It rocks not "just because" of the excellent scientists, staff and volunteers--and the fact that it houses
- nearly eight million insect specimens
- the seventh largest insect collection in North America
- the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity
- a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and praying mantids; and
- a year-around gift shop, which is stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy
No, it's not "just because" of all those attributes, accolades and accomplishments.
It rocks because of...well...rocks.
Last Saturday, as part of its open house, Bohart Museum officials invited the guests to paint rocks.
"Paint a rock with your favorite insect! These rocks can join the #UCDavisRocks that are hidden around campus and downtown. Once found, these rocks can then be re-hidden as a happy surprise for others to discover. Pictures of your #UCDavisRocks can be shared on the UC Davis Rocks Facebook page."
The Bohart Museum officials drew inspiration from Yolo Rocks and Solano Rocks, but a similar organization on campus, UC Davis Rocks, launched a related activity last spring. It is the brainchild of Kim Pearson and Martha Garrison of the College of Letters and Science.
Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, coordinated the open house. UC Davis student Isabelle Gilchrist, a second-year entomology major, staffed the crafts activity table, offering rocks, paint and suggestions.
The theme of the open house, “Crafty Insects,” spotlighted crafty or sneaky insects (more photos of that in another blog), but a huge part of this open house starred rocks.
Just like Donna Billick, the self-described "rock artist" who sculpted the ceramic-mosaic worker bee, "Miss Bee Haven," in the Department of Entomology and Nematology's Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, the Bohart artists rocked.
All of them!
(Editor's Note: 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/span>/span>
Talk about "crafty"--as in cunning or sneaky--insects.
Ever seen a praying mantis ambushing a cabbage white butterfly?
Or an assassin bug targeting a spotted cucumber beetle?
Or European paper wasps attacking a Gulf Fritillary butterfly?
And, how about the other kind of "crafty" insects--like honey bees and European paper wasps creating those intricate nests?
"Crafty Insects" will set the theme for the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 22 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on the UC Davis campus. The event is free and family friendly.
“We are hoping to have two parallel exhibits--one where we show crafty insects and then one where we are asking people to bring insect-themed crafts from their home--a plate with a cicada on it, or mug shaped like a wasp or we have a bee-shaped stapler for example,” said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. “We'll have a place for them to display their crafts.”
“Crafty insects can be interpreted in two ways,” Yang commented. "‘Crafty' can be makers such as caddis fly larvae, case bearer moths, and potter wasps. The other crafty interpretation is sneaky, so our live orchid mantid, the dead leaf butterfly like Kallima inachus will be on display.” Activities are to include “spot the flower fly versus bee activity” and “spot the assassin fly versus bumble bee activity.”
For the family crafts, visitors will be painting rocks that can be hidden on campus or elsewhere. The Bohart Museum officials were inspired by Yolo Rocks and Solano Rocks, but a similar organization on campus, UC Davis Rocks, launched a similar activity last spring. It is the brainchild of Kim Pearson and Martha Garrison, who work in the arts administrative group in the College of Letters and Science.
Saturday, Sept. 22 is also move-in weekend for UC Davis students, so the Bohart Museum expects a lot of new people exploring the campus.
Bohart associates Jeff Smith, curator of the butterfly and moth exhibit and naturalist-photographer Greg Kareofelas will be on hand to shows the collection.
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. In addition to the petting zoo, the museum features a year-around gift shop, which is stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The fire beetles?
"Fire beetles in the genus Melanophila are sensitive to smoke and heat from smoldering trees after a fire," said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and professor of entomology at UC Davis. "They have a pair of pits on the body that detect heat. The beetles fly in large numbers to forest fires so they can lay their eggs in recently damaged trees.They will also crawl inside protective clothing of firefighters and bite them. Fire beetles will fly more than 50 miles to a fire."
Kimsey and animal biology major Crystal Homicz also told the crowd about smoke flies, which they described as "an odd group of platypezid flies use smoke plumes from burning trees to find mates. Swarms of 20 to 100 individuals can be seen 3 to 4 feet above the source of the smoke. They lay their eggs in burnt wood or soil near the burnt wood. Their larvae feed on burned plant parts and post-fire fungi."
Some insects can survive and thrive in extreme conditions beyond what humans could endure, they said. A sign read: "There are insects that can live in intense heat, cold, acidity or salinity, and some species are even attracted to fire. A wide variety of insects live in these extreme conditions, including flies, beetles, wasps and more."
Other signs informed the visitors of the insect peculiarities:
Many insects have a remarkable tolerance for high temperatures. No one knows how they survive and even thrive in these hot conditions. Several live at temperatures just below the boiling point of water.
- Desert Insects
Even more extreme are the desert insects that are active in sand dunes during the hottest part of the year. Sand surface temperatures can reach 180°F, but unlike hot springs, there is no water. These hot desert insects include sand wasps and ants. No one knows how they tolerate these temperatures and if you fell onto the sand, you would get second degree burns.
These wasps are active in our southern deserts in June and July. Air temperatures range between 100°F and 120°F with sand temperatures much higher. They collect dead insects to feed to their larvae, spending a great deal of time flying and resting on the superheated sand.
A number of very different kinds of insects spend all or part of their lives in temperatures below freezing. Some are so adapted they cannot survive temperatures about 50°F.
- Snow Fleas
Snow fleas belong to a family of scorpionflies called Boreidae. These are small, wingless predatory insects that feed on insects that they find on snow fields. The larvae feed in moss. They are found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
- Snow Crickets
Grylloblattids, commonly known as snow crickets, are a group of extremophilic insects that live on mountaintops and on the edge of glaciers. They survive by eating insects that fall onto snow fields. Prolonged exposure to temperatures above 60°F. can be fatal, so just holding them in your hands could kill them.
A wide range of insects tolerate or even thrive on some quite toxic materials ranging from heavy metals to insecticides. These include orchid bees, lead cable borers and drugstore beetles.
- Male orchid bees in the species Eufriesea purpurata have been found to collect large amounts of DDT used to protect people living in rural homes in Brazil from malaria mosquitoes. The male bees use the DDT to make a pheromone to attract females. They were collected several other insecticides with no observable toxic effects.
- Lead Cable Borer can drill holes in the lead that sheaths telecommunications aerial telephone cables. This allows moisture to reach the copper wires and causes them to short, ruining the cable for 15 or 20 feet.
- Drugstore Beetles feed on a wide variety of dried plant products which are normally very toxic, including tobacco, spices, like cloves, habanero peppers and even strychnine. Their name derives from the period when drugstores compounded treatments for illnesses from plant material. These beetles are also major pests for the tobacco industry.
Hot Spring Midges. One group of chironomid midges lives in hot springs with a temperature of 180°F. What's more remarkable is that in these hot conditions, there is little if any dissolved oxygen, yet the larvae do not breathe from the surface and obtain the oxygen they need from the water. One species is known from the hot spring pools of Yellowstone National Park.
Halophiles are animals that live in highly salty environments. They must be able to tolerate the toxic effects of sodium and other chemicals in the water and maintain their internal water balance. Additionally, many of these salty inland waters have a pH close to that of ammonia.
- Brine Flies
Brine flies (family Ephydridae) thrive in extremely salty water. They live on the shoes of salt lakes, and lay their eggs in the water. One species lives in Mono Lake, which is three times as as salty as the ocean, and 11.6 times saltier than human blood! The adult flies live 3 to 5 days and they also can walk underwater and feed on algae. Local tribes ate the brine fly pupae.
Also during the open house, Bohart associates encouraged youngsters to participate in a family craft activity featuring colored yarn and cutout paper beetles. Red yarn indicated fire; blue yarn, the sky, and green yarn, vegetation. In addition, entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the butterflies and moths, showed visitors part of the collection, and UC Davis students Karissa Merritt and Sara Guevara-Plunkett staffed the live "petting zoo," which includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, and tarantulas.
Next Open House on Sept. 22
The next Bohart Museum open house, themed "Crafty Insects," is set from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 22 at its location in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. All open houses are free and family friendly.
"We will be having a two-way museum," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. "We will be displaying crafty--think cunning--insects and we are going to ask people to bring insect crafts that they have made, so all those folks who do felted, knitted, carved, sculpted crafters can share. Any and all hand-made, flea-shaped tea cozies are welcomed!"
The Bohart Museum 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. In addition to the petting zoo, the museum features a year-around gift shop, which is stocked with 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
That sign greets visitors to the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, and that's exactly what Noah Crockette, 18, an intern there since age 11 and the winner of an international beetle research award as a teenager, plans to do.
This week he's already gone far--a distance of more than 2700 miles--from Davis to Ithaca, N.Y., where he is majoring in entomology at Cornell University.
Fondly known as “The Beetle Boy,” Noah won the 2015 Coleopterists' Society Award (senior division) for his project, “Survey of the Dung Beetles of Stann Creek, Belize.”
He volunteers at the Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, and a live petting zoo of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. He has helped out with open houses, outreach programs and collecting trips.
“Yes, Noah has been volunteering here for quite a few years,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis. “We've seen him go from a middle school kid to a very mature 18-year-old. He's a great kid, always ready with a big smile, great attitude and really hard working. Smart, too. He should do very well at Cornell. We already miss him.”
Two Cornell University alumni--Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator, and UC Davis doctoral candidate student Emily Bick of the Christian Nansen lab, serenaded him with the Cornell fight song. Yang's degree is in general biology, and Bick's degree in entomology. After they sang the fight song, they told him how cold the winters are!
His major advisor is drosophila (fruit flies) expert Patrick O'Grady, who taught at UC Berkeley for 12 years before joining the Cornell faculty last year. His ecology professor is UC Davis alumnus Anurag Agrawal, an ecologist who received his doctorate in 1999, studying with Richard Karban.
His acceptance into Cornell, one of the top-ranked entomology programs in the country, came in 2017. Noah graduated in 2017 from The Met Sacramento High School, and Cornell offered him a one-year student transfer contract for the fall of 2018.
“I have always been interested in bugs but my interest in entomology started in sixth grade,” Noah said. “I mostly became interested in insects through my internship at the Bohart and participating in the undergraduate UC Davis Entomology Club (open to all interested persons). Before then I had only known that I was interested in zoology and started going to the Ent Club after learning about it from talking to (UC Davis forensic entomologist and club advisor) Robert “Bob” Kimsey at UC Davis Picnic Day. After attending the club for awhile, Danielle Wishon (club president and entomology major) and Bob got me connected with the Bohart to start the internship from which my interest grew.”
Career plans? Noah is keeping his options open as to specialty, but he wants to work in research. Beetles fascinate him, especially scarab beetles. “I have a tendency towards scarab beetles,” he said. “I particularly like the tribe Cyclocephalini, the masked chafer beetles. I really like that they are a Dynastines like the Hercules beetles but lack any sort of horns or other glitzy features. Even though they are small and brown, I love the subtle beauty of the markings which remind me of the Rorschach ink tests.
”I also really love venom so I have also thought about going into venom research but would like to grow more familiar with it before considering it more.”
As a Bohart Museum intern and associate, Noah collected insects twice in Belize on Bohart-affiliated collecting trips “where I was able to get field work experience in entomology as well as herpetology and ornithology.” Fran Keller, assistant professor, Folsom Lake College, and David Wyatt, an entomology professor at Sacramento City College, led the collecting trips. Keller, who served as his mentor, received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Lynn Kimsey.
“My last trip to Belize," Noah said, "was when I completed my Coleopterists' Society project in which I designed and constructed 12 baited pitfall traps which I used to survey the dung beetle species on the property as well as determine their preferred bait, between human feces, pig feces, chicken manure, rotten chicken, and rotten fruit."
In his freshman year, Noah taught an entomology class to elementary students, and as a senior project, organized a museum day at Shriners Hospital for Children.
Outside of entomological pursuits, he enjoys hiking, kayaking and birdwatching. “I really love the outdoors,” he said. “Last year after my trip to Belize I was also given the opportunity through my school to go on a month-long backpacking and kayaking trip through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Alaska. I also played rugby for C.K. McClatchy High School during my senior year which was a fun experience and I now plan on continuing with the sport. At home I like to keep reptiles and invertebrates--mostly tarantulas--as pets and enjoy collecting zoology related books and objects.”
During the going-away party, a photo of Noah Crockette flashed on the wall-mounted computer screen. It pictured him at about age 14, enthusiastically working with insects.
Doing what he loves.
Not overlooked was the quote from noted scientist E. O. Wilson “Go as far as you can [young scientists]. The world needs you badly."
There's a new bear in town.
Stuiffed toy animals resembling tardigrades, aka "water bears," are all the rage at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's year-around gift shop at the University of California, Davis.
The bright blue plush toys are just as cuddly, fluffy and pudgy--if not more so--than the traditional teddy bear.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, wrote about the tardigrades in her newsletter several years ago.
The water bear "has to be one of the most peculiar and indestructible groups of animals known," she wrote. The microscopic and nearly indestructible tardigrade can survive being heated to 304 degrees Fahrenheit or being chilled for days at -328 F. And, even if it's frozen for 30 years, it can still reproduce. See video on EurekAlert.
They belong to their own phyllum, the Tardigrada (meaning "slow steppers"), and to date there are some 1,500 described species throughout the world. "Tardigrades can survive high pressures of more than 1,200 atmospheres found in the bottom of the abyss," Kimsey related. "They can tolerate 1,000 times more ionizing radiation than other animals."
"This collection is the result of years of collecting, mounting, imaging, and identifying by former collection manager Bob Schuster and emeritus professor Al Grigarick and their collaborators," she noted.
What's the water bear look like? It has a barrel-shaped body, eight pudgy legs, and the adults usually range from 0.3 to 0.5 mm in length.
German zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze (1731-1793) first described the critters in 1773, referring to them as "kleiner Wasserbär," or "little water bears."
They're easiest to find on lichens and mosses, Kimsey says, but they can also be found on beaches, in the subtidal zone, freshwater sediments, soil, hot springs and even on barnacles. They've been found "high in the Himalayas to down in the deep sea." They've even been found in the interior of Antarctica.
They mostly feed on plants or bacteria "but some are predators on smaller tardigrades," Kimsey says. They use the stylets in their tubular mouth (snout) to pierce "individual plant or bacterial ells or small invertebrates."
Why is the water bear so indestructible? In research published in 2016, geneticist Takekazu Kunieda and his colleagues from the University of Tokyo found that the water bear expresses a tardigrade-specific protein that binds itself to DNA. This acts like a "shield against x-ray radiation, preventing the DNA from snapping apart," according to an article published in Gizmodo.
Bottom line: the real "water bear" is definitely less destructible than its huggable, plush counterpart in the Bohart gift shop.
(Editor's note: The Bohart Museum of Entomology will host an open house, themed "Extreme Insects: Fire and Ice," from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 19 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It is free and family friendly. More information is available on the website or by contacting (530) 752-0493 or emailing email@example.com. UC Davis student and Bohart associate Emma Cluff, pictured, is helping coordinate the event.)