The scientists and butterfly/moth enthusiasts who gathered Saturday, Feb. 9 for the Northern California Lepidoptera Society meeting in the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, did all that: identify specimens and engage in collaboration and camaraderie.
They ranged from those early in their career, to mid-point, to the height of their career, to retired.
The group meets for a mid-winter gathering once a year, alternating between the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis and the Essig Museum of Entomology at UC Berkeley.
Senior museum scientist Steve Heydon, Bohart associate John "Moth Man" DeBenedictis; and Jeff Smith, curator of the butterfly/moth section at the Bohart hosted the event, assisted by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and Bohart associate and naturalist Greg Kareofelas.
In their meeting notice, Heydon, DeBenedictis and Smith noted that those attending could bring specimens, photos, PowerPoint presentations "or slides from collecting trips and tales of collecting triumphs to share with others
and that "attending lepidopterists may be able to help you identify specimens and the museum collection will be open for yoour inspection."
Retired public health entomologist and Bohart associate Dick Meyer of Bakersfield, known as "the mosquito guy," was there. He recently retired as assistant manager of the Orange County Vector Control Agency. He did not bring any of his collection, but he did tell us that he has 225 drawers of insects at home, including 71 drawers of butterflies. "Did you know that the highest diversity of butterflies in the country is in Kern County?" he asked. Meyer, who holds a doctorate in entomology, studied with major professor Richard M. Bohart Jr., for whom the Bohart Museum is named.
Among those participating:
- Bohart associate Jerry Powell, emeritus director of the Essig Museum, and co-author of California Insects.
- Marc Epstein, senior insect biosystematist for the California Department of Food and Agriculture and author of the book, Moths, Myths and Mosquitoes: the Eccentric life of Harrison G. Dyer Jr.
- Kelly Richers, treasurer of the Lepitopterists Society and an affiliate of Essig Museum of Entomology who is also afield associate with the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and member of board of directors of the Wedge Entomological Research Foundation
- Lawrence "Larry" Allen of Calaveras County, author of A Field Guide to the West Coast Butterflies of the United States, one of the books available in the Bohart Museum's gift shop (he donated all sales of his book that day to the Bohart).
- Arthur Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology and author of Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento Valley Regions.
- Entomologist Rick Kelson, who directs the butterfly habitat at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo
- Bohart associate Bill Patterson, former graduate student of Richard Bohart
- Rosser Garrison, research associate with the California State Collection of Arthropods, retired senior insect biosystematist, California Department of Food and Agriculture, and co-author of Dragonfly Genera of the New World: An Illustrated and Annotated Key to the Anisoptera
- Don Miller, professor at Chico State University who teaches entomology in the Department of Biological Sciences
- Ryan Hill, professor at University of Pacific, Stockton
- Chris Tenney, retired educator from Pacific Grove
- Jeffrey Caldwell, known for his ecological restoration
- John Lane, one of first graduate students of Art Shapiro (Lane received his master's degree)
- Paul Johnson, biologist with the National Parks Service
- Hobbyist Jeff Baier of Napa
- Physician Val Albu of Fresno
- And many more...
At the last gathering in the Bohart, Kelly Richers, who compiles the California Moth Specimen Database, maintained at the Essig Museum since 1996 as a resource to better survey and understand California moths, said of the systematists: "We're a dying breed."
This year self-described "aspiring entomologist" Madison Cunha of Modesto attended with her mother, Christine Cunha. True to her love of insects, Madison wore a dress adorned with a beetle pattern.
Scientists say that 180,000 species of the Lepidoptera are described, in 126 families and 46 superfamilies.
"The Lepidoptera are among the most successful groups of insects. They are found on all continents, except Antarctica, and inhabit all terrestrial habitats ranging from desert to rainforest, from lowland grasslands to mountain plateaus, but almost always associated with higher plants, especially angiosperms (flowering plants). Among the most northern dwelling species of butterflies and moths is the Arctic Apollo (Parnassius arcticus), which is found in the Arctic Circle in northeastern Yakutia, at an altitude of 1500 m above sea level. In the Himalayas, various Apollo species such as Parnassius epaphus have been recorded to occur up to an altitude of 6,000 miles above sea level."--Wikipedia.
The UC Davis event took place from 8 to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 21 in celebration of National Moth Week, July 21-29, which celebrated the beauty, life cycles and habitats of moths.
Entomologists use the blacklight to collect or view night-flying insects attracted to ultraviolet light. The Bohart associates set up two displays near the Bohart, but the one set up along a UC Davis Arboretum path drew the most moths--and the most spectators.
Blacklighting is basically comprised of a hanging white sheet, illuminated by ultraviolet (UV) light and powered by a generator.
More than 140 spectators attended Moth Night, held both inside the museum (located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane) and outside on the campus grounds.
The scarab beetles or what some folks often call by the common name "June bugs" (referring to certain species of scarabs) showed up first, followed by assorted moths.
Beetle expert Fran Keller, assistant professor at Folsom Lake College who received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, identified it as a Polyphylla sp. or lined June beetle. "I think it was a female because the antennae were reduced."
Bohart associate and "Moth Man" John De Benedictis listed the species sighted at Moth Night by family. Among them:
NOCTUIDAE: Spodoptera exigua (Beet Armyworm Moth), Proxenus sp. (probably P. mindara)
GEOMETRIDAE: Prochoerodes truxaliata
PYRALIDAE: Ehestiodes gilvescentella
TORTRICIDAE: Cydia latiferreana (Filbertworm Moth), Grapholita prunivora (Lesser Appleworm Moth)
GELECHIIDAE: Leucogniella sp. (probably L. distincta)
TINEDAE: Oinophila v-flava
ACROLOPHIDAE: Amydria sp. (cannot tell genus or species without dissecting. Likely Pseudopsalta confusella.)
De Benedictis said a young girl collected the Prochoerodes truxaliata, a moth that feeds on coyote bush as a caterpillar.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, 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. It maintains a live "petting zoo," featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas, and praying mantids. 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. It 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 on the website or by contacting (530) 752-0493 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Editor's Note: Stay tuned for photos of the inside activities on Moth Night.)
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly and moth collection at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, is in butterfly heaven.
And even more so now--he just returned from a collecting trip to Belize with his colleagues and brought back some 700 to 800 Lepidoptera specimens.
Smith will be among those presenting at the Bohart Museum's open house on "Bug-Art@The Bohart" from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 21. The event, free and open to the public, will include art displays, sketching demonstrations; coloring of dragonfly images, and other insect-art interests, including an insect tattoo contest and an insect-themed attire contest.
How large is the Bohart's Lepidoptera collection? It has now reached about half a million, estimates Smith, a longtime volunteer honored with a UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences' "Friend of the College" award. "I believe I spread over 4,000 specimens from an August 2017 trip to Belize, and brought back maybe 700-800 more from this recent Belize trip, so the numbers continue to grow."
Specifically, what's on tap for the Bohart open house? UC Davis entomology major and artist Karissa Merritt will demonstrate how to sketch insects.
Other art featured will be that of the late Mary Foley Bensen, a former Smithsonian Institution scientific illustrator who moved to Davis and worked for UC Davis entomology faculty; Lynn Siri Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology; and Charlotte Herbert, Ph.D. student; and UC Davis entomology alumni/artists Ivana Li and Nicole Tam. An exhibit of "insect wedding photography" images by Bohart associates Greg Kareofelas and Kathy Keatley Garvey is also planned.
Visitors will be invited to sketch insects. If you're not artistically inclined, you can color the images of dragonflies from a coloring book by dragonfly expert/author Kathy Claypole Biggs and illustrator Tim Manolis.
The open house will definitely be interactive! Attendees are invited to wear insect-themed attire and jewelry. A contest will take place at 3 p.m. for the best insect-themed outfit, and for the best insect-themed tattoo (tattoo must be in a family friendly site).
Also on Jan. 21, insect/art enthusiasts are invited to view the unique exhibition, It's Bugged: Insects' Role in Design from 2 to 4 p.m. in Room 124 of Cruess Hall. The exhibit, which continues through April 22 (the event is free and open on weekdays from noon to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m.) features the work of faculty and graduate students from the Department of Design; specimens from the Bohart Museum; and insect photography by UC Davis alumnus Alex Wild, curator of entomology, University of Texas, Austin.
World-renowned for its global collection of nearly eight million specimens, the Bohart Museum also maintains a live “petting zoo,” featuring walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids, and tarantulas. A gift shop, open year around, offers T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy. The Bohart'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, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free. For more information, contact the email@example.com or access the website or Facebook page.
It's especially an honor when a duo--a husband-and-wife nature conservation team--is singled out for that recognition.
Leslie Saul-Gershenz (she holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis) and husband, Norm Gershenz, co-founders of the Bay Area-based SaveNature.Org, have namesakes:
Ethmia lesliesaulae and Ethmia normgershenzi are newly discovered species of moths in the rain forests of Costa Rica.
The moths belong to the family Depressariidae and now they're part of the Gershenz family, too!
Both new species and 20 others in the genus are described in the Zookeys paper, A Synopsis of the Genus Ethmia Hübner in Costa Rica: Biology, Distribution, and Description of 22 New Species (Lepidoptera, Gelechioidea, Depressariidae, Ethmiinae), with Eephasis on the 42 Species known from Área de Conservación Guanacaste by E. Phillips-Rodríguez, J.A. Powell, W. Hallwachs and D. H. Janzen. The larvae feed on plants in the genus Drymonia (Gesneriaceae).
- Ethmia lesliesaulae has been recorded from both sides of the Cordillera Volcánica de Guanacaste at altitudes ranging from 300 to 645 meters.
- Ethmia normgershenzi has been recorded from the east side of the Cordillera Volcánica de Guanacaste from 400 to 660 meters.
Norm and Leslie co-founded SaveNature.Org, an international conservation program, a 501(c)( 3), to "protect terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems worldwide and to inspire stewardship in the public through hands-on education programs." Norm serves as the chief executive officer and director of the Insect Discovery Lab (IDL). SaveNature.Org conducts nearly 800 hands-on conservation education programs in schools throughout the Greater Bay Area, and reaches more than 38,500 children annually with its IDL.
They make the news. Their work has been highlighted in National Geographic, Time magazine, and ABC's World News Tonight. Robert Pringle's recent article, Upgrading Protected Areas to Conserve Wild Biodiversity, in the journal Nature, details the organization's collaborative work to increase the size of protected areas.
The organization has added 74,000 acres of wildlife habitat to large-scale National Parks around the world and protected marine habitat and watersheds in the Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean. To date, 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. Their catchy theme: "Saving Nature Is Habitat Forming."
Norm was affiliated with the San Francisco Zoo for more than 18 years as an educator, member of the animal care staff, fundraiser, and researcher. Norm has quite the biography: he has tracked black rhinos in Zimbabwe, chased orangutans in Borneo, and stalked the elusive platypus in Australia. He has handled boas and bobcats, pandas and elephants, snow leopards and koalas, hippos and hornbills. He has worked as a field biologist and naturalist in Borneo, Malaysia, India, Nepal, Costa Rica and Namibia.
Basically, the larvae of the parasitic blister beetle produce a chemical signal or allomone, similar to that of a female bee's pheromone to lure males to the larval aggregation. The larvae attach to the male bee on contact and then transfer to the female during mating. The end result: the larvae wind up in the nest of a female bee, where they eat the nest provisions and likely the host egg.
"Our research has added to the understanding of the communication signals of bees in the genus Habropoda," she related. "We now know that they use long-chain hydrocarbons for the female sex attractant and vary the position of the double bounds in different components and vary proportions of these components to avoid cross attraction among closely related species. Parasites co-opt this communication channel to deceive male bees in the Meloe-Habropoda system."
Leslie is also a 2004 graduate of The Bee Course, an intensive 10-day workshop sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. One of The Bee Course instructors is Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Leslie's presented her research at the Entomological Society of America meeting in November in Denver, Colo. Her next research presentation will be the California Native Plant Society Conservation conference, scheduled Feb. 1-3, 2018 in Los Angeles.
Overall, moths boast incredible diversity, according to Jerry Powell, emeritus professor at UC Berkeley and co-author Paul Opier, in their masterwork, "Moths of Western North America" (University of California Press). They describe and illustrate some 2500 species in their book. The region is comprised of some 8,000 named species of moths. Most attract attention only when their larvae create economic damage, such as eating holes in woolens, infesting stored foods, boring into apples, damaging crops and garden plants, or defoliating forests.
Meanwhile, Ethmia lesliesaulae and Ethmia normgershenzi are right at home in the rain forests of Costa Rica, and their namesakes are right at home in their Bay Area-based conservation group.
And meanwhile, if you want an insect named for you or a loved one, here's one way: Contact the Bohart Museum of Entomology's biolegacy program. Insects that need naming include a stiletto fly from Australia and Thailand, said director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis.
(Editor's Note: Insect images from Wikipedia, courtesy of E. Phillips-Rodríguez, J. A. Powell, W. Hallwachs and D. H. Janzen)
When there's a Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, visitors come to listen, learn and explore.
Such was the case during the Parasitoid Palooza open house last Saturday, Nov. 18 when area residents, including parents and their children, and grandparents and their grandchildren, visited the museum. They came from as near as Davis and as far as Redwood City, Sonoma, Marin, and San Jose.
They came with questions; they left with answers and a deeper appreciation of insects.
There is much to see and do. The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on the UC Davis campus, is the home of nearly eight million insect specimens including about 320,000 in the Lepitoptera (butterflies and moths) collection, curated by entomologist Jeff Smith.
Those figures, however, are much like a moving target, "as we keep adding collections," commented Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology.
"Yes, we are constantly adding material," Smith said, and "we may received very large donated collections in the next few years." Smith is almost finished spreading some 4000 specimens from an August Belize expedition."
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 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 hosts special open houses throughout the academic year. Its regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 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.
Upcoming open houses (all free and open to the public):
- Bug-Art@The Bohart on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018 from 1 to 4 p.m.
- Biodiversity Museum Day on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, a daylong event featuring 12 UC Davis campus museums and collections, including the Bohart Museum. This will be the eighth annual. See Bug Squad blog regarding the 2017 Biodiversity Museum Day, coordinated by Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator.
- UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 21, 2018 a daylong event
In tomorrow's Bug Squad blog: a close-up look at the family craft activities and human-insect interaction in the petting zoo at the Nov. 18 open house.