They really weren't red ants, but children wearing ant headgear, created during the family arts-and-crafts activity at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on ants. The Phil Ward lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, organized and presented the open house.
The ant headgear was the brainchild of Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, and student intern Jakob Jess of MET Sacramento High School. He completed his two-year internship at the Bohart Museum this week, and starting this fall, will begin his studies at UC Berkeley.
"This was an art project inspired by leafcutter ants," Yang said, "and was meant to be both whimsical and colorful, thus the bright red. We had a template for folks to use, but they could also create their own from looking at the ant illustrations."
Myrmecologist Eli Sarnat, who received his doctorate at UC Davis, studying with Professor Ward, brought his sons, Benjamin, 7 and Evan, 3 to the event. They delighted in creating the ant headgear and checking out the ant displays.
UC Davis senior entomology major Morgan Myhre helped her children, Galileo, 5, and Esmeralda, 2, with their creations.
First-year entomology major Kat Taylor staffed the arts-and-crafts table, assisting the youngsters with their ideas. She also stapled the finished projects.
"The questions were mostly about the habits and behavior of ants, how many species are there, etc.," Ward related. "And how can I obtain live colonies for my kid? I received almost no queries about 'how do I get rid of them in my kitchen?' and that was refreshing."
"We had live colonies of a centipede-hunting ant (Stigmatomma oregonense) and a generalist omnivore (Aphaenogaster occidentalis)," Ward said. "The displays also included collections of common California ants; the world's smallest ant (Carebara) and the world's largest ant (Myrmecia)."
Oberski, who received her bachelor's degree in biology and a bachelor's degree in German studies (summa cum laude) in 2016 from Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minn., finished her dissertation earlier this month. She will present her exit seminar on "Phylogenetics and Biography of Pyramid Ants" at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, June 7 in 122 Briggs Hall. It also will be on Zoom.
Oberski fielded such questions as "What do ants eat?" and "Are ants specialized or generalized in their feeding habits?" The answer can vary a lot, Oberski told them. "Some ants are generalists that eat any food they come across, but others are extremely specific, like ants that are fungus farmers or specialized predators of springtails, spider eggs, or centipedes."
Professor Ward and ants are showcased in a Bohart Museum of Entomology video on YouTube, https://youtu.be/d8eRNsD8dxo. Ants, he related, originated about 120 million years ago (early Cretaceous), evolving from "wasp-like creatures."
Next Open House on June 3. The next open house at the Bohart Museum is themed "Insects and Forensics," and will feature forensic entomologist Robert "Bob" Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Free and family friendly, the open house will take place from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 3 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane. The arts-and-crafts activity will be "maggot-inspired art," Yang announced.
The Bohart Museum, directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens. It also maintains a live "petting zoo," complete with Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects, and tarantulas, among others; and an insect-themed gift shop, stocked with books, posters, jewelry, pens, T-shirts, hoodies, and collecting equipment.
Or come for the hissers, stay for the ants.
Either way, it's all good.
When the Bohart Museum of Entomology hosts an open house on Sunday, May 21 from 1 to 4 p.m., ants will be the main attraction, but don't forget the critters in the live "petting zoo."
The Phil Ward lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will provide live ants and specimens, and answer questions, one on one.
The open house, free and family friendly, takes place in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus.
At the petting zoo, you can meet Princess Herbert, Coco McFluffin, Peaches and Beatrice and more.
Those are just a few of the tenants, says research associate Brittany Kohler, the zookeeper. Here are some of the critters:
Walking Sticks (5 species):
- Great thin stick insects (Ramulus nematodes), native to Malaysia, dimorphic (blue males)
- Borneo thorny stick insect (Aretaon asperrimus), native to Borneo
- Vietnamese stick insect (Medauroidea extradentata), native to Vietnam
- Golden-eyed stick insect (Peruphasma schultei) native to Peru/Ecuador
- Australian Leaf insect (Extatosoma tiaratum), native to Northern forests of Australia
Tarantulas/Spiders (6 species):
- Princess Herbert, the Brazilian salmon-pink bird-eating tarantula (Lasiodora parahybana). She is estimated to be around 20 years old, the oldest current resident of the Bohart Museum
- Peaches, the Chilean rose hair tarantula (Grammostola rosea)
- Coco McFluffin, the Chaco golden knee tarantula (Grammostola pulchripes), native to Paraguay and Argentina
- Two black widows (Latrodectus hesperus)
- One brown widow (Latrodectus geometricus)
Cockroaches (2 species):
- Madagascar hissing cockroaches (Gromphadorhina sp.)
- Giant Cave cockroach (Blaberus giganteus)
- Beatrice the Vietnamese centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes), the newest resident
- Ironclad beetles
- Bark scorpion
The Bohart Museum, directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens, plus the petting zoo and a gift shop stocked with insect-themed books, posters, jewelry, t-shirts, hoodies and more. Founded in 1946 and committed to "understanding, documenting and communicating terrestrial arthropod diversity," the Bohart Museum is named for UC Davis professor and noted entomologist Richard Bohart. The insect museum is open to the public Mondays through Thursdays, from 8 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 5 p.m.
They belong to the same order, Hymenoptera, but some folks insist that ants don't belong in your life.
Oh, but they do!
Find out why at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, May 21. The event, spotlighting ants, is free and family friendly. It will take place in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane.
Members of the Phil Ward lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will answer your questions, show live ants and specimens, and engage in one-on-one discussions.
In a video released by the Bohart Museum of Entomology during a campuswide Biodiversity Museum Day, Professor Ward related: "Ants have occupied almost all of the world's land surfaces, from deserts to rain forests. There's a few places they're absent. They're not in Antarctica, no surprise! They haven't colonized the Arctic and a few very high elevation tropical mountains, but apart from that, almost any place you go on land you'll see our friends, the ants. And they have assumed a quite a diverse array of ecological roles. Some of them are predators, others are scavengers, and some are seed collectors, and these habits vary tremendously among different species in different parts of the world."
Among the Ward lab personnel scheduled to participate are doctoral candidates Jill Oberski and Zach Griebenow (both are expected to receive their PhDs this year), and third-year doctoral student Ziv Lieberman. Griebenow and Oberski are veterans of UC Davis teams that won national championships in the Entomological Society of America's Entomology Games or "Bug Bowls." (See news story) UC Davis teams won national championships in 2022, 2018, 2016 and 2015.
Meanwhile, be sure to watch what Professor Ward says in the video posted on YouTube at https://youtu.be/d8eRNsD8dxo. He illustrated his talk with ant images taken by his former doctoral student Alex Wild (PhD from UC Davis in 2005), curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin, and a noted macro photographer, (http://www.alexanderwild.com).
How ancient are ants? Ants originated about 120 million years ago (early Cretaceous), evolving from "wasp-like creatures," Ward said. They are members of the order Hymenoptera, and their closest relatives include honey bees, cockroach wasp and the mud daubers.
How many species in California? California is home to some 300 species of ants, but thousands more live in the tropics. Globally, there may be as many as 40,000 to 50,000 species of ants, the professor estimated, but only about 14,000 are described.
How do they communicate? Ants communicate largely by chemical (pheromones) and tactile means, Ward said. Their vision is "not particularly acute." He pointed out that that they lay a trail pheromones from the source of food back to the nest. They have alarm pheromones, causing other workers to act defensively. Chemicals also help ants distinguish their nest mates.
What about those Argentine ants? Some ants, like the Argentine ants, are pests. These invaders from South America "form super colonies, which means different colonies don't fight each other; they're all cooperating. And the other downside of Argentine ants is that they tend to eliminate native ants. So over the years I've lived in Davis, I have certainly noticed that native ants have declined as the Argentine ants have expanded. And they expand not just in, say, urban areas, but along certain natural habitats and one that they really like is the riparian habitat. So if you look along rivers and streams that are near urban areas, they're getting invaded by Argentine ants. And when they do, most native ants just disappear. This is a very tough aggressive ant and the mellow California ants can't handle an aggressive invader from South America. So they just disappear."
Ward related that ants live in long-lived colonies with (1) cooperative brood care (2) overlapping generations and (3) reproductive division of labor, the hallmarks of eusocial behavior. He also pointed out:
- A typical ant colony contains a reproductive queen, numerous non-reproductive workers and brood (eggs, larvae, pupae)
- Colonies of ants can be thought of as superorganisms: tightly integrated and cooperative entities with complex systems of communication and division of labor (castes)
The Bohart Museum's arts-and-crafts activity will be to create paper ant headbands. "The current version has serrated mandibles, but people can go free form, too," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. "We're hoping for a colony of visitors with red headbands."
The Bohart Museum, directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens, plus a petting zoo (including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and a gift shop, stocked with insect-themed t-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, posters, books, and collecting equipment.
Founded in 1946, the Bohart is open to the public Mondays through Thursdays, from 8 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 5 p.m. More information is available on the Bohart website at https://bohart.ucdavis.edu or by emailing email@example.com.
Want to learn about ants? Check. Bees? Check. Caterpillars? Check. And more? Check.
The spring seminars begin Wednesday, April 5 and will continue on Wednesdays through June 7. All in-person seminars will be in Room 122 of Briggs Hall, starting at 4:10 p.m. The seminars also will be virtual. The Zoom link:
Here's what's on tap:
Wednesday, April 5
Professor, California State University, Dominguez Hills
Title: “Lessons About Thermal Ecology from Rainforest Ants”
Wednesday, April 12
Research entomologist, USDA-ARS
Title: “Chemical Biomarkers and the Physiological Underpinning of Honey Bee Health Decline”
Wednesday, April 19
Wednesday, April 26 (Zoom only)
Founder and director of The Caterpillar Lab
Title: “Using Native Caterpillars, Their Ecological Connections, and Novel Outreach Tools to Showcase the Importance of Biodiversity”
Wednesday, May 3
Senior research fellow and professor emeritus of mathematical sciences
Stellenbosch University, Western Cape, South Africa
Title: “Tsetse, Trypanosomiasis and Climate Change: What Can We Learn from Field Data Collected in the Zambezi Valley of Zimbabwe?”
Wednesday, May 10
Professor of biology, Indiana University, Bloomington
Title: “Friends with Benefits: Protective Microbial Symbioses in the Honey Bee”
Wednesday, May 17 (Zoom only)
Molecular biologist USDA-ARS
Title: “Beech Leaf Disease: an Emergent Threat to Beech Forest Ecosystems in North America”
Wednesday, May 24
Assistant professor, School of Biological Sciences, UC Irvine
Title: “Cellular Mechanisms of Dendrite Regeneration after Neuron Injury”
Wednesday, May 31
Wednesday, June 7
Doctoral candidate, Phil Ward lab, UC Davis
Exit seminar: “Phylogenetics and Biogeography of the Pyramid Ants”
For more information, including any technical issues with Zoom, Meineke may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visitors "can learn about the defensive strategies these insects use for survival, such as camouflage, warning coloration, mimicry of other species," says entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepidoptera collection. "We love to teach about the importance of Lepidoptera in the environment, either to their habitat directly or possibly as an indicator of the health of their habitat."
Both Smith and fellow Bohart associate Greg Kareofelas are usually there to show the specimens and answer questions. The Bohart draws scientists and citizens from all over the world.
At the last open house, Kareofelas and Bohart research associate Britanny Kohler showed specimens to a family from Mexico City: mother Martha Leija, daughter Valentina, 8, and father Mario Preciado.
Valentina is keenly interested in morphos and monarchs, and the excitement on her face told it all.
"Without a doubt, the biggest 'Wow Factor' comes from the huge and brilliant metallic blue morpho butterflies from tropical America," Smith said.
The Bohart's monarch butterfly specimens comprise five drawers and they include specimens from the Pacific Islands, Australia and Eastern Asia, as well as the United States.
When are the next open houses?
- Saturday, April 15. The Bohart will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. as part of the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day. The Bohart theme? "Bugs, Boom, Bang."
Sunday, May 21. "Ants!" will theme this open house. It's set from 1 to 4 p.m.
Saturday, July 22. It's the traditional Moth (and Flies) Night. The event takes place in the evening from 8 to 11.
The open houses are always free and family friendly.
The Bohart Museum, directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, 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. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946.
Special attractions include a live "petting zoo," featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold the insects 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's 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 and on major holidays. Admission is free. More information is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or Tabatha Yang, education and public outreach coordinator at email@example.com