Step into your garden, walk over to a community park, or hike in the wilderness and see what's out there.
And take along the newly published, newly revised "The Field Guide to California Insects."
It includes more than 600 insect species. Not sure what species of butterfly that is? Want to know if that's a Valley carpenter bee? What's that species of praying mantis you just found? Take a look at the text and photos. Chances are you'll find them in this handy book.
It's a California Natural History Guide and published by the University of California Press. If you're into entomology, you'll probably recognize the names of the four authors:
- Kip Will, entomologist, insect systematist, and former director of the Essig Museum of Entomology at UC Berkeley
- Joyce Gross, noted insect photographer (she works as a computer programmer with the Berkeley Natural History Museums at UC Berkeley)
- Dan Rubinoff, who grew up chasing insects in California and is now a professor of entomology and director of the University of Hawaii Insect Museum
- Jerry Powell, emeritus professor, UC Berkeley, and former director of the Essig Museum of Entomology
We remember reading the first edition, California Insects, published in September 1980 and authored by Professor Powell and (the late) Charles Hogue.
So this revision is 40 years in the making.
It's billed as the only California-specific, statewide book devoted to all groups of insects:
"Engaging accounts focus on distinguishing features, remarkable aspects of biology, and geographical distribution in the state. An accessible and compact introduction to identifying, understanding, and appreciating these often unfamiliar and fascinating creatures, this guide covers insects that readers are likely to encounter in homes and natural areas, cities and suburbs, rural lands and wilderness. It also addresses exotic and invasive species and their impact on native plants and animals. Field Guide to California Insects remains the definitive portable reference and a captivating read for beginners as well as avid naturalists."
The authors point out that worldwide, there are only a million described insects, and that's "more than five times the number of all animals combined." They also note that "estimates of the number remaining to be described and named vary between three million to 30 million or more."
Thirty million! Can you imagine?
The authors define what makes an insect, expanding on growth and reproduction, breathing and circulation, feeding and stinging. They write about the distribution and diversity of the California insect fauna; how insects are classified, and even how to make an insect collection, something most high schoolers will be asked to do.
The book offers you information on dragonflies and damselflies, mantises, stick insects, beetles, fleas, flies, mosquitoes, earwigs, moths and butterflies, and booklice--and more.
It's a fantastic book--well-researched, well-written, well-illustrated, and an opportunity for you to become not a Big Game Hunter, but a Little Game Hunter.
By the end of the book, you may even decide to study entomology. (And there's plenty of opportunities in California, including at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology)
You may also want to become an insect photographer: plant a pollinator garden and they will come. Below are some of the backyard or household images you can capture.
Rising from the Ashes--Some Day
People ask me all the time where butterflies go when it rains. Now they're asking me where they go when it burns.
In a word, to the Elysian fields. They have nowhere else to go!
The unprecedented wildfires have destroyed very important butterfly habitats in 2020, particularly in the High North Coast Range where a million acres – mostly in the Mendocino National Forest – have burned. We have been doing biogeographical survey of the butterfly faunas of this region beginning in 1974. Earlier fires largely removed the fir forest from the upper reaches of Snow Mountain (summit 7056'), leaving it covered in successional montane chaparral. But Goat Mountain (6112'), Hull Mountain (6831'), Anthony Peak (6958'), and Black Butte/Mendocino Pass (7455') still had many intact plant communities containing rare and relict species (many of which were isolated and far-removed from their core ranges in the Sierra Nevada and/or the Klamath Mountains). These included very rare wet meadows (as at Plaskett Meadows near Mendocino Pass) and treeless “balds” on rocky summits, usually facing southwest, producing a simulacrum of alpine fell-fields typically found several thousand feet higher.
We had documented roughly 115 species of butterflies in these places. Some, like the Nevada Arctic (Oeneis nevadensis) and the Arctic Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) were at their southernmost range limits, not just in the Coast Range, but globally. One butterfly new to science, the Bald Hills Satyr (Cercyonis incognita), was discovered at mid-elevation on Goat Mountain (100% of which burned) and in a few spots farther north. All of its known habitats may have burned—we won't know until we can get in, not before next year—and it is possible that it is extinct. In addition, we discovered that the widespread, familiar Pine White (Neophasia menapia) was apparently two sibling species on Goat Mountain and near Seven Troughs Spring in the Mendo Pass area, flying several weeks apart and with morphological differences. We did publish that one! All the known localities for the late-season entity have burned, too. This situation is of special interest because the idea that species could originate through temporal isolation has been discussed for many decades, but rarely if ever firmly documented. (The classic case, in field crickets, has been falsified by DNA analysis.) We have to be thankful that we got the data we did before the holocaust. Now, of course, the pressure is on to digest it.
Recovery of the butterfly faunas cannot occur until the vegetation resources they depend on come back—and they may never do so. Glacial relics, like the unique four-petaled Plaskett-Snow Basin race of the bog shooting-star Dodecatheon jeffreyi –personally, I think it deserves species status—may never come back. Nor many of the stranded alpine and edaphic (soil-specialist) species, because they are so far from any conceivable seed source. We have to hope they have persisted in the soil seed bank and may in time recover. Only then can the butterflies re-establish—if there are sources of potential colonizers. The farther any unburned sources and the weaker the dispersal capabilities of the butterflies, the longer the lag times to recolonization. Only the most vagile and broadly-adapted species are likely to recolonize a burned area of a million acres anytime in the next half-century or more.
The fires of 2020 were fed by the combination of 60 percent of recent mean precipitation in the 2019-2020 rainfall year and extraordinary evapotranspiration demand on the vegetation resulting from the hottest late summer on record. Yes, climate change is real. And our Coast Range butterfly faunas may never be the same again.
- Sympatric, temporally isolated populations of the pine white butterfly Neophasia menapia, are morphologically and genetically differentiated, PLOS ONE, published May 31, 2007. Authors: Katherine L. Bell, Christopher A. Hamm, Arthur M. Shapiro and Chris C. Nice, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176989
- A New Species of Cercyonis (Lepidoptera: Satyridae) from Northern California, Bulletin of the Allyn Museum, Florida Museum of Natural History, published Sept. 5, 2012. Authors: John F. Emmel, Thomas C. Emmel and Sterling O. Mattoon
Contact: Art Shapiro at email@example.com
The recent wildfire that roared through rural Vacaville, reaching the outer edges of the city, seared the souls of the victims but what's happening now is warming their hearts.
A Vacaville-based artist and philanthropist has turned a catastrophe into creativity: she is creating paintings as a way to provide financial assistance to the fire victims.
Shortly after the August fire, Lisa Rico founded the Vacaville Fire Art Project and recruited 10 fellow artists to join her team. Already they have raised $13,000 of the $20,000 goal. Every single dollar goes to the fire victims.
Their themes include pigs, ducks, cows, chickens, goats, donkeys, horses, rabbits, birds, bees and butterflies. The fire injured or killed many of their subjects. Clay Ford of Clay's Bees (Pleasants Valley Honey Company), Caroline Yelle of Pope Canyon Bees, and her business partner, Rick Schubert are among those who lost most of their bees.
Lisa describes the project on her Facebook page: "An art project to benefit locals affected from the recent LNU fire. Hundreds of homes and farms were destroyed. I will paint one painting a day selling them for $300 each. All proceeds will go to the fire victims. A few of my art colleagues have offered to help as well."
Lisa likes the "immediacy of the medium and richness of the color possibilities." She especially enjoys painting the "faces of people from other cultures and countries" and "local flora and fauna." Her husband, Richard, former editor and publisher of The Reporter, Vacaville, and himself an artist, is a contributor to the Vacaville Fire Art Project.
The couple evacuated from their home as the fire threatened their neighborhood. Sadly, friends lost their homes in Pleasants Valley, Gates Canyon and beyond.
Unknown to many, for the past three years Lisa has challenged herself to "paint one a day" every September. This year the deadly fire turned her commitment to philanthropy. She has created 25 paintings--or one a day--of the 50 pieces submitted in the Vacaville Fire Art Project.
Prospective buyers can access the Facebook page to see and purchase a painting. The artists usually announce beforehand what day or time they will post an image of their work, and the price. It's first-come, first-served. Some are sold within minutes.
Since this is a bug blog, we're sharing some of the amazing insect art that Rico created. One a day...every day...for the past 25 days...
(Note: See the Facebook page for the other incredible art. You'll love those adorable farm animals!)
The Bohart Museum will live-stream the free open house on Facebook. Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the 500,000 Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) collection, will show specimens and answer questions.
"We started holding a moth-themed open house near Mother's Day in May, because people who are enthusiasts for moths are called moth-ers,” said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum. “We then switched our programming to align with National Moth Week. This year's Moth Week is July 18-26. The annual event is celebrated throughout the world with private and public events.
Bohart Museum officials are preparing videos on black-lighting and how to spread and pin moths.
During the Facebook Live program, viewers can type in their questions on moths.
Smith is expected to answer questions such as:
- What is the largest moth?
- How do butterflies and moths differ?
- What is so unique about moths?
- Why should we be concerned with moth diversity?
LynnKimsey, director oftheBohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, nominated Smith for the award. “You could not ask for a better friend than Jeff Smith,” she said, noting that he has “brought us international acclaim and saved us $160,000 through donations of specimens and materials, identification skills and his professional woodworking skills. This does not include the thousands of hours he has donated in outreach programs that draw attention to the museum, the college and the university.”
Kimsey, who has directed the museum since 1989, remembers when Smith joined the museum. “When Jeff was working for Univar Environmental Services, a 35-year career until his retirement in 2013, he would spend some of his vacation days at the museum. Over the years Jeff took over more and more of the curation of the butterfly and moth collection. He took home literally thousands of field pinned specimens and spread their wings at home, bringing them back to the museum perfectly mounted. To date he has spread the wings on more than 200,000 butterflies and moths. This translates into something like 33,000 hours of work!” The numbers have since increased.
“About a decade ago, Jeff began helping us by assembling specimen drawers from kits that we purchased,” Kimsey related. “This substantially lowered our curatorial costs, from $50/drawer to $16/drawer. We use several hundred drawers a year to accommodate donated specimens, research vouchers and specimens resulting from research grants and inventories. More recently, he's been accumulating scrap lumber and making the drawers from scratch at no cost to us. Overall, he has made more than 2000 drawers. Additionally, he makes smaller specimen boxes with the leftover scrap wood, which are used by students taking various field courses in the department. We simply could not curate the collection without his contributions.”
Kimsey praised Smith for completely reorganizing the butterfly and moth collection. “It's no small feat to rearrange this many specimens, housed in roughly one thousand drawers,” she said. “Many thousands of the specimens needed to be identified, and the taxonomy required extensive updating and reorganization.”
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, 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.
The Bohart Museum is the home of a “live” petting zoo featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas, and a gift shop stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
Three noted UC Davis scientists will speak at a special forum from noon to 1 p.m. in Room 194 of Young Hall at the ninth annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day on Saturday, Feb. 15.
The slate of speakers:
- Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, will discuss “Are Our Butterflies in Trouble?” (“Yes, they mostly are in trouble,” he says. He will discuss “How do we know and why?”)
- Gabrielle Nevitt, professor of animal behavior (on leave), will speak on “How Do Sub-Antarctic Seabirds Find their Food in the Vast Ocean?” (“They follow their nose," she says, "and sometimes it gets them into trouble.”)
- Melanie Truan, research ecologist, UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, will cover “Biodiversity Studies at the UC Davis Wildlife Museum.” Biodiversity studies, she says, “can tell us a lot about the world and how it is functioning. This is especially important today where the influence of Homo sapiens is having profound impacts on the planet and its inhabitants.” She will touch on some of the ways that the UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology incorporates biodiversity into its research.
Each scientist will present a 15-minute talk, with a question-and-answer session to follow.
Prominent lepidopterist Art Shapiro, in his 49th year of service to UC Davis, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1971, first working in the former Department of Zoology. He has been monitoring California butterfly faunas since 1972. (See his website.) Shapiro is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the California Academy of Sciences, the Royal Entomological Society (U.K.) and the Explorers Club. Shapiro has authored some 300 scientific publications and the book, Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions. He has mentored 17 doctoral students and a similar number of master's students. Shapiro received his bachelor of arts degree in biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966 and his doctorate in entomology from Cornell in 1970.
Gabrielle Nevitt, a 25-year member of the UC Davis faculty, is a leader in the field of chemical ecology. She is known for her pioneering work in the sub-Antarctic that established a climate regulator, dimethyl sulphide, as a keystone foraging cue in marine ecosystems.
Her research frequently appears in leading scientific journals, including Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and has been featured in many documentaries, including David Attenborough's “Life of Birds.” She is spotlighted in a popular Audubon piece, "Birds Can Smell, and One Scientist is Leading the Charge to Prove It."
Nevitt has served as a contributing lecturer in the International Course on Sensory Ecology at Lund University in Sweden since 2008 and was the first woman ever to chair the Scientific Advisory Board for the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology in Germany.
A graduate of Stanford University, Nevitt received her doctorate in zoology from the University of Washington, and served as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University. She has mentored some 60 undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral scholars in her lab, as well as serving in advisory roles to graduate students at other institutions.
Melanie Truan, 16 years in her current position, received her doctorate in ecology in 2004 from UC Davis, studying the plants and animals of Putah Creek and laying the groundwork for a long-term research program that continues today. She is particularly interested in the art of eco-investigation, “a sort of detective work that employs in-depth observation and species monitoring to infer the structure and function of ecosystems, the results of which can be used to devise habitat reconciliation strategies and management objectives.” She holds a bachelor's degree in biology/environmental studies (1996) from UC Santa Cruz.
Truan says she is a self-professed "biophiliac" (E. O. Wilson 1984), bearing a strong urge to affiliate with other forms of life.
UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day
The ninth annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, an annual science-based event, is billed as a “free, educational event for the community where visitors get to meet and talk with UC Davis scientists from undergraduate students to staff to emeritus professors and see amazing objects and organisms from the world around us,” according to Biodiversity Museum Day coordinator Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Last year's event drew more than 4000 visitors. The event is always held the Saturday of Presidents' Day weekend.
The schedule is online at http://biodiversitymuseumday.ucdavis.edu/schedule.html.
Participating museums or collections and the hours they will be open:
- The Botanical Conservatory, the Greenhouses along Kleiber Hall Drive, will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The following five will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.:
- Arboretum and Public Garden, Shields Oak Grove, alongside the Vet School, Garrod Drive on campus
- Bohart Museum of Entomology, Room 1124 and Main Hall of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane
- California Raptor Center, 340 Equine Lane, off Old Davis Road
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, Room 1394 and Mail Hall, Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane
- Paleontology Collection, Earth and Physical Sciences Building, 434 LaRue Road
Two collections will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.:
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
- Viticulture and Enology Culture Collection, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
These five will be open from noon to 4 p.m.:
- Anthropology Museum, 328 Young Hall and grounds
- Center for Plant Diversity, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
- Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road (take West Hutchison Drive to Hopkins)
- Nematode Collection, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
- Marine Invertebrate Collection, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
All 13 sites are within walking distance except for the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road and the Raptor Center on Old Davis Road. Further information, including a campus map, is available on the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day website.