Are you counting down until the much-awaited Virtual Moth Open House, hosted by the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology?
The free and family friendly-event is set from 1 to 2 p.m., on Saturday, July 25, coming to you live on the Bohart Museum's Facebook page. You don't have to have a Facebook account to watch the program.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Bohart's Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) collection, will display moths, talk about moths and answer your questions.
And it's all in keeping with National Moth Week.
Curious as to how he pins and spreads the moth and butterfly specimens? Be sure to check out Sarah Stinson's newly recorded video in which Smith demonstrates how to Pin and Spread Moths and Butterflies. The link is on the Bohart Museum's home page.
"I've been managing the butterfly moth collection for the last 32 years," he says. "And much of what I do has to do with spreading the wings of butterflies and moths so that they're ready and available to be identified."
You'll learn about spreading boards, pins, forceps, and yes, why you should use kitty litter. And you'll learn why you should keep "little bugs" away from your specimens "before you get around to working on them."
"I've done these spreading demonstrations for many, many groups including the (UC Davis) entomology club," he relates. "And as I tell them as I start, I'm going to show you how simple this is. But the first time you do it, you're going to be very, very frustrated."
Smith, who was singled out for the prestigious Friend of the College Award in 2015 by the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is in one word: "incredible." (See news story)
He makes it look easy. It's not.
"Personally, I am astounded by the thousands upon thousands of butterflies and moths that Jeff has prepared for display or scientific study," research entomologist Tom Zavorink, a Bohart Museum associate, told us. "This is no small task because butterfly and moth specimens are usually brought from the field in envelopes or boxes with their wings folded over their backs or around their bodies, and preparing them for display or scientific study involves relaxing them in a humid chamber so their wings and legs can be manipulated, carefully spreading open the wings, positioning them on a flat surface, and securing them in that position until the specimen dries again. This is an onerous task that many entomologists, myself included, shun because we don't have the time, manual dexterity, or patience it takes to prepare quality specimens."
At the Virtual Moth Open House, there's an extra bonus: learn how to set up a blacklighting trap to collect night-flying insects. (See previous Bug Squad blog)
The Bohart Museum is directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, and is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It houses nearly 8 million insect specimens, and about 500,000 of them are butterflies and moths. The museum also houses a live petting zoo (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and an insect-themed gift shop, stocked with T-shirts,jewelry, books, stuffed animals, posters and insect-collecting equipment. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, the museum is temporarily closed until further notice.
Are you the moth and the insect museum is the flame? Or are you the flame and the insect museum is the moth?
Either way, it promises to be fun, fast-paced and educational.
The free and family friendly event, held in observance of National Moth Week (July 18-26), will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. (Pacific Time) on Saturday, July 25 on Facebook Live (Bohart Museum Facebook page).
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the 500,000 Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) collection, will show specimens and answer questions.
"Due to circumstances, the annual Moth Night at the Bohart Museum of Entomology will be a 'virtual tour' this year, and we hope it offers the same fun and interest as in past years," said Jeff Smith. "In addition to a live video tour of one of the aisles of moths in this huge research collection, we also will have video on how to set up equipment for attracting moths at night, the most productive time for observing these nocturnal animals. A new addition will be video on how to 'spread' the wings of moths and butterflies, an important step in preparing Lepidoptera for research and study."
Want to know just how impressive moths are?
"The live portion of our virtual tour will be spent in the collection itself, and we will show and talk about some of the most impressive moths in the world, including the Death Head Sphinx Moth, the highly toxic Slug Moths, and the largest moths in the world, the Atlas Moths," Smith said. "There will be examples of some of the many species of wasp mimic moths in the families Erebidae and Sesiidae, a hummingbird moth with a proboscis, its feeding tube, that is nearly 12 inches long! We will show the extraordinary Sunset Moth from Madagascar with its splash of amazing and metallic colors on its wings. There will be Black Witch and White Witch moths with wingspans up to 1 foot across. The diversity and beauty of moths easily rivals that of the better known butterflies."
Want to know how destructive some moths are?
"In addition to the moths known for their attractive appearance, we also need to show some of the destructive kinds, including the Gypsy Moth that has destroyed millions of acres of forest in the U.S., tussock and tent-worm moths that can defoliate entire trees, and the California Oak Moth that ravages oak trees along the California coast," Smith said. "There are moths with wingspans up to 12 inches and others so small you need a microscope to observe them."
All in all, this is a wonderful and diverse order of insects, Smith said, "and we hope everyone will join us on July 25th, for the 2020 Open House at the Bohart Museum of Entomology." Smith was named a 2015 "Friend of the College
by the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
The Bohart Museum is directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. It is headquartered in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane (but temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic). The insect museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million insects, as well as a live "petting zoo" (think Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and a gift shop stocked with insect-themed clothing, jewelry, posters and books, as well as collecting equipment.
The Bohart Museum will live-stream the free open house on Facebook. Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the 500,000 Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) collection, will show specimens and answer questions.
"We started holding a moth-themed open house near Mother's Day in May, because people who are enthusiasts for moths are called moth-ers,” said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum. “We then switched our programming to align with National Moth Week. This year's Moth Week is July 18-26. The annual event is celebrated throughout the world with private and public events.
Bohart Museum officials are preparing videos on black-lighting and how to spread and pin moths.
During the Facebook Live program, viewers can type in their questions on moths.
Smith is expected to answer questions such as:
- What is the largest moth?
- How do butterflies and moths differ?
- What is so unique about moths?
- Why should we be concerned with moth diversity?
LynnKimsey, director oftheBohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, nominated Smith for the award. “You could not ask for a better friend than Jeff Smith,” she said, noting that he has “brought us international acclaim and saved us $160,000 through donations of specimens and materials, identification skills and his professional woodworking skills. This does not include the thousands of hours he has donated in outreach programs that draw attention to the museum, the college and the university.”
Kimsey, who has directed the museum since 1989, remembers when Smith joined the museum. “When Jeff was working for Univar Environmental Services, a 35-year career until his retirement in 2013, he would spend some of his vacation days at the museum. Over the years Jeff took over more and more of the curation of the butterfly and moth collection. He took home literally thousands of field pinned specimens and spread their wings at home, bringing them back to the museum perfectly mounted. To date he has spread the wings on more than 200,000 butterflies and moths. This translates into something like 33,000 hours of work!” The numbers have since increased.
“About a decade ago, Jeff began helping us by assembling specimen drawers from kits that we purchased,” Kimsey related. “This substantially lowered our curatorial costs, from $50/drawer to $16/drawer. We use several hundred drawers a year to accommodate donated specimens, research vouchers and specimens resulting from research grants and inventories. More recently, he's been accumulating scrap lumber and making the drawers from scratch at no cost to us. Overall, he has made more than 2000 drawers. Additionally, he makes smaller specimen boxes with the leftover scrap wood, which are used by students taking various field courses in the department. We simply could not curate the collection without his contributions.”
Kimsey praised Smith for completely reorganizing the butterfly and moth collection. “It's no small feat to rearrange this many specimens, housed in roughly one thousand drawers,” she said. “Many thousands of the specimens needed to be identified, and the taxonomy required extensive updating and reorganization.”
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, 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. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum.
The Bohart Museum is the home of a “live” petting zoo featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas, and a gift shop stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
Ann Sievers, owner, grower and miller of Il Fiorello Olive Oil Co., located at 2625 Mankas Corner Road, Fairfield, recently found and photographed this "lovely beast" on an outdoor patio wall.
Shapiro identified it as “Eumorpha achemon, the Achemon Sphinx. Fairly uncommon. The very large caterpillar, which has several color phases, eats both wild and cultivated grapes (leaves only) and is never common enough to be considered a pest. Lovely beast!”
Shapiro, known for his expertise on moths and butterflies, has been monitoring butterflies of Northern California since 1972 and maintains a research website on the butterflies that pass through his transects.
The larvae of the Achemon Sphinx moth, are sometimes called the "grape sphinx" for good reason: they feed on grape leaves. The caterpillars are huge (about three-and-a-half-inches long) and vary in color from light green to reddish orange, to brown.
Sievers' chickens that roam the Il Fiorello grounds in the daytime (they're “cooped up” at night to protect them from predators like coyotes) occasionally find and feast on caterpillars and other bugs. And grapevines grow by another pen of chickens. Chow time!
Naturalist and photographer Greg Kareofelas of Davis, an associate of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, says he finds the caterpillars on "the native grape (Vitus californica) growing in my yard."
"Because it did use the native grapes as a host, it is a 'resident native,' of the area," he observed.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building UC Davis campus, annuals hosts a Moth Night (see preview story from 2019) but the coronavirus pandemic precautions may turn this year's Moth Night into a virtual one.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Bohart Museum's Lepitoptera section, says "we probably have 2.5 drawers of the Grapevine Sphinx. It's found all across the U.S. but never particularly common in our region. Hindwings are a really attractive pink. This is one of 11 species in the genus Eumorpha, but the only species in California."
We missed it, too. So did the ants and other insects.
The Department of Entomology and Nematology annually hosts dozens of popular Picnic Day events at Briggs Hall and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. But this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, “closed” was the word of the day.
"Closed." It's not a popular word when you're craving to show your audience the wonderful world of insects.
However, this year the campuswide Picnic Day Committee hosted a virtual tour of some of the planned events, and posted this link: https://picnicday.ucdavis.edu/virtual/
The spotlight paused on the Bohart Museum, which houses nearly eight million insect specimens; the seventh largest insect collection in North America; the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity; and a live “petting zoo” comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and the like. It also is the home of a gift shop, stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
Directed by UC Davis entomology professor Lynn Kimsey for 30 years, the museum is named for noted entomologist Richard Bohart (1913-2007). The Bohart team includes senior museum scientist Steve Heydon; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths section).
If you browse the Bohart Museum site, you'll find fact sheets about insects, written by Professor Kimsey.
But if you want to see the Bohart Museum's virtual tours, be sure to watch these videos:
- Director Lynn Kimsey giving a Bohart Museum introduction
- Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, presenting an arthropod virtual tour
- Diane Ullman, professor of entomology and former chair of the department, presenting a view of the Lepidodpera section.
Also on the UC Davis Virtual Picnic Day site, you'll learn “How to Make an Insect Collection," thanks to project coordinator James R. Carey, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and "Can Plants Talk to Each Other?" a TED-Ed Talk featuring the work of ecologist Rick Karban, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Other research work that draws widespread attention at the annual UC Davis Picnic Day is the work of UC Davis medical entomologist-geneticist Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor of entomology. A global authority on tsetse flies, he specializes in reproductive physiology and molecular biology, in addition to medical entomology and genetics.
"Female tsetse flies carry their young in an adapted uterus for the entirety of their immature development and provide their complete nutritional requirements via the synthesis and secretion of a milk like substance," he says. PBS featured his work in its Deep Look video, “A Tsetse Fly Births One Enormous Milk-Fed Baby,” released Jan. 28, 2020. (See its accompanying news story.)
PBS also collaborated with the Attardo lab and the Chris Barker lab, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, for a PBS Deep Look video on Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits dengue fever and Zika. The eggs are hardy; "they can dry out, but remain alive for months, waiting for a little water so they can hatch into squiggly larvae," according to the introduction. Watch the video, "This Dangerous Mosquito Lays Her Armored Eggs--in Your House."
In the meantime, the UC Davis Picnic Day leaders are gearing up for the 106th annual, set for April 17, 2021. What's a picnic without insects?