Youngsters--and the young at heart--headed over to Briggs Hall during the 109th annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day to create art masterpieces--masterpieces involving maggots.
Using forceps, the artists dipped a maggot in water-based, non-toxic paint and let it crawl around a piece of white paper. Or they guided it. Different color? Different maggot dipped in a different paint.
What a conversation piece! And perfect for framing or posting on a refrigerator door.
Maggot Art has been a traditional part of the UC Davis Picnic Day since the early 2000s.
Rebecca O'Flaherty, a former graduate student of UC Davis forensic entomologist Bob Kimsey's, coined the educational teaching curriculum, "Maggot Art," back in 2001 when she was studying at the University of Hawaii. She was rearing blowflies for her forensic research and wanted an activity to draw the interest of elementary school students. She also wanted to generate interest and respect for forensic entomology.
Her Maggot Art quickly drew national interest. The CSI television show featured one of her works, “Ancient Offering,” which hung on the permanent set in Gil Grissom's office.O'Flaherty also exhibited her work at art shows, including a two-month exhibition at the Capital Athletic Club, Sacramento, in 2007.
And the maggots at the 2023 UC Davis Picnic Day? "The maggots are Calliphora vacinia, the blue bottle fly," Kimsey said. "Realize that there are likely close to 100 species that can be called blue bottle flies. This particular one is very large as an adult and has huge larvae that are perfect for Maggot Art."
"Although at certain times of the year, it is active in California, particularly around cities, it is not as common as others and I do not have a colony," Kimsey added. "There has been a lot of very famous research in entomology done on this species, particularly at University of Massachusetts and Harvard under Vincent Dethier, whose research has provided profound insights into human biology."
The Department of Entomology and Nematology ordered the maggots from Knutson's Sporting Goods, an Internet purveyor based in Brooklyn, Mich., which sells them as live fish bait and as research tools.
Or Maggot Art....
It's a myth. There are no established populations of Loxoceles reclusa in California, doctoral candidates Emma Jochim and Xavier Zahnle of the Jason Bond arachnology lab related during their 30-minute mythbusting at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, "Many Legged-Wonders," on Saturday, March 18. First-year doctoral student Iris Quayle of the Bond lab moderated the session.
They study with their major professor Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and associate dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Jochim related that a person claiming to have been bitten by a brow recluse spider in California may have recently returned from a state where they are established or that they handled one that was shipped from that area.
That brings to mind the research of Rick Vetter of UC Riverside and his piece on "Myth of the Brown Recluse: Fact, Fear and Loathing."
"This website presents evidence for the lack of brown recluse spiders as part of the Californian spider fauna. Unfortunately, this contradicts what most Californians believe; beliefs that are born out of media-driven hyperbole and erroneous, anxiety-filled public hearsay which is further compounded by medical misdiagnoses. Although people are free to disagree, this opinion has come about after more than two decades of constant research resulting in many publications in the scientific and medical literature."
Vitter goes on to say: "Spiders are one group of arthropods that are very well known by the common person yet are terribly misunderstood; because of the rare occasion of a deleterious venom incident, almost all spiders are lumped into the category of 'squish first and ask questions later.' There are remarkably few spiders in California that are capable of causing injuries via biting. Overall, spiders are beneficial to humans in that they eat many pestiferous insects that either infest our foods (many phytophagous insects), are vectors of disease (flies, mosquitoes) or are aesthetically-challenged (cockroaches, earwigs). Unfortunately, humans have a low tolerance for spiders in their homes, either because spiders are symbols of danger, unkemptness or arachnophobia. One of the first steps one should take in dealing with these critters should be to identify them properly before blasting them with pesticide and/or getting hysterical."
Meanwhile, listen to UC Davis arachnologists:
Said one attendee: "Dr. Rick Vetter at U. C. Riverside fought the battle for the truth for decades and finally pretty much threw up his hands in defeat. He just couldn't get the media or California medical profession to stop claiming the Brown Recluse is HERE and diagnosing every little spot or open sore as a spider bite. My opinion is that people LIKE to think they were bitten by a brown recluse and wear it as a badge of honor. So much more thrilling than saying bacteria infection.”
That includes spiders. You've seen those adorable jumping spiders with green "fangs" (chelicerae), right? But have you even seen the green lynx spiders?
A few years ago we spotted a green lynx spider, Peucetia viridans, on a pink rockrose blossom. Arachnologists tell us it's usually found on green plants--green on green--which is exactly why we can't find it!
Meanwhile, want to see and learn about spiders?
Then you'll want to attend the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, themed "Many Legged Wonders," from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 18 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane. Yes, it's free. So is parking. And yes, it's family friendly. The family arts-and-crafts activity, coordinated by UC Davis doctoral candidate Emma Jochim, of the Jason Bond arachnology lab will be working with model clay to mold arachnids and myriapods.
Jochim and fellow doctoral candidate Xavier Zahnle of the Bond lab will answer your questions about spiders from 1 to 1:30. First-year graduate student Iris Quayle of the Bond lab will moderate the session. Lab members also will show some "rarer live arachnids such as 'vinegaroons' and 'whip spiders' in addition to tarantulas and scorpions," Jochim said. "We will also have millipedes that people can handle and many species of isopods."
A showing of live animals and specimens is scheduled from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Elijah Shih, a third-year UC Davis transfer student who plans to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, will show his isopods. Bohart Museum research associate Brittany Kohler, the "zookeeper" of the Bohart petting zoo, will show the current tenants, which include tarantulas, black widows, a brown widow, a centipede, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and ironclad beetles.
Of course, the tarantulas sport such endearing names as "Princess Herbert," "Peaches" and "Coco McFluffin." Much better than "Killer," "Fang" or "Monster Man."
The Bohart Museum, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey. It houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens, plus the live petting zoo, and a gift shop stocked with insect-themed books, posters, jewelry, t-shirts, hoodies and more. The Bohart Museum was founded in 1946 and named for UC Davis professor and noted entomologist Richard Bohart.
The Bohart Museum, dedicated to "understanding, documenting and communicating terrestrial arthropod diversity," is open to the public Mondays through Thursdays, from 8 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 5 p.m. More information is available on the Bohart website at https://bohart.ucdavis.edu or by emailing email@example.com.
Then around 5:30 comes the urgent message from her colleague, arachnologist Jason Bond, associate dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Natural Resources and the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology. The Bond lab and the Bohart Museum share a portion of the first floor of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.
Lynn, there's a water leak at the Bohart Museum! Emergency!
Lynn hurries to her car and heads to the Bohart Museum. When she enters the building, there in the hallway is the "wet area," blocked with yellow "caution" floor signs and a bright orange pylon.
Except the "wet area" is dry. Bone dry.
Surprise! Surprise! Happy birthday!
Unbenownest to Kimsey, the UC Davis Entomology Club (advised by her husband, forensic entomologist Bob Kimsey, adjunct professor with the Department of Entomology and Nematology), had earlier decorated the museum with birthday balloons, banners and streamers.
Meanwhile, where is Bob? He had finished preparing taco fixings at their son's home for the birthday celebration and was heading toward the Yolo Causeway (connecting West Sacramento with Davis), when traffic delayed him.
Not to worry, Bob and the taco fixings made it.
Meanwhile, Lynn sets about opening a myriad of gifts, including a miniature hinged box from Keller ("Lynn likes tiny boxes," Keller said). Other gifts include an "Educated Guess" wine from Oakville, and a 10-inch radio-controlled tarantula, billed as "big, hairy and scary."
It wasn't. But with Lynn Kimsey at the controls, the tarantula races around the floor, stopping at feet that pretend to stomp it.
This was a milestone birthday celebration! (We're not telling which one, but Lynn Kimsey probably will!)
The "big, hairy and scary" radio-controlled tarantula is now sharing the Bohart Museum with several live tarantulas from its petting zoo:
- Princess Herbert, the Brazilian salmon-pink bird-eating tarantula (Lasiodora parahybana). She is estimated to be around 20 years old, the oldest current resident of the Bohart Museum
- Peaches, the Chilean rose hair tarantula (Grammostola rosea)
- Coco McFluffin, the Chaco golden knee tarantula (Grammostola pulchripes), native to Paraguay and Argentina
Kimsey and other Bohart Museum officials are now gearing up for the 12th annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, a Super Science Day, set Saturday, Feb. 18 when 11 museums or collections (including the Bohart) open their doors to the public. It's free and family friendly. (See line-up)
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens, plus a petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas; and a year-around gift shop, stocked with insect-themed books, posters, jewelry, t-shirts, hoodies and more. Named for UC Davis professor and noted entomologist Richard Bohart (1913-2007), the museum is dedicated to "understanding, documenting and communicating terrestrial arthropod diversity."