And you'll see arthropods such as jumping spiders (family Salticidae) and scorpions (superfamily Scorpionoidea).
Who is Gwentomologist?
She's 21-year-old Gwendolyn “Gwen” Erdosh, a UC Davis entomology major and undergraduate researcher with 21,900 followers on Instagram, where she shares her fascination, passion and growing scientific knowledge of entomology with the intensity of a moth heading for light.
Erdosh, president of the UC Davis Entomology Club, a scholar in the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB), the recipient of a Provost's Undergraduate Fellowship (PUF) research award, and a volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, brims with enthusiasm.
In a recent post, she related how she “raised this gorgeous female Hemileuca eglanterina (sheep moth) from a tiny caterpillar!! First time successfully rearing these species. I got a male and female, and I was hoping they'd mate but it never happened. Guess they didn't like each other. I have some eggs overwintering, and I hope they make it ‘til the spring!”
“The best way to see the adult is to rear caterpillars,” Gwen noted. “In the past, I attempted to rear the caterpillars and ran out of host plant. With no method of transportation to the high sierras, I had to give them rose leaves, which worked…until it didn't. They all got a disease and died. This time, I had tons of host plant, and was able to return to the mountains in my car to get more (they eat way more than you'd expect). I'm really happy that I was able to raise this species successfully, and hope to do it again next spring! The insect season is coming to a close, but certain species only come out around this time, so I'll be on the lookout.”
In another post, Gwen wrote that “Today I took on a difficult task: identifying a Chrysidid wasp to species! These colorful wasps are commonly known as cuckoo wasps. This is a specimen I collected on July 13 of this year, a few miles south of Lake Tahoe, at Carson Pass.
Gwen went on to describe the wasp as a nest parasite of sand wasps, and detail its characteristics. “The mesopleuron has a projecting lobe, the tegula (on top of thorax at base of wing) is subovoid, meaning it's fairly egg-shaped. The metanotal projection is large and #mucronate, meaning it ends abruptly in a sharp point, not an elongated point; the propodeal angle is shaped like an acute triangle. I was able to find the species by looking at the key combined with location records. Based on both sources of information, I concluded that my specimen was Parnopes edwardsii.”
“On my page, I mainly post my own macro-photographs with detailed captions about the featured insect,” Gwen explained. “My goal is to not only teach others, but also learn a lot myself. I also post fun and engaging videos to encourage others to pursue entomology. Many times, people have told me that my page helped them decide that they wanted to pursue entomology as a career! I love being able to spread the love of insects to others, and will continue to be active on my page.” Additionally, she maintains a YouTube account as “gwentomologist.”
A 2018 graduate of Los Gatos High School, Santa Clara County, and a UC Davis student since 2019, she anticipates receiving her bachelor's degree in 2023. In February 2020, she applied for—and was accepted—into the highly competitive RSPIB program, which aims to provide undergraduates with closely mentored research experiences in biology. She studies with community ecologist and professor Louie Yang, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, one of the three RSPIB founders.
Gwen's interest in entomology began with caterpillars.
“Ever since I can remember, I have always loved caterpillars,” Gwen said. “As a little kid, I would collect any caterpillar I saw and raise it to adulthood.” Amazed that a caterpillar could "magically change” into a moth or butterfly, she decided “to make a book matching every caterpillar to its adult. I did my own research online and in books I had, and soon was quite knowledgeable about Lepidoptera. The summer before 9th grade, I attended Bio Boot camp, the summer camp for kids led by the Bohart Museum, and Tabatha Yang (education and outreach coordinator). “This was the experience that led me to choose entomology as a career. During this camp, I learned everything about entomology and had a chance to meet real entomologists at UC Davis, and do field work. I fell in love with it and kept coming back each summer for the camp.”
Gwen started her own insect collection, inspired by Jeff Smith (curator of the Bohart Museum's Lepidoptera collection). “Since then, I have never doubted my decision to be an entomologist, not even once. My passion only grew once I entered college, and I consider entomology a lifelong journey of discovering everything about these beautiful, intricate, and fascinating creatures.”
“Gwen is one of those students who instantly shows you her enthusiasm and enjoyment of entomology," Smith said, "and it is just this kind of person who we hope will continue in this important field of science. For those of us looking ahead at the oncoming 'golden years' we need to ensure that there will be competent young scientists who will continue the research and who will discover so many more fascinating things about the world of ‘bugs.' Gwen clearly will be one of these, and I am proud to be associated with her.”
Following her UC Davis graduation, she plans “to work abroad for a year in South America doing research. I then want to apply for graduate school in the United States. I may decide to get my masters first in systematics, and then decide if I want to get my PhD in insect ecology or insect systematics. I cannot decide between the two. However, I definitely want to pursue a career as a professor and researcher.”
Some of her role models include Louie Yang, Lynn Kimsey (director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis distinguished professor), Greg Kareofelas (Bohart associate), Jason Bond (UC Davis spider specialist, professor and associate dean), and Jason Dombroskie (manager of the Cornell University Insect Collection and coordinator of the Insect Diagnostic Lab.)
“It is always great to see someone be able to pursue their passion and be successful,” Kareofelas said, adding that Gwen sometimes accompanies him on his many field trips and “she is always welcome. Her enthusiasm, knowledge and energy make these trips a memorable and learning event for both of us! Her photographic skills enable her to record the insects ‘in nature' and as a curated specimen. Her curated specimens are an example of how a collection should be made and how it should look.”
As a 15-year-old high school student, Gwen traveled to the Bohart Museum in 2016 for its annual Moth Night and conferred with many of the scientists.
At age 16, she served an entomology internship at Cornell University, where her work included identifying microlepidoptra in the family Tortricidae; sampling monarch butterflies for Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) spores; catching and tagging the gray petaltail dragonfly (Petalurid) at a local state park; and collecting, identifying and presenting moths for a Moth Night program at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History.
That was not her first internship. Gwen gained experience at a five-week internship in the summer of 2018 at the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens in Costa Rica, where she studied insects, conducted tours, and cared for the arthropods in the insectarium.
At age 12, while attending Bio Boot Camp, Gwen learned about the UC Davis Entomology Club, advised by forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “It had always been my dream to be president one day. From the moment I entered UC Davis, I immersed myself in the club, and became extremely active in it.” She attends all the meetings and field trips; the members now include some of her closest friends. Before advancing to president this year, she served as vice president in 2020 and social media coordinator in 2019.
“I'm super passionate about the club,” Gwen acknowledged. “In fact, it's my favorite time of the week during the quarter. The people in the club are absolutely incredible, and we all inspire each other in so many different ways. I feel so grateful that this organization exists at UC Davis, and I'm glad I have a team of officers that really put in the work to make it an inclusive, fun, and educational environment for anyone who wants to join.”
In addition, Gwen is vice president of the UC Davis STEM Careers Club, booking speakers, and inspiring students to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She has also worked as a youth steward for Grassroots Ecology of Central California (removing invasive plants, planting native grasses and trees, and surveying mammals and birds using a motion-activated camera); and as a volunteer counselor at the Walden West Summer Camp, a nature summer camp for elementary-school age youths.
Although sometimes mistaken for a teenager--“I look young for my age and I'm 5' 1”--Gwen doesn't let that stop her. “I now have accepted who I am and I do not let what others think of me affect me or my goals. I am glad that I am unique!”
Tabatha Yang of the Bohart Museum, coordinator of the Bio Boot camps, remembers Gwen as passionate about entomology when she first enrolled as a middle-school student. "She was an enthusiastic camper with applications that were passionate about insects and insect rearing. We were thrilled when she chose to come to UC Davis for entomology. It doesn't surprise me that she is now president of the entomology club."
Gwen's hobbies and interests closely align with her career plans. They include collecting, photographing, and pinning insects; exploring and observing wildlife; traveling; creating art; producing music on FL Studio (digital audio workstation); and spending time with her friends—two-legged friends (people), six-legged friends (insects) and eight-legged friends (arachnids).
Gwendolyn Erdosh, Gwentomologist.
So begins an article in the current edition of the American Entomologist by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Kimsey details how teaching a course in general entomology can be both eye-opening and entertaining. Some of the sentences that the students wrote on their papers appear in the Bohart Museum's 2019 calendar, complete with illustrations by graphic artist and undergraduate entomology student, Karissa Merritt.
For the article, Kimsey divides choice sentences into categories, including social insects, agricultural pests, mosquitoes and medical entomology, aquatic insects, butterflies and "sundry."
A few examples:
- Honeybees were able to find their way home by navigating around the sun.
- Because the males in the Hymenoptera social structure do no work, they are considered a waste of the colony's energy, and as such, they are only laid when the colony can stand the strain.
- Normally, locusts are introverted creatures; they do not socialize unless it is for reproduction
- 300,000 to 500,000 new cases [of malaria] occur annually, of which 2.7 million are fatal.
- Aerial spraying should be done as a last resort since this leads to mosquito resistance, affects American lobsters and human health.
- The infected fleas can harbor rats, ground squirrels, rabbits, and occasionally, even house cats.
- Water bodies are usually slow moving and narrow so that they may burrow, crawl along the bottom and climb vegetation.
- Although caterpillars are vulnerable and young, their ability to protect against predators has helped them become successful predators.
- However, at the end of the day, a pit-building antlion is a fat sack of poop that lies motionless at the bottom of a hole waiting for food to fall directly into its jaws, and that's a lifestyle I fully endorse.
- Some West African tribes are known to be very fond of certain insects, although sometimes more with the children.
Kimsey concluded: "I can't wait for next year to learn more about new things that insects do and how they do them. Through all of this, I'm hoping to create the next generation of entomologists, while teaching them how to write and continuing to collect more wonderful sentences."
The American Entomologist is a publication of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA), the world's largest entomological organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and others in related disciplines.
Kimsey, who received both her undergraduate degree (1975) and her doctorate (1979) from UC Davis, joined the entomology faculty in 1989. The director of the Bohart Museum and executive director of the Bohart Museum Society since 1990, she has also served as interim chair and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Kimsey won the UC Davis Academic Senate's Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award in 2016. The annual award recognizes a faculty member's significant public service contributions that benefit the local, regional, national, and/or international community.
She twice served as president of the International Society of Hymenopterists, and is a former board member of the Natural Science Collections Alliance. She is active in ESA and the Washington Entomological Society. The Pacific Branch of ESA (PBESA) honored her and colleagues Eric Mussen, Robbin Thorp, Neal Williams and Brian Johnson—“the UC Davis Bee Team”--with the outstanding team award in 2013. Kimsey also received the PBESA Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity Award in 2014.
The award-winning UC Berkeley-UC Davis Linnaean Games Team will vie for the national championship at the Entomological Society of America's annual meeting, set Nov. 11-14 in the Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, B.C.
The Linnaean Games, launched in 1983, are lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competitions on entomological facts and played by winners of the ESA branch competitions. The teams score points by correctly answering random questions.
The UC Berkeley-UC Davis team is comprised of captain Ralph Washington Jr., a UC Davis entomology graduate who is studying public policy at UC Berkeley; UC Davis doctoral students Brendon Boudinot, Jill Oberski and Zachary Griebenow, all of Phil Ward lab, specializing in ants; and UC Davis doctoral student Emily Bick of the Christian Nansen lab, a lab that specializes in insect ecology, integrated pest management and remote sensing.
The UC Davis Linnaean Games Team, captained by Washington, won the national championship twice, defeating the University of Georgia in 2016 and the University of Florida in 2015. Boudinot served on both championship teams, and Bick, the 2016 team.
Last year UC Davis did not compete. Texas A&M won the national championship, with Ohio State University finishing second.
The national preliminaries will begin at noon Sunday, Nov. 11 while the finals will get underway at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13. Members of the winning team will each receive a gold medal and and a plaque for the team's department.
The UC Berkeley-UC Davis team won the regional championship at the Linnaean Games hosted by the Pacific Branch of ESA at its meeting June 10-13 in Reno. They defeated Washington State University in a sudden death overtime to win the title.
Among the questions asked at the regional competition:
Question: Name the fungal agent that grows naturally in soils throughout the world and causes white muscardine disease and is commercially packaged as a biological insecticide for the control of termites, whiteflies, and other insect pests?
Answer: Beauveria bassiana
Question: Name the process through which spiders use silk to fly and disperse.
Question: Where are you most likely to encounter a rheophilic insect?
Answer: In moving streams.
Theme of the ESA meeting is “Sharing Insect Science Globally.” This year it is a joint meeting with the Entomological Societies of Canada and British Columbia.
The 7000-member ESA, founded in 1889, is the world's largest organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. It is affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government.
Videos of the championship matches:
All videos of the national Linnaean Games championships are posted here.
Entomology Today, published by ESA, posted a preview of the 2018 Linnaean Games. Author Emily Justus, a graduate student in entomology, Ohio State University, interview some of the participants. She wrote: "Another common thread between teams is that they believe having a well-rounded team gives them an edge. Zach Griebenow, a member of UC Davis/Berkeley team, attributes their success to the members of his team being broadly knowledgeable, and he says he believes that all successful teams have this in common."
Officials praised Zalom for his outstanding leadership and public service at the regional, state, national and international levels; his stellar academic accomplishments in agricultural sustainability and IPM; his strong work ethic, service, courage and integrity, all driven by “his insatiable curiosity and passion to solve problems in the agricultural landscape”; and his tireless advocacy for IPM as THE way to address pest concerns in a sustainable, economical and environmentally acceptable manner.
“Dr. Zalom continues to advance the science and implementation of IPM,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “His integrity, service and respect for all are legendary.”
Zalom, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, teaches arthropod pest management, targets pests using IPM methods, and develops major agricultural IPM programs for California's specialty crops.
Zalom is a past president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America; co-founder of the International IPM symposia; and for 16 years, directed the University of California Statewide IPM Program, considered “the gold standard” of IPM programs.
At the Baltimore seminar, Zalom will deliver a presentation on “The ‘I' in IPM: Reflections on the International IPM Symposium and Evolution of the IPM Paradigm.” He will reflect on his 16 years co-chairing the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities' National IPM Committee, the committee that launched the symposia. Zalom also played a role in organizing the first four IPM Symposia.
The only other lifetime achievement award recipient this year also has a UC connection: Peter Goodell, UC IPM advisor emeritus, affiliated with the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, and a longtime friend and colleague of Zalom.
Zalom's 16 years at the helm of the UC IPM program set the standard, nationally and globally, for subsequent IPM programs. He established a statewide, interdisciplinary IPM team of Cooperative Extension farm advisors, and oversaw development of the website's online degree-day tool, and the database of degree-day models that remains widely used by California's county-based extension staff and crop consultants.
“Advancing the science and implementation of IPM will reduce the impact of pests and pest control on agriculture and the environment,” Zalom said. “This is critical in California, where we grow more than a third of our nation's vegetables and two-thirds of our nation's fruits and nuts. California agriculture is a $42.6 billion industry that generates at least $100 billion in related economic industry.”
Zalom interacts broadly with research colleagues, extension educators, growers, consultants, environmental groups, and public agency personnel throughout the state, nation and world to advance the science and use of IPM. He has served on scores of national ad hoc committees of agencies and organizations that shaped IPM policy and directions. He was recently appointed to a new Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) task force that will produce a white paper on behalf of the organization on Integrated Pest Management. He previously served on the task force for the CAST Issue Paper, “Feasibility of Prescription Pesticide Use in the United States."
Zalom's professional goals are four-fold (1) to solve pest problems using effective, biologically based pest management approaches; (2) to provide IPM leadership at the regional, state, national and international levels, (3) to maintain a vigorous cutting edge research program in entomology, especially related to IPM and invasive species; and (4) to educate a new generation of IPM practitioners through effective undergraduate teaching and graduate student mentoring.
Zalom has pursued his goals through a combination of fundamental studies related to pest biology, physiology, and community ecology; problem-focused, hypothesis-driven management research; and community-oriented extension efforts. “I focus my research on exploiting weaknesses in the biology of a pest species and its niche in the agroecosystem or the broader landscape,” Zalom said.
- Appointed the first Editorial Board chair of ESA's new Journal of Integrated Pest Management.
- Founding member of the steering committee for the USDA-NIFA Pest Management Information Platform for Extension (ipmPIPE), an effort intended to assess risk of disease and insect outbreaks.
- Co-principal investigator of the USDA grant for $3.49 million that originally funded the Western IPM Center, located at UC Davis
- Numerous leadership roles in the Entomological Society of America (ESA), including president in 2014, member of ESA's presidential line for four years and Governing Board member for four years. He also served as the president of the Entomological Foundation and first chair of ESA's new Science Policy Committee.
- Author of more than 350 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and books, and has served as major professor for 12 Ph.D. students and seven master's students.
- Recipient of multiple awards at UC Davis including one for his outstanding mentoring, of women graduate students and post-doctoral scholars.
- Co-chair of the International Entomology Leadership Summit in 2016 in Orlando,Fla.
Zalom is a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, Entomological Society of America, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Royal Entomological Society (London). Previous IPM awards include the Entomological Foundation's IPM Team Award and Excellence in IPM Award, and the Perry Adkisson Distinguished Speaker Award from Texas A&M University. He is the only entomologist to be awarded the BY Morrison Memorial Medal for horticultural research, presented by the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the American Society for Horticultural Science.
Zalom, who joined the UC Davis faculty in 1980, shortly after receiving his doctorate of entomology in 1978, earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees in zoology and ecology from Arizona State University, Tempe.
The emeritus professor, who retired in 1987, was the last surviving member of the original entomology faculty.
Dr. Bacon chaired the department (now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology) from 1967 to 1974. In 1964, Mrak appointed him to spearhead the UC Davis conversion of the two-semester system to four quarters.
Dr. Bacon was chair of the entomology department when it moved to the newly constructed Briggs Hall in 1972. An appreciative faculty presented him with a plaque thanking him for his “stewardship during a period when new teaching and research areas were initiated and when a great increase in the numbers of students enrolled in the department occurred has contributed significantly to the future of the department and to entomology.”
As a 41-year UC agricultural entomologist, Dr. Bacon specialized in the biology, ecology and population dynamics of insects associated with field crops. He pioneered the biological control course on the UC Davis campus and was instrumental in forming the Plant Protection and Pest Management Graduate Group. He is credited with co-authoring the term, “integrated pest control.”
Colleague Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology, said: "The last time I visited with Oscar was this past year when he attended a music performance by my band at the senior home where he lived the last years of his life. He was amazingly sharp and active at 96!"
“When I first arrived in Davis in 1962 Oscar gave me an orientation tour to see California agricultural activities and visit his field research projects just north of Woodland," Gary said. "Years later, after he became department chair, I was impressed and appreciative that he actually took time to visit my active field research activities with bees near Dixon. Oscar was very supportive in many ways to our Entomology faculty and highly regarded as a professional. He was always cheerful, thoughtful, considerate, and fun to be with, whether at morning coffee breaks, faculty meetings or at Christmas parties. He was an amazing man in all respects. He enriched all of our lives, professionally and socially.”
Emeritus professor Robert Washino, former chair of the department and former associate dean, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, recalled: “I was appointed to the faculty in Entomology during the Bohart to Bacon transition period as department chair and so my interaction with Oscar dealt mostly as a newly appointed junior faculty. However, during all the years since then as a colleague and friend, I've never, ever heard Oscar make an unkind remark about anyone in teaching/advising, research and administration.”
Said distinguished emeritus professor Robbin Thorp, who collaborated with Bacon on alfalfa leafcutter bees in the mid-1960s: "I always had a great deal of respect and admiration for Oscar as a meticulous scientist, outstanding teacher, leader and person. Oscar and his research associates, Dick James and Walt Riley, in collaboration with a grower, Dan Best in the Woodland area, designed and tested shelters to provide shade and ventilation for these relatively new pollinators for alfalfa seed production. The shelters were successful.”
“Oscar and his crew also tested pesticide effects on these bees and discovered a number of biological traits important to their management as commercial pollinators," Thorp said. "Oscar co-authored the first Cooperative Extension publication on the alfalfa leafcutting bees with several of us.”
Dr. Bacon, who humbly said of himself: “I'm the jack of all trades and master of none,” pursued many diverse interests. He was not only agriculturist, entomologist, researcher, professor, administrator, but a mechanic, furniture builder, boating enthusiast and ag history docent. He restored antique cars and boats, from rustic Model T's to a 1964 mahogany Chris-Craft cabin cruiser. As a wood carver and artist, he crafted furniture and carved birds.
Born Nov. 8, 1919, Oscar grew up in Sanger, Fresno County on a 60-acre family farm. He was an only child. Oscar harvested grapes, figs and peaches, drove tractors, raised 4-H pigs and renovated Model T's.
“Back then it seemed like nearly every farm had an old worn-out Model T along the fence lines,” he recalled in a feature story published in 2009 on the UC Davis Entomology website. “A boyhood friend from a neighboring ranch and I would give a farmer a couple of dollars for his car and then restore it.” The Tin Lizzies purred back to life.
Young Oscar attended school in a two-room schoolhouse; he recalled that grades one through four shared one room, and grades 5 to 8, the other.
Nature fascinated him. “I collected insects and watched birds and mammals and collected rocks and minerals.”
Oscar graduated from Sanger High School, Reedley Junior College and Fresno State College, majoring in zoology. He planned a career as a ranger naturalist with the National Parks Service, but the federal agency had no openings. So he accepted a position with the USDA Dried Fruit Insect Laboratory, Fresno, as a field aide.
It proved to be a two-year stint. In 1943, his boss steered him toward entomology and encouraged him “to get a degree” at UC Berkeley and return to the USDA.
Oscar went on to earn two degrees from UC Berkeley: his master's degree in entomology in 1944, following a year of study, and his doctorate in entomology in 1948.
His major professor at UC Berkeley was the legendary entomologist and aphid specialist Edward O. Essig (1884-1964), but Oscar worked more closely with another accomplished entomologist, Abraham Michelbacher (1899-1991). “Abe was like a second father to me,” he recalled.
Dr. Bacon landed his first full-time job in entomology in 1946 as an associate in the agriculture experiment station. Upon completing his Ph.D., he became a junior entomologist and instructor. As a Ph.D., his starting salary was less than $5000 a year.
His first major crop work: controlling aphids in spinach. Then it was on to other crops, including sweet corn, seed alfalfa, potatoes, small grains, tomatoes and melons.
“In 1953 I had the opportunity to come to Davis to develop my own programs,” he related. “I was extremely grateful for that opportunity.” At the time, the UC Berkeley Department of Entomology offered a two-year ;Farmers' Short Course' on the Davis campus for students interested in farming. The career-oriented program was phased out in 1959.
“Stanley Freeborn (first chancellor of UC Davis) and his wife welcomed us to campus,” he said. “He was very gracious--a very nice person.”
At the time, the original faculty members included Richard Bohart (1913-2007), insect systematics and Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003), apiculturist. Today the Richard Bohart Museum of Entomology and Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility bear their names.
It was an era when secretaries typed manuscripts from handwritten notes; “office space” consisted of temporary buildings or renovated garages; and faculty (usually all male) wore a tie and jacket in the classroom. It was also a period of rapid growth and steady challenges.
In 1964 UC President Clark Kerr announced the plan to convert the entire UC academic system from two semesters to four quarters. UC Davis Chancellor Mrak asked Oscar Bacon to head the conversion efforts at Davis. “We had 1687 courses, and they all had to be reviewed and shortened from 15 weeks to 10 weeks,” recalled Bacon. Remarkably, the conversion took only a year.
Oscar Bacon was considered UC's “No. 1 Alfalfa Seed Insect Man.” In 1987, the California Alfalfa Seed Production Board recognized him for 13 years of service. In 1975, the Pacific Seed Association, based in Los Angeles, named him “Man of the Year.”
Integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, distinguished professor of entomology and former vice chair of the department and a past president of the Entomological Society of America, said he has long admired Bacon as an advocate for agricultural entomology research.
Said Zalom: “Many entomologists may not appreciate that the credit for first using the term ‘integrated control' is generally attributed to Abraham Ezra Michelbacher and Oscar Bacon, who in a 1952 paper in the Journal of Economic Entomology on control of codling moth mentioned the importance of ‘considering the entire, entomological picture in developing a treatment for any particular pest.' ”
Michelbacher and Bacon developed an effective integrated control program of the important pests of walnut, Zalom said. They “described methodologies for selection, timing and dosage of insecticide treatments for the codling moth to preserve the parasitoids of the walnut aphid that had achieved biological control following their introduction to California.”
“This was an important step in the development of the IPM paradigm and is still relevant,” Zalom said. "I also appreciate his role in the development of the Plant Protection and Pest Management Graduate Group at UC Davis that produced many students who are working as pest management practitioners across the state and across the country.”
Dr. Bacon is survived by his wife, Barbara, of Davis, and a daughter, Bonnie Krisiak, son-in-law Steve Krisiak and granddaughter Stephanie Krisiak, all of the Sacramento area. He and his first wife, the late Dorothy Flagg Bacon, raised three daughters, Beverly and Gayle (now both deceased), and Bonnie.
Some of the highlights of his life:
Field-Oriented Entomologist: He worked on field crops, including seed alfalfa, potatoes and small grains, establishing a state, national and sometimes global presence (potato crops in Bolivia). He targeted the lygus bug, the main pest of alfalfa seed production. “The lygus bug has no natural enemies, so we had to depend on insecticides. Then the lygus bug developed resistance to those insecticides.” He developed economic thresholds, determining at what point the cost of pest damage exceeds the cost of pest control.
In 1944 Bacon showed that Catalina cherry moth, which infests Catalina cherry and large galls of the blue oak, is an important pest of walnuts in the Sacramento Valley. Today it attacks certain varieties of walnuts throughout the state.
Research: Bacon researched whether an 18-acre field of alfalfa seed would show the same yields without insecticides. Would predators and parasites be able to control the pests? His three-year study showed the organic field yielded 200 to 300 pounds per acre instead of the normal yield of 600 to 800. “Agricultural chemicals will be necessary on certain crops for some time to come,” he concluded. “The world's food supply would certainly not exist without the control measures as we know them today.”
Teaching and Advising: As a devoted teacher, Dr. Bacon developed “The Natural History of Insects” into one of the most popular undergraduate classes on the UC Davis campus. He initiated the biological control course at UC Davis. He advised scores of undergraduate and graduate students. He helped launch the Plant Protection and Pest Management Graduate Group Program. When he retired, Bacon received a plaque from the graduate program applauding his dedication, perseverance and accomplishments. It's one of his cherished awards “because it's from the students.”
Administration: His role as a chancellor's assistant for UC Davis Chancellor Emil Mrak included the project of converting the UC Davis two-semester system to four quarters: completed in one year. As chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology from 1967 to 1974, he moved his department to the newly constructed Briggs Hall in 1972. Upon his retirement as chair, the faculty presented him a plaque thanking him for his “stewardship during a period when new teaching and research areas were initiated and when a great increase in the numbers of students enrolled in the department occurred has contributed significantly to the future of the department and to entomology.”
Heidrick Ag History Center: In 1996, Bacon began volunteering at the Hay's Antique Truck Museum, Woodland, which later merged with the Heidrick Ag History Center. He's known as “the friendly docent with first-hand knowledge of the farm equipment.” In his boyhood, he drove tractors similar to those on display. Today he volunteers once a week, more on special occasions.
U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary: Bacon took up boating and fishing in 1956. In 1975, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. In December 1987, Bacon was elected commodore of a district that encompassed northern California and parts of Wyoming, Nevada and Utah. He taught boating safety, inspected crafts and patrolled the Delta waters for more than 25 years. The U.S. Coast Guard, the parent organization, awarded him a citation in 1988, praising his accomplishments and dedicated support.
Artist: In 1990, Bacon enrolled in a woodworking class in Sacramento, and carved birds from basswood, sugar pine and tupelo blocks, and textured and painted them. “There's a bird in every block,” he recalled. “It's tedious and time consuming but very rewarding. I've never been interested in making them for sale.” His favorites include an American kesterel sparrow hawk that he carved in 1997. His other favorites include a white-breasted nut hatch, white crown sparrow, California quail, stellar jay and a redwing blackbird. He's also completed other works, including a replica of a team of Clydesdale horses pulling a Anheuser-Busch wagon. “No, the company has never seen it,” he said.
Restoration: Bacon advanced from restoring rustic Model T's in his childhood to renovating antique cars and boats. At one time he owned four boats and five cars. One of his prized possessions: a 30-foot Chris-Craft cabin cruiser, a 1964 model that he restored in 1973 and sold in 2008. He has also crafted furniture for his home and family. Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus, still marvels at how Bacon could tuck his 6-foot, 4-inch frame inside his Triumph TR3, a tiny British sports car he restored.
All Things Entomological: Bacon served as president of the Northern California Entomology Society and held membership in the Entomological Society of America and the Pacific Branch of ESA.
Cooperative Extension: In 1987, the UC Davis Cooperative Extension (CE) group honored him for his public service, naming him “the best problem solver.” The group included CE specialists Vern Burton (deceased) and Eric Mussen; research associate Wayne Johnson (deceased); and administrative assistant Shirley Humphrey.
(Editor's Note: At his request, the family will not be holding a memorial service."