If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a bug worth?
That question was neither asked nor answered at the 103rd annual UC Davis Picnic Day, a campuswide open house, held April 22, but just about everything else was!
Let's take a look back at all the bug activities at Briggs Hall, home of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (We previously posted a UC Davis Picnic Day blog about the bugs at the department's Bohart Museum of Entomology).
Graduate student Brendon Boudinot, who is studying for his doctorate in entomology (working with major professor and ant specialist Philip Ward), chaired the Picnic Day Committee in between classes and ant research.
For some interesting alliteration, you could say "Brendon Boudinot's Bugs at Briggs."
Several thousand visitors climbed the Briggs Hall steps to
- cheer on the cockroach races (yes, cockroaches move fast!)
- participate in maggot art (dip a maggot into non-toxic, water-based paint and create a drawing. The term Maggot Art was coined by forensic entomologist Rebecca O'Flaherty, former UC Davis graduate student)
- watch fly-tying by the Fly Fishers of Davis
- observe the aquatic insects from the Sharon Lawler lab
- sample honey compiled by Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the department's Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility (this exhibit won a special award, determined by popular vote)
- explore the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program tables (where the staffers displayed publications and gave away lady beetles, aka ladybugs)
- ask questions of The Bug Doctor (graduate student Ralph Washington Jr.); Dr. Death (forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey; the Nemotode Guy (Corwin Parker), and the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District (fight the bite)
- buy insect-themed t-shirts from the Entomology Graduate Students' Association (see website for sales)
- get their face painted by the UC Davis Entomology Club
- sample chocolate chirp cookies (think cricket!)
- greet ants (and uncles, too)
- pose as a cockroach, bee or fly behind the cutout boards
- marvel at the 40-foot-long black widow spider, which won the UC Davis Entomology Club the prize of "best float from an organization" at the UC Davis Picnic Day Parade
- take lots of selfies!
How many people trooped up the Briggs Hall steps? At least 3000.
How many bugs did they see? Hundreds and hundreds.
The cost? Free.
The memories? Priceless!
Sometimes it's found in a parade, where the "fear" turns to cheers and applause.
Take the case of the 40-foot black widow spider--yes, 40-foot spider!--that the UC Davis Entomology Club entered in the 103rd annual UC Davis Picnic Parade on Saturday, April 22.
The spider drew oohs and aahs from the crowd, and judges selected it the winner of the “Best Organization” category. It continued to draw oohs and aahs when the club showcased it in front of Briggs Hall on Picnic Day. Thousands of visitors stopped to look or capture photos with their families or take selfies. Little kids just stood and stared. "What's that, Mommy?"
What a spider! And complete with that distinguishing red hourglass marking.
“We built it three years ago,” related president Maia Lundy. “This year we just had to clean it up and make some modifications, like adding ventilation. It took us two meetings --or about 4 hours- of work this year. When we originally built it, we met several times over about a month to finish it. It's made out of plastic sheeting, chicken wire, pvc pipe, pool noodles, window screening, and held together by lots of duct tape and zip ties!”
The spider came to life in the backyard of entomologists Robert and Lynn Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty. Robert Kimsey, a forensic entomologist, serves as the club's advisor. Lynn directs the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Her specialty is wasps, but she answers all kinds of questions about insects and arachnids at the Bohart Museum.
The black widow spider is no stranger to the parade. It's reminiscent of the one that the UC Davis Entomology Club built for the parade about 25 years ago.
The Entomology Club decided to revive the project in 2015. It all took place in the Kimsey yard, and Robert Kimsey offered a blow-by-blow account then as he watched it develop from plastic sheeting to a black widow spider. “It is huge and currently in pieces as it is getting its skin and pedipalps and other minor body parts and whatnot. It is anatomically correct in every way! The students have been trained well in arachnology!”
“There are legs all over the place,” Kimsey said of the eight legs, each slightly less than 20 feet long. In real life, the body of the black widow spans about 1.5 inches long.
Kimsey said membership in the entomology club is open to all interested persons, including faculty, staff, college and high school students and community residents. (Contact email@example.com.) President Maia Lundy heads the club with Jamie Fong, vice president; Andre Poon, treasurer; Lovey Corniel, secretary; and Chloe Shott, vice secretary.
As for black widow spiders, yes, the bite is venomous. The glands contain the neurotoxin, latrotoxin, which causes the condition latrodectism, both named after the genus, according to Wikipedia. "The female black widow has unusually large venom glands and its bite can be particularly harmful to humans. However, despite the genus' notoriety, Latrodectus bites are rarely fatal. Only female bites are dangerous to humans."
Take a bow, UC Davis Entomology Club. Well done! The prize: a certificate and a glass trophy.
The black widow spider joined seven other parade award winners:
- Best Community Entry: Davis Whymcycle Society
- Most Spirited: DEVO (Davis Enology and Viticulture Organization)
- Best Theme: Biological and Agricultural Engineering
- Best Animal Entry: Canine Companions for Independence
- Best Department Entry: UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
- Best Organization: Entomology Club
- Parade Marshal's Choice: Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan
- Parade Participants' Choice: West Plainfield 4-H Club, Woodland
You just can't beat those Halloween costumes at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's annual membership party.
But have you ever thought of being a..drum roll..long-horned beetle? Of course, you have! Probably every Halloween, right?
Talk about creative!
UC Davis entomology undergraduate student Laurie Casebier crafted the cerambycidae beetle (long-horned beetle) costume. "I used my bike helmet and cut a hula hoop in half and attached the ends to my helmet to make the long antenna and used duct tape to make the familiar notched eyes," she said. "Then I cut out paper and my pseudotetramerous tarsi. I used a scarf as elytra. It was kind of modeled after the apple borer, but not really."
Forensic entomologist Bob Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty wore his favorite ghillie suit as he poured beverages for the crowd.
Then there were the look-alikes. Entomology student Maia Lundy, president of the UC Davis Entomology Club, dressed like her friend, entomology graduate Alex Nguyen ("Maia decided that it would be funny to look like me," he said)
and entomology graduate student Joel Hernandez and UC Davis alumnus Melissa Cruz arrived as lumberjacks,
And then were were the bees that buzzed and the butterflies that fluttered.
No one wore an orange T-shirt that proclaimed "This IS my Halloween costume."
That would..er...really bug entomologists.