- Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator, wore a green mantis costume to greet guests and show them the Madagascar hissing cockroaches and stick insects in the live petting zoo
- Guest Kevin Murakoshi of Davis (UC Davis alumnus) gifted the museum with intricate origami mantises that he crafted from "mantis green" paper--one sheet per mantis.
- Guest Ian Alexander Levin of Sacramento displayed his enlarged images of mantises, including one of a mantis eating a bee that drew "oohs" and "aahs."
- Skylar Primavera, who studied praying mantises while attending UC San Barbara (bachelor's degree in biology, 2020) displayed a live mantis as well as life-cycle models (ootheca to the adult), and answered questions about the predatory insect.
- Sol Wantz, UC Davis entomology senior and president of the UC Davis Entomology Club, displayed a European mantis that she borrowed from a UC Davis garden
Guests viewed display drawers of both native and non-native mantises. At least 9 species of mantises in California, according to one display.
Five are native:
- The Arizona or bordered mantid (Stagmomantis limbata)
- Bistanta mexicana
- California mantid (Stagmomantis wheeleri=S. californica)
- Litaneutria ocularis=Litaneutria obscura
- Small gray mantid (Litaneutria pacfica)
Four are introduced:
- Chinese mantid (Tenodera sinensis)
- European mantid (Mantis religiosa)
- Mediterranean mantid (Iris oratoria)
- South African mantid (Miomantis caffra)
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens, plus a live petting zoo and an insect-themed gift shop. The insect museum was founded in 1946 by Professor Richard Bohart of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology).
(Editor's Note: Tomorrow's Bug Squad blog will feature the creative kids and the creative staffer at the family arts-and-crafts activity.)
If Barbie had a praying mantis, it would be pretty in pink.
Do you think Barbie would fawn over a praying mantis nestled in a bed of pink zinnia petals?
We spotted this Stagmomantis limbata in our living laboratory (pollinator garden), and admired her stance. Then Ms. Mantis nabbed an invasive multicolored Asian lady beetle feasting on aphids and proceeded to eat it. (Barbie probably would have preferred a difference menu choice for her pet, such as a stink bug or a cabbage white butterfly.)
"Multicolored Asian lady beetle can be found in almost any type of vegetation that hosts its prey. It was introduced to control soft-bodied pests on fruit and nut trees. Since arriving in California in the 1990s, multicolored Asian lady beetle has become the most common lady beetle in many habitats. It has outcompeted and displaced certain native lady beetles that were more common prior to its arrival in the state."--UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management.
Barbies? I never had a Barbie in my childhood, but the toy, launched in 1959, "has been an important part of the toy fashion doll market for over six decades," Wikipedia tells us. "Mattel has sold over a billion Barbie dolls, making it the company's largest and most profitable line...According to MarketWatch, the release of the 2023 film Barbie is expected to create 'significant growth' for the brand until at least 2030. As well as reinvigorated sales, the release of the film has triggered a fashion trend known as Barbiecore."
Did you know that there is a Barbie, the Entomologist? The playset includes a tree for field research, a workstation for lab work, a magnifying glass, and an insect-collecting net. However, the ad writers made a few mistakes that might make a real entomologist cringe. The ad mislabels the chrysalis as a "cocoon," and spiders as "insects." How many bugs in the playset? 2 butterflies, 2 bees, 2 spiders, 1 beetle, 1 water beetle, 1 ladybug (it's actually a lady beetle) and 1 dragonfly.
Missing from the playset is the praying mantis! What happened to the mantis, Mattel?
If Barbie were real, she'd probably want to take Ken and attend the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on praying mantises from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 27 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It's free and family friendly.
While there, Barbie could hold a live Madagascar hissing cockroach and/or a walking stick and take a selfie. Hmm, maybe the next Barbie the Entomologist playset will include a cockroach?
A green bottle fly lands on a tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, in a Vacaville pollinator garden.
Houston, we have landed!
The fly, Lucilia sericata, begins to sip the nectar, unaware that a hungry praying mantis, a Stagmomantis limbata (as confirmed by mantis expert Lohit Garikipati) is watching.
The mantis slowly sneaks within striking distance, and waits for his prey to approach closer. Closer. Closer. Closer.
Whoosh! Gotcha! It wraps its spiked forelegs around it.
Houston, dinner is served! Fly à la carte.
Want to learn more about praying mantises?
The Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis is hosting an open house, themed "Praying Mantises," on Sunday, Aug. 27 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane. It is free and family friendly.
According to Kris Anderson of Las Vegas, an alumnus of Cornell University (master's degree in entomology) and author of Praying Mantises of the United States and Canada: "There are just 28 species of Mantodea found within the United States and Canada, the 7 largest of which are invasive species from other parts of the globe."
Some myths about praying mantises, as related by Anderson in his book, available on Amazon:
Myth: "Mantises sway back and forth while crawling to imitate vegetation blowing in the wind."
Truth: "The peering movement of mantises, demonstrated by the swaying back and forth of their body while ambulating or preparing to leap/take flight, is a behavioral adaptation to gain depth perception of their surroundings and has nothing to do with mimicry. Mantises blend into their environment by remaining motionless against a substrate that they morphologically resemble—not by moving. Peering movements causes the retinal images of nearby objects to be displaced more quickly than those of more distant objects, thus allowing the mantis to gain depth perception of its environment as it navigates forward."
Myth: "Mantises grab insects and immediately bite the neck/head to quickly kill their prey."
Truth: "The spinose forelegs of praying mantises are used to hold onto and prevent their prey from escaping. Once secured in their grip, the mantis will pull the prey forward and begin to meticulously chew upon whatever body part of the prey item is closest to their mouth—be it a leg, a wing, the thorax, abdomen, or head. No specific body region is exclusively targeted and the prey is always eaten alive, bit by bit, dying a slow death."
Myth: "Female mantises cannibalize the males while mating."
Truth: "With over 2,400 species of Mantodea worldwide, only a small fraction of species regularly engage in sexual cannibalism. Most do not. Of those that engage in this practice, the occurrence is not inevitable, as males typically escape and may mate with other partners."
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 and directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens, plus a live insect petting zoo (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas), and an insect-themed gift shop, stocked with t-shirts, hoodies, books, posters, jewelry and more.
The Bohart Museum is planning two other open houses this fall:
Saturday, Sept. 23: Household Vampires
Saturday, Nov. 4: Monarchs
All open houses are free and family friendly. At each event, the focus is on a special theme, but there's also a family arts-and-crafts activity, announced Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
And just like that, a female monarch butterfly fluttered into our Vacaville pollinator garden this morning, Aug. 10, and left a dozen or so calling cards: precious eggs.
We earlier saw a male monarch patrolling the garden on the morning of July 23, but he left to go find the girls.
So, total number of monarchs sighted in our garden so far this year: 2. (In 2016, we counted more than 300 eggs and caterpillars.)
Ms. Monarch deposited eggs on three milkweed plants: a narrow-leafed milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis, and two tropical milkweeds, Asclepias curassavica. She favored a lone tropical milkweed thriving in a planter. It's already attracted honey bees, leafcutter bees, syrphid flies, crab spiders, cabbage white butterflies, Gulf Fritillaries, mourning cloaks, gray hairstreaks, Western tiger swallowtails, ants, aphids, and a young praying mantis lying in wait.
Ms. Monarch totally ignored the showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, that towers over the garden. Not for me, she seemed to say. Ditto on the butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa.
We managed a few images of Ms. Monarch in flight, several images of her laying eggs, and a couple of the ever-so tiny eggs clinging beneath the leaves.
Welcome, Ms. Monarch. Now go tell all your buddies where to find the milkweed of your choice, and the rich nectar sources such as Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotunifola).
And you better warn them about that praying mantis...
To catch a cabbage white butterfly...
It was early October and a gravid praying mantis, almost ready to deposit her ootheca, was hungry.
She crawled behind a cactus in our yard, waiting for prey.
It did not take long. A cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae, fluttered down and made the fatal mistake of landing right next to Ms. Mantis.
The rest, they say, is...dinner.
Cabbage whites are in the news now because UC Davis distinguished professor Art Shapiro is sponsoring his annual Beer-for-a-Butterfly Contest. If you collect the first cabbage white of the year in the three-county area of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano, you'll get a pitcher of beer, or its equivalent.
Shapiro, a member of the Department of Evolution and Ecology faculty, has sponsored the “Suds for a Bug” contest since 1972 to determine the butterfly's first flight of the year. He launched the contest as part of his long-term studies of butterfly life cycles and climate change. P. rapae is emerging earlier and earlier as the regional climate has warmed, said Shapiro. "Since 1972, the first flight of the cabbage white butterfly has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20." (See Bug Squad for contest details.)
Note that the cabbage white butterfly is not an insect to treasure. As a caterpillar, P. rapae is a major pest of cole crops such as cabbage. UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) says the cabbageworm is active throughout the year in California. "Cabbageworm larvae chew large, irregular holes in leaves, bore into heads, and drop greenish brown fecal pellets that may contaminate the marketed product. Seedlings may be damaged, but most losses are due to damage to marketed parts of the plant," according to the UC IPM website.
Indeed, if you grow cole crops, you're probably ecstatic about a praying mantis nailing a pest.
This mantis is a Stagmomantis limbata, as identified by Lohit Garikipati, a UC Davis alumnus studying for his master's degree at Towson University, Md.
A predator and a prey.
On a wing and a prayer.