It's all about insect courtship rituals and intimacy, or what entomologists sometimes call "insect wedding photography."
The Bay Area-based SaveNature.Org, a non-profit conservation organization, and its Insect Discovery Lab will sponsor an "Insect Palooza Happy Hour!" on Thursday, June 25 from 4 to 5 p.m. on the Zoom live video platform.
"Professor Norm" (that's Norman Gershenz, chief executive officer and co-founder) will preside and answer questions.
"Insects inspire our emotions--find out about mate guarding and courtship rituals," says Gershenz, who estimates the world insect population at more than 50 million species.
The Insect Palooza is limited to 25 adult participants. Registrants (register here at $15 per person).will receive a unique link. The virtual event will start exactly at 4 p.m., with 5-10 minutes allocated for questions and answers at the end of the program.
Gershenz and his wife, Leslie-Saul Gershenz, Ph.D., a bee scientist with the USDA laboratory on the UC Davis campus (she holds a doctorate in entomology from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology), co-founded SaveNature.Org. Their work has drawn a number of awards as well as international attention from National Geographic, Time magazine, ABC's "World News Tonight," and other news media.
SaveNature.Org, dedicated to international conservation, has raised more than $4.7 million to help preserve thousands of acres of rain forest, coral reef and desert habitat around the world, said Gershenz, who created and developed the first Adopt-an-Acre program in the United States, as well as the award-winning Conservation Parking Meter. His credentials include 18 years with the San Francisco Zoo as an educator, member of the animal care staff, fundraiser, and researcher. In addition, he has worked as a field biologist and naturalist in Borneo, Malaysia, India, Nepal, Costa Rica and Namibia.
If you'd like to take a world tour and learn about such fascinating insects as darkling beetles, Australian walking sticks, giant African millipedes and others, be sure to sign up for the "Virtual Insect Palooza with the Insect Discovery Lab."
The program, open to all ages but limited to 25 participants, is set for 4 to 5 p.m., Friday, June 12 on Zoom, announced Norm Gershenz, chief executive officer and co-founder of the Bay Area-based SaveNature.Org. He also directs the organization's Insect Discovery Lab. He co-founded SaveNature.Org with wife Leslie Saul-Gershenz, a UC Davis scientist who holds a doctorate in entomology from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Professor Norm" will lead what is being billed as a "live, wild experience featuring arthropods from around the world." Viewers will be able to ask questions at the end of the program.
SaveNature.Org is an award-winning conservation organization which presents more than 800 educational outreach programs to some 38,000 children annually. National Geographic, Time magazine, and ABC's "World News Tonight" have all spotlighted the work.
Dedicated to international conservation, SaveNature.Org has raised more than $4.7 million to help preserve thousands of acres of rain forest, coral reef and desert habitat around the world, said Gershenz, who created and developed the first Adopt-an-Acre program in the United States, as well as the award-winning Conservation Parking Meter.
His credentials include 18 years with the San Francisco Zoo as an educator, member of the animal care staff, fundraiser, and researcher. In addition, he has worked as a field biologist and naturalist in Borneo, Malaysia, India, Nepal, Costa Rica and Namibia. "I have tracked black rhinos in Zimbabwe, chased orangutans in Borneo, and stalked the elusive platypus in Australia (with his camera)," he related. In his conservation work, he has handled boas and bobcats, pandas and elephants, snow leopards and koalas, hippos and hornbills.
In 2010, Gershenz received the prestigious Elizabeth Terwilliger Prize for Conservation. In 2018 the American Association of Zookeepers presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding work in nature conservation.
Chemical ecologist and conservation biologist Leslie Saul-Gershenz of UC Davis and Norman Gershenz, conservation biologist and CEO of SaveNature.Org, will speak on “Is Insect Biodiversity, Biomass and Abundance Declining? What Can Be Done If It Is?” at a public talk on Monday night, March 2, at the Hillside Club's Fireside Lecture Series, Berkeley.
The husband-wife team of environmental scientists will address the audience at 7:30 p.m. The Bay Area venue is in north Berkeley at 2286 Cedar St., between Spruce and Arch streets. (See directions)
They will discuss what factors are affecting native bees and insect populations in California and around the world; review some of the latest body of literature on insect declines; and relate how people can participate to make a positive difference.
Also as part of the Fireside Lecture Series, Kathy Kramer, founder and coordinator of the “Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour” will discuss “Garden as If Life Depends on It: How Bringing Back the Natives Can Help You Do So” at 7:30 p.m., Monday, April 6.
The events are free and open to the public, but a $10 donation per talk is requested to benefit the speaker fund.
Leslie, who received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, is associate director of research, Wild Energy Initiative, John Muir Institute of the Environment, and on March 1, will join the research team at the USDA-ARS Invasive Species and Pollinator Health Research Unit, Davis. She will continue collaborating with the John Muir Institute.
Norm and Leslie co-founded SaveNature.Org, an international conservation program, to "protect terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems worldwide and to inspire stewardship in the public through hands-on education programs." Norm serves as the chief executive officer and director of the Insect Discovery Lab (IDL). (See article on the duo.)
SaveNature.Org conducts nearly 800 hands-on conservation education programs in schools throughout the Greater Bay Area, and reaches more than 38,500 children annually with its IDL. Their work has been highlighted in National Geographic, Time magazine, and ABC's World News Tonight. Robert Pringle's recent article, Upgrading Protected Areas to Conserve Wild Biodiversity, in the journal Nature, details the organization's collaborative work to increase the size of protected areas.
The Hillside Club is a neighborhood social club established in 1898 to promote good design practices in the Berkeley hills; today it is a community-based membership organization supporting the arts and culture.
Saul-Gershenz studies how blister beetle nest parasites mimic the sex pheromone of digger bees.
Bohart associate Emma Cluff curated the wall display, “Digger Bees and Their Nest Parasites,” which examines the life cycle, research process, results, research challenges and implications.
Saul-Gershenz, associate director of research, Wild Energy Initiative, at the John Muir Institute of the Environment, UC Davis, researches the chemical ecology and parasite-host interactions of these solitary native bees and their nest parasites across the western U. S., including the coastal sand dunes of Oregon and the Mojave Desert in south-central California.
Leslie did much of her work at the Mojave National Preserve, where she tracked the solitary bee Habropoda pallida and its nest parasite, a blister beetle, Meloe franciscanus.
The larvae of the parasitic blister beetle produce a chemical signal or allomone, similar to that of a female bee's pheromone, to lure males to the larval aggregation. The larvae attach to the male bee on contact and then transfer to the female during mating. The end result: the larvae wind up in the nest of a female bee, where they eat the nest provisions and likely the host egg.
Leslie's experiments found the allomones “released by each population of M. franciscanus triungulin (larvae) mimic the pheromones released by a specific species of Habropoda bees native to their local habitat,” Cluff wrote in the display. “Leslie found that these differences had a genetic basis. She also found that local bee species were more attracted to the allomones released by their local triungulin population.”
The M. franciscanus triungulin hatching is synchronized with the emergence of adult female Habropoda bees,” the display reads. “The triungulins aggregate on plant stems and release an allomone blend which attracts male bees. The aggregation of triungulins hop on to male bees who have chosen to investigate the allomone. Once the male bees find a real female bee, they mate in a ‘mating ball' at which time the triungulins transfer to the female. All this effort is so that the triungulins can get a free ride to the nest that the female bee lays her eggs in. Once inside the nest burrow, the triungulins will feed on the net provisions and likely the egg itself and will remain there until they emerge as adults the following winter.”
Results? “Leslie's experiments found that the allomones released by each population of M. franciscanus triungulin mimic the pheromones released by a the specific species of Habropoda” Cluff wrote. “Leslie found that these differences had a genetic basis. She also found that local bee species were more attracted to the allomones released by their local triungulin population.” The research contributes to the understanding of the communication signals of bees in the genus Habropoda.
Leslie, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, is currently finishing two research papers: the basic biology of digger bee Habropoda pallida, and the biology of the silver digger bee Habropoda miserabilis.
She and her husband, Norman, are the co-founders of the Bay Area-based SaveNature.Org. The international conservation consortium works with partners to protect ecosystems around the world.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens. It also includes a gift shop and a live "petting zoo," which includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, and tarantulas. The museum is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., except during the holiday schedule. (See website)
The next open house, free and family friendly, will take place from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18. It will showcase "the amazing insect work that graduate students are doing," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. The theme is "Time Flies When You Are Studying Insects: Cutting Edge Student Research."
So we did…Because the Bohart Museum of Entomology is hosting an open house on entomophagy from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane--and you're invited.
The event, free and family friendly, is an opportunity to participate in the joy of eating...drum roll...insects! And for that, you'll get a button proclaiming “I ate a bug at the Bohart."
If you're not into eating insects, you can cuddle and photograph the critters in the live "petting zoo," or view insect specimens. Just remember that 80 percent of the world consumes insects as a protein source. Some 1700 species of insects are edible.
“Many insects are quite edible and if you try them, you might find that crickets are the new shrimp,” says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “Personally, I like flavored mealworms."
"Just think of insects as terrestrial shrimp or crab," adds senior museum scientist Steve Heydon.
Now, what do other entomologists and bug ambassadors think about eating insects?
Danielle Wishon, who holds a bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis, is an entomophagist. She likes baking with mealworms when she's not working five jobs, including (1) teaching assistant in the lab of UC Davis alumnus Fran Keller, assistant professor at Folsom Lake College, and (2) police services officer for the Lafayette Police Department.
“Mealworm cookies are visually fun and taste good,” Wishon said. “It's my understanding that people with nut allergies will sometimes make cookies and cakes with ground-up mealworms because they have a ‘nutty flavor' but don't bother their allergies. Crickets are good as well, but only if they are baked or sauteed.”
Rather than asking "why,” Wishon asks "why not?"
“Most of the world includes arthropods in their diet,” Wishon noted. “We do, too; we just think of them differently because we pull them out of the sea. Depending on the arthropod, they are healthy, abundant, and an eco-friendly alternative to other sources of protein.”
Back in 2014, Wishon participated in a “Beer and Bugs” event (Bugs and Beer—Why Crickets and Kölsch Might Be Matches in Heaven” at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. It featured UC Davis Professor Charles Bamforth, aka “The Pope of Foam,” and David George Gordon, aka "The Bug Chef," extolling the virtues of beer and bugs. Guests sampled eight different insect-inspired creations in what was billed as "an ultimate tasting experience."
Wishon ate a baked cricket. A very large cricket.
She liked it, too!
That's not to say she likes consuming all crickets. “I once ate a boiled cricket and it was absolutely disgusting!”
When we asked entomologist Leslie Saul-Gershenz, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis and is associate director of research, Wild Energy Initiative, John Muir Institute of the Environment, UC Davis campus, if she has cooked with insects and eaten them, she responded:
“Many times! I have baked chocolate chip chirpies, made cricket dip surprise, mealworm pizza and eaten all of them. I have eaten beetle larvae in Papua, New Guinea and Peru and grasshoppers in Mexico. Seriously, they are important sources of protein all around the world and they are eaten regularly in most cultures except ours. We, of course, eat their close relatives the crustaceans without hesitation.”
Bohart Museum associate and naturalist/photographer Greg Kareofelas of Davis remembers when he and colleague Danielle Wishon participated in the “insect-eating affair” at the Mondavi Institute. Frankly, he doesn't make a habit of eating insects. "My favorite is pizza," he says.
Kareofelas can usually be found at the Bohart Museum open houses showing visitors the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moth) section with curator and entomologist Jeff Smith.
“I think it was Dan Janzen (noted evolutionary biologist and conservationist affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania) that used to say he ‘chewed' butterflies and moths to see how they would taste to birds--the “distasteful monarch” thing," Kareofelas related. "Reading that was the closest I have gotten to eating Leps (Lepidopderans).”
“I will try and keep an open mind at the open house,” Kareofelas promised. “But my favorite is still pizza!”
'I Ate a Bug at the Bohart'
Various companies, including Hotlix, Exo and Chirps Chips, are providing samples for the Bohart Museum open house, says education and outreach coordinator Tabatha Yang. Visitors will learn about entomophagy, sample insect-based foods, make buttons (“I ate a bug at the Bohart”), view the collection, and handle insects from the petting zoo, which includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks or stick insects, tarantulas and praying mantids.
The event coincides with "Student Move-in Day," when students head back to campus for the academic year, and family and friends help them move. Many campus visitors are expected to tour the Bohart Museum.
The Bohart Museum, founded by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is home to the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. It also maintains a year-around gift shop, which is stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The insect museum is open to the public Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m., except on holidays. More information on the Bohart Museum is available on the website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu or by contacting (530) 752-0493 or email@example.com. (See list of open houses for the 2019-2020 academic year.)