And now, they're big, bold and finely detailed.
Western Hercules beetles are now a part of the Bohart Museum of Entomology's educational and outreach program through a T-shirt design that's drawing raves.
Courtney Lambert, an undergraduate student in entomology at the University of California, Davis who plans a career as a scientific illustrator, drew the Western Hercules beetles after expressing an interest in them during a recent entomology class.
Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum, taught the class and Fran Keller, a doctoral candidate in entomology, served as a teaching assistant.
“Courtney is an incredible artist,” said Fran Keller, who designed the shirt, along with others shirts and posters available at the Bohart.
One of the largest beetles in the western United States, the beetle (Dynastes granti) can measure 3.5 inches long. It is commonly found in parts of Arizona after the monsoons. The beetle is nicknamed “rhinoceros beetle” due to the male's large, fierce-looking thoracic horns. The female of the species has no horns.
Lambert's illustration features both the male and female on a limb.
Keller remembers collecting the beetles in Arizona as an undergraduate. She received a permit from the Arizona Game and Fish Department to do so. “These scarab beetles are truly magnificent,” she said. “They emerge after the monsoon rains and they flock by the hundreds on the streets. They are attracted to lights of businesses.”
“And unfortunately, they are also poached, and illegal collecting has made this and other monsoon emerging beetles, Chrysina sp. for example, rarer every season. It is important for collectors to know the status of an insect before they collect it, and to make sure they have valid collecting permits issued by the state they're collecting in. Hopefully we can educate with this t-shirt about the biggest beetles in the Western U.S.”
American physician-entomologist George Henry Horn (1840) 1897) first described the species in 1870. The blue-gray body has spotted markings. It's also nicknamed Grant's Hercules Beetle, honoring American general and President Ullysses S. Grant (1822-1885).
Funds generated from these beetle T-shirts will help provide continuing undergraduate support and training at the Bohart Museum.
The shirts are available in olive and brown with natural ink; black with white ink, and natural color with black ink.
Founded in 1946, the Bohart Museum is located at 1124 Academic Surge and houses more than seven million insect specimens. The museum, dedicated to teaching, research and service, has the seventh largest insect collection in North America. Contact information: (530) 752-0493 or email@example.com.
When a Davis resident felled a plum tree, hordes of green-eyed, apricot-colored insects tumbled from the wood.
What were they?
They buzzed like bees. They loomed larger than bumble bees. And they disliked being disturbed.
The Davis resident took them to the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, for identification.
“Male carpenter bees, Xylocopa varipuncta, also known as Valley carpenter bees,” said entomologist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
“Some of us refer to these males as ‘teddy bear' bees, because of their yellowish-brownish color and fuzzy burly bodies,” said UC Davis emeritus entomology professor Robbin Thorp, who studies pollinators. “The females are all black with violaceous (violet) reflections on their dark wings.”
All females in the plum tree holes escaped.
Carpenter bees, so named for their ability to tunnel through wood to make their nests, carve with their mandibles (jaws) but do not ingest the wood. Only the females excavate the tunnels, which average six to 10 inches in depth.
Carpenter bees, measuring about an inch long, are the largest bees in California. Their eggs are the largest of all insect eggs. The Valley carpenter bee egg can be 15mm long.
The males are territorial, Kimsey said, and can be quite aggressive. They hover and lie in wait for passing females.
“We have them around our home (in Davis) when the wisteria blooms,” she said. “Many people think they're bumble bees because of their size. They think they're fluffy yellow bumble bees.”
Thorp said he tries to convince people to learn to live with these bees as “they are important pollinators in our environment and have potential as pollinators of some crops.”
“Carpenter bees are beneficial in that they pollinate flowers in native
“These bees are not currently managed for crop pollination,” Thorp said, “but there have been some recent studies of their potential for pollination of greenhouse tomatoes. They are good at buzz pollination and can be managed by providing suitable nest materials.”
Due to their large size, carpenter bees cannot enter tubelike blossoms such as sage, so they slit the base of corolla, a practice known as “stealing the nectar” (without pollinating the flower).
The Valley carpenter bee species is commonly found in southern California but is not all that well known in the Central Valley. “I have observed them in the field in southern California and in the Sacramento area,” Thorp said. “In the past few years, they seem to have become more common in the Davis area. I even found a dead male on my driveway (in Davis) a month or so ago.”
Carpenter bees, especially the most common species in the Central Valley, X. tabaniformis orpifex, are often mistaken for bumble bees. Like bumble bees, female carpenter bees exhibit similar size and coloration. However, a carpenter bee generally has a hairless, shiny abdomen while the bumble bee abdomen is typically covered with dense hair, and often with yellow markings.
Thorp said three species occur in California. “Of the three species, X. varipuncta (with the golden teddy bear males) and X. tabaniformis orpifex are the only two that occur in the Central Valley,” he said. “The third species, X. californica occurs primarily in the foothill areas surrounding the Central Valley.”
To build their nests, the females select telephone poles, fences, decks, railings, eaves, siding, outdoor furniture and tree trunks. They prefer bare, unpainted or weathered wood, especially redwood, cedar, cypress and pine. They generally avoid painted or pressure-treated wood.
Carpenter bees overwinter as adults in the tunnels and emerge in the spring.
Brian Turner, the Bohart Museum 's public outreach coordinator, said the sculpted holes in the chunk of plum wood that the Davis resident brought in “look professionally drilled.” The holes are elongated and intricately sculpted to contain the brood and food storage.
Turner released the male carpenter bees, but museum visitors can see the plum wood holes.
The museum, located in 1124 Academic Surge, is dedicated to teaching, research and service. It houses the seventh largest insect collection in North America. The global collection totals more than seven million specimens, and focuses on terrestrial and fresh water invertebrates.
The museum is also home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity of California's deserts, ountains, coast and great central valley.
Her enthusiasm for all things entomological, and her desire to share that knowledge with others has led to the highest graduate student teaching award at the University of California, Davis.
Keller, a teaching assistant for four years in an insect physiology class taught by Charles Judson, emeritus professor of entomology, Bruce Hammock and Walter Leal, professors of entomology, received a certificate at a recent ceremony in the Walter A. Buehler Alumni and Visitors' Center—and the congratulations of Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef and Jeffery Gibeling, dean of Graduate Studies.
Judson and Leal praised Keller for her knowledge of entomology, her creativity and responsiveness, and her ability to individualize the content.
“She is dedicated to assisting our students,” Judson said, adding that her “extensive field experience adds an additional dimension to the list of skills she is able to incorporate into her teaching activities.” Keller is also an accomplished artist, illustrator and nature photographer.
Shawn Purnell, one of Keller's students, described her as a “brilliant entomologist, a great teacher assistant, but most importantly to me, she is a friend.”.
“My perception and expectations of teacher assistants were forever raised when I met Fran,” wrote Purnell in a letter of support. He aspires to become a physician.
“Truthfully, the very first time I had lab, I thought Fran was a little crazy. I had never before seen anyone become so enthralled in explaining the differences between male and female flies, especially at 7:30 in the morning. I thought to myself, why would I ever be interested in this and how as this knowledge ever going to benefit me? To my surprise, by the very next lab I found myself blissfully explaining the conditions of Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium to my lab partner. Fran's passion toward her students and enthusiasm for not only zoology, but also all aspects of academia, created an irresistible learning environment.”
Describing Keller as “a very open and amiable person, so eager to share everything that she's learned” and as “an inspirational person,” Purnell wrote that it is “reassuring to know that out of a maze of 30,000 students and faculty at Davis that there are people like Fran who really care.”
Student Robyn Jimenez echoed the praise. “She was one the best TA's at Davis I have ever had….Fran really motivated me to learn the material not just for the exam, but for later use in upcoming classes... Fran was actively engaged with us, asking us if we needed help and always willing to annotate the lessons if we asked.”
Said Leal: “This class is the only undergrad class that requires a 30-minute final oral exam. Fran helps students prepare until 10 p.m. the night before the exam.”
In his nomination letter, Leal wrote that “Fran encourages, inspires, challenges and motivates.” Students find her very helpful and friendly, “which makes it easy to ask questions,” Leal added.
Keller said her teaching philosophy is to reach students in ways that appeal to their different learning styles. “Students learn more and better understand concepts when they know what their learning style is and how they can apply their learning style to the material presented,” said Keller, who describes her teaching method as more facilitator than lecturer.
“Not all students learn in the same way,” she said. “There are global, linear and kinesthetic learners. I believe that illuminating a student's learning style opens the door for thinking critically.”
Keller, who grew up in St. Charles, Mo., but has lived in Davis since 1989, said her “very best teachers would not accept less than what they knew I was capable of doing. They understood my potential and treated me as an individual in a sea of many.”
Scheduled to receive her doctorate in entomology in June 2009, Keller researches tenebrionids or darkling beetles. She studies under major advisor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and chair of the Department of Entomology.
"Fran is one of the most gifted students I've had,” said her major professor, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and chair of the Department of Entomology. “In addition to her skills as a teacher, she's pursuing a fascinating thesis project on a group of beetles, and has terrific business skills; a unique combination in a graduate student."
Based at the Bohart, Keller also designs museum posters, such as the Butterflies of Central California, Dragonflies of California, California State Insect (California Dogface Butterfly) and Pacific Invasive Ants.
Others receiving outstanding graduate student teaching awards at the ceremony were Cassandra Colleen Brown, anthropology; Benjamin V. Fell, civil and environmental engineering; Laurene Lemaire, French; Christopher Schaberg, Lisa Dawn Sperber and Eric O'Brien, English; Diana Tioleco Webb and Patrick Baxter Dragon, mathematics; Laura Marie Hall, Nutritional Biology Graduate Group; Vannarith Leang, chemical engineering and materials science; Brant Andrew Schumaker, epidemiology; Eva Strawbridge, Applied Mathematics Graduate Group; and Hongtao Xie, biomedical engineering.
The Graduate Council, Office of Graduate Studies and the Teaching Resources Center sponsored the awards.
Her appointment, announced last week by Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, was confirmed Monday, March 10 by Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. She will serve until July 2009.
Chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor of entomology, served as chair from July 2006 through February. The chair is a rotational position shared among faculty.
Kimsey, professor of entomology and an insect taxonomist specializing in bees and wasps and insect diversity, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1989. She received her doctorate in entomology in 1979. She has served as director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology since 1989.
Kimsey said she plans to follow the tradition of the late Richard Bohart by bringing her microscope to the chair's office. Bohart, who was Kimsey's major professor, chaired the department from 1956 to 1965 and retired in 1980 as an emeritus professor. During his career, Bohart identified more than one million mosquitoes and wasps, many now displayed at the Bohart Museum, a teaching, research and public service facility that he founded on campus in 1946. The museum collection totals more than seven million specimens, and focuses on terrestrial and fresh water invertebrates.
Kimsey's other office is in Academy Surge, where the Bohart Museum is housed.
As to future plans, “We're continuing to build up our bee biology program,” Kimsey said. “We'll be hiring a bee pollination biologist soon and are now accepting applications for the Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.” The premier ice cream company recently donated $100,000 to the Laidlaw facility to address the bee population decline.
“I can empathize with colony collapse disorder (CCD) because the hive we have in our backyard in Davis is the victim of CCD,” she said. “The bees vanished, leaving all the honey there.”
The faculty completed interviews for the bee pollination biologist in January. The new position will be housed at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus.
Kimsey's husband, Robert Kimsey, a forensic entomologist, is an adjunct professor in the department.
The Department of Entomology is ranked No. 1 in the country by the Chronicle of Higher Education, considered the top news and job-information source for college and university faculty members, administrators, and students.
They wanted museum Director Lynn Kimsey, a professor of entomology, to identify the insects and their geographical home for an upcoming mass murder trial.
"I saw it as a puzzle to be solved," Kimsey said of the car parts embedded with several hundred insects. "I've never heard of anyone doing this."
Prosecutors from Kern County were alleging that Vincent Brothers, a former vice principal, drove a rented 2003 blue Dodge Neon from Ohio to California, where he killed five members of his family. The defense argued that the car had never left the Ohio area.
The Kern County Superior Court trial began in Bakersfield on Feb. 22 and ended May 15, with the jury convicting the 44-year-old Brothers of five counts of first-degree murder in the July 2003 shooting and stabbing deaths of his estranged wife, three children and mother-in-law. On May 29, the jury recommended the death sentence. Formal sentencing is scheduled for August.
"From the prosecution's point of view, half of the battle is being able to have witnesses knowledgeable in their field and the ability to explain that knowledge," Green said, noting that Kimsey is not only an expert in her field but a teacher.
"She taught me about the insects so I could understand the field and feel familiar enough to cross-examine their (defense) witnesses," Green added. "Her help was invaluable."
Kimsey described the experience as "interesting but terrifying."
"I didn't know anything about the court case," she added. "I couldn't even identify the defendant when I entered the courtroom."
In April 2004, Bakersfield police had arrested Brothers on suspicion of committing the murders. Brothers had been an employee of the Bakersfield City School District since 1989, and vice principal of Fremont Elementary School since 1996.
Brothers said he was in Columbus, Ohio, at the time of the murders. But the prosecution successfully argued that he caught a flight from California to Ohio, rented a car, and then drove to Bakersfield to kill his family.
"The insect evidence corroborated with the mileage on the vehicle, which had to have been driven west," Green said in the recent telephone interview.
The grasshopper is found in the Great Plains and the eastern slope of the Rockies. The paper wasp's territory is west of the 100th meridian, with California as "its center of abundance," Kimsey pointed out during the trial. In addition, she said that the two true bugs are also found only in the West: "Both are found in Southern California, Arizona and Utah."
She recalled that when she and senior museum scientist Steve Heydon picked off the insects from the car parts — it took them seven or eight hours, "We found no butterflies — no painted ladies, no sulphur butterflies. That indicated to us that the car wasn't driven during the day, but at night.
"The insects we found were consistent with two major routes to get to California from the East," said Kimsey, adding that court testimony revealed "4,500 unaccounted-for miles" on the rental car.
During her five-hour testimony, illustrated with a PowerPoint presentation, the UC Davis entomologist showed the distribution of the insects on a U.S. map, and compared insect photos from the car parts with specimens from the Bohart Museum.
Kimsey identified the large grasshopper by its leg, comparing the size, coloration and markings to a specimen at the museum. She testified that the hind legs of the grasshopper "help us identify" the species. The size of the large leg (red with black markings) indicated that the grasshopper measured "close to two inches long."
"The jury seemed very interested in what I had to say," Kimsey said.
Following her testimony, the defense called four entomologists to counter her evidence — three from Purdue University and one from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"The defense tried to make a case that insects are easily distributed," Kimsey said. They also questioned her expertise in diagnostics, systematics, field work and publications.
But Green, the prosecutor, said it was evident that the defense witnesses did not have "near the expertise or credentials" of Kimsey.
She was trained by world-renowned UC Davis entomologist Richard M. Bohart, who passed away earlier this year and who founded the Bohart Museum in 1946.
Today, the Bohart is one of the country's largest insect museums, and director Kimsey has identified insects for more than 30 years. She manages the insect diagnostic service on the UC Davis campus (through the Department of Entomology). The author of some 90 publications, she focuses her research on the biology and evolution of insects; biogeography of insects; functional morphology, dealing with the form and structure of insects; and systematics, or the science of classification.
But, she pointed out, "I've never been to a criminal court before. It was nothing like what Hollywood portrays it. It was all seriousness. The judge tolerated little off-track behavior."
Even so, Kimsey suspects that she and the Bohart Museum will wing their way back into the courtroom again.
"This may open up a whole new path for us," she said.
Resource: See Wikipedia entry