- Asian giant hornets (aka "murder hornets"): 1 to 2 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 18, by Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
- Ants: 11 a.m., to noon, Saturday, Feb. 20, by Professor Phil Ward, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
- Bees: 12:15 to 12:45, Tuesday, Feb. 23, by Christine Casey, manager of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven
- Botanical Conservatory (in Spanish): 1 to 2 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 23, by collections manager Ernesto Sandoval (postponed)
To obtain the Zoom links, click here.
About UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Month
The 10th annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Month program is all virtual this year via live talks and demonstrations, and pre-recorded presentations. It's being celebrated throughout the month of February. The science-based event traditionally occurs on only one day--the Saturday of Presidents' Weekend, when families and friends gather on campus to learn first-hand about the UC Davis museums and collections. The 2020 event drew more than 4000 to the campus.
This year's biodiversity event is featuring 12 museums or collections:
- Anthropology Museum
- Arboretum and Public Garden
- Bohart Museum of Entomology
- Botanical Conservatory
- California Raptor Center
- Center for Plant Diversity
- Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven
- Nematode Collection
- Marine Invertebrate Collection
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology
- Paleontology Collection
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection
For more information and the schedule, access these two formats on the UC Davis Biodiversity program website: (1) live talks and demonstrations and (2) pre-recorded talks and activities. Information on the biodiversity museum events also appear on social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, @BioDivDay.
If you'd like to donate to the UC Davis Diversity Museum Program in its crowdfunding efforts--this year is the 10th annual--click here. To donate to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, click here. To donate to the California Master Beekeeper Program, directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, click here. Niño also serves as the director of the haven. Crowdfunding will continue through the month of February.
A newly installed water bear or tardigrade sculpture at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, promises not only to be a cuddly campus landmark but it may be the world's largest—and only—sculpture of its kind.
The huge sculpture, located in front of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, anchors the entrance to the Bohart Museum, which houses one of the world's largest tardigrade collections.
“I'm not aware of any other statue of a water bear anywhere,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis professor of entomology.
A crew installed the concrete sculpture, the work of artist Solomon Bassoff of Faducci LLC, North San Juan, Calif., at 7 a.m. Feb. 3 in a half-hour project.
It weighs 2,112 pounds and measures six feet long and nearly three feet high. In real life, the water bear is microscopic. The adults usually range from 0.3 to 0.5 mm in length.
“I was so excited to see it on the truck,” said Kimsey, who launched the project via a GoFundMe account two years ago. “Looking at pictures is one thing but the real thing was awesome and it's really fun to see it in front of the building. The whole business only took about half an hour. They had to first move two concrete garbage containers, which probably weigh 1,000 pounds each.”
“The installation is complete except for signage,” she said. “We'll be putting up a plaque explaining what it is and major donors. It stands to get even more over the next three years.”
Bassoff, who creates sculptures in concrete, steel and mosaic from his studio in the Sierra foothills, said he sculpted the tardigrade with a “steel armature (coated to prevent corrosion), pigmented hand sculpted concrete and bronze claws. It was fun and amazing to learn more about this amazing creature.”
They belong to their own phylum, the Tardigrada (meaning "slow steppers"), with more than 1,500 described species. "Tardigrades can survive high pressures of more than 1,200 atmospheres found in the bottom of the abyss," Kimsey said. "They can tolerate 1,000 times more ionizing radiation than other animals."
The barrel-shaped creature with eight pudgy legs inspired German zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze (1731-1793) to describe them as "kleiner Wasserbär," or "little water bears."
Tardigrades are easiest to find on lichens and mosses, Kimsey says, but they can also be found on beaches, in the subtidal zone, freshwater sediments, soil, hot springs and even on barnacles. They've been found "high in the Himalayas to down in the deep sea and even in the interior of Antarctica.”
They mostly feed on plants or bacteria "but some are predators on smaller tardigrades," Kimsey related. “They use the stylets in their tubular mouth (snout) to pierce "individual plant or bacterial ells or small invertebrates."
Why is the water bear so indestructible? In research published in 2016, geneticist Takekazu Kunieda and his colleagues from the University of Tokyo found that it expresses a tardigrade-specific protein that binds itself to DNA. This acts like a "shield against x-ray radiation, preventing the DNA from snapping apart," according to an article published in Gizmodo.
Kimsey credited former Bohart Museum scientist Bob Schuster with launching and compiling the current tardigrade collection. The Bohart is now gearing up for more specimens. Kimsey is part of a three-year, $256,849 National Science Foundation research grant, “Cross Departmental Development of an Automated Species Identification System for the Phylum Tardigrada Found on Birds,” awarded to her and five faculty members from Baker University, Baldwin City, Kansas. All tardigrades collected by Baker University's faculty and students will find a new home in the Bohart Museum.
“Our part in all this is to act as a repository for all of the specimens collected,” Kimsey said. “We have one of the four largest collections of tardigrades in the world.”
Solomon Basshoff and fellow artist Domenica Mottarella, who formed Faducci in 2002, are known throughout the country for their whimsical emotive sculptures, commissioned for public art installations and private collections. Locally, they created the Davis Central Park Gardens' children's play sculpture, “Bellapede.” Installed in 2010, it is shaped like a monarch caterpillar.
Just like “Bellapede,” the water bear sculpture should be a magnet for children and their families," Kimsey said. "Tardigrades are really popular with kids in part because of their representation in the movies Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp, Star Trek and Family Guy."
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens. It also houses a live “petting zoo” of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas, as well as a year-around—and now online--gift shop. The insect museum is currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions.
But the tardigrade sculpture beckons all.
The museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane, is gearing up for the holiday season with online sales from the gift shop, which is stocked with insect-themed t-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, posters, books, insect-collecting equipment and other items. (See gift shop inventory)
“Your support enables us to fulfill our mission of documenting and supporting research in biodiversity, educating and inspiring others about insects, and providing state-of-the-art information to the community,” says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The Bohart Museum, home of a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens, houses the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity of the state's deserts, mountains, coast, and the Great Central Valley. The Bohart is also the home of a live “petting zoo” (comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas), and the year-around gift shop.
Items are shipped out on Fridays by priority mail via the U.S. Postal Service. Average arrival times currently average between 6 to 10 business days, officials said. Those who plan on purchasing holiday or birthday gifts should do so as early as possible.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, founded in 1946 and dedicated to teaching, research and service, is named for noted entomologist Richard Bohart, who taught entomology at UC Davis for more than 50 years, beginning in 1946, and chaired the Department of Entomology from 1963-1967. Said Kimsey: "His publications include three of the most important books on the systematics of the Hymenoptera, including the well-used volume Sphecid Wasps of the World. His journal publications total over 200 articles. He revised many groups of insects, discovered new host-associations or geographic ranges, and described many new species."
Cooperative Extension agricultural specialist Ian Grettenberger, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and his graduate student, Madison "Madi" Hendrick, will discuss the crops, the pests, and the natural enemies or beneficials at a virtual Facebook live session from 11 a.m. to noon, Thursday, Oct 22.
The event, "The Good and the Bad: Insects and Other Arthropods in Agriculture, with a Focus on California Rice and Alfalfa," will be live-streamed on the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology's Facebook page. (Link to Facebook live here). Grettenberger and Hendrick will present short talks and then field questions. No personal Facebook account is required to join the session, which is free and open to the public.
"This is all about the arthropods, both the pests and beneficials that they study in the rice and alfalfa fields," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology. "Most of the focus is on insects, but tadpole shrimp in rice fields also will be discussed." A virtual family craft activity is also planned.
"I will be discussing some of the insect (or arthropod) problems faced by growers of rice in California and some of the challenges in managing them, Grettenberger said. "In rice, some of the key arthropod pests are tadpole shrimp, which can turn what would have been a lush stand if rice into a poor stand with a lot of floating seedlings. Meanwhile, later in the year, armyworm caterpillars, the larvae of a moth, can chew on rice leaves and destroy plants. I'll discuss some of the ongoing work to better understand and manage these pests."
Grettenberg's fields of expertise include field and vegetable crops; integrated pest management; applied insect ecology, and biological control of pests. (See Spotlight on Ian Grettenberger.) Among his current grants:
- Protection of rice from invertebrate pests
- Insecticide resistant alfalfa weevils in the western United States: Quantifying the scope of resistance and implementing a plan to manage the threat
- Management of key cotton arthropod pests with insecticides and acaricides, a proactive approach to prepare for the invasion of the tomato leafminer (Tuta absoluta) into California
- Detection, biology and control of the exotic Swede midge (Contarinia nasturtii) for California cole crops
- Management of the western spotted and striped cucumber beetle in melon production
- Biological control of the bagrada bug
- Insecticide resistance monitoring and evaluation of efficacy of current chemical tactics for managing aphids and thrips in lettuce
What sparked his interest in entomology? "I had biologist parents, and was drawn into entomology at a pretty young age," Grettenberger said. "I spent plenty of time looking in flowers and turning over logs looking for insects. Once I started thinking about going to graduate school for entomology, I decided to focus on the intersection of agricultural entomology and insect ecology. I wanted to work on applied issues in entomology."
Hendrick, a second-year graduate student in the Grettenberger lab, received her bachelor's degree in iInternational studies at North Carolina State University, and also spent a semester at Nagoya University in Japan (she minored in Japanese).
"I got my start in entomology completely by chance!," Hendrick related. "I needed a science credit and happened to pick a class called 'Insects and People.”' That class really helped me to reframe the way I thought about insects and appreciate what interesting little critters they are. Through that class, I was also able to get a job as an undergraduate assistant in an entomology lab. I worked in a specialty crops lab, where I developed interests in integrated pest management and invasive species. I now study insecticide resistance in the alfalfa weevil, and I'm excited to share what I've learned through this outreach event!"
Grettenberger, Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Freeman Long and Madi Hendrick recently wrote a piece in the UC Agricultural and Natural Resources (UC ANR) blog, Alfalfa and Forage News, "A (Virtual )Update on Worms, Weevils an Aphids in Alfalfa."
"This year, the Kearney Research and Extension Center Alfalfa and Forage Field Day went virtual," Grettenberger wrote. "Attendees did not get the chance to look out over lush fields of alfalfa or towering plantings of sorghum, but they get did an update on ongoing work in alfalfa and other forages. Our team put together a rapid-fire video to discuss what are typically the key insect pests in California alfalfa: summer worms, alfalfa weevils, and aphids."
The summer worms in alfalfa include the summer worms: Western yellowstriped armyworm, beet armyworm and alfalfa caterpillar. Another key pest is the alfalfa weevil. The trio also discussed aphids and their natural enemies, including lady beetles, aka ladybugs).
Pests of rice include armyworms, aster leafhoppers, crayfish, rice leafminers, rice seed midges, rice water weevils and tadpole shrimp.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, but is temporarily closed. The museum houses nearly eight million insect specimens; a live "petting zoo" of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and taranatulas; and a gift shop stocked with insect-themed T-shirts, books, posters, jewelry, candy and insect-collecting equipment.
- Alfalfa and Forage News: A (Virtual) Update on Worms, Weevils and Aphids in Alfalfa (By Ian Grettenberger, Rachael Freeman Long and Madi Hendrick, Sept. 20, 2020) (See video on same page)
- Alfalfa and Forage News: Natural Enemies Are Important for Control of the Aphid Complex in Alfalfa--A Case Study (By Ian Grettenberger, Rachael Freeman Long, Daniel Putnam and Rob Wilson, April 7, 2020)
- UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: How to Manage Pests of Alfalfa
- UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: Insects and Other Pests of Rice
Bentley serves as the director of training and education for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), headquartered in Fairfax, Va., and hosts NPMA's BugBytes. Kimsey, a global authority on wasps, bees and other insects, is a two-term past president of the International Society of Hymenopterists.
Kimsey fielded questions on the history of the hornet, its biology, its range, its behavior, its stings, and the news media frenzy over two reported incidents in North America. A single colony of the Asian giant hornet (AGH), Vespa mandarinia, was found and destroyed Sept. 18, 2019 in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, Canada, and a single dead hornet was found Dec. 8, 2019 in nearby Blaine, Wash.
Concerned beekeepers worried that the hornets could become established and decimate their hives. Citizens throughout the country began reporting scores of "murder hornets," which turned out to be yellow jackets, European paper wasps, hover flies, hoverflies, moths and even a Jerusalem cricket (potato bug).
In the podcast, Kimsey relates that the Asian giant hornets are native to Asia, where the residents tolerate them. The beekeeping industry in Washington state, however, was "convinced that they are killing our honey bees," Kimsey told Bentley. "There's no basis in reality as far as I can tell," she said.
The Asian giant hornet is "one of about a dozen or so species in this genus," Kimsey said. She described them as "comically large and menacing looking."
The specimens in the Bohart Museum of Entomology are about 1.5 inches long. "I've never seen one two inches long. But it's a big animal--no question about it."
Bentley also discussed entomologist Justin Schmidt's Sting Pain Index, which rates the painful stings of some 83 hymenopteran species.
Kimsey agreed that the Asian giant hornet "can deliver a lot of venom" and "can sting repeatedly." But in her opinion, "the honey bee sting is the worst."
Other points Kimsey brought out included:
- The Asian giant hornets probably arrived here in cargo ships
- The larvae and pupae are restaurant-fare in some parts of Asia and are quite the delicacy
- The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in fewer cargo ships arriving in the United States from Asia, and thus fewer opportunities for hitchhikers.
Related Links (Bug Squad blog)
- About Those Asian Hornets (May 4, 2020)
- The Hornet Wars: 'A Bloody Dumpster Fire" (May 5, 2020)
- How Do You Say Murder Hornets? Delicious (May 8, 2020)
Matan Shelomi, former graduate student of Lynn Kimsey's and now an assistant professor of entomology at the National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan, enjoys them.
- Incredible Work, and Timely, on 22 Species of Hornets (May 12, 2020)