Head over to the Bug Doctor booth staffed by UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology doctoral students on Saturday, April 23 at Briggs Hall during the 108th annual UC Davis Picnic Day.
The Bug Doctor will be in. Or, make that, the Bug Doctors will be in! They'll answer your questions, whether they're about ants, millipedes (arthropods), spiders (arthropods)--or such fan favorites as lady beetles (aka ladybugs), bees, butterflies, and dragonflies. Puzzled about a bug in your yard? Bring 'em in for identification!
- Xavier Zahnle of the Jason Bond lab, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
- Zachary Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Jill Oberski of the Phil Ward lab, 3 to 5 p.m.
Griebenow just finished captaining the UC Davis Entomology Games Team that won the championship at the Pacific Branch, Entomology Society of America meeting. The team, comprised of Griebenow, Jill Oberski, Erin "Taylor" Kelly of the Geoffrey Attardo lab, and Madison Hendrick of the Ian Grettenberger lab, will now compete in the nationals during the Entomological Society of America meeting that takes place Nov. 13-16 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
So, what's your question?
- How do I keep ants from having a family reunion in my kitchen?
- What's the difference between a millipede and a centipede?
- What's an arthropod?
- What do millipedes eat?
- How many species of insects are there in the world? How many described species are there?
Ask away! And keep asking. Who knows, after you've finished talking to the Bug Docs, you may want to pursue a career in entomology.
Now about those ants having a family reunion in your kitchen....Should we give them name tags?
(Editor's Note: See the complete entomology schedule for UC Davis Picnic Day)
- Medical entomologist-geneticist Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor, will receive the Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology Award
- Doctoral student Erin Taylor Kelly of the Geoffrey Attardo laboratory will receive the Student Leadership Award
- Undergraduate student Gwendolyn "Gwen" Erdosh of the Louie Yang lab will receive the inaugural Dr. Stephen Garczynski Undergraduate Research Scholarship
Geoffrey Attardo is a global expert on vectorborne diseases, and renowned for his groundbreaking work on tsetse flies. Attardo, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2017 from the Yale School of Public Health's Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, “excels not only as a researcher, but as a teacher, mentor, scientific illustrator, macro photographer,videographer and science communicator,” said UC Davis distinguished professor Bruce Hammock in his letter of nomination. (See news story)
Entomology Games. The UC Davis Entomology Games team will be competing for regional honors and national representation. The team includes doctoral candidate Zachary Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab, captain; doctoral candidate Jill Oberski of the Ward lab; doctoral student Erin “Taylor” Kelly of the Geoffrey Attardo lab; and doctoral student Madison “Madi” Hendrick of the Ian Grettenberger.
The Entomology Games is a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams. It was formerly known as the Linnaean Games. The preliminary round is from 5 to 6 p.m., April 10. Plans are to hold three rounds with questions from each of the 10 categories: Biological Control, Behavior and Ecology, Economic and Applied Entomology, Medical-Urban-Veterinary Entomology, Morphology and Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology, Systematics and Evolution, Integrated Pest Management and Plant-Insect Interactions, History of Entomology, and Entomology in Popular Culture. (See UC Davis news story)
The final round is from 8 to 10 p.m., April 11. Both the championship team and the runner-up team will represent PBESA at the Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting, Nov. 13-16 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Last year's national champion was the University of Hawaii, which edged Texas A&M University.
UC Davis has scored three national championships since 2015. In 2018, the University of California team won the national championship, defeating Texas A&M. The team included captain Ralph Washington Jr., then a UC Berkeley graduate student with a bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis; doctoral students Brendon Boudinot, Jill Oberski and Zachary Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab, and doctoral student Emily Bick of the Christian Nansen lab.
UC Davis won the national competition in both 2016 and 2015, defeating the University of Georgia in 2016, and the University of Florida in 2015.
A number of other UC Davis faculty and students will participate in the PBESA meeting. (See schedule.)
PBESA encompasses 11 Western states, parts of Canada and Mexico and several U.S. territories.
- In the United States: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawai'i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
- U.S. Territories: American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Johnston Atoll, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Midway Islands, Wake Island
- In Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Yukon
- In Mexico: Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, Sonora
"Kleptopharmacophagy, a newly described behavior recently observed in milkweed butterflies, is characterized by adult butterflies feeding on milkweed caterpillars. What type of alkaloids do the adult butterflies presumably gain as a result?"
What's the answer? Pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
What, you ask, are the Entomology Games? A lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams, as ESA says.
If you've ever been to the Entomology Games (formerly the Linnaean Games), you know how wonderfully educational and purely entertaining they are. Check out the list of YouTube videos in the championship matches. The 2018, 2016 and 2015 videos are there. The UC Entomology Games Team (UC Davis and UC Berkeley) won the nationals in 2018, and UC Davis in both 2016 and 2015.
Next month is the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) competition, with the championship team and runner-up team eligible to complete in the nationals.
The PBESA meeting takes place April 10-13 in the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country. Santa Rosa. The preliminary round is from 5 to 6 p.m., April 10. Plans are to hold three rounds with questions from each of the 10 categories: Biological Control, Behavior and Ecology, Economic and Applied Entomology, Medical-Urban-Veterinary Entomology, Morphology and Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology, Systematics and Evolution, Integrated Pest Management and Plant-Insect Interactions, History of Entomology, and Entomology in Popular Culture. (See 2021 sample questions.)
The final round is from 8 to 10 p.m., April 11. Then the top two PBESA teams will head to the nationals. The Nov. 13-16 ESA meeting n Vancouver, British Columbia is a joint meeting with the Entomological Society of Canada (ESC), and the Entomological Society of British Columbia (ESBC). The theme: "Entomology as Inspiration: Insects through Art, Science, and Culture."
Some of the questions asked at previous matches have involved the work entomologists affiliated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology:
- Emerita Mary Lou Flint, a longtime leader of the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Program and an Extension entomologist based in the department;
- Rebecca Godwin, who received her doctorate from UC Davis and is now an assistant professor of biology at Piedmont University, Demorest, Ga.; and Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair and associate dean, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
- Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), distinguished emeritus professor known for his expertise on bumble bees, including Franklin's bumble bees, now feared extinct
Q. Mary Lou Flint's textbook, IPM in Practice; Principles and Methods of Integrated Pest Management, cites the management of what invasive plant, first introduced to North America from Europe, as an "excellent example of classical biological control in the Western US?" This plant was controlled by importing the European chrysomelid beetle Chrysolina quadrigemina.
A. Klamath weed / St. John's Wort / Hypericum perforatum
Q: In early 2021, (Rebecca) Godwin and (Jason) Bond described 33 new species of the trapdoor spider genus Ummidia, including a species named in honor of what alt-country singer-songwriter, who was the most-nominated woman at the 2019 Grammy Awards? She has had success both as a solo artist and as a member of the all-female supergroup The Highwomen, and her annual music festival "Girls Just Wanna Weekend" is held in Mexico near the type locality of her namesake trapdoor spider. Name this singer.
A: Brandi Carlile
Q: What bee species, only known from California and Oregon, was added to the Endangered Species List in September 2021?
A: Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini)
How about some more questions?
Q. Earwigs are known for their maternal care, but the species Anechura harmandi goes above and beyond in its support. What describes the extreme contribution of A. harmandi mothers to the success of their offspring?
A: Matriphagy; the survival rate of the offspring is increased when they consume their mother after parental care is complete
Q: Halictid bees parasitized by the strepsipteran species Halictoxenos borealis were recently shown to exhibit unusual behavior when visiting flowers. The parasitized bees did NOT collect or eat pollen; they instead bent their abdomens downward and pressed them against the flower. According to the authors of this study, how did this behavior directly benefit the first-instar strepsipterans living in the bees?
A: Pressing the abdomen against the flower makes it easier for the mobile first-instar strepsipteran larvae to move onto the flower and wait for a new host bee to arrive
Q: Developed during World War II by USDA employee Samuel Gertler, what widely used chemical compound can be synthesized using the reagents diethylamine and meta-toluic acid?
A: DEET / diethyltoluamide / n,n-diethyl-meta-toluamide / n,n-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide
Q: Most contact insecticides are able to penetrate the insect exoskeleton because they contain a fat-soluble compound. What is the term for this type of chemical compound?
A: Lipophilic compound
Q: The solitary bee Eucera pruinosa (formerly in the genus Peponapis) is an efficient pollinator of what crop? There are multiple correct answers, but one of them is particularly appropriate, considering what day it is.
A: Pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, and other cucurbits
Q: Animals in the livestock, poultry and aquaculture industries often consume feed that has been supplemented by insect protein. This protein frequently comes from Hermetia illucens, a dipteran known by what common name?
A: Black soldier fly
Q: The leafcutter ant, Atta cephalotes, has hardened, distinctly sharpened mandibles that allow it to efficiently cut leaves. What mineral found in the mandibles provides this distinct sharpness? This mineral is also a metallic element with atomic number 30 on the periodic table.
Q: What entomological acronym was used to refer to a group of American women who worked as auxiliary service pilots for the US during World War II?
A: WASP (Women Auxiliary Service Pilots)
Q: In 2018, Rachel Brosnahan won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, for playing a character with what dipteran nickname?
A: Midge (Miriam ‘Midge' Maisel from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Q: What British guitarist, who died in 2001, was memorialized by a pine tree planted in Los Angeles' Griffith Park? In an unfortunate, and somewhat ironic, development, the pine tree was later killed by an infestation of beetles.
A: George Harrison of The Beatles
Q: Keteoko is a traditional "honey feast" celebrated by the Enawene-Nawe people indigenous to the Brazilian Amazon. In order to collect large amounts of wild honey for the feast, the Enawene-Nawe have developed their own classification system, based on morphology, behavior, nest structure, and honey flavor, for identifying native species of what type of bee? Please answer with the common or scientific name of a tribe of Apidae.
A: Meliponini, stingless bees
Q: What insect family is essential for the production of iron gall ink? The ink is made using tannins extracted from oak galls, which are induced by larvae of this family.
Did you get them all correct?
You know you want to!
Did you own--and treasure--an ant farm kit as a kid? Did you ever follow them as they hauled off crumbs from your picnic? Did you marvel at the load they could carry?
“Ants are amazing because they're way more diverse than most people realize,” says UC Davis entomology doctoral candidate Jill Oberski. “Some are huge, some are tiny, some are blue or green, and a lot of them have crazy spines. There are ants that run farms with crops and livestock, and ants that can build bridges and survive floods, and ants that live in the highest treetops and never touch the ground.”
That's just some of the information to be showcased at the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Month program on Saturday, Feb. 13 from 11 a.m. to noon when three doctoral students in the Phil Ward lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, take the helm. Oberski, a fourth-year doctoral student, and Ziv Lieberman, a first-year doctoral student, will talk about the diversity of ants and field questions, followed by doctoral candidate Zach Griebenow's presentation on his research.
Then on Saturday, Feb. 20, from 11 a.m. to noon, Professor Phil Ward will host "All About Ants," billed as a "fun and lively question and answer session." The programs are free and family friendly. See http://biodiversitymuseumday.ucdavis.edu/live-programs.html for the Zoom links.
Griebenow grew up in rural Kentucky and received his bachelor's degree in entomology in 2017 from The Ohio State University, undertaking undergraduate research with distinction on species boundaries in the Puerto Rican fauna of the subterranean termite Heterotermes (Griebenow et al. 2017).
"As so everyone in the Ward lab, I study how different groups of ants are related to one another, and why they look and behave the way that they do," he said. "Specifically I study an obscure group called the Leptanillinae, which have no common name. As ants go, they are strange, and we know very little about them. So far, I have confidently teased out the major evolutionary relationships among leptanilline ants (Griebenow 2020; Griebenow, in press), but there is a lot more work to be done, particularly in comprehending the often bizarre structural modifications seen in the male Leptanillinae (legs that look like toothbrushes, etc.)."
Lieberman, born and raised in California, studied at the College of Marin before transferring to UC Davis to major in evolution, ecology and biodiversity, with a minor in insect evolution and ecology. "Prior to UC Davis, I spent several years working abroad for the California Academy of Science documenting historical ant specimens," Lieberman said. "At the end of my undergrad, I published my first paper, a revision of the poorly-understood (and very cute) African species of the ant genus Discothyrea."
In the Ward lab, Lieberman studies "ant evolution, specifically focusing on connecting evolutionary relationships (the ant 'family tree') with anatomy, using a combination of next-generation imaging techniques and large-scale genetic analyses. In particular, I am interested in describing and comparing internal anatomical features which are usually ignored, and understanding how these traits contribute to biodiversity."
Oberski grew up in Minnesota. "I was fascinated by insects from a very young age," she said. "I attended Macalester College, spent a few confused years on a pre-med track, and ultimately discovered a career in entomology was feasible and worth pursuing. This has led me to Phil Ward's ant systematics lab at UC Davis, where I'm now a PhD candidate."
"My research centers on the ant genus Dorymyrmex, which is commonly found all over the Americas," she said. "Even though they're extremely common (Davis itself is home to two species!), we have no idea how many species there really are. In addition to discovering and naming these species, I'm really interested in biogeography and ancient history: Where did Dorymyrmex originate? How are the North American species related to the South American species? And how did they disperse before the isthmus of Panama was connected?"
Professor Phil Ward
Professor Ward teaches California insect diversity, insect taxonomy and field ecology, and introductory biology (the tree of life). His research interests include systematics, biogeography and evolution of ants; ant-plant mutualisms; phylogeny and speciation. He holds a bachelor of science degree in biology from Queens University, Canada (1973) and a doctorate in zoology from the University of Sydney, Australia (1979).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 10th annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum program is all virtual this year via webinars and pre-recorded presentations, and takes place throughout the month of February. The science-based event traditionally occurs on only one day--the Saturday of Presidents' Weekend, when families and friends gather on campus to learn first-hand about the UC Davis museums and collections.
This year's biodiversity event is showcasing 12 museums or collections:
- Anthropology Museum
- Arboretum and Public Garden
- Bohart Museum of Entomology
- Botanical Conservatory
- California Raptor Center
- Center for Plant Diversity
- Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven
- Nematode Collection
- Marine Invertebrate Collection
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology
- Paleontology Collection
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection
For more information and the schedule, access these two formats on the UC Davis Biodiversity program website: (1) live talks and demonstrations and (2) pre-recorded talks and activities. Information on the biodiversity museum events also appear on social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, @BioDivDay.
To help support the Biodiversity Museum event, contributions are being accepted through a month-long crowdfunding campaign program at https://crowdfund.ucdavis.edu/project/24310.
The UC Davis winners are Erin Taylor Kelly of the Geoffrey Attardo lab, Hyoseok Lee of the Christian Nansen lab, Jill Oberski of the Phil Ward lab, Lacie Newton of the Jason Bond lab, and Clara Stuligross of the Neal Williams lab.
- Kelly won first place for her poster, “Metabolic Snapshot: Using Metabolomics to Compare Near-Wild and Colonized Aedes aegypti,” in the Physiology, Biochemistry and Ecology Section.
- Lee won first place for his entry, “Predicting Spring Migration of Beet Leafhoppers, Circulifer tenellus (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) from Natural Overwintering Sites into Tomato fields in California" in the Graduate 10-Minute Papers category of the Plant-Insect Ecosystems, Behavioral Ecology Section
- Oberski won first place for her entry, “Why Do Museum Collections Matter?” in the Graduate Infographics category, Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity Section.
- Newton won second place for her entry, “Integrative Species Delimitation Reveals Cryptic Diversity in the Southern Appalachian Antrodiaetus unicolor (Araneae: Antrodiaetidae) Species Complex,” in the Graduate 10-Minute Papers category in the Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity Section, Genomics.
- Stuligross won second place for her entry, "Larval Pesticide Exposure Reduces Adult Wild Bee Reproduction,” in the Graduate 10-Minute Papers category in the Plant-Insect Ecosystems, Pollinators 2 Section.
The first-place winners received a $75 cash prize, a one-year membership in ESA and a certificate, while the second-place winners won a year's membership and a certificate.
One that is drawing a lot of attention--and rightfully so--is the Oberski poster, "Why Do Museum Collections Matter?" (See below.) The Bohart Museum of Entomology, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is one of the many outstanding insect museums in the world. Directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor and former department chair, the Bohart houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens.
As Oberski writes: "Cabinets of curiosity and natural history museums are the original basis of our knowledge of global biodiversity. Such collections, however, are more than just well-organized dead organisms. Museums are enormous libraries of identified species, localities, and dates, constantly updated and reorganized based on the best new information. These data inform countless fields of research, and can even answer future questions no one has yet thought to ask. Most importantly, they preserve irreplaceable type specimens, which are a crucial part of species description. Now that many of these insect collections are being digitized and accessed from around the globe, why is it necessary to maintain them as physical materials? While many datasets do lend themselves well to digitization, insect specimens experience significant data loss. Most commonly, photographs are taken of the specimens, but photos are usually inadequate for discerning taxonomic features. Even high-resolution 3D scans are no substitute for direct observations. Finally, museums are centers of education and public outreach. Through collections, biology students and communities can physically experience global insect biodiversity they might not otherwise see, regardless of location or mobility. The “wow” factor of magnificent specimens is most powerful in person. As our lives become increasingly computer-oriented, we must recognize that to enjoy and study nature, no digital replacement will suffice."
Oberski, who joined the Ward lab in 2017, holds a bachelor of arts degree, cum laude, from Macalester College, St. Paul, Minn., where she majored in biology and German studies.
The Entomological Society of America, headquartered in Annapolis, Md., and founded in 1889, is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. They include educators, extension personnel, consultants, students, researchers, and scientists from agricultural departments, health agencies, private industries, colleges and universities, and state and federal governments. It is a scientific and educational resource for all insect-related topics. For more information, visit www.entsoc.org.
(See in-depth piece on the four other UC Davis recipients on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website)