The 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation launched "Giving Tuesday" in 2012 in response to the troubling commercialization and consumerism in the post-Thanksgiving season (think Black Friday and Cyber Monday).
A very worthy benefactor on "Giving Tuesday" is the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on the UC Davis campus.
Directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, the insect museum is named for its founder, noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), a professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology). He founded the museum in 1946.
When you think of the Bohart Museum, you think of excellence: excellent scientists, staff and volunteers. The insect museum houses
- nearly eight million insect specimens collected worldwide
- the seventh largest insect collection in North America
- the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity
- a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and praying mantids; and
- a year-around gift shop, which is stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy
Another key part of the Bohart Museum outreach efforts: they host open houses at scheduled times on weekends throughout the academic year. On the campuswide Picnic Day, the Bohart draws as many as 4000 visitors. Thousands also attend the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day. (See video on YouTube).
Scientists throughout the world study the insect collection.
What does the Bohart need?
"Support for our outreach programs," said Kimsey. "I would love to get another photograph like the Biss one we have in the hall."
That would be like the newly acquired 5x6-foot photographic image or "microsculpture" of a cuckoo or emerald wasp, the work of noted British photographer Levon Biss. The “cuckoo” name refers to the fact that the female lays her eggs in the nests of unsuspecting hosts, including the sand wasp. The larvae of the cuckoo wasp then consume the host eggs, larvae and the stored food. The wasp is found throughout Europe but not in the United States.
Biss's intricate work, titled "Ruby-Tailed Wasp" (Parnopes grandior), encompasses more than 8,000 separate images, Kimsey said. “We chose it partly to honor the work that ‘Doc' Bohart did." Bohart spent much of his career studying chrysidid wasps or parasitoid wasps.
Biss, based in London, works across many genres, including news, sports, portraiture and insects. He credits his son, Sebastian, for developing his interest in insects. Sebastian found a ground beetle in their backyard and Dad photographed it. That led to a collaboration with the Oxford Museum of Natural History, where Biss gained access to the museum's historical collection of insects, including some collected by Charles Darwin.
Biss now creates micro-scale images for what he calls his Microsculpture series. Over a two-year period, he photographed 37 insects from the Oxford collection. To create the final insect portraits, he composites thousands of images using multiple lighting setups. Biss says he photographed most of them in about 30 sections, “each section lit differently with strobe lights to accentuate the microsculpture of that particular area of the body.”
In October 2017, Biss drew rave reviews for his TED talk, Mind-Blowing Magnified Portraits of Insects. That led to a world gallery tour of his images; his show is now at the Houston (Texas) Museum of Natural Science, July 13, 2018 through Jan. 13, 2019.
Unlike many insect museums, the Bohart Museum is open to the general public four days a week: Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., plus occasional, weekend open houses. Admission is free.
Interested in helping out the Bohart Museum on #GivingTuesday? Checks may be made out to the "Bohart Museum Society" and mailed to:
Bohart Museum of Entomology
Room 1124, Academic Surge Building
University of California, Davis
Davis, Calif. 95616.
Who wouldn't, when you get an opportunity to pet a rose-haired tarantula named Snuggles, guide walking sticks "strolling" on your arm, or cradle a Madagascar hissing cockroach? Or marvel at the display of Platypsyllus castoris, an ectoparasite of beavers?
That's what awaited the 2000 visitors at the Bohart Museum of Entomology during the 104th annual UC Davis Picnic Day last Saturday, April 18.
Although the theme of the campuswide Picnic Day spanned "Where the Sun Shines," Bohart Museum officials focused on "Where the Sun Doesn't Shine." They highlighted nocturnal insects, cave-dwelling insects, and parasites, including a beetle, Platypsyllus castoris, found on the south end of a beaver.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and professor of entomology at UC Davis, kept busy answering questions about the beaver display--a pelt, and a graphic of the beetle.
As Bohart Museum associate and undergraduate entomology student Wade Spencer said: "These beetles look like they are to fleas what halibut are to other fishes. Instead of the lateral compression fleas exhibit, Platyspyllus castoris are dorso-ventrally flattened, which only adds to their alien appearance. Their unique feeding and lodging preferences have given us so many good laughs, we wanted to make them the star of this year's picnic day event at the Bohart."
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly and moth collection at the Bohart, kept busy encouraging visitors to get acquainted with Snuggles. They held him, petted him and photographed him. Little Teddy Owens, 2 of Davis, held by his mother, Dina, high-fived Snuggles.
Another display featured scorpions: graduate student Charlotte Herbert shone a black light on them to illustrate how they glow in the dark. All scorpions fluoresce in ultraviolet light.
Visitors also learned about bees in a display featuring sweat bees, leaf-cutting bees, mason bees, bumble bees, honey bees, sunflower bees, and carpenter bees, as well as Andrena and Melissodes anthophora.
The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is 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. The museum's gift shop, open year around, offers T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum is open to the public 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 by contacting (530) 752-0493 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or Tabatha Yang at email@example.com.
If you had asked that question at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house at the seventh annual Biodiversity Museum Day last Saturday at the University of California, Davis, the Yellow Shirts would have been proud.
The Yellow Shirts were the volunteers--the insect enthusiasts who share their time, dedication and expertise.
Check out the photos and you can see and feel--and almost hear--the excitement.
- UC Davis student Danny Nguyen coaxing a walking stick to climb his arm.
- UC Davis student Diego Rivera showing Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
- UC Davis doctoral candidate Jessica Gillung encouraging questions from an inquisitive group of youngsters and adults.
- UC Davis entomology graduate Joel Hernandez displaying a walking stick or stick insect.
- UC Davis entomology student Lohit Garikipati showing his orchid praying mantis and others from his collection.
- Bohart Museum associate Noah Crockette, Sacramento City College student, discussing his collection trip to Belize, led by faculty members Fran Keller of Folsom Lake College and Dave Wyatt of Sacramento City College.
- Entomologist Jeff Smith showing the butterfly/moth collection that he curates at the Bohart.
- Professor Dave Wyatt of Sacramento City College discussing the insects he collected in Belize.
The day was still new when someone penned "holding insects" to answer the bulletin-board question, "What do you like best about the exhibits?" Many more comments followed.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, is home to some 8 million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" and a gift shop. It's located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.
If you missed Biodiversity Museum Day, the next major event is the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 21 when the Bohart Museum and other entities will greet thousands of visitors. And it's free.
Meanwhile, the insect museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Admission is free. For more information, contact the firstname.lastname@example.org or access the website or Facebook page.
When Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, glanced at a wall near the entrance of the Bohart Museum during a recent open house, she noticed something that wasn't part of the wall.
A stick insect, aka walking stick.
An escapee from the Bohart's live "petting zoo."
And it was doing what stick insects (Phasmatodea) do--it was molting.
“It should be finished by now,” Kimsey said, periodically keeping an eye on its progress.
"Twiggy" is now back in the petting zoo, awaiting the arrival of visitors to the Bohart Museum during the seventh annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17, when the public can explore the diversity of life at 13 museums and/or collections. For free. Times will vary from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or from noon to 4 p.m. The Bohart, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane and the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (See more information on Biodiversity Day.)
Like all insects, stick insects have a head, thorax and abdomen and six legs. Their elongated bodies mimic a stick or straw. These "bug sticks" don't move fast (is that why they're calling "walking sticks" instead of "running sticks?"), but what a perfect camouflage from predators!
Entomologists tell us that before reaching the adult stage, a stick insect may shed its skin six to nine times, depending on the species and the gender. Its outer skeleton (skin) prevents it from growing so it sheds its skin to do so.
Stick insects are a favorite at the Bohart Museum petting zoo, which also includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, praying mantises, and tarantulas. Visitors love to hold the sticks and photograph them. They can also purchase stick insect T-shirts in the Bohart Museum's year-around gift shop.
A few facts from Wikipedia:
- The genus Phobaeticus includes the world's longest insects and can reach 12 inches long.
- Many species have a secondary line of defense in the form of startle displays, spines or toxic secretions
- Phasmatodea can be found all over the world except for the Antarctic and Patagonia.
- They are most numerous in the tropics and subtropics; the greatest diversity is found in Southeast Asia and South America, followed by Australia, Central America, and the southern United States.
- The island of Borneo has more species of Phasmatodea than any other place in the world: The count: 300 species.
- Many species of phasmids are parthenogenic, meaning the females lay eggs without needing to mate with males to produce offspring.
So when the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, themed "Keep Calm and Insect On," took place last Saturday, an Australian walking stick, Extatosoma tiaratum, got into the act. It promptly walked from the hand of entomology graduate student Charlotte Herbert to her head and pretended to be a barrette. A Phasmid barrette.
This one was a sultry brown female adult stick insect with a decidedly spiked "hairdo." Spiked? The females are covered with thornlike spikes, used for defense as well as camouflage.
According to Wikipedia, "Both sexes, when threatened, stand on the front and middle legs, pointing their abdomen up or to the side in a sort of 'scorpion' pose. They fold back their legs to defend themselves if anything comes in contact with their abdomen. Adults can release a defensive odor that humans might not find offensive as it "is rather reminiscent of peanut butter, vinegar or toffee."
Many of the visitors at Saturday's open house at first overlooked the stick insect barrette. After all, it was camouflaged. But they quickly grasped Charlotte Herbert's enthusiasm for insects as she shared information and encouraged them to ask questions and hold the insects. In between, she led a workshop on how to make buzz kazoos.
"I have known since I was five years old that I wanted to be an entomologist," Herbert said. "Growing up on a farm in New Hampshire allowed me to fall in love with the natural world and the critters that exist in it. To this day, I love nature and especially insects. There is something extraordinarily beautiful about their small size and complexity."
"Four years ago I started to follow my passion of entomology beyond the hobbyists perspective and into research during my undergraduate at St. Lawrence University, Canton, N.Y. Even though my undergraduate school did not offer a degree in entomology, my advisor Dr. Karl McKnight took me under his wing and allowed me to conduct independent entomological research. It was there that I fell in love with the fly (Diptera) family Asilidae, also known as assassin flies or robber flies. There are over 7,500 species of assassin flies found worldwide. They are incredibly diverse, venomous, and aggressive aerial predators"
For the past two years Herbert worked with assassin flies at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. This fall she became a Ph.D student in Lynn Kimsey's lab and a volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Kimsey directs the Bohart Museum and is a professor of entomology in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"I am so happy to be at UC Davis!" Herbert said. "I am following my lifelong passion of entomology, surrounded with other like-minded individuals, and get the pleasure of working at the Bohart, where I can teach people to set aside their fears of insects and instead glimpse into their incredibly complex and beautiful world."
There definitely was no fear when visitors got acquainted with the walking stick in her hair and the one in her hand.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is home to nearly eight million specimens, as well a "live" petting zoo, with critters like Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and a rose-haired tarantula named "Peaches." It also operates a gift shop filled with T-shirts, insect collecting equipment, posters, books, insect-themed candy and jewelry.
Throughout the academic year, the Bohart hosts an open house on specified weekends. The remaining open houses:
- Sunday, Jan. 10 from 1 to 4 p.m.: Parasitoid Palooza II
- Saturday, Feb. 13: Biodiversity Museum Day
- Saturday, April 16, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: UC Davis Picnic Day
- Saturday, July 31, 8 to 11 p.m.: “Celebrate Moths”