But the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on "Parasitoid Palooza" on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. promises to provide a touch of Halloween, what with all the Halloween decorations and the pests that eat pumpkins and the parasitoids that eat their hosts.
The open house, free and family friendly, takes place in Room 1125 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus.
"We will celebrate all things parasitoid with (senior museum scientist) Steve Heydon and with some parasite input from (graduate student) Socrates Letana," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. Heydon, who researches Pteromalids or jewel wasps, will display his work and answer questions.
There are some 3,450 described species of Pteromalids, found throughout the world and in virtually all habitats. Many are important as biological control agents.
"An insect parasitoid is a species whose immatures live off of an insect host, often eating it from the inside out," Yang said. "It is part of their life cycle and the host generally dies."
- Display of pumpkin-eating pests orange from Jasmin Ramirez Bonilla of the Ian Grettenberger lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. These include the orange and black Harlequin bugs and cucumber beetles (See UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program website)
- Family craft activity: no sew, sock caterpillars with parasitoid eggs on the outside.
- Sampling of Chirp Chips, from the Bohart Museum's recent entomophagy open house
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity.
Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold some of the insects and photograph them. The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum holds special open houses throughout the academic year. Its regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or Tabatha Yang at email@example.com.
It's Halloween and scores of trick-or-treaters are donning monarch butterfly costumes.
But they can't do justice to the living monarchs, those iconic, majestic butterflies that are always dressed in Halloween colors: black and orange.
It's always a treat to see them but they have to avoid the "tricks"--predators and parasitoids.
Among the last monarchs we reared in September: a brightly colored female, healthy and strong and rarin' to go.
Where is she now, on Halloween? Is she overwintering in Santa Cruz or Pacific Grove? Or, did a predator, perhaps a California scrub jay or a praying mantis, nail her?
We don't known "witch" way she went, but as she fluttered away, we wished her "Safe travels!"
It's been a troubling year for monarchs, Danaus plexippus, according to butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, who maintains a research website, Art's Butterfly World. "I have not seen a wild egg or caterpillar of the monarch this entire calendar year at low elevations," he said Sept. 6, 2018 during an interview on the "Insight with Beth Ruyak" program, Capital Public Radio, Sacramento. "Not one." (Listen to the interview.)
Where to see the overwintering monarchs in California?
They've been found at more than 400 sites along the California coast, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. "The mild winters of the California coast are a perfect haven from the harsh cold weather found in our country's interior," Xerces says on its website. "Monarchs take advantage of this climate and often use the same overwintering sites year after year. Congregations of overwintering monarchs have been found at more than 400 sites along the California coast, from Mendocino County in the north to San Diego in the south. For many people, the arrival of autumn along the California coast is marked by the flutter of orange and black as monarchs arrive at these groves and settle in for the winter."
"The last few years have witnessed low numbers of butterflies throughout the region compared to the late 1990s, but there are still many places to view overwintering monarchs and get involved!"
Open to Bohart Museum associates and members of the Bohart Museum Society, the event drew dozens of costumed characters, from honey bees to black widows to a tarantula hawk.
But it was the anatomically correct fly, masquerading as a piñata, that grabbed the most attention. It was the work of UC Davis entomology PhD student Charlotte Herbert; her fiancé, George Alberts; and the Bohart crew.
It was all in keeping with UC Davis alumna Nicole Tam's creative drawing on the party invitation that featured an Acrocera fly, a larva, and a spider. Mama Fly is telling her little one, "You look wonderful, my little larva!" and the little one, in close association with a spider (her food), is responding with: "Thanks, Mom!
Charlotte, who studies Asiloidea phylogenetics with a focus on Asilidae (aka assassin flies) and their predatory lifestyle and venom, came dressed as Maggie the Maggot or an Acroceridae larva, about to pupate and turn into a fly. She added a spider corpse to her costume "as my meal in honor of the party invitation made by Nicole Tam."
A Procyon lotor. A raccoon.
(Editor's Note: More photos of the variety of costumes to follow in Wednesday's blog)
You can't get any more Halloween than a bold (daring) jumping spider with orange spots!
This common North American spider was hanging out yesterday on our showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, trying to look like a spectator instead of a predator.
The orange spots indicate it's a juvenile Phidippus audax. As it matures, those spots will turn white. It can jump 10 to 15 times its body length, deploying its silk "lifeline" when it's jumping for prey or evading predators, according to Wikipedia. It hunts only in the daytime.
Yesterday, resplendent in its iridescent chelicerae (mouthparts or "fangs"), the eight-eyed, eight-legged dark hairy spider crawled around the broad leaves of the milkweed, sharing its home with assorted lady beetles, aphids, wasps and an occasional butterfly (Monarchs, Gulf Fritillaries and skippers).
It soaked up some sun and then apparently decided that the telephoto camera lens represented a clear and present danger, too bold and too daring.
Everybody eats in the pollinator garden.
Maybe not at the same time, but they all eat.
We noticed a syrphid fly, aka flower fly/hover fly, heading toward a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in our pollinator garden. Alas for the fly, it was occupied. Occupied by a honey bee (Apis mellifera).
The honey bee soon buzzed off, and the syrphid claimed it.
The honey bee returned and took a turn.
Then another fly, a drone fly (Eristallis tenax), claimed it.
Interesting that all three are sometimes called "bees," much to the chagrin of entomologists and other scientists. It just goes to prove that not all floral visitors are flies.
- Honey bee: Order, Hymenoptera; Family Apidae
- Syrphid fly: Order, Diptera; Family Syrphidae
- Drone fly: Order, Diptera; Family Syrphidae
But they do have several things in common: (1) they're insects (2) they're pollinators (3) they're hungry and (4) they like nectar just as much as humans like sugar, especially on Halloween. And doesn't orange symbolize Halloween?