There's no fame, fortune or glory in writing a daily (volunteer) Bug Squad blog.
It's about the insects. It's always been about the insects, from honey bees to bumble bees, to butterflies, to dragonflies, to praying mantises and more.
Why? Just call it a fascination for insects, which evolved some 400 million years ago. "Three-quarters of all known animals are insects, a staggering 1 million species in total with an estimated 4 to 5 million yet to be discovered," according to a November 2015 article in New Scientist. "By contrast, there are fewer than 70,000 vertebrate species. Harvard University entomologist Edward O. Wilson has suggested there may be as many as 10 quintillion insects alive at any one time – that's 1018, or more than a billion for each person on the planet. They have colonised every continent, including Antarctica. They can live in air, land and water. They even live on us – lice evolved as soon as there was hair and feathers to set up home in. They are the kings of the arthropods – animals…"
I began writing the Bug Squad blog (at the invitation of Pam Kan-Rice) on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) website on Aug. 6, 2008, and have written it every night, Monday through Friday, never missing a single night of posting. Today that amounts to 4020. Along the way it's been named the No. 4 "bug blog in the world" (there aren't that many of us!) And, it has won some international awards. My photos have landed on the covers of several scientific journals and popular magazines, and in a few scientific books and children's books (all donations).
My photography has also resulted in thousands of copyright infringements. One man in Austria falsely claimed one of my images and was selling it on four stock photo platforms, including Getty Images. Others deliberately erase the copyrights and steal the images for their commercial purposes.
It's fun until it isn't.
Where do I take the images? Almost all are from our family's pollinator garden. My gear includes a Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera, a Nikon D800, a Nikon D500, a Canon AE1, coupled with half-a-dozen macro lenses. It's exhilarating to capture an image of a honey bee in flight, a monarch butterfly laying an egg, a dragonfly catching prey, or even to go eye-to-eye with a Western yellowjacket.
I don't poke 'em, prod 'em, or pin 'em. I am a guest in their habitat.
So, in 2023, "These are a few of my favorite things" (thanks, Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers):
Members of the Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA) of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology design insect and arachnid-themed T-shirts that are all the fashion.
The critters climb, crawl, jump, roll, flutter, buzz, fly or otherwise position themselves on EGSA T-shirts.
If you've ever seen the EGSA booth at Briggs Hall during the campuswide annual UC Davis Picnic Day, you know how popular the T-shirts are.
They are hot-ticket items during the holiday season, too. They can be viewed and ordered online at https://mkt.com/UCDavisEntGrad/.
EGSA president Mia Lippey, a doctoral student in the laboratories of UC Davis distinguished professor Jay Rosenheim and assistant professor Emily Meineke, says that currently, the designs offered are:
- The Beetles (in black or red)
- Entomo Gothic (a play on the American Gothic, in grey)
- Whip Scorpion (in lavender and black)
- Bee-Haw (in black)
- They See Me Rollin' (dung beetles rolling a poop, in heather blue)
- Et in Terra (dark green)
- Entomophagy (in blue and green)
All T-shirts come in sizes from XS to XXL.
"The Beetles" T-shirt is EGSA's all-time best seller. Instead of the English rock band John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star crossing Abbey Road in single file (that's the iconic image on the cover of their album, Abbey Road), think of The Beetles (four insects) crossing Abbey Road in single file. Beneath the images of the beetles are their family names: Phengogidae, Curculionidae, Cerambycidae and Scarabaeidae. Think glowworm, snout, long-horned, and scarab beetles.
One of the newer designs is "Bee Haw," of a honey bee disguised as a cowgirl, complete with hat and rope. The entomophagy ("eating insects") T-shirts are also "in," as are those that whip and roll--whip scorpions and dung beetles.
They are also great conversation pieces! What's that design on your shirt? Where did you get it?
The event: The 13th annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, a Super Science Day.
It's an opportunity to see scientists in action.
It's day when you can visit such biological museums or collections as the Phaff Yeast Culture Collection, Bohart Museum of Entomology, Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, Arboretum and Public Garden, California Raptor Center, Earth and Planetary Sciences Paleontology Collections, Botanical Conservatory, Center for Plant Diversity, Nematode Collections, Marine Invertebrate Teaching Collection, and the Department of Anthropology Museum.
And it's free and open to the public.
The date has not been set, but the first few Biodiversity Museum Days took place on Presidents' Day weekend. The committee will announce the date soon.
"Each year more than 200 volunteers--students, staff and faculty--from across campus help more 4,000 visitors--including other UC Davis students, staff and faculty--learn about biodiversity through our amazing biological collections," said UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day chair Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Donations, from $5 on up, may be made at this website: UC Davis October Crowdfund campaign. It costs approximately $5000 to finance the Biodiversity Museum Day, the committee related. Donors may make contributions to honor a loved one or a favorite organism, such as a praying mantis, plant, nematode or fossil. The crowdfunding campaign ends at 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 31.
The committee asks that you:
- Share the news with three friends/co-workers/neighbors
- Post on your social media. The UC Davis Crowdfund has links for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (or X)
- Donate here
Coordinating the UC Davis October Crowdfund campaign are Yang; Brennen Dyer, collections manager for the Bohart Museum; and Melissa Cruz Hernandez, outreach and leadership program manager for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.
He told the villagers to line up in town square with their sickles. When they did, he immediately fingered the killer. The killer confessed.
How did Song Ci know? Because minute traces of blood left on the "cleaned" sickle drew a swarm of blow flies.
That was one of the stories that UC Davis forensic entomologist Robert "Bob" Kimsey of the Department of Entomology and Nematology recounted in his 45-minute talk during the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on "Forensics and Insects."
In his presentation, Kimsey discussed the life cycle and development of blow flies and other insects. He is frequently called as a expert court witness at murder trials.
"Correct species identification is all important," said Kimsey, aka "Dr. Bob," in noting that different species have different development rates. He compared the life cycle of four species--Cochliomyia macellaria (secondary screwworm), Chrysoma rufifacies (a blow fly species), Phomia regina (a black blow fly), and Lucilia sericata (a common green bottle fly)--developing at a temperature of 27 Celsius. C. macellaria is the fastest and P. regina is the slowest, he said.
Kimsey also showed a chart illustrating the approximate age of a blow fly developing during a temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Another chart included information on the succession of arthropod taxa on carrion.
Following his talk, held in the nearby Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology lecture room, Kimsey fielded questions in his "Dr. Death booth" in the Bohart Museum. He annually portrays Dr. Death at Briggs Hall during the annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day every April.
At the open house, the Bohart Museum displayed a number of species involved in forensic entomology, including
- Acalyptrate flies, numerous and diverse families, scavenging maggots
- Bluebottle flies, family Calliphoridae, scavenging maggots
- Green bottle flies, family Calliphoridae, scavenging maggots
- Large carrion, or burying beetles, family Silphidae
- Flesh flies, family Sarchophagidae, scavenging maggots
- Coffin flies, family Phoridae, scavenging maggots
- Clown or hister beetles, family Histeridae, predaceous beetles
- Red-legged ham beetle, family Cleridae, omnivorous predators that also scavenge
- Sap beetles, family Nitidulidae, "indirect" scavenge beetles
- Cockroaches, order Blattodea, scavenging larvae and adults
- Rove beetles, family Staphylinidae, predaceous beetles and their larvae
- Termites, infraorder Isoptera, scavengers for nitrogen
- Ants, family Formicidae, predators and scavengers
Ants: "Ants are a nightmare for the forensic entomologist! They are of little use as evidence as yet, but they can easily confound the development of vital evidence by establishing residency and defending the decedent from other scavengers, and further delay development of vital evidence by carrying off fly eggs and small maggots. Thus, they can delay progress of insect-mediated decomposition and feed vital evidence to their developing larval ants: the first, thus oldest and most important maggot cohorts (to the forensic entomologist)! They also ambush, kill and dismember female flies coming to the decedent to lay eggs."
Green Bottle Flies: "Green bottle flies are iridescent green in color. They belong to the genus Lucilia and comprise some of the most common flies with maggots that feed on carrion. A number of species, including the green bottle fly, Lucilia sericata, and the bronze bottle fly, Lucilia cuprina, have been introduced worldwide by human commerce, and the later, also known as the Australian sheep blow fly, commonly infests living sheep in Australia, causing enormous economic damage."
Termites: "In other parts of the world, insects exotic to what we in the temperate zones consider to be the standard groups associated with carrion, assist in the decomposition process. Termites in Central America exemplify such 'exotics' to decomposition, building mud casings over and defending carrion against all comers in an effort to garner nitrogenous materials to supplement their extremely nitrogen-poor diet."
Clown or Hister Beetles: "Distinctively shiny black and resembling a pill, these small to very small beetles feed on a great diversity of small arthropods found in carrion, including the smallest stages of maggots, fly eggs and scavenger or predaceous mites. Active at night, the numerous carrion-associated species appear in nearly all stages of decomposition, often specializing on prey found only in a particular stage.
Flesh Flies: "This very large family consists of large robust scavenger species and small species that parasitize other insects. The scavengers, Sarchophaga and Blaesozipha, frequently do not usually lay eggs but frequently deposit a small number of first-stage maggots on carrion, which puts their maggots at a distinct advantage over maggots of egg-laying species."
Cockroaches: "A number of cockroach species found around the house (peridomestic) will gnaw on the skin of decedents indoors during the early fresh stage of decomposition. They are well known to chew on the calluses, clean debris from under the fingernails and around the toes of sleeping sailors on ancient sailing ships right through to the current day. This kind of depredation occurs in circumstances of overwhelming cockroach infestations. In similar circumstances, they are also responsible for chewing on the ears and eyelashes of newborn infants in cases of child neglect."
The family art-and-crafts activity involved maggot-inspired art. Participants dipped maggots in non-toxic, water-based paint and guided them on white paper to create their masterpieces, suitable for framing or at least as conversation pieces. (Photos to appear in June 9th Bug Squad blog)
The next open house at the Bohart Museum is "Night at the Museum" (Moth Night) from 7 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, July 22. All open houses are free and family friendly, and parking, too, is free.
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" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and more) and an insect-themed gift shop, stocked with t-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, posters, books, pens and collecting equipment.
The Bohart Museum is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. The Bohart will be open to the public (walk-ins) only on Tuesdays from 2 to 5 p.m., this summer, starting June 13. This is due to the high number of outreach programs, summer camps, scheduled tours and unavailability of staff. More information is available on the website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bohart will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The location: Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus.
The Bohart Museum, the seventh largest insect collection in North America, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens. Plus, it features a live "petting zoo" of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects (walking sticks), tarantulas and many more. You'll meet Princess Herbert, a Brazilian salmon-pink bird-eating tarantula; Peaches, a Chilean rose hair tarantula; CocoMcFluffin, aChaco golden knee tarantula; and a Vietnamese centipede named Beatrice. Research associate Brittany Kohler serves as "the zookeeper."
The Bohart Museum also provides an insect-theme gift shop, stocked with books, posters, jewelry, t-shirts, hoodies and collecting equipment.
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 by the late professor Richard Bohart, is directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, who received her doctorate in 1976 from UC Davis, studying with Bohart.
Entomological activities at Briggs Hall will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (See Bug Squad)
Here's a video created by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences that offers a quick look at the Bohart.