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Posts Tagged: Bohart Museum of Entomology

Golden Boy

Robbin Thorp holding a male Valley carpenter bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A "golden boy" drew a lot of attention at the Bohart Museum of Entomology last Saturday, April 12 during the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day.

"Golden boy?" A male Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) to be exact. This carpenter bee is usually mistaken for a bumble bee but a bumble bee it is not. It's a male Valley carpenter bee. And the females of this species are solid black.

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, provided information to wide-eyed youngsters as he held the golden carpenter bees,  what he calls "the teddy bear bees."  They look and feel soft and cuddly, just like a teddy bear.  

The questions flew.

Visitor: "Does it sting?"

Thorp: ""No, boy bees don't sting. They don't have a stinger."

Visitor: "Why does he act like he's going to sting me?"

Thorp: "He's bluffing. He's trying to make you think he can sting."

Visitor: "Do carpenter bees make honey?"

Thorp: "No, honey bees make honey."

Visitor: "Can I touch it?"

Thorp: "Yes, can you feel it vibrating?"

Visitor: "Does it die after it mates?"

Thorp: "No, it can mate again. A drone (male) honey bee dies after mating, but not carpenter bees."

Visitor: "What are you going to do with it afterwards?"

Thorp: "Release it back into the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven (a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road that's operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology)."

Fact is, it's a pollinator. Keep your eyes open for it and other pollinators on May 8. That's when the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) is conducting "Operation Pollination," one of three events on a Day of Science and Service. Your help is needed. Wherever you are in California--at work or at play--allow three minutes to count the pollinators around you. That could be honey bees, bumble bees, butterflies, sweat bees, syrphid flies, carpenter bees, bats and the like. Take some photos, too. Then register the data and upload your photos on the UC ANR web page.

We suspect that if and when the nearly 5000 visitors who attended the Bohart Museum open house, catch a glimpse of a "golden boy" on May 8, they'll know exactly what it is, whatever they choose to call it.

  • Male Valley carpenter bee
  • Xylocopa varipuncta
  • Boy bee
  • Golden boy
  • "Teddy bear bee"
  • Pollinator

Male Valley carpenter bee draws attention at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male Valley carpenter bee draws attention at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Male Valley carpenter bee draws attention at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A tentative touch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A tentative touch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A tentative touch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Fingers nestle the male Valley carpenter bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fingers nestle the male Valley carpenter bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Fingers nestle the male Valley carpenter bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, April 14, 2014 at 9:01 PM

Honey, Let's Go Honey Tasting!

Eric Mussen
Want to sample some honey?

How about almond, yellow starthistle, leatherwood, cultivated buckwheat, safflower and wild oak?

Those are the varieties that will be offered by Extension apiculturist  Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology at Briggs Hall on Saturday, April 12 during the 100th annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day.

Mussen will be offering honey tasting to one and all--come one, come all--from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. And it's free. You grab a toothpick, poke it in the honey dish, and enjoy.

Folks don't usually like the bitter taste of almond, Mussen says. That's why you won't find it sold in stores. His favorite? Starthistle. It's an invasive weed, but don't tell that to the bees. They love it.

It's also a good time to ask Mussen about honey bees and check out the glassed-in bee observation hive in 122 Briggs. There you can look for the queen (she's the one with a number on her thorax) and watch the colony at work. In addition, the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is planning scores of educational displays and fun activities. You can learn what an insect is--how it differs from spiders and other critters. You can create maggot art, follow the termite trails and "bet" at the cockroach races.  You can learn about  forensic, medical, aquatic, apiculture and forest entomology.  Like pollinators? Learn about the major pollinators in your backyard. Like fly fishing? Tie a fly.

At the Bohart Museum of Entomology, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, you can see insects have been recently discovered and insects that are threatened and extinct. You can also hold Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks (live!) in your hand.

All in all, it plans to be a fun day for picnickers who love bugs--or want to learn more about them and what they do.

Fish-eye view of the honey tasting at Briggs Hall during the UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fish-eye view of the honey tasting at Briggs Hall during the UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Fish-eye view of the honey tasting at Briggs Hall during the UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Evan Marczak of Davis samples honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Evan Marczak of Davis samples honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Evan Marczak of Davis samples honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Briggs Hall will be busy on Saturday, April 12 during the annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Briggs Hall will be busy on Saturday, April 12 during the annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Briggs Hall will be busy on Saturday, April 12 during the annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 7:25 PM

Bugs R Us

Airianna Creer (left) and Raquel Robles of Fairfield react to a Madagascar hissing cockroach. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Who wouldn't want to get up close and personal with bugs?

And maybe give them a hug? Or two? Or three?

Some 3000 third-graders who participated in the annual Solano County Youth Ag Day on March 18 at the Solano County Fairgrounds made a beeline for the bugs at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's  hands-on activity.

Future entomologists? Maybe.

The UC Davis-based insect museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, provided just one of the activities on the Vallejo fairgrounds, where the youngsters visited cows,  rabbits and chickens;  watched sheep-herding  dog demonstrations; participated in 4-H SET (science, engineering and technology) events, and went home knowing that chocolate milk doesn't come from brown cows.  

The bugs? Oh, sure, some of the youngsters were initially a little squeamish and squirmish when they saw the Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks. But the "fear factor" soon vanished as they watched the insects crawl up their arms. The bugs tickled and the youngsters giggled.

Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator, said the youths really enjoyed the "hissers" and "stick insects"  and learning more about them. Bohart museum volunteers Maia Lundy, Noah Crockette and Rachael Graham delighted in showing the bugs to the youngsters.  A display of bee and butterfly specimens also drew "oohs" and "aahs."

The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo," traditionally provides an educational display at the Solano County Ag Day. The Solano County Fair Association hosts the annual event.

Next up in the Bohart Museum's lineup of educational activities: an open house from 1 to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 12 at its headquarters in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane. It's part of the campuswide Picnic Day.

From one hand to another: a walking stick finds a place to walk. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
From one hand to another: a walking stick finds a place to walk. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

From one hand to another: a walking stick finds a place to walk. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bohart Museum volunteers Maia Lundy and Noah Crockette answer questions. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bohart Museum volunteers Maia Lundy and Noah Crockette answer questions. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bohart Museum volunteers Maia Lundy and Noah Crockette answer questions. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jacob Herrera-Padua (left) and Torriano Sanderson of Suisun delight in a walking stick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Jacob Herrera-Padua (left) and Torriano Sanderson of Suisun delight in a walking stick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jacob Herrera-Padua (left) and Torriano Sanderson of Suisun delight in a walking stick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 10:31 PM

Go Native! Be a Native Bee 'Beekeeper'

Leafcutter bees at their condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you're yearning to be a backyard beekeeper, "go native."

"Go native" with native bees, that is.

Many folks are building or buying bee condos to provide nesting sites for blue orchard bees (Osmia lignaria)  and leafcutting bees (Megachile spp.).

A bee condo is a block of wood drilled with specially sized holes for nesting sites. Bees lay their eggs, provision the nests, and then plug the holes. Months later, the offspring will emerge. 

In our backyard, we provide bee condos for BOBs (short for blue orchard bee) and leafcutter bees. 

In the summer it's fun watching the leafcutter bees snip leaves from our shrubbery and carry them back to their bee condo.   It's easy to tell the nesting sites apart: BOB holes are larger and plugged with mud, while the leafcutter bee holes are smaller and plugged with leaves. 

Osmia lignaria, a native species of North America, is sold commercially for use in orchard crop pollination. 

At the Bohart Museum of Entomology Open House on Sunday, March 2, native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology, displayed a variety of bee houses. 

If you want to learn how to build them or where to buy them, Thorp has kindly provided a list of native bee nesting site resources on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility website. You can also purchase them at many beekeeping supply stores. (Also check out the Xerces Society's website information.)

Better yet, if you'd like to learn more about native bees and their needs, be sure to register online for the Pollinator Gardening Workshop on Saturday, March 15 on the UC Davis campus. Hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture, it begins at 7:30 a.m. in Room 1001 of Giedt Hall and ends at 2 p.m. with a plant sale at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery and a tour of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. For the small fee of $40 you'll receive a continental breakfast and box lunch and return home with an unbee-lievable wealth of knowledge. Speakers will include several honey bee and native bee experts: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp; pollination ecologist Neal Williams and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen. See the complete list on the website.

You'll be hearing from Robbin, Neal and Eric, but you'll be thinking about BOB.

Leafcutting bees heading home to their condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Leafcutting bees heading home to their condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Leafcutting bees heading home to their condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, shows Danielle Wishon of the California Department of Food and Agriculture a bee condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, shows Danielle Wishon of the California Department of Food and Agriculture a bee condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, shows Danielle Wishon of the California Department of Food and Agriculture a bee condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Blue orchard bees on display at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue orchard bees on display at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Blue orchard bees on display at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of bee nesting sites shown March 2 at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of bee nesting sites shown March 2 at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of bee nesting sites shown March 2 at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 9:24 PM

About Those Walking Sticks...

Matan Shelomi (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Why would anyone want to study walking sticks (stick insects)?

Well, why wouldn't anyone NOT want to? That's the question we ought to ask.

Enter doctoral candidate Matan Shelomi of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He will present his exit seminar on "Digestive Physiology of the Phasmatodea" on Wednesday, March 5 from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, UC Davis campus. His seminar is scheduled to be video-taped for later posting on UCTV.

For a preview of his work, watch Shelomi's phdcomics.com video; he cleverly explains his complicated research in two minutes. It's a classic Matan Shelomi.

Shelomi, who studies with  major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, will receive his doctorate this spring and will then seek a postdoctoral position.

What will he be covering in his seminar?

 "All life stages of all species of Phasmatodea (stick and leaf insects) eat nothing but leaves, yet they not only survive, but also reach record body sizes and plague-like population densities," Shelomi says. "Leaves are not an easy diet, as the nutrients are locked behind recalcitrant plant cell walls made of polysaccharides like cellulose, lignin, and pectin, and often defended with toxic secondary chemicals. Phasmid dependence on leaves suggests they have evolved a way to metabolize these compounds, yet what little data available on phasmid digestion is contradictory."
 
:This presentation covers five years of research at institutions spanning three countries, and confirms that phasmids do more than just lyse plant cells: they have the enzymes to break cellulose polymers down to sugar, as well as pectinases, all of which they produce themselves without microbial aid. The phasmid alimentary canal itself is compartmentalized into different sections that correlate with chemical digestion and xenobiotic metabolism. These adaptations allow an animal with a limited body space to digest and specialize on an otherwise limiting diet, with implications for herbivore nutrient economy as well as the search for enzymes for biofuel production."

Shelomi received his bachelor's degree in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University in 2009, and immediately after, enrolled in graduate school at UC Davis.

His work in Davis is funded by the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship program. Twice he has won the National Science Foundation's East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes' Fellowship: once to work in the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences in Tsukuba, Japan, and once to work in Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan.

Shelomi served as a teaching assistant for Bob Kimsey's forensic entomology class. In addition, he co-taught a freshman seminar with Lynn Kimsey on "Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design." He has guest-lectured for Entomology  10 "Natural History of Insects"; Entomology 100 "Introduction to Entomology"; and Entomology 102 "Insect Physiology."

He has presented at numerous meetings of the Entomological Society of America  (ESA) and the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA) and organized or co-organized four symposia at those meetings.  He participates in the ESA's Linnaean Games and Student Debate teams. For his work with ESA and outside it, he won PBESA's John Henry Comstock Award in 2013.

There's more, much more. Shelomi presented a workshop at the 2012 International Conference on Science in Society, and received first place for his talk this past summer at the International Congress of Orthopterology in Kunming, China.  He has published his research in number of peer-reviewed journals.

The doctoral candidate's work has been spotlighted in the Sacramento Bee, California Aggie, DavisPatch,  plus blogs and vlogs like LiveScience, PHD TV, and Breaking Bio.  In addition, Shelomi answers entomology and biology questions on Quora.com, where he has been a top writer for two consecutive years. Huffington Post and Slate printed some of his Quora answers. You might remember that he won a "Shorty" (social media) award for his post "If you injure a bug, should you kill it or let it live?"

Lynn Kimsey says she doesn't know when he finds time to sleep.

Frankly, we don't, either.

Some Related Links:

This is the insect that Matan Shelomi studies. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is the insect that Matan Shelomi studies. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This is the insect that Matan Shelomi studies. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Posted on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 8:24 PM

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