As you may remember, over the last nine years, this event was a single day, the Saturday of Presidents' Day weekend when friends, families and future scientists eagerly gathered on campus to see museums and collections and confer with the scientists. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's a entire month of Zoom and YouTube presentations and other online activities.
It's free, and has always been free. The organizers want to keep it that way.
Now they need your help. Through the UC Davis crowdsourcing program, which ends Feb. 28, they are asking for donations to keep this science-based event alive and thriving. Please click here to donate.
The Biodiversity Museum Month features 12 UC Davis museums and 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
- Viticulture and Enology Collection (not participating this year but they have in the past)
Using their science communication skills, the volunteers have created dozens of videos and associated educational activities. See the schedule for live talks and demonstrations and pre-recorded talks and activities. "The goal of these educational resources is to reach new audiences and to connect people from all walks of life to science and the biodiversity surrounding them," said event coordinator Tabatha Yang, who is the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator.
Take, for example, the Bohart Museum, temporarily closed but located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. It's the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" (think Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and a year-around, online gift shop stocked with such insect-themed items as t-shirts, jewelry, posters and books.
The Bohart Museum is all about "understanding, documenting and communicating terrestrial arthropod diversity." Access its website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/ and you'll find insect/arthropod fact sheets, and information on how to collect insects, special collections, and the tardigrade (water bear) collections and much more. A landmark water bear sculpture, the work of artist Solomon Basshoff, now graces the entrance to the Bohart.
The Bohart collections draw huge, inquisitive crowds during the open houses, and rightfully so. Specimens include the Xerces blue butterfly, Glaucopsyche xerces, now extinct.
"Think about collections this way--they are snapshots in time and spaces," says Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. "They tell you where the environment has been and where it's going. A way to visualize change over time."
Well said. Now let's ensure that the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum program stays alive, thrives and remains free to the public. To donate, just access by Feb. 28 this site: https://crowdfund.ucdavis.edu/project/24310
Entomologists cringe every time someone substitutes the moniker, "murder hornet," for the Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia.
They probably think this qualifies as murder in the first degree!
No, no, no! Don't call it a "murder hornet!"
A single colony of the Asian giant hornet was found and destroyed Sept. 18, 2019 in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, Canada, and a single dead hornet was found Dec. 8, 2019 in nearby Blaine, Wash. Since then, it also has been sighted-- and destroyed--in both Canada and Washington state.
"In 2020, both Washington and Canada have had new confirmed sightings of Asian giant hornet and in October of 2020, WSDA conducted the first-ever eradication of an Asian giant hornet nest in the United States," according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture site.
"Asian giant hornet attacks and destroys honey bee hives. A few hornets can destroy a hive in a matter of hours. The hornets enter a 'slaughter phase' where they kill bees by decapitating them. They then defend the hive as their own, taking the brood to feed their own young. They also attack other insects but are not known to destroy entire populations of those insects."
"While they do not generally attack people or pets, they can attack when threatened. Their stinger is longer than that of a honey bee and their venom is more toxic. They can also sting repeatedly."
"If it becomes established, this hornet will have negative impacts on the environment, economy, and public health of Washington State."
Globally recognized hymenopterist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, will deliver an hourlong presentation from 1 to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 18 as part of the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Month program. She also will field questions. To access the program, link to https://ucdavis.zoom.us/j/95724669897.
Kimsey, a two-term past president of the International Society of Hymenopterists, shed some light on the giant insect in an interview with urban entomologist Michael Bentley on his BugBytes podcast. Click here to listen.
They talked about the history of the hornet, its biology, its range, its behavior, its stings, and the news media frenzy.
The Asian giant hornet is "one of about a dozen or so species in this genus," Kimsey said. She described them as "comically large and menacing looking."
The specimens in the Bohart Museum of Entomology are about 1.5 inches long. "I've never seen one two inches long. But it's a big animal--no question about it."
Kimsey agreed that the Asian giant hornet "can deliver a lot of venom" and "can sting repeatedly." But in her opinion, "the honey bee sting is the worst."
Other points Kimsey brought out included:
- The Asian giant hornets probably arrived here in cargo ships
- The larvae and pupae are restaurant-fare in some parts of Asia and are quite the delicacy
- The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in fewer cargo ships arriving in the United States from Asia, and thus fewer opportunities for hitchhikers.
Kimsey and two other wasp experts published “The Diversity of Hornets in the Genus Vespa (Hymenoptera: Vespidae; Vespinae); Their Importance and Interceptions in the United States,” in the journal Insect Systematics and Diversity last summer. Lead author Allan Smith-Pardo, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and co-authors James Carpenter of the American Museum of Natural History's Division of Invertebrate Zoology, and Kimsey covered 22 species of hornets, including V. mandarinia.
Vespa species are “primarily predators of other insects, and some species are known to attack and feed on honey bees (Apis mellifera), which makes them a serious threat to apiculture,” the authors wrote in their abstract.
Be sure to watch the UC Davis program Thursday.
Said Kimsey: "l will focus on the biology of common pest paper wasps, like western yellowjacket, European paper wasp and the bald-faced hornet and of course, true hornets and whether they're a threat to California."
Yes! It's among dozens of fact sheets (mostly insects but some arachnids and other non-insects) posted on the Bohart Museum website. All can be accessed and downloaded at no charge.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis professor of entomology, writes the fact sheets, including this one, titled "Widow Spiders."
"Widows are large, distinctive spiders in the genus Latrodectus," Kimsey writes. The Latrodectus mactans or black widow is found throughout the world in warmer regions, while the brown widow, L. geometricus, is found in warmer parts of the United States, including California.
You'll find widow spiders in and around homes, garages, barns and other human-made structures in California. "They build a tough, messy-looking three dimensional web in or behind objects in secluded and protected locations," Kimsey relates.
"During the summer months they may also commonly be found outside under shrubs, and other garden plants, or near porch lights," she says. "These spiders are excellent at controlling insects, particularly flies and crickets. They do not particularly like feeding on cockroaches, but will do so when other insects are unavailable."
What most folks seem to want to know about them are the bites. How painful and toxic are they?
"All spiders have painful and sometimes dangerous neurotoxic bites, but often give dry bites, with no venom," Kimsey points out. "In fact these are the only spiders in the United States with neurotoxic venom. The bites cause extreme physical discomfort and illness for several days to a week and can only be treated symptomatically. Common symptoms include pain in the vicinity of the bite, muscle aches, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, muscular cramping, sweating, fever and head- ache. The bite location itself may go unnoticed."
"There is usually no swelling at the site of the bite, where a small necrotic lesion may form, which heals slowly over a period of weeks or months. Black widow bites are rarely life threatening but may be dangerous for small children or individuals with chronic health problems. There have been no deaths from the bite of this spider for decades. Black widow bites can be dangerous for pets and can be fatal to small dogs or cats."
Kimsey advises that control is not necessary "unless a black widow is in an area frequented by people, particularly children, or by pets. It is important to remember that these are very shy spiders and never bite unless physically threatened."
Noted spider authority Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and his lab usually present a program at the Bohart Museum on spiders at least once a year or engage with folks at the open houses.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, is the home of nearly 8 million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and a gift shop. The Bohart is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic but the online gift shop is open, where you can find insect-themed t-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, posters, books, pens, and stuffed animal toys, as well as insect-collecting equipment.
If you have roses blooming in your yard in the winter--or trying to bloom--check to see if there's a lady beetle, aka ladybug prowling around.
A lady beetle can eat as many as 5000 aphids in its lifetime, so they're the good guys and gals in the garden.
"These beetles have become a cultural icon of sorts because of their appearance and their beneficial habits," writes UC Davis professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, in her insect fact sheet on Lady Bugs and Lady Beetles. "Both adults and larvae feed on aphids and other small, soft-bodied insects...They are ferocious predators on small insects."
Lady beetles do have predators, though, despite (1) their bright red "warning" coloration that yells "Hey, wait, don't eat me! I don't taste good!" and (2) the toxic chemical, isopropyl methoxy pyrazine, that oozes from their joints when they're disturbed.
Ever seen that? We did one summer when a cellar spider nabbed a lady beetle in its web and began eating it.
It probably didn't eat it all...
If so, and if you photograph the first one of the year, you might win the Bohart Museum of Entomology's contest.
In memory of native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, the Bohart Museum is sponsoring the inaugural Robbin Thorp Memorial First-Bumble-Bee-of-the-Year Contest.
Professor Thorp, 85, who died June 7, 2019, was a global authority on bumble bees, and always looked forward to seeing the first bumble bee of the year. He launched an impromptu contest several years ago with a small group of bumble bee enthusiasts/photographers from Yolo and Solano counties.
Now the Bohart Museum, where Thorp spent much of his time identifying bees and helping others, is sponsoring the contest. Participants are to capture an image of a bumble bee in the wild in either Yolo or Solano counties and email the image to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the details of time, date and place. The image must be recognizable as a bumble bee. The winner receives bragging rights and a special gift from the Bohart Museum, said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and UC Davis professor of entomology. Plans call for a Bohart coffee mug with a bumble bee image.
The first bumble bee to emerge in this area is the black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus. Native to western North America and found from California to British Columbia and as far east as Idaho, it forages on manzanitas, wild lilacs, wild buckwheats, lupines, penstemons, clovers, and sages, among others.
Thorp, a 30-year member of the UC Davis entomology faculty, from 1964-1994, co-authored two books, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014). He achieved emeritus status in 1994 but continued to engage in research, teaching and public service until a few weeks before his death.
A tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, he was known for his expertise, dedication and passion in protecting native pollinators, especially bumble bees, and for his teaching, research and public service. He was an authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, native bees and crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.
Thorp co-taught The Bee Course from 2002 to 2019, an intensive nine-day workshop affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and held annually at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz.
Kimsey, who first met Thorp when she was a graduate student at UC Davis, said that although he wasn't her major professor, “my project was on bees and he was incredibly helpful and supportive. His enthusiasm about pollinators and bees in particular actually grew after he retired, and he continued helping students and researchers and was the backbone of so much research. His support and kindness was matched by his undemanding assistance and expertise. What a terrible loss to his family and to the research and conservation communities."
An authority on the critically imperiled Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini, Thorp began monitoring the bumble bee population in 1998 in its narrow distribution range of southern Oregon and northern California. He had not seen it since 2006 and was instrumental in placing Franklin's bumble bee on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Long active in the North America IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group, Thorp served as its regional co-chair, beginning in 2011.
In August of 2016 a documentary crew from CNN, headed by John Sutter, followed Thorp to a meadow where he last saw Franklin's bumble bee. Sutter wrote about Dr. Thorp, then 82, in a piece he titled "The Old Man and the Bee," aspinoff of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea." (See "Will Franklin's Bumble Bee Ever Be Seen Again?"on YouTube by EarthFixMedia.)
Highly honored by his peers, Thorp was named a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco in 1986; recipient of the Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship of UC Davis in 2010; and recipient of the UC Davis Distinguished Emeritus Award in 2015. Other honors included: member of the UC Davis Bee Team that won the Team Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) in 2013. In addition, he was a past president (2010-2011) of the Davis Botanical Society, and former chair (1992-2011) of the Advisory Committee for the Jepson Prairie Reserve, UC Davis/Natural Reserve System.
UC Davis professor and pollination ecologist Neal Williams, who organized a special symposium in Thorp's honor at the 2019 PBESA meeting in San Diego, praised his “tireless efforts in research, advocacy and education” and how he “inspired a new generation of bee researchers.”