Two of those attending the four-day international Lepidopterists' Society conference held recently at the University of California, Davis, are as celebrated in Lepidoptera circles as the butterflies they study.
The two were among those who gathered at the Bohart Museum of Entomology during the Lepidopterists' Society conference. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis professor of entomology, hosted two visits with several other Davis-based society members: retired research entomologist John De Benedictus; entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Bohart Museum's Lepidoptera collection; Bohart senior museum scientist Steve Heydon, and Bohart associate and naturalist Greg Kareofelas.
"This was our 68th annual meeting," said society president Brian Scholtens, a professor at the College of Charleston, South Carolina. "We have more than 1000 members worldwide."
This year's meeting, headquartered in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall in downtown Davis, included two scientific gatherings at the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
The conference focused on the theme, "Insects in a Changing World Climate." "Attendees came from as far away as Finland to hear student and member speakers and to meet with their fellow Lepidopterists," said Smith. Marianne Horak of the Australian National Insect Collection received the prestigious Karl Jordan Medal, in absentia, at a banquet on the closing night.
The conference t-shirt and name tags depicted the California state insect, the dogface butterfly, Zerene eurydice.
Robert Michael Pyle
Robert Michael Pyle, a Yale-trained ecologist and a Guggenheim fellow, is the founder of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. He has authored 23 publications, including the comprehensive National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies, a go-to reference source. Among his other insect-related books: Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage, which chronicles his 9,000-mile journey to discover the secrets of the monarchs' annual migration. For his book, Mariposa Road: The First Butterfly Big Year, Pyle sought to track, firsthand, the 800 species of butterflies known in the United States. The book is a result of his 88,000 mile journey.
Pyle, now a resident of Grays River, Washington, recently published Magdalena Mountain: A Novel, about three Magdalenas:
- Mary, a woman on an uncertain journey;
- Magdalena Mountain, "shrouded in mystery and menace" and
- The Magdalena alpine butterfly, an all-black alpine butterfly, considered "the most elusive of several rare and beautiful species found on the mountain."
While at the Bohart Museum, Pyle delighted in examining the Magdalena specimens.
Professor Paul Opler, attending with his wife, naturalist/writer/nature photographer Evi Buckner-Opler, is a special appointment professor at Colorado State University. He is best known for his research on insect host relationships of Lepidoptera and tropical ecology and his service as first editor of American Entomologist, published by the Entomological Society of America (ESA). A fellow of ESA and a prolific writer, he authored field guides to both eastern and western butterflies. He is also known for his contribution to Moths of Western North America, and his role as scientific editor of "Status and Trends of Our Nation's Biological Resources."
UC Berkeley Reunion
Three entomologists, trained directly or indirectly by Professor (now emeritus) Jerry Powell of UC Berkeley reunited at the Bohart gathering: Dan Rubinoff, professor of entomology and director of the University of Hawaii Insect Museum, Honolulu; "Moth Man" John De Benedictus, retired UC Davis research entomologist; and Paul Opler, who retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the first entomologist in the Endangered Species Program and then accepted a special appointment professor in the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences at Colorado State University.
All three received degrees in entomology from UC Berkeley. Opler (Ph.D) and De Benedictus (Masters) studied with Powell, while Rubinoff (Ph.D) studied with Powell's successor, Felix Sperling.
At the Bohart gathering, director Lynn Kimsey gifted the attendees with a copy of the museum's innovative calendar featuring humorous sentences she collected from students in her classroom. UC Davis entomology student/artist Karissa Merritt illustrated the calendar.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is the home of nearly eight million insect specimens and the California Insect Survey. They're used as an "insect library" or references during identifications. They're also a permanent record of insect species' distribution in time and space.
In addition, the Bohart Museum houses a gift shop and a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas.
More information is available on the website or by contacting email@example.com or (530) 753-0493.
And some of them are quite attractive.
Take the Stiriini moth, Annaphila astrologa.
We saw our first-ever last March in our pollinator garden. Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, and naturalist Greg Kareofelas, an associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, identified it as a Annaphila astrologa, a small Noctuid.
"It's a medium-sized genus of attractive day-flying moths,” Shapiro said.
It's a species of owlet moth in the family Noctuidae, first described by William Barnes and James Halliday Mcunnough in 1918. A host plant is whispering bells, Emmenanthe penduliflora, a grassland wildflower native to California, according to calscape.org.
Moths and butterflies share the same order, Lepidoptera, but they don't share much else. Moths usually fly at night, not during the day, and moths are generally dull in coloring, compared to butterflies. Moths also outnumber butterflies. Scientists estimate there are some 160,000 described species of moths in the world, as compared to about 17,500 species of butterflies.
Want to learn more about moths? Attend the Bohart Museum of Entomology's Moth Night, set from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 3. It's all free and family friendly. You can:
- View the moths (and butterflies) in the collection curated by entomologist Jeff Smith.
- Talk to the scientists, including senior museum scientist Steve Heydon of the Bohart Museum; Jeff Smith, curator of the the moth and butterfly specimens; and Bohart associates "Moth Man" John DeBenedictis and Greg Kareofelas.
- Check out the display of silkworm moths and silks curated by Emma Cluff. The silkworm moths are from the Bohart Museum collection and the textiles were donated by Richard Peigler, a biology professor at the University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Texas
- Engage in a family craft activity; "kids will be able to color and string white cocoons and make necklaces or bracelets with them," Cluff says.
- Watch the insects that touch down on the blacklighting display, which involves a hanging white sheet illuminated by a generator-powered ultraviolet (UV) light. This won't occur until darkness falls, usually starting around 9 or 9:30.
- Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and a cookie. (Carafs from Common Grounds Coffee)
- Hold and photograph Madagascar hissing cockroaches and a stick insects (walking sticks), and get up close to the tarantulas, all in the live "petting zoo." There may even be caterpillars on display, according to Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. They are 3rd instar Antheraea polyphemus larvae, feeding on oak, from West Sacramento. These Polyphemus moths are members of the family Saturniidae, the giant silk moths.
The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. Founded in 1946 by Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), and directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, it is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America; the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity; a live "petting zoo" and a gift shop.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours have changed for the summer season. As of July 3, the insect museum is hosting 30-minute tours starting at 2:30 and 3:30 pm. No reservations are required and all ages are welcome. Admission is free, but donations are always welcomed. The Bohart is open to walk-in visitors Monday through Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m. It is closed from 9 a.m. to noon to walk-in visits (the insect museum conducts many tours and outreach programs during those times). More information on the Bohart Museum is available on the website or by contacting (530) 752-0493 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Moths, Smithsonian Institution
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.
When you're 5 years old, the world is full of wonders.
Especially when your mother takes you to the Bohart Museum of Entomology to see the butterfly specimens.
Such was the case when Cash Belden, 5, and his mother, Michelle Belden (she's the coordinator of the campus Aggie Surplus, formerly the Bargain Barn) attended the Bohart Museum open house during the eighth annual campuswide UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day.
Little Cash especially liked the monarchs and the blue morphos.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly/moth section at the Bohart, showed them around. He estimates the Bohart has half a million Lepidoptera in the collection, about 60 percent moths and 40 percent butterflies.
He mentioned the "defensive strategies these insects use for survival, such as camouflage, warning coloration, mimicry of other species."
"We love to teach about the importance of Lepidoptera in the environment, either to their habitat directly or possibly as an indicator of the health of their habitat."
And, of course, there's the beauty of the insects.
Next time it's spiders!
The next open house, themed "Eight-Legged Wonders" and featuring spiders, is set from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 9. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. It's free and family friendly. Professor Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will host a slide show at 1 p.m. Visitors will see specimens and can engage in interactive activities and family arts and crafts.
The Bohart Museum, home of a global collection nearly eight million specimens, is directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis. 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. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum.
Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold 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's 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 and on major holidays. Admission is free. Open houses, focusing on specific themes, are held on weekends throughout the academic year. More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or Tabatha Yang, education and public outreach coordinator at email@example.com.
The scientists and butterfly/moth enthusiasts who gathered Saturday, Feb. 9 for the Northern California Lepidoptera Society meeting in the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, did all that: identify specimens and engage in collaboration and camaraderie.
They ranged from those early in their career, to mid-point, to the height of their career, to retired.
The group meets for a mid-winter gathering once a year, alternating between the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis and the Essig Museum of Entomology at UC Berkeley.
Senior museum scientist Steve Heydon, Bohart associate John "Moth Man" DeBenedictis; and Jeff Smith, curator of the butterfly/moth section at the Bohart hosted the event, assisted by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and Bohart associate and naturalist Greg Kareofelas.
In their meeting notice, Heydon, DeBenedictis and Smith noted that those attending could bring specimens, photos, PowerPoint presentations "or slides from collecting trips and tales of collecting triumphs to share with others
and that "attending lepidopterists may be able to help you identify specimens and the museum collection will be open for yoour inspection."
Retired public health entomologist and Bohart associate Dick Meyer of Bakersfield, known as "the mosquito guy," was there. He recently retired as assistant manager of the Orange County Vector Control Agency. He did not bring any of his collection, but he did tell us that he has 225 drawers of insects at home, including 71 drawers of butterflies. "Did you know that the highest diversity of butterflies in the country is in Kern County?" he asked. Meyer, who holds a doctorate in entomology, studied with major professor Richard M. Bohart Jr., for whom the Bohart Museum is named.
Among those participating:
- Bohart associate Jerry Powell, emeritus director of the Essig Museum, and co-author of California Insects.
- Marc Epstein, senior insect biosystematist for the California Department of Food and Agriculture and author of the book, Moths, Myths and Mosquitoes: the Eccentric life of Harrison G. Dyer Jr.
- Kelly Richers, treasurer of the Lepitopterists Society and an affiliate of Essig Museum of Entomology who is also afield associate with the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and member of board of directors of the Wedge Entomological Research Foundation
- Lawrence "Larry" Allen of Calaveras County, author of A Field Guide to the West Coast Butterflies of the United States, one of the books available in the Bohart Museum's gift shop (he donated all sales of his book that day to the Bohart).
- Arthur Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology and author of Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento Valley Regions.
- Entomologist Rick Kelson, who directs the butterfly habitat at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo
- Bohart associate Bill Patterson, former graduate student of Richard Bohart
- Rosser Garrison, research associate with the California State Collection of Arthropods, retired senior insect biosystematist, California Department of Food and Agriculture, and co-author of Dragonfly Genera of the New World: An Illustrated and Annotated Key to the Anisoptera
- Don Miller, professor at Chico State University who teaches entomology in the Department of Biological Sciences
- Ryan Hill, professor at University of Pacific, Stockton
- Chris Tenney, retired educator from Pacific Grove
- Jeffrey Caldwell, known for his ecological restoration
- John Lane, one of first graduate students of Art Shapiro (Lane received his master's degree)
- Paul Johnson, biologist with the National Parks Service
- Hobbyist Jeff Baier of Napa
- Physician Val Albu of Fresno
- And many more...
At the last gathering in the Bohart, Kelly Richers, who compiles the California Moth Specimen Database, maintained at the Essig Museum since 1996 as a resource to better survey and understand California moths, said of the systematists: "We're a dying breed."
This year self-described "aspiring entomologist" Madison Cunha of Modesto attended with her mother, Christine Cunha. True to her love of insects, Madison wore a dress adorned with a beetle pattern.
Scientists say that 180,000 species of the Lepidoptera are described, in 126 families and 46 superfamilies.
"The Lepidoptera are among the most successful groups of insects. They are found on all continents, except Antarctica, and inhabit all terrestrial habitats ranging from desert to rainforest, from lowland grasslands to mountain plateaus, but almost always associated with higher plants, especially angiosperms (flowering plants). Among the most northern dwelling species of butterflies and moths is the Arctic Apollo (Parnassius arcticus), which is found in the Arctic Circle in northeastern Yakutia, at an altitude of 1500 m above sea level. In the Himalayas, various Apollo species such as Parnassius epaphus have been recorded to occur up to an altitude of 6,000 miles above sea level."--Wikipedia.