fair accepted entries. Judges scored the entries on tables set up in Denverton Hall and images of the winning entries were posted online.
V. cardui has a colorful history. Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, writes on his research website that "apparently the entire North American population winters near the U.S.-Mexico border, breeding in the desert after the winter rains generate a crop of annual Malvaceous, Boraginaceous and Asteraceous hosts. The resulting butterflies migrate north. In good years (lots of desert rain) they may do so by billions, interfering with traffic and attracting the attention of the media."
Valdez' painting depicts 13 painted ladies fluttering by him or stopping to nectar. That's something you don't see often except during the height of a migration.
If you're an insect enthusiast, you'll enjoy seeing the online entries of insects depicted in paintings, photographs, drawings and jewelry. And you'll see bee condos or bee hotels (housing for leafcutter bees and blue orchard bees) crafted by youth.
At the judging tables in Denverton Hall, we also admired a drawing of a friendly blue dragonfly, the work of eight-year-old Logan Rush of Vacaville. He nailed it! Future entomologist? Maybe!
The Dixon May Fair, headed by chief executive officer Patricia Conklin, supports the communities of Dixon, Vacaville, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Elmira, all of Solano County, and Woodland and Davis, both of Yolo County. The 2021 Dixon May Fair normally would have taken place Thursday through Sunday, May 6-9, ending on Mother's Day. However, vendors offered a taste of the fair ("grab and go" food) for fans to enjoy.
Pre-COVID, the fair hosted community and agriculture-related activities throughout the year. The UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology plays a role in the annual four-day fair by providing exhibits. Next year!
Bugs from the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, grabbed the interest of fairgoers at the 144th annual Dixon May Fair, held May 9 through May 12.
Entomologists Jeff Smith and Alexander "Alex" Dedmon kept busy answering questions on Saturday in the "Oh My" insect display area of the Floriculture Building, as fairgoers learned about bees, butterflies, beetles, praying mantids, and flies, plus aquatic insects, camouflaged insects, and more.
Smith curates the Lepitopdera (moths and butterflies) section at the Bohart Museum, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The insect museum is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. Dedmon is a forensic entomologist and a doctoral student of professor Robert Kimsey. He volunteers at many of the Bohart events.
"Jeff was absolutely the star," Dedmon said. "He handled everything wonderfully."
"It was excellent on Saturday, and I stayed from 11 a.m. until nearly 6 p.m., due to a never-ending flow of people," Smith commented. "Relatively few people had questions in advance, but I always engaged them and got them into conversations, generally with my warning that once they allow me to start they won't get me to shut up. Lots of fun and worth going to each year. Never a time with no one at our booth, and many times with 15 plus people moving past the displays."
"My one big regret is that I did not have any corn dogs," Smith quipped.
Founded in 1946 by UC Davis entomologist Richard “Doc” Bohart (1913-2007), the Bohart 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.
The next weekend event at the Bohart Museum will be "Moth Night" on Saturday, Aug. 3 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Attendees will see moths drawn to blacklighted white sheets just outside the museum. The event is free, open to the public, and family friendly. Further information is available on the Bohart Museum website or contact (530) 753-0493.
"You can learn a lot from these displays," a fairgoer at the 144th annual Dixon May Fair commented.
She was looking at an educational display with the catchy title, "None of Your Beeswax," the work of Ryan Anenson of the Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon, whose projects include beekeeping. The display is showcased in the Youth Building (Denverton Hall) at the Dixon May Fair, which opened Thursday, May 9 and continues through Sunday, May 12.
In his project, Anenson explained what bees produce. He zeroed in on bee venom, pollen, beeswax, royal jelly, honey, propolis, and also alternative medicine, history of honey, and bee hive air. Anenson concluded: "Honey might be the most well-known bee product in the world, but it certainly isn't the only by-product these magnificent creatures produce. Bees are considered 'the pillars of agriculture' for the work they do in pollination. If you have ever enjoyed most fruit, vegetables and other crops, you should generally thank the bees. Through pollination, bees contribute to maintaining biological balance in nature and help various animal and plant species, including humans, to thrive. Honeybee products are an entirely natural food source and have a long medicinal history that people have used since ancient times.Bees are arguable the most invaluable species to life on earth and are more vital than many people may realize."
As for beeswax, Anenson penned: "Worker bees at a young age will secrete beeswax from a series of glands on their abdomens. They use this beeswax to form the walls and caps of the honeycomb. However, some beekeepers use plastic as a foundation or substitute for honeycomb. Just like the honey that bees produce, many people harvest beeswax for various purposes, like candles, lip balms, creams, polish and conditioners, just to name a few."
The teenage 4-H'er was among those who attended a UC Davis Bee Symposium several years ago, and also participated in a recent California Honey Festival, co-sponsored by the City of Woodland and the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.
Madeline Giron, another Dixon 4-H'er, sketched a color pencil drawing of a bee, and Markus Taliaferro of the Suisun Valley 4-H Club, Dixon, submitted a photo of a honey bee sipping nectar. Another drawing, the work of Katelyn Nipper of Fairfield, featured "crayon art flowers": brightly colored spring flowers bordered by the crayons she used.
Lots of flowers! Just add pollinators!
Meanwhile, speaking of pollinators and plants, there's a clearance plant sale at UC Davis on Saturday, May 11 at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden's Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive. It's open to the public from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Horticulturists are billing it as a "Pollinator Paradise." Everything is 15 percent off (Members receive an additional 10 percent off.) You can access the inventory here.
Lots of plants! Just add pollinators!
Entomologists at the University of California, Davis, will share their love of insects with fairgoers at the 144th annual Dixon May Fair, which opened today (Thursday, May 9) and continues through Sunday, May 12.
Have a question about insects?
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepitopdera (butterfly and moth) section at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, and Alex Dedmon, a forensic entomologist and doctoral student at UC Davis, will be showing bee, butterfly, dragonfly and other specimens, and live insects from the "petting zoo," including walking sticks and Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Fairgoers are encouraged to hold them, photograph them and ask questions.
Smith and Dedmon will be at the fair on Saturday, May 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Floriculture Building. Smith was honored in 2015 as a "Friend of the College," a coveted award presented by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He saved the museum some $160,000 over a 27-year period through his volunteer service (See news story.)
Dedmon studies with forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, an adjunct professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Neamtology.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, is the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a year-around gift shop and a petting zoo. The gift shop is stocked with books, jewelry, t-shirts, insect-collecting equipment, insect-themed candy, and stuffed animals.
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 by UC Davis entomologist Richard “Doc” Bohart (1913-2007), 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. The next weekend event will be "Moth Night" on Saturday, Aug. 3 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Further information is available on the Bohart Museum website or contact (530) 753-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take the entries in Today's Youth Building at the 143rd annual Dixon May Fair, which opened Thursday, May 10 and continues through Sunday, May 13.
Some of the exhibitors focused on honey bees, butterflies, dragonflies, and bumble bees--and some ventured out of the insect arena and into spider territory.
- Bianca Currey, 8, of Dixon, wowed the judges with a dragonfly drawing, a blue-ribbon winner. She does crafts projects with the Dixon Grange.
- Beekeeper Ryan Anenson, 16, of the Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon, won a blue ribbon for his close-up photograph of a honey bee.
- Jake Vinum, 15, of Vacaville, scored a blue ribbon for his wall hanging, titled "Horseshoe Spider," cleverly crafted with a horseshoe and "spider legs."
- Khole Cahoon, 13, of Vacaville tempted the judges' sweet tooth with a chocolate ganache cupcakes, decorated with bees. The prize: a blue ribbon.
- Riley Mark, 13, of Fairfield, created a colorful butterfly drawing, garnering a red ribbon.
And then there were all the bumble bee pillows entered by Solano County 4-H'ers. The colors and creativity came through.
Beekeeper Francis Agbayani, 12, of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, went one step farther by displaying his 4-H project, "Don't Bee Making Mistakes," a blue-ribbon winner. He touched on:
- Starting with only one hive
- Judging the health of a colony based on "bee traffic"
- Opening the hive too often
- Failing to identify a hive without a queen
- Harvesting honey too early
- Harvesting too much honey
Building superintendent Stephanie Hill of Yuba City and assistant building superintendent Pat Connelly of Vacaville expressed delight at all the talent.
Speaking of insects, if you want to see insect specimens and live insects at the Dixon May Fair, the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis will be staffing a table in the Floriculture Building on Friday, May 11 from 2 to 8 p.m., (entomologist Jeff Smith) and on Saturday, May 12 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Bohart associate Brennen Dyer, undergraduae student). Fairgoers can not only view the insect specimens but handle and photograph the permanent residents of the live "petting zoo," which includes such insects as Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks, but also tarantulas (spiders).
The four-day Dixon May Fair, themed "Home Grown Fun," opened Thursday, May 10 at 4 p.m. and concludes at 10 p.m. on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 13. Also known as the 36th District Agricultural Association Fair, it's located at 655 S. First St.. Hours are from 4 to 10 p.m. on Thursday; noon to 11 p.m. on Friday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and from noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday.
The fair is the oldest district fair and fairgrounds in California, according to chief administrative officer Patricia Conklin. It is linked closely with the communities of Dixon, Vacaville, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Elmira, Woodland and Davis.