Early in his career, the late heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) drew international headlines when he uttered that remark before his 1964 fight with then champion Sonny Liston.
It was all over by the seventh round when "The Greatest" emerged victorious. But his comment regarding butterfly and bee behavior lives on.
That begs the question--were any bug people ever champion boxers?
Yes, the late James H. Oliver Jr. (1931-2018) was a Golden Gloves champion.
Two years before Oliver died, entomologist Marlin Rice, a past president of the Entomological Society of America, interviewed him for American Entomologist (Volume 62, Issue 4, Winter 2016), pointing out: "James H. Oliver, Jr. is Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Biology Emeritus at Georgia Southern University and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Oliver is widely recognized as an international expert in medical entomology and acarology, especially the biology and cytogenetics of pathogen-transmitting ticks and parasitic mites."
And Oliver was a Golden Gloves state champion.
Rice asked him a series of questions, including:
"Were you a good student?"
Oliver: "No, not very. I was a good school athlete and party guy. [Laughs.]
You went into boxing at the University of Georgia? Were you a good boxer?
Oliver: "Yeah. I won the state championship in my weight—the Golden Gloves."
Did you ever get knocked out boxing?
Did you ever knock out an opponent?
Oliver: Yeah. [Laughs.]
What's the quickest round you ever won?
Oliver: "Probably second or third round. I was so good at it because I was in good physical condition—great physical condition. I had a coach that said the one's that's in the best physical condition and can keep his left jab going all the time and don't try for a knockout—just hammer him [would win]. It was very good advice, because after the second round my opponent would usually get arm weary and I'd block him by keeping my hands up. That's how I won most of my fights, out of pure physical condition, and I was coordinated and fast. So then I found what I wanted to do; I'm not going to be a veterinarian, I'm going to be a boxer—a professional boxer! Well, that wasn't well thought out. [Laughs.] My brother, and he was always a scholar, said, “My god, you can't do that. You're going to have a brain concussion!” “Yeah, but I'm quick.” I was finally talked into not doing that and leaving the University of Georgia. I went to Georgia Southern 'cause it was only 50 miles away from home and I liked teaching as well. So I'll become a high school biology teacher and coach. That was my goal for several years until I decided I don't want to do that." (Read the entire interview here.)
So, yes, at least one entomologist was a boxing champion. Another professional boxer went into pest control following his retirement. Mike "Irish Mike" Jameson fought the likes of Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield and Randall “Tex” Cobbs before fighting bugs, landing a job as a pest control inspector with Clark Pest Control, Lodi, Calif., according to a feature story on pctonline.com.)
Did they ever say "Float like Lepidoptera, sting like Hymenoptera?"
Well, maybe they said "flutter" instead of "float?"
And create a "new species" of wasp in the process.
A penny-farthing, as the UC Davis community knows, is also called a high wheel bicycle or high wheeler. The front wheel is much larger than the rear wheel. And a wasp, as entomologists know, belongs to the order Hymenoptera, which includes bees, ants and wasps.
The end result of the art/science fusion project: the winning entry in the annual T-shirt contest sponsored by the Entomology Graduate Students' Association, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
“I wanted to draw a penny-farthing, which is part of the UC Davis culture,” said winning artist Stacey Rice, a junior specialist in the lab of Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey. “Then I wanted an insect that would be able to put its abdomen on the seat and have long enough legs to reach the pedals.”
“I love the new design and think it translated very well on the t-shirts,” said EGSA treasurer and entomology graduate student Cindy Preto of the Frank Zalom lab. “I expect it to be a great seller.”
In the Godfrey lab, Rice doesn't work with wasps. She does research on Bagrada bugs (Bagrada hilaris), an invasive stink bug from Africa known for attacking cole crops, including broccoli, cabbage, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and mustard.
An alumnus of UC Davis, Rice received her bachelor's degree in biological sciences with a minor in veterinary entomology in March 2015. Her goal is to attend graduate school and receive her doctorate, either in integrated pest management (IPM) or forensic entomology.
Rice, who grew up in Roseville and graduated from Oakmont High School, enjoys combining art with science in her ceramic art classes at the UC Davis Crafts Center.
The "Hymenoptera on Bicycle" t-shirt can be ordered in unisex heather navy with white lettering ($15 for small, medium, large, extra large and 2x); youth navy with white lettering ($15 for small, medium and large); and women's cut, heather red with light yellow lettering ($17 for small, medium and large).
The t-shirts from years past include "The Beetles" (reminiscent of The Beatles' Abbey Road album), a weevil (See no weevil, hear no weevil, speak no weevil), a dung beetle, honey bee and comb, and a "wanna bee."
Among the other favorites is "Entomology's Most Wanted." Former graduate students Nicholas Herold and Emily Bzydk featured "bug shots" (a take-off of "mug shots") of the malaria mosquito (Anopheles gambiae), the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) bed bug, (Cimex lecturalius), and the housefly (Musca domestica). They're among the most hated of insects.
The wasp on a wheel is probably destined to become a favorite, too, especially among the bicycling and insect science communities.
That's how we roll at UC Davis!
Ever notice how the coloring of the wool carder bee resembles a yellowjacket and European paper wasp?
Talk about capitalizing on the colors.
Carder bees, so named because they card the fuzz or down from leaves to make their nests, are black and yellow. They buzz around like bees and are approximately the same size.
Carder bees, yellowjackets and paper wasps are all members of the order Hymenoptera, one of the largest orders of insects with some 130,000 described species--and many others undescribed. Also in the order: bees, sawflies and ants.
Some of these relatives you wouldn't want at your picnic.