- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
If you'd like to take a world tour and learn about such fascinating insects as darkling beetles, Australian walking sticks, giant African millipedes and others, be sure to sign up for the "Virtual Insect Palooza with the Insect Discovery Lab."
The program, open to all ages but limited to 25 participants, is set for 4 to 5 p.m., Friday, June 12 on Zoom, announced Norm Gershenz, chief executive officer and co-founder of the Bay Area-based SaveNature.Org. He also directs the organization's Insect Discovery Lab. He co-founded SaveNature.Org with wife Leslie Saul-Gershenz, a UC Davis scientist who holds a doctorate in entomology from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Professor Norm" will lead what is being billed as a "live, wild experience featuring arthropods from around the world." Viewers will be able to ask questions at the end of the program.
SaveNature.Org is an award-winning conservation organization which presents more than 800 educational outreach programs to some 38,000 children annually. National Geographic, Time magazine, and ABC's "World News Tonight" have all spotlighted the work.
Dedicated to international conservation, SaveNature.Org has raised more than $4.7 million to help preserve thousands of acres of rain forest, coral reef and desert habitat around the world, said Gershenz, who created and developed the first Adopt-an-Acre program in the United States, as well as the award-winning Conservation Parking Meter.
His credentials include 18 years with the San Francisco Zoo as an educator, member of the animal care staff, fundraiser, and researcher. In addition, he has worked as a field biologist and naturalist in Borneo, Malaysia, India, Nepal, Costa Rica and Namibia. "I have tracked black rhinos in Zimbabwe, chased orangutans in Borneo, and stalked the elusive platypus in Australia (with his camera)," he related. In his conservation work, he has handled boas and bobcats, pandas and elephants, snow leopards and koalas, hippos and hornbills.
In 2010, Gershenz received the prestigious Elizabeth Terwilliger Prize for Conservation. In 2018 the American Association of Zookeepers presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding work in nature conservation.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Mark your calendar.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus is planning an open house on "How to Be an Entomologist" from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 27. The insect museum is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building, Crocker Lane, off LaRue Road.
The event is free and open to the public and is family friendly. This is the first of nine open houses during the 2014-15 academic year.
Plans call for a number of UC Davis entomologists to participate--to show and explain their work, said Bohart Museum director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"We will have a pinning and butterfly and moth spreading ongoing workshop with Jeff Smith and tips on how to rear insects," said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. Smith, an entomologist in Sacramento, is a longtime donor and volunteer at the Bohart.
Representatives from the labs of molecular geneticist Joanna Chiu, assistant professor; bee scientist Brian Johnson, assistant professor; ant specialist Phil Ward, professor; insect demographer James R. Carey, distinguished professor; and integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, distinguished professor and current president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America will share their research.
The Johnson lab will provide a bee observation hive, and Cindy Preto of the Zalom lab will be sharing her research on leafhoppers. The Carey lab will show student-produced videos, including how to make an insect collection, and one-minute entomology presentations (students showcasing an insect in one minute). The Ward lab will be involved in outside activities, demonstrating how to collect ants. Entomology students will be on hand to show visitors how to use collecting devices, including nets, pitfall traps and yellow pans.
Other entomologists may also participate. "There will be a lot going on inside the Bohart and outside the Bohart," Yang said. "It will be very hands-on."
The Bohart Museum, founded by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens and boasts the seventh largest insect collection in North America. It also houses the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. 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.
The museum's gift shop (on location and online) includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
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 newest residents of the petting zoo are Texas Gold-Banded millipedes, Orthoporus ornatus, which are native to many of the southwestern United States, including Texas.
“They're a great addition to the museum's petting zoo,” Kimsey said. “They are very gentle and great for demonstrations of how millipedes walk and how they differ from centipedes.”
Millipede enthusiast Evan White, who does design and communications for the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, and is a frequent presenter at the Bohart's open houses, recently obtained the arthropods from a collector in Texas. “Texas Gold-Banded millipedes are naive to many of the Southwestern United States, not just Texas,” he said.
Contrary to popular belief, millipedes are not dangerous. “There is much public confusion about the difference between millipedes and centipedes--not because the two look similar, but because the terms are used interchangeably when not connected to a visual,” White said.
He described millipedes as non-venomous, and relatively slow moving, with cylindrical bodies, two pairs of legs per body segment, and herbivorous. “In fact, they are more like decomposers – they do well on rotting vegetation, wood, etc.--the scientific word for is ‘detritivore.' Most millipedes are toxic if consumed, some even secrete a type of cyanide when distressed. The point being: don't lick one.”
In contract, centipedes are venomous, fast-moving insects with large, formidable fangs, and one pair of legs per body segment. “They are highly carnivorous, although some will eat bananas. Go figure. And they are often high-strung and aggressive if provoked.”