The Bug Doctor Is In! Ask Me a Question!

The doctor is in.

The Bug Doctor, that is.

If you attended the 105th annual UC Davis Picnic Day and headed for Briggs Hall, home of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, you encountered a booth lettered with "Bug Doctor" and a sign that read: “Ask Me About Insects.”

The annual Picnic Day booth is traditionally staffed by graduate students in the department.

Have you ever wondered what folks are asking them? Here's a sampling.

Bug Doctor Miles Dakin

Miles Dakin, a doctoral student in the lab of agricultural entomologist Christian Nansen lab, said:

 “I got a few about what my favorite bug was, which I, of course, responded Phaneausvindex, and continued to talk about how cool dung beetles are.”

“A few questions were about pest insects. One person brought in what she thought was a fruit fly but was, in fact, a thrip, although I am unsure of the species.”

“I think the best sequence of questions were from two siblings who were very interested in mosquitos. Gives me hope that we may have a few more entomologists in the future.”

Bug Doctor Zachary Griebenow

Doctoral student Zachary Griebenow, who studies with major professor Phil Ward of the ant lab, said:

“Four different people asked me what my favorite bug was. I told them that this was a difficult question to answer, if not impossible. Questions of more real substance included whether we should be concerned about bees (I took care to draw a distinction between Apismellifera and our native bee fauna). 

“Two people came with specimens of insects that they wanted identified: one person brought an early-instar cockroach nymph; the other, a leaf beetle (Chrysomelidae) that I could not identify to species.

“Another person brought photographs of what I immediately recognized as Tropidischia xanthostoma, an exceedingly large cave cricket (Rhaphidophoridae) restricted to the Pacific Northwest.

Bug Doctor Brendon Boudinot

Brendon Boudinot, doctoral candidate in the Phil Ward lab and president of the Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA), kept busy during Picnic Day. He co-chaired the UC Davis Picnic Day activities at Briggs Hall (with forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the faculty), coordinating all the activities in the building. He also found time to serve as Bug Doctor.

How was it?

"Bug Doctor was awesome!" Boudinot said. "For the majority of the time, I was just talking with people without getting too many direct questions. When I was the Bug Doctor, I was talking for about four hours straight with only a few moments of break! I talked with people about how insects work, how they sense and interact with the environment, about their evolution, the history of life on Earth, particularly the major extinction events (Cryogenian, before the Cambrian explosion; the Permian-Triassic extinction event, the origin of stinging wasps in the Cretaceous, and the faunal turnover of the end-Cretaceous extinction, and finally, the current major extinction event which geologists are calling the Anthropocene). Because I had so few moments to pause and reflect, I can't honestly think of any particular question! I just enjoyed the enrapturment of the folks I was speaking to. One person, however, did ask me how she could get involved in professional entomology. She already has her higher education degree, and I gave her the best answer I could think of."

Boudinot and Griebenow are accustomed to answering questions about insects. They are members of the national championship UC Linnaean Games Team that will defend its title at the Entomological Society of America competition in November in St. Louis, Mo. The Linnaean Games are lively question-and-answer, college-bowl style competitions on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams. The UC Linnaean Games Team is captained by Ralph Washington Jr. , a graduate student at UC Berkeley who received his bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis.

Boudinot will be honored at the ESA meeting as a winner of the John Henry Comstock Award, the organization's highest graduate student honor. Each ESA branch selects a recipient. Boudinot won the award from the Pacific Branch, which is comprised of 11 western states, U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico. (See Bug Squad blog)

Meanwhile, save the date! The 2020 UC Davis Picnic Day is April 18.

Yes, the doctor (Bug Doctor) will be in!