When the Bohart Museum of Entomology hosted an open house, "An Evening at the Museum," on Saturday, July 22, showcasing moths and flies, the moth experts were there to celebrate National Moth Week, July 22-30 and the fly experts had just attended the 10th International Dipterology Congress, held July 16-21, in Reno.
But just as the Bohart Museum houses a global collection of 8 million insect specimens, international scientists were there representing a number of countries, including Greece, Ukraine, Iran and Spain, as well as the United States.
Among the fly experts participating in the Bohart Museum's open house was tephritid fruit fly expert Nikos Papadopoulos of Greece, professor of applied entomology, who directs the laboratory of Entomology and Agricultural Zoology at the University of Thessaly. He shared a video ontephritid flies and answered questions. Professor Papadopoulos obtained his PhD in 1999 (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), and did postdoctoral work (2001-2003) at UC Davis, before joining the University of Thessaly. He collaborates with UC Davis distinguished professor James R. Carey. (See his biosketch)
Postdoctoral researcher Severyn Korneyev, a Ukrainian entomologist who studies flies, showed specimens and fielded questions. He holds a joint postdoc position with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. A member of the Ukrainian Entomological Society and the Entomological Society of America, Korneyev specializes in the systematics and taxonomy of the true fruit flies (Diptera: Tephritidae). His expertise includes morphological and molecular diagnostics, collection management, and the field collecting of insects. (See Bug Squad blog)
Professor Miguel Angel Miranda of the University of the Balearic Islands (UBI), Spain, showed specimens and led insect-drawing workshops. A zoologist, entomologist and noted insect illustrator, he currently teaches zoology, parasitology, and biotechnology applied for pest control. He is a member of UBI's Applied Zoology and Animal Conservation Research Group or ZAP. See Bug Squad blog)
Iranian-American scientist Nazzy Pakpour, who received her bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis and her doctorate in microbiology, virology, and parasitology from the University of Pennsylvania, read from her newly published children's book, Please Don't Bite Me. Her UC Davis connections including serving as a postdoctoral scholar in the mosquito research lab of Professor Shirley Luckhart, now with the University of Idaho.
The Bohart Museum, established in 1946 by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart of UC Davis, is directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey. It is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane. The insect museum is open to the public for summer hours from 2 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays. It also maintains a live insect petting zoo (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insect and tarantulas) and an insect-themed gift shop.
The open house showcased moths, in celebration of National Moth Week, and spotlighted flies, in keeping with the 10th International Dipterology Congress, held July 16-21 in Reno. Bohart officials dedicated the open house to the late Jerry Powell, international moth authority and a former director of the Essig Museum of Entomology, UC Berkeley, who died July 8 at age 90.
A blacklighting display, near the entrance to the Bohart Museum, drew night-flying insects to a white sheet, illuminated by an ultraviolet light.
"There were not many moths," said "Moth Man" John de Benedictus, a research entomologist associate with the Bohart Museum and a former graduate student of Powell's. "Only about 5 or six in all. All but two were the so-called Dusky Raisin Moth, Ephestiodes gilvescentella,which comes as no surprise as it is the most common moth in my yard and probably throughout Davis. Its caterpillar feeds on a wide variety of plants, including dried fruit and nuts, but it is not a major pest. There were two granite moths, probably Digrammia californiaria, and/or Digrammia muscariata. The younger kids entertained themselves by pointing out or trying to catch the other insects that flew in, mainly gnats and other small flies; a few beetles, including lady bugs; some aquatic bugs; and a couple of lacewings and earwigs. An older boy collected some ants that marched to the sheet."
Entomologist Jeff Smith, curator of the Bohart Museum's Lepidoptera collection, and Bohart associate and naturalist Greg Kareoelas, showed visitors many of the moth specimens, including death's-head hawkmoths, featured in the 1991 movie, Silence of the Lambs. In the movie, serial killer, Buffalo Bill (played by Ted Levine), stuffs death's-head hawkmoths inside his victims' throats. FBI trainee Clarice Starling (played by Jodie Foster) seeks the advice of the cannibalistic psychiatrist, Hannibal Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins), to solve the mystery. The moths appearing in the movie are Acherontia stropos. The moth markings resemble a human skull.
The Bohart Museum, directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens, including some 500,000 moths or butterflies (60 percent moths and 40 percent butterflies). The museum is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. During the summer, the Bohart Museum is open to the public on Tuesdays from 2 to 5 p.m. For more information, contact the Bohart Museum at email@example.com or (530) 752-0493.
(More images from the Bohart Museum open house, "A Night at the Museum," will appear this week on Bug Squad)
Moths, anything about moths, was the kind of event that Powell loved. He was an associate of the Bohart Museum and a scientific collaborator, identifying scores of insects and attending many of the Leipidopterist Society meetings held there.
The open house, free and family friendly, is set from 7 to 11 p.m., Saturday, July 22 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis, campus.
Plans call for scientists to set up their traditionalblacklighting (ultraviolet or UV) display to attract moths and other night-flying insects. Bohart Research Affiliate John DeBenedictus, a retired UC Davis Staff Research Associate, also known as "The Moth Man," usually heads the blacklighting project. De Benedictus received his master's degree in 1988 from UC Berkeley, studying with Powell. "I spent more time in the field with Jerry than any other grad student," he related. "I was privileged to be Jerry's student and lucky to have become his friend."
In a tribute to Powell on its website, the Essig Museum posted in part:
"In his teen years he was heavily influenced by Charles 'Harbie' Harbison, who ran the Junior Naturalist Program at the San Diego Museum of Natural History, and sparked an interest in Jerry for butterflies and moths. Seeing his potential, Harbie recommended Jerry for the Entomology program at UC Berkeley, where he received his BS in 1955 and his PhD in 1961. While climbing through the ranks of Junior Entomologist (1961-62), Assistant Entomologist (1962-67), Associate Entomologist (1967-73), Entomologist (1973-94), Lecturer in Entomology (1964-69), Associate Professor (1969-73), and Professor (1973-94) at UC Berkeley, Jerry also became Curator (1972-2018) and Director (1993-1999) of the Essig Museum of Entomology (1972-1999) and Project Leader for the California Insect Survey (1963-1999). Although he retired as Director in 1999, Jerry remained a professor of the Graduate School until 2012 and maintained an active research program in Lepidoptera life histories and systematics until 2018, advising many students along the way. (See more on Essig website.)"
"Jerry's rearing program was the most extensive in the history of the study of New World Microlepidoptera," according to the Essig post. "For over 50 years he and his students processed more than 15,000 collections of larval or live adult Lepidoptera. Resulting data encompass more than 1,000 species of moths, through rearing either field-collected larvae or those emerging from eggs deposited by females in confinement. This total includes more than 60% of an estimated 1,500 species of Microlepidoptera occurring in California."
Powell gained international recognition when he detected the agricultural pest, the light brown apple moth, Epiphyas postvittana, in a ultralight (UV) trap on July 19, 2006 in his backyard in Berkeley.
In an email to colleagues on July 9, Peter Oboyski, executive director of the Essig Museum of Entomology, wrote: "With a heavy heart I am sad to report that professor Jerry Powell passed away this weekend. His contributions to our knowledge of California entomology, microlepidoptera, and insect life histories are inestimable, as is the value of the training he provided to his students. As one of those students, I am eternally grateful for the time, energy, and knowledge Jerry shared with me in the museum and the field."
"A consummate field biologist, Jerry's knowledge and interests were broad, allowing him to read landscapes and discover the most interesting and cryptic of species interactions," Oboyski noted. "This is well documented in over 220 publications, but also in the 60+ years of his field notes and rearing records that we are currently digitizing. He is the collector of over 400 holotypes of various insect orders, described over 170 species and 14 genera of moths, and honored by 41 patronyms. He also published papers on Hymenoptera, Coleoptera, Diptera, Dermaptera, and a Nematode. His legacy is impressive and will long be remembered."
Powell described himself as a "MothNut" on his vehicle license plate, and also displayed a sticker, "Larvae on Board."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, has spotted only one moth and one butterfly since Wednesday, Jan. 5.
Shapiro is the professor who sponsors the annual "Beer for a Butterfly Contest" for scientific research. It works like this: Find the first cabbage white butterfly of the year in Sacramento, Yolo or Solano counties, deliver it live to his department, and if you win, you receive a pitcher of beer or its equivalent. He canceled the contest this year due to rising COVID pandemic concerns.
But he's out looking.
In a group email on Tuesday, Jan. 4, Shapiro wrote that "about 4:50 p.m. a noctuid moth landed on my living-room window. I could see by the thoracic hair tuft that it was a Plusiine of some kind. I went outside to examine it, but it had not really settled in and it flew off. The light was too dim to have any confidence as to the species, except I know it wasn't biloba. First Lep of 2022! It was about 55F and overcast."
On Wednesday, Jan. 5, "it was much less cloudy than expected," Shapiro noted. "I decided to stay around campus and check out the Vanessa territorial sites. I figured there would be cumulus in the afternoon, and there were--they even congealed into broken stratocumulus for a while. It was warmest between noon and 2 p.m., about 60-61F, with a light southerly wind. I didn't find any Vanessas and gave up by 3. But I did see a butterfly! A fresh-looking Agraulis vanillae at the EC (Experimental Community) Gardens."
"At 85% precipitation for the year, with the increased temperatures relative to a baseline mean of 1980-2010, I'd estimate an additional 15% plant water stress over the year (equal to ~60% annual precip from normal). We showed that climatic water deficit goes up, even under future climate forecasts that are wetter, because evaporative demand increases with temperature (Thorne et al. 2015). If it's drier, then that effect is amplified."
"One of the reasons butterflies are such a great study system is how responsive they are to immediate, seasonal and possibly multi-year weather," Thorne wrote. "It would be interesting to look at future climate monthly predictions and measure how those relate to the observed faunal response to the measured changes in weather-climate, to build predictive models. We should have enough track record to make some predictions about faunal phenology under future climate. In the forest restoration world, the break between weather effects (such as a late rain or heat wave) on seedling survival and climate effects on longer-term site environmental conditions and seedling progression to early poly-size is about 5 years. That's an arbitrary line drawn looking at seedling survival/establishment."
Thorne attached a research article he co-authored: The Magnitude and Spatial Patterns of Historical and Future Hydrologic Change in California's Watersheds, published Feb. 12, 2015 in Ecological Society of America's journal, Ecosphere.
Monitoring Since 1972. Shapiro has monitored butterfly population trends on a transect across central California since 1972 and records the information on his research website at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu/. His 10 sites stretch from the Sacramento River Delta through the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains to the high desert of the Western Great Basin. The largest and oldest database in North America, it was recently cited by British conservation biologist Chris Thomas in a worldwide study of insect biomass.
Shapiro, a member of the UC Davis faculty since 1971 and author of the book, Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento Valley Regions, has studied more than 160 species of butterflies in his transect.
Side note: How is Art Shapiro celebrating his birthday? With a "~6% positivity rate and 617 new Covid cases on campus already this year," he said that he is "lying low."
"I will probably celebrate by ordering a pizza," Shapiro said. "Nothing more elaborate, I assure you, and no gathering of any kind. Stay well, stay safe!"
Happy birthday, Art!