Logan, a visitor at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's recent open house on spiders and other arachnids, wowed the crowd with his knowledge of scorpions.
“Logan is only in kindergarten but he was showing his mom our arachnid drawer and describing the differences between the Emperor Scorpion, Pandinus imperator, and the Dictator Scorpion, Pandinus dictator,” said Bohart associate and scorpion scientist Wade Spencer, an undergraduate student at Bohart Museum. “Thankfully, he wasn't at all shy when I asked him to repeat what he had just said to the crowd.”
“He loved sharing his knowledge with those interested,” Spencer said. “And his mom is an arachnid saint as she supports his endeavors even while she still gets the willies from just looking at them. She told me she finds it important to keep her cool so that he may never lose his enthusiasm.”
The Bohart Museum's three-hour open house included a presentation on spiders by Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Scientists in both the Bond lab and the Bohart lab led arachnid activities, including "Eat Like a Spider" and "Catch a Moth."
Spencer and fellow Bohart associate and entomology undergraduate student Lohit Garikipati, tabled the scorpion display. The guests asked questions, gingerly touched them, and took cell phone photos.
Spencer currently has 37 scorpions of various species. Scorpions are venomous, not poisonous, he pointed out. As Professor Bond said in his talk: "Poisonous is what you eat it make you sick. Venomous means it takes toxin and it injects it into you."
"Fun fact about scorpions, Spencer said, "is that all of them are safe to eat as none of them are poisonous (toxins ingested or absorbed), but all of them (as far as we know) are venomous (containing poison(s) which are injected by some means)."
"I use the term 'medically significant' because it has the most potent venoms we know of, but I refrain and even discourage the use of the term 'dangerous' when describing scorpions and other venomous creatures," Spencer said. "It's often our own carelessness which makes them dangerous. If you live in in scorpion country, shake out your boots if you leave them outside and buy a $20 UV flashlight on Amazon. Those are simple ways to detect them and avoid being stung."
Spencer said he handles "my little Leiurus q. to show just how gentle and adorable she is so that people can have visual confirmation to back my claim that there is no such thing as a dangerous scorpion--though it should be clear I am not saying they're cuddly or friendly like a puppy. I advocate for them to be treated with caution and respect.
The UC Davis student attributes his interest in scorpions to his great-grandmother.
"My great-grandmother would always take me on afternoon picnics in the Big Tujunga Canyon Wash, a mostly dry river bed in the San Gabriel mountains in my home town of Sunland. She was a naturalist at heart and taught me about the native plants, geology, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and my favorite: the bugs. If ever we encountered a scorpion, she would stop and show me, but wouldn't kill them. Instead, starting when I was 3, she taught me that they were nothing to fear and showed me how to gently handle them. I've handled thousands ever since and not once been stung."
"I'm often asked why I'm not stung, and my response is always the same: 'It's not a cat!' By that, I mean, there's no risk of it randomly attacking me. I have scars all over my body from dogs and cats."
Spencer loves scorpions for three primary reasons:
- "Knowing their ancestors were the first animals on land about 450 million years ago."
- "Many of their venoms are being studied for use in shrinking brain tumors, sending fluorescent dyes to tumors with such specificities as to view 200 cancerous cell clusters--whereas MRIs can view 500,000 cell clusters. And some--to regulate insulin, treat arthritis, and antimicrobial components--have been used in mice with MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureas), completely curing them in 4 days."
- "Working with them directly and seeing how many people we have helped get over their fears has me simply head-over-heels for them."
The scorpion display drew the interest of adults and children alike. Three Brownie Girl Scouts from Vacaville giggled and comforted one another when they experienced the "Virtual Reality Spiders" demonstration conducted by medical entomologist Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. But not so the scorpion display.
"When it came to the live stuff, the girls (Kendl Macklin, 7, Jayda Navarette, 8, and Keira Yu, 8) were more calm than nervous," said Spencer, adding "I thanked them for their bravery and showing the adults that there was nothing to fear."
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. It houses nearly 8 million insect specimens, a gift shop, and a live "petting zoo" of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects or walking sticks, and tarantulas. The insect museum is open to the public Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to noon, and from 1 to 5 p.m.
It's finals week at the University of California, Davis, and what a great opportunity to take time to de-stress...with bugs!
Wade Spencer, entomology student and associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, says that students studying in the UC Davis LGBTQUIA Resource Center at 397 Hutchison Drive on Tuesday, March 19, will be sharing their space with bugs, including Coco McFluffin, a Chaco golden knee tarantula that makes its home in the Bohart Museum of Entomology. The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens--AND a live petting zoo of dozens of critters, ranging from Madagascar hissing cockroaches to stick insects to tarantulas.
Billed as the "Finals-Week Bug Meet-n-Greet De-Stressor," the event takes place from noon to 1 p.m. in partnership with LGBTQUIA and the Bohart Museum.
The visitors include Coco McFluffin, Lucy the Gooty and Captain Mar-Vel. Here's who's on tap:
- Thorny Walking Sticks: https://species.wikimedia.org/wiki/Aretaon
- Australian Stick Insects: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extatosoma_tiaratum
- Vietnamese Stick Insects: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medauroidea_extradentata
- Giant Cave Cockroaches: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blaberus_giganteus
- Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula (Coco McFluffin): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammostola_pulchripes
- Western Black Widow (Karen): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latrodectus_hesperus
- Multi-colored Centipede (Sebastian): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scolopendra_polymorpha
- Desert Hairy Scorpion (Celeste): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadrurus_arizonensis
- Asian Forest Scorpion (Scotty): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterometrus
- African Yellow-Legged Burrowing Scorpion (yet unnamed): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opistophthalmus_glabrifrons
- Sapphire Gooty Tarantula (Lucy the Gooty): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poecilotheria_metallica#Description
- And...Wade Spencer's tiny Arizona burrowing scorpion (Captain Mar-Vel): "I don't know the scientific name of her yet and can't seem to find any info online. But she's cute and tiny!"
"It should be noted," Spencer said, "that the only venomous arthropod that will be up for touching/holding will be Coco."
Well, UC Davis officials and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology did!
All systems are "go" for the 104th annual UC Davis Picnic Day, an all-day event on Saturday, April 21 when scores of visitors, aka picnickers, will stroll the campus. It promises to be both educational and entertaining.
The UC Davis Picnic Day Committee offered a pre-view Thursday noon at the Quad.
Bohart Museum of Entomology representatives--Wade Spencer, Lohit Garikipati, and Diego Rivera, all UC Davis students and Bohart associates--kept busy answers questions about scorpions, stick insects and praying mantids.
Spencer displayed his desert hairy scorpion named Celeste. Okay, surprise, surprise! Celeste turned out to be a male, but his name remains Celeste.
Lohit Garikipati, an entomology student who rears praying mantids, came with his buddy, a Malaysian shield mantis. "What's that?" visitors asked, looking at the shield.
For a hour, the trio entertained the guests. Some expressed awe at Spencer casually holding a scorpion. "I've been handling scorpions since I was three," he said. "I've never been stung."
Rivera showed an Australian leaf walking stick insect that resembled a leaf. The crowd took turns holding and photographing it.
Now it's showtime!
On Saturday, April 21, during the campuswide Picnic Day, you can engage with insects at both Briggs Hall, which houses the Department of Entomology and Nematology administration and most of the faculty, and the Bohart Museum of Entomology, home of eight million insect specimens.
At Briggs Hall, located off Kleiber Hall Drive, activities will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. At the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, the open house is from 10 to 3 p.m.
Here's what's on tap at Briggs, either in front or inside the building:
- Entomology at UC Davis: Enter Briggs Hall and find a wide variety of entomology-themed displays, from classics, including insect forestry to recent additions, such as “Virtual Reality Bugs."
- Honey Tasting Booth: Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño and her staff will operate the honey tasting booth, focusing on berry honeys. They will offer these honey varietals: blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, snowberry, almond and buckwheat.
- Maggot Art: Visitors will create maggot art by dipping a maggot into a water-based, non-toxic paint and position it on paper and let it crawl. Voila! Maggot art, suitable for framing
- Cockroach Races: Crowds can pick their favorite "roach athlete" and cheer it to victory
- Virtual Reality Bugs: Medical entomologist Geoffrey Attardo will set up a virtual reality system to enable people to view three dimensional models of insects. In VR, the models can be made to look life size, 40 feet tall or anywhere in between, he says. Here's the link that to view them in your web browser: https://skfb.ly/6xVru
- Bug Doctor: The Doctor Is In: Graduate students will identify insects and arachnids and answer questions
- IPM Booth: UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program professionals will discuss and answer questions about insect pests, beneficial insects and pest control. They will display their publications and live insects. In keeping with tradition, they will give away free lady beetles (lady bugs), to be released in gardens to devour aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
- Mosquito Abatement: Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District professionals will staff a booth
- Dr. Death: Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey will staff his traditional Dr. Death booth, inviting the visitors to ask questions and look through microscopes.
- Davis Fly Fishers: The anglers will demonstrate fly-tying techniques in Briggs 158
- Scavenger Hunt: Participants will search for and identify insects in a display of 10 drawers in Briggs 122.
- Insect Face Painting: Entomology Club members will face-paint bees, butterflies, lady beetles and other insects
- T-Shirt Sales: Visitors can take their pick or picks among insect-themed t-shirts (popular t-shirts include beetles and honey bees) Selection and prices are online at https://mkt.com/UCDavisEntGrad/
- Bake Sale: The Entomology Club will offer insect-themed baked goods.
- Strike Up the Band: Music composed by Michael Lewis Bollinger (Frank Zalom lab); cover songs possible. The band, dressed in insect costumes, will include Jackson Audley of the Steve Seybold lab, rhythm guitar; Yao Cai of the Joanna Chiu lab, drums; Christine Tabuloc of the Chiu lab, vocals; Zachary Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab, keyboard; Wei Lin of the Brian Johnson lab, bass; Jill Oberski of the Phil Ward lab, tenor saxophone; and Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab, bassist.
"The band will be setting up and warming up at 4," said Boudinot. "We'll start our set at 4:30, and wrap up at 5 or so. We are working on tightening up the set list--for now we have four songs. Expect some guitar and drum solos at the least!"
At the Bohart Museum, open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the theme is "Where the Sun Doesn't Shine," a play on this year's Picnic Day theme of "Where the Sun Shines."
"We'll be highlighting nocturnal insects, cave dwelling insects, and yes, beaver butt beetles or Platypsyllus castoris, an ectoparasite on beavers, near their glands, wounds, and skin," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. " We will be holding insects as well."
The Bohart Museum will also showcase its live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks or stick insects, tarantulas and mantids. The museum also offers a year-around gift shop with T-shirts, jewelry, posters, books, insect nets and the like.
"Entomology at UC Davis" (122 Briggs) has been nominated for a special campus award under the category "At One With Nature." The Honey Tasting booth at Briggs has been nominated for a similar award under the category, “Hunger Fix.” Winners of the categories are determined by an Internet vote. (Access the link here to vote from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for your favorite exhibits on Picnic Day). The winners will be publicized on the Picnic Day website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts after Picnic Day.
What's a picnic without bugs?
The sun is expected to shine throughout much of the campus on Picnic Day, Saturday, April 21, but it won't be shining in this place.
Not a chance. It's where the sun doesn't shine.
Think "south end of a beaver."
The Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., will focus on nocturnal insects, cave dwelling insects and "yes, beaver parasitic beetles or Platypsyllus castoris, an ectoparasite on beavers, near their glands, wounds, and skin," according to Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
Entomologist Wade Spencer, an undergraduate student and Bohart Museum associate, explains it this way: “We were inspired by this year's Picnic Day Theme, 'Where The Sun Shines' and to keep it fun and always educational, we thought it to be the perfect opportunity to shed light on some insects we don't normally have a chance to see because they are found 'Where The Sun Don't Shine.'
“And with the help of some lighted magnifying lenses, and my colleague, Brennen Dyer's masterful use of hi-res macro magic, both the cozy residents and their luxurious dwellings will be in full-glory to astound and delight all visitors!” Wade quipped.
These beetles aren't what you might expect to see. "These beetles look like they are to fleas what halibut are to other fishes," Spencer points out. "Instead of the lateral compression fleas exhibit, Platyspyllus castoris are dorso-ventrally flattened, which only adds to their alien appearance. Their unique feeding and lodging preferences have given us so many good laughs, we wanted to make them the star of this year's picnic day event at the Bohart."
One more thing. "To be a tad more descriptive," Spencer says, "they call the beaver's perianal region home; they help keep the beavers clean both inside AND out by feeding on dead skin, secretions of the castor glands (where "natural" and "raspberry" flavorings come from), and if they are in the mood, they'll indulge in a little blood or fluids from oozing wounds.
They're basically like crawling, itchy, toilet paper that occasionally bites and you can never scratch off!
According to BugGuide.net, they're also found on otters.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, the Bohart Museum is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity.
Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold some of the arthropods and photograph them. The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum holds special open houses throughout the academic year. Its regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum 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 by telephoning (530) 752-0493 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
UC Davis Chancellor Gary May, a Star Trek enthusiast, coined that theme last year when he launched the university's 10-year strategic planning process. It's aimed at bringing together everyone's bold ideas to “propel us to accomplish things we've only dreamed of in the past.”
So does the chancellor “boldy go” into a museum with nearly eight million insect specimens and a live “petting zoo” of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking insects, scorpions, tarantulas and praying mantises?
Does he "boldly go" to see a rose-haired tarantula named Coco McFluffin, a scorpion named Hamilton, and an orchid praying mantis named Marsha? And dozens of Madagascar hissing cockroaches fondly nicknamed “Hissers?”
He does. Of course, he does!
On Tuesday afternoon, Chancellor May and Helene Dillard, dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences--accompanied by a small contingent--toured the research-and-education-oriented Bohart Museum of Entomology in the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.
May, an accomplished scholar/engineer/administrator and former dean of Georgia Institute of Technology's College of Engineering, became the seventh UC Davis chancellor on Aug. 1, 2017. Known as a dynamic and innovative leader, the chancellor today leads “the most comprehensive campus in the University of California system, with four colleges and six professional schools that offer 104 undergraduate majors and 96 graduate and professional degrees. UC Davis enrolls about 37,000 students, brings in nearly $800 million annually in sponsored research and contributes at least $8 billion to the California economy each year,” according to the UC Davis News Service.
This was his first official visit to the Bohart Museum, a world-renowned museum that's part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Those welcoming the UC Davis administrators included Bohart Museum director Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology; Steve Nadler, chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; senior museum scientist Steve Heydon; Tabatha Yang, the museum's education and outreach coordinator; and Jeff Smith, curator of the butterfly and moth collection.
The Bohart Museum traces its roots back to 1946 in Briggs Hall, where it began as a teaching-and-research tool--and began humbly, Kimsey told the entourage. It consisted of two Schmitt boxes but grew steadily with the help of several faculty members, students and donors. By 1969 the number of specimens had totaled more than 100,000. Today the global collection houses nearly eight million specimens.
The museum is named for its founder, celebrated entomologist Richard Mitchell Bohart (1913-2007), whose UC Davis career spanned more than 50 years. He established the research-oriented collection in 1946--the same year he joined the UC Davis faculty--and contributed scores of specimens: Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants), Diptera (flies) and Strepsiptera (twisted wing parasites). He chaired the Department of Entomology from 1963 to 1976. He later served as major professor to a young entomology graduate student named Lynn Kimsey, eager to study the taxonomy of bees and wasps and insect diversity. Kimsey, who received her doctorate in 1979, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1989, the same year she was named director of the collection. Like her mentor, she has also chaired the department (2008-2009).
As they walked around the insect museum, Chancellor May and Dean Hillard admired trays of butterflies; watched students working on specimens; thumbed through a macro insect photography book by Levon Biss of the Oxford Museum of Natural History, England; and greeted the permanent and temporary residents of the petting zoo. Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks (stick insects) adorned the shoulders of UC Davis entomology student Wade Spencer, "zookeeper" of the petting zoo. He also cradled his favorite scorpion named Hamilton. Explaining that scorpions fluoresce under ultraviolet light, Kimsey illuminated Hamilton. The arachnid glowed a blue-green neon; the glow comes from a substance in the hyaline layer, part of the scorpion's exoskeleton, they explained.
Children who visit the Bohart Museum delight in the petting zoo, Kimsey said. Among the 2017 visitors: public and private school students; Girl and Boy Scouts; 4-H'ers; and youngsters from the Tulare County Office of Education's Migrant Education Program. Following their visit, most of the Tulare group, ages 8-11, vowed to become entomologists.
"All the kids are told when they come in that there are three words they are not allowed to use here," Kimsey said. "They are yuck, eww and gross."
But, she quipped, "they can say frass."
Frass is insect excrement.
(Editor's Note: The Bohart Museum is open to the public Monday through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m., and also holds weekend open houses periodically during the academic year. Admission is free. The Bohart will be open on Saturday, Feb. 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. as part of the campuswide (and free) Biodiversity Museum Day, featuring 13 museums or collections.)