- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The fair opened Friday, July 13 and continues through Sunday, July 29.
You'll see beneficial insects, such as honey bees and lady beetles (aka lady bugs) and pests that ravage our crops.
"Danger lurks in a backyard garden," a sign informs visitors. "Aphids, cutworms, mealybugs and other pests are preying on your vegetables and flowers. Who's a gardener to turn to for help? Bring in the reinforcements and enlist the aid of Beneficial Bugs that will crusade against the Invasive Species and help keep your pest outbreaks under control. Native plants naturally attract these Beneficial Bugs, equipping your garden with its own pest managers. Low costs and low water--It's a win/win!"
Madagascar hissing cockroaches from the Bohart draw "oohs" and "yecchs." Visitors learn that "these cockroaches inhabit Madagascar, a large island off southeastern Africa. They speed up plant decomposition in their native environment, providing an important ecological service. When provoked, Madagascar hissing cockroaches hiss through their spiracles, the tiny tubes through which insects breathe. Spiracles are visible on adults as tiny black dots on the edges of their bodies."
Another sign meant to engage visitors reads: "If you were a bug, which would you be?" You'll see images of everything from a butterfly to a dragonfly, from a honey bee and lady bug, and from an assassin bug to a praying mantis, not to mention a grasshopper, cockroach, ant, and spider.
- One teenage girl poked her head through the Bug Barn door, glanced at the displays, and dashed off, proclaiming "Bugs give me the creeps!"
- A middle-aged woman declared to all present: "I hate, hate bugs!"
- A preschooler pointed to the butterflies. "Pretty, Mommy, pretty!"
- A toddler left the Bug Barn waving at the honey bees. "Bye, bye, bees!" he said.
The good, the bad and the bugly.
Want to see more insects? The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis, is hosting two summer weekend programs, one in August and one in September. hey're free, family friendly and open to the public:
- "Fire and Ice: Extreme California Insects" from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 19
- "Crafty Insects" from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 22.
"For the Aug. 19 open house, we will be exploring extreme insects from the deserts and the mountains of California," said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. "For Sept. 22 we will be having a two-way museum. We will be displaying crafty--think cunning--insects and we are going to ask people to bring insect crafts that they have made, so all those felted, knitted, carved, and sculpted crafts are welcome. Any and all hand-made, flea-shaped tea cozies are welcomed!"
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses some eight million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and praying mantids) and a year-around gift shop.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
If you head over to the California State Fair, which opened July 14 and continues through July 31, be sure to check out the Insect Pavilion at "The Farm."
It's a treasure house of not only insects, but spiders and assorted other critters.
At the entrance, tuck your head inside the monarch butterfly cutout and have someone take your photo. You can be "Butterfly for the Day."
Then it's off to see the "live" monarchs, a few steps away. The contrast between the painted cutout and the real insects is startling. Nature does a much better job!
Other highlights at the Insect Pavilion include honey bees, wasps and spiders.
The site probably should be called "The Bug Pavilion" because some of the critters, such as spiders, aren't insects.
Beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton, a member of the California State Beekeepers' Association and a volunteer at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, provided the bee observation hive.
Parents exclaim to their children: "Look! Bees!"
Then they usually point out that bees make honey and "No, honey, they can't sting you; they're behind glass."
It shouldn't be about stinging. It should be about their pollination services, not their defensive mechanism. Bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat.
However, a walk through the nearby vegetable garden buzzes home the point that honey bees are invaluable.
Next Tuesday, July 26, the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis will display live insects and specimens at The Big Bugs attraction at the state fair, according to Tabatha Yang, the Bohart's education and outreach coordinator. The specimens will be in the "oh, my" drawers--so called, she says, because that's what folks say when they see them: "Oh, my!"