It was a family night in more ways than one.
Families who attended the Bohart Museum of Entomology's annual Moth Night last Saturday, Aug. 3, not only saw specimens from scores of insect families inside the UC Davis insect museum, but outside as well.
The blacklighting display drew at least 11 different species from five moth families: Tineidae, Tortricidae, Pyralidae, Geometridae, and Noctuidae, according to Bohart associate and "Moth Man" John De Benedictis.
De Benedictis, along with senior museum scientist Steve Heydon and Bohart associate Greg Kareofelas, set up the blacklighting display, comprised of a hanging white sheet illuminated by a generator-powered ultraviolet (UV light).
Moths that visited the blacklighting display from around 9:15 to 11 p.m. included:
Opogona omoscopa (Opogona crown borer)
Achyra rantalis (garden webworm)
Ephestiodes gilvescentella (dusky raisin moth)
Spodoptera exigua (beet armyworm)
Spodoptera praefica (western yellow-striped armyworm)
"At this time of year, I get 15 to 20 species most nights," said De Benedictis, an entomologist who started blacklighting in his backyard in 1998 and at Cold Canyon in 1989. "On the best nights, I'll get about 30 species in my yard and more than 100 at Cold Canyon. In recent years (since 2012), I've run my backyard light as many as 260 nights a year and have been getting 140 to 170 species each year."
Since 1998, he has recorded more than 350 species at night from his yard (including an occasional butterfly or skipper), "but there are at least 25 more that I have not identified, so I estimate I've collected 400 plus species in my yard in 21 years when diurnal (day-flying) species are included in the count."
If you attended Moth Night and you cultivate citrus, strawberries, pomegranates or cucumbers, you may have recognized some of the moths on the blacklighting display or seen the larval pests. For example, the omnivorous leafroller is a pest of citrus. The filbertworm is a pest of pomegranate. The Opogona crown borer is commonly found in bird of paradise plants, but also attacks strawberries, according to the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM). The Spodoptera exigua (beet armyworm) and Spodoptera praefica (western yellow-striped armyworm) are pests of cucurbits (cucumber family).
Smith estimates the Bohart's global moth collection at 300,000 to 350,000 specimens of moths. "A recent donation from a local collector likely added another 25,000 specimens of moths alone."
"A great many of the colorful moths are diurnal, including hummingbird moths that mimic bumble bees, clearwing moths that mimic wasps, and Arctiid moths that mimic toxic and distasteful butterflies such as Heliconians and Glassywings from South America," Smith said.
In size, visitors saw the biggest (Atlas) to the smallest moth. "Our smallest moth is one from Africa that was overlooked in the alcohol in which it was captured because of its tiny size," Smith pointed out. "Finally, a student separating the insects in the alcohol found it, and it is nearly microscopic." Visitors also marveled at the hummingbird moth which has a proboscis (tongue) that 12 inches long.
Bohart associate Emma Cluff curated the silkworm moths and silks display. She gathered silkworm moths from the Bohart Museum collection, and textiles from a donation by Richard Peigler, a moth expert and biology professor at the University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Texas.
The family craft activity involved coloring and stringing white cocoons (donated by Peigler) to make necklaces or bracelets. Cluff and fellow entomologist enthusiast Keely Davies created a huge luna moth in the hallway. Some 200 visitors participated in the free and family friendly event.
The moth exhibit is currently on display at the Bohart Museum.
Founded in 1946 by Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), and directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, the Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect speicments. It is s 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.
Bohart Museum of Entomology associate John De Benedictis, aka "Moth Man," brought a mantidfly, an insect that's parasitic to spiders, to the museum on Tuesday. He collected it while blacklighting at the UC Davis Stebbens Cold Canyon Reserve, Winters, a site maintained by the University of California as an ecological preserve for teaching and research.
It's a rare find. "It's the first one I've caught in 30 years," he said, recalling that the last one he collected was in the "1970s or 1980s" at Cobb Mountain Lake, Lake County, while he was enrolled at UC Berkeley.
This species, also found in the Bohart Museum collection, is Climaciella brunnea, said Wade Spencer, Bohart associate and UC Davis entomology student.
Climaciella brunnea looks somewhat like a mantis and a wasp, thus, this species is commonly called a "wasp mantidlfy." Its raptorial front legs remind us of how a praying mantis "prays." The mantidfly uses its front legs to catch small insect prey. Its coloring mimics a paper wasp.
Actually, this tiny insect is neither fly nor mantis nor wasp. It belongs to the family Mantispidae, order Neuroptera:
- Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
- Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
- Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
- Class Insecta (Insects)
- Order Neuroptera (Antlions, Owlflies, Lacewings, Mantidflies and Allies)
- Suborder Hemerobiiformia (Lacewings, Mantidflies and Allies)
- Family Mantispidae (Mantidflies)
- Subfamily Mantispinae
- Genus Climaciella
- Species brunnea (Wasp Mantidfly)
"As with most mantidflies, this species is parasitic to spiders as larva: the eggs of wolf spiders are their preferred host and larva will get themselves wrapped up with the eggs in the sac by the spider, since they cannot break into the sacs themselves," according to Wikipedia. "If the spider hasn't yet laid eggs, the larva will subsist on the spider's blood until then. Once inside the sac the larva will feast on the eggs until it pupates."
According to BugGuide.net, its range includes "the southern parts of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec (Cannings & Cannings, 2006). Widespread in the United States. South to Costa Rica."
The University of Colorado Museum of Natural History notes that "C. brunnea has a very interesting life cycle. During their 3-4 week adult life stage, inch-long females may lay as many as several thousand short-stalked eggs, grouped on the underside of plant leaves. The eggs hatch and each tiny larva waits for a passing spider. The larva then boards the spider and rides around on it until the spider lays eggs. At this time the tiny mantispid larva crawls off the spider and into the egg sac, where it feeds on the spider eggs in the security of the silken spider egg sac."
"Different species of mantispids specialize on different species of host spiders," according to the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History website. "C. brunnea larvae are known to parasitize the eggs of wolf spiders long females may lay as many as several thousand short-stalked eggs, grouped on the underside of plant leaves. The eggs hatch and each tiny larva waits for a passing spider. The larva then boards the spider and rides around on it until the spider lays eggs. At this time the tiny mantispid larva crawls off the spider and into the egg sac, where it feeds on the spider eggs in the security of the silken spider egg sac."
The adults are often nocturnal but are sometimes attracted by porch lights or blacklights.
That rang true for John De Benedictis: blacklights.
(Editor's Note: The Bohart Museum of Entomology, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It is open to the public Monday through Thursday, and on specially announced weekends. The next open house, free and open to the public, is Saturday, Sept. 22 from 1 to 4 p.m. The theme is "Crafty Insects." Visitors are invited to bring their insect crafts that they have made. They will be displayed next to "crafty"--sneaky--insects.)
The UC Davis event took place from 8 to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 21 in celebration of National Moth Week, July 21-29, which celebrated the beauty, life cycles and habitats of moths.
Entomologists use the blacklight to collect or view night-flying insects attracted to ultraviolet light. The Bohart associates set up two displays near the Bohart, but the one set up along a UC Davis Arboretum path drew the most moths--and the most spectators.
Blacklighting is basically comprised of a hanging white sheet, illuminated by ultraviolet (UV) light and powered by a generator.
More than 140 spectators attended Moth Night, held both inside the museum (located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane) and outside on the campus grounds.
The scarab beetles or what some folks often call by the common name "June bugs" (referring to certain species of scarabs) showed up first, followed by assorted moths.
Beetle expert Fran Keller, assistant professor at Folsom Lake College who received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, identified it as a Polyphylla sp. or lined June beetle. "I think it was a female because the antennae were reduced."
Bohart associate and "Moth Man" John De Benedictis listed the species sighted at Moth Night by family. Among them:
NOCTUIDAE: Spodoptera exigua (Beet Armyworm Moth), Proxenus sp. (probably P. mindara)
GEOMETRIDAE: Prochoerodes truxaliata
PYRALIDAE: Ehestiodes gilvescentella
TORTRICIDAE: Cydia latiferreana (Filbertworm Moth), Grapholita prunivora (Lesser Appleworm Moth)
GELECHIIDAE: Leucogniella sp. (probably L. distincta)
TINEDAE: Oinophila v-flava
ACROLOPHIDAE: Amydria sp. (cannot tell genus or species without dissecting. Likely Pseudopsalta confusella.)
De Benedictis said a young girl collected the Prochoerodes truxaliata, a moth that feeds on coyote bush as a caterpillar.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, 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. It maintains a live "petting zoo," featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas, and praying mantids. 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. It is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free. More information on the Bohart Museum is available on the website or by contacting (530) 752-0493 or emailing email@example.com.
(Editor's Note: Stay tuned for photos of the inside activities on Moth Night.)