- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, not only oversees a collection of nearly eight million insect specimens, but she collects something else—something that could appear in a national stand-up comedian act.
Entomological funnies. Bug stuff.
“College students—especially under the crunch of a deadline—can write the darndest things,” says Kimsey, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and an international authority on the taxonomy of bees and wasps and insect diversity.
Kimsey, known for her keen sense of humor, collects “the best of the best” sentences from the term papers she grades from her introductory entomology class. She began collecting the gems in 1998.
“Some of these sentences are priceless,” Kimsey said. “You couldn't intentionally write something this good or bad depending on how you look at it.”
Some students misplace their modifiers, add an adverb, or drop a crucial letter from a word, turning a “threat” into a “treat,” Kimsey said.
And some of the students' thinking—perhaps from sleep or coffee deprivation--can be as fuzzy as a caterpillar.
How do honey bees find their way home? “By navigating around the sun,” one student wrote.
Why are mosquitoes excellent vectors? “Because they can ingest and then infect viruses with ease through blood feeding,” penned another student.
What are pathogens? “Pathogens cause disease(s) like viruses and bacteria.”
What is biological control? “Nature has been executing biological control on all walks of life since it began on earth.”
And the definition of classical biological control? “Basically, classical biological control seeks to relieve pestering insects by establishing a predator in a new environment.”
Locusts drew two choice comments:
“Other countries will also face losses (due to locusts) although at a rate of loss much less due to exhaustion from travel.”
“Normally, locusts are introverted creatures; they do not socialize unless it is for reproduction.”
Those traveling dragonflies: “These dragonflies are able to use the best of Mother Nature to assist travel.”
Secrete themselves? “After arriving at the popular, the sexuparae aphids move towards the trunk of the tree where they secrete themselves in order to reproduce.”
Major pests on what? “There have been instances in the Southeastern United States where several species of mole crickets have been accidentally introduced and have become major pests on turd (sic) and pasture grasses.”
Fast forward to adults: “In late winter the overwintering adults come out of diapause and migrate back to their main host population where they lay the first generation of summer adults.”
Wild vertebrae? “People living in high endemic areas also tend to live in close proximity not only to the vector of the disease but to reservoir hosts like dog, cats, and other wild vertebrae.”
Outreach activities? “Since either traps or insecticides can get access to perfect, out-reach activities and novel ideas related to D. suzukii management always come out.”
Recommended fumigation? “Fumigation has proven to be highly effective however, time consuming and the recommended process is aerosol spraying avian vehicles.”
Honey bees, too, yield interesting comments, said Kimsey, who served as president of the International Society of Hymenopterists from 2002 to 2004 and kept bees in her backyard for 10 years.
On mating and semen storage: “This is the only time (honey bee) queens mate in their lifetime since the sperm can be stored longer than her lifetime.”
On the “beeping” industry: “This, similar bans, and a decrease in demand of packages and queens from the United States has hurt the commercial beeping industry.”
On the role of drones: “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.”
For the record, UC Extension apiculturist (emeritus) Eric Mussen, who just completed a 38-year career in June, explained that a honey bee queen usually takes a single mating flight during her lifetime and will mate with a dozen to twenty drones. “She stores the semen in her spermatheca and that's enough to last her entire lifetime, usually about two years. During the busy season, she will lay up to 2000 eggs a day.”
“If the drones don't mate, they will die of old age in about 35 days or they will get kicked out of the hive by their sisters in the fall,” Mussen said. “They are not needed when there are no virgin queens with which to mate and the drones are just extra mouths to feed.”
Other sentences in Kimsey's “best of the best” collection include:
- "For every problem, there is a pest.”
- "Damage ranges from minor weakened plants to serious plant death.”
- "The arousal of nest mates by booty-laden foragers has been attributed to a conspicuous mechanical action caused by antennae and forelegs and supported by the scent of the trail substance…”
- "Although caterpillars are vulnerable and young, their ability to protect against predators has helped them become successful predators.”
- "Humans have been using and digesting insects for centuries, despite the wide array of chemicals they produce.”
- "Another way of penetrating the navel orange worm is with biological control.”
- "The actions of these (reproductive) workers can be reprimanded if they are a treat to the others in the colony.”
- "(Fire ant) mounds that are near plants are usually uprooted and overturned by the ants as the mound grows.”
- "The most important upgrade that some insects have acquired is the co-evolution with angiosperms.”
- "The illness has come out of a twenty-five year remission and has begun to infect many tropical islands.”
Kimsey, who received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1979 and joined the faculty in 1989, says there's “a possibility” she may write a book and include the classic answers.
“Maybe,” she said, “but I'm not sure where to go with these from here.”