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Posts Tagged: Bohart Museum of Entomology

Don't You Just Love Those Dragonflies?

Don't you just love those dragonflies?

We watch them circle our fish pond, grab flying insects in mid-air, and then touch down on a bamboo stake in our yard to eat them. Some dragonflies stay for hours; others for what seems like half a second. Some let you walk up to them and touch them. Others are so skittish that they must have once encountered a nasty predator with a bad attitude and a big appetite unfulfilled.

We've observed several different species in our yard (thanks to naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, for identifying the Sympetrums and the "widow skimmer," Libellula luctosa).

The ones we've photographed:

  • Red flame skimmer or firecracker skimmer  (Libellula saturata),  a common dragonfly of the family Libellulidae, native to western North America.
  • Variegated meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum), a dragonfly of the family Libellulidae, native to North America.
  • Widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa), part of the King Skimmers group of dragonflies that are found throughout much of the United States, except in John Denver territory (The Rockies). You can find them in parts of Canada, including southern Ontario and Quebec.
  • Red-veined meadowhawk (Sympetrium madidum), found throughout much of the United States (Alaska, California, Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming) and much of Canada (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Yukon)

Can you believe dragonflies were some of the first winged insects that evolved 300 millions years ago? And that the order they belong to, Odonata, means "toothed one" in Greek?

Can you believe that globally, we have more than 5,000 known species of dragonflies?

Can you believe that dragonflies eat only the prey they catch in mid-air? And that they grab them with their feet? Umm, dead bee on the ground? No, thanks!

Can you believe that dragonfly called the globe skinner has the longest migration of any insect—11,000 miles back and forth across the Indian Ocean?

For those and other interesting facts, be sure to read Sarah Zielinski's "14 fun facts about dragonflies" published Oct. 5, 2011 in smithsonian.com 

For a close look at some of the Bohart Museum's collection of dragonflies, you can visit the insect museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, from Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. noon, and from noon to 5 p.m. (excluding holidays). Admission is free. You can even buy dragonfly-related items in the gift shop. That would include posters (the work of Greg Kareofelas and Fran Keller) and jewelry.

The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses nearly eight million insect specimens. And not just dragonflies, bees and butterflies. There are critters you've never seen before. And some, such as the Xerces butterfly (Glaucopsyche xerces), are extinct.

The Bohart's next weekend open house, the last of the 2013-2014 academic year, is Saturday, July 26 from 1 to 4 p.m. The theme focuses on spiders: "Arachnids: Awesome or Awful?" It's family-oriented and free and open to the public. (For more information contact Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, at tabyang@ucdavis.edu).

Red flame skimmer or firecracker skimmer (Libellula saturata). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Red flame skimmer or firecracker skimmer (Libellula saturata). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Red flame skimmer or firecracker skimmer (Libellula saturata). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Variegated meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Variegated meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Variegated meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Red-veined meadowhawk (Sympetrium madidum). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Red-veined meadowhawk (Sympetrium madidum). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Red-veined meadowhawk (Sympetrium madidum). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 9:08 PM

Like a Moth to a Flame

Moths.

Mother's Day.

The two go together like a moth to a flame, so why not have "Moth-er's Day?"

And that's exactly what the Bohart Museum of Entomology is doing from 1 to 4 p.m.,Sunday, May 4 in Room 1124 of Academic Surge,  Crocker Lane, UC Davis. The open house is free and open to the public.

The Atlas moth (Attacus atlas), the world's largest moth with the greatest wing area of 10 to 12 inches, will be among the insect specimens displayed. The Atlas is found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia--and in the Bohart Museum!

 Visitors will see the incredible diversity of moths, and learn the differences between moths and butterflies. "There is far greater diversity among moths than butterflies," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.

Both moths and butterflies are in the order Lepitoptera, which refers to the scales on their wings.

Another large moth on display will be the "bat moth" or "black witch" (Ascalapha odorata), found in Central America, South America, Bahamas and parts of the southwestern United States. In Mexican and Caribbean folklore, it is considered a harbinger of death. The insect played a role in the movie, "Silence of the Lambs" but the name was changed to "Death's-head Hawkmoth."

The white-lined Sphinx moth (Hyles lineata) is another critter you'll see. It flies both at night and during the day and has a wing span length between 2.7 and 3.9 inches. Some folks know it by its nickname, "the hummingbird moth." A member of the Sphingidae family, the white-lined sphinx moth is found throughout most of the United States, plus Mexico, Central America and Canada.

What other kinds of moths will you see on Moth-'ers Day?

  • The White Witch (Thysania agrippina), which holds the record for the largest wingspan in an insect (one Brazilian specimen has a wingspan of almost 12 inches). Note that the Atlas has the greater wing area.
  • Tomato Hornworm (Manduca quinquemacaulata), what you don't want to see in your garden.
  • Sunset Moth (Urania leilus), a colorful day-flying moth often mistaken for a butterfly
  • Cosmosoma spp., a genus of clear-winged moths
  • Automeris spp., a genus of moths with distinctly large owl-eyes on the hindwings
  • Sesiidae, a family of moths mimicking wasps
  • Bee-Hawk Moths (Hemaris spp.), a genus of sphinx moths mimicking bumble bees, and sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds
  • Moon Moths (Argema spp.), found in Africa and Asia
  • Tiger Moths (family Arctiidae), amazing butterfly mimics
  • Indian Meal Moths (Plodia interpunctella), also called pantry moths (the caterpillars are grain pests)

The Moth-er's Day event is also a good time to explore the Bohart Museum gift shop for Mother's Day gifts, including jewelry (necklaces, pins and earrings), books  and other items suitable for entomology fans. 

Visitors can hold live insects such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Vietnamese walking sticks, walking leaves and a rose-haired tarantula. 

 The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, was founded in 1946 by the late Richard M. Bohart. Dedicated to teaching, research and service, the museum houses nearly eight million insect specimens collected globally.  It boasts the  seventh largest insect collection in North America.

A white-lined Sphinx moth heads for a flower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A white-lined Sphinx moth heads for a flower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A white-lined Sphinx moth heads for a flower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Side view of a white-lined Sphinx moth. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Side view of a white-lined Sphinx moth. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Side view of a white-lined Sphinx moth. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is considered the largest moth in the world. Its wingspans can reach over 10 inches long and it holds the record for the largest wing area (62 square inches). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is considered the largest moth in the world. Its wingspans can reach over 10 inches long and it holds the record for the largest wing area (62 square inches). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is considered the largest moth in the world. Its wingspans can reach over 10 inches long and it holds the record for the largest wing area (62 square inches). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 5:52 PM

How to Find Insects

If you're craving to find out more about insects--specifically how to FIND them--then you'll want to attend the Bohart Museum of Entomology’s open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, June 9. 

It's free and open to the public.

Insects aren't difficult to find in the Bohart Museum, which is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis. After all, the museum houses nearly eight million specimens.

You'll also be able to find them outside. You'll learn how to net and trap insects at a demonstration site at the side of the building.

Another highlight will be how to rear cabbage white butterflies. You'll be given a free pamphlet on how to rear cabbage whites. Many classroom teachers try to rear monarch butterflies, but there's a growing movement to raise cabbage whites instead. After all, cabbage whites are more abundant, easily obtained and quite easy to rear. Their host plants include cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and mustards.

The transformation of an egg to a caterpillar to a chrysalis to an adult can not only be witnessed in the classroom, but at your home as a family project.

At the open house, you can also hold such live specimens as Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks. The gift shop (which now accepts credit cards) includes t-shirts, jewelry, insect nets, posters and books, including the newly published children’s book about California's state insect.  “The Story of the Dogface Butterfly,” a 35-page book geared toward kindergarteners through sixth graders, was written by UC Davis doctoral candidate Fran Keller and illustrated (watercolor and ink) by Laine Bauer, a 2012 graduate of UC Davis. It also includes photos by naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, a Bohart Museum volunteer. Net proceeds from the sale of this book go directly to the education, outreach and research programs of the Bohart Museum. The book also can be ordered online.

This is the last of the open houses for the 2012-13 academic year. Bohart officials schedule weekend open houses throughout the academic year so that families and others who cannot attend on the weekdays can do so on the weekends. The Bohart’s regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday.  The insect museum is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.

The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, is the seventh largest insect collection in North America. It is also the home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946.

For further information, contact Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at tabyang@ucdavis.edu or (530) 752-0493.

The feather-legged fly is a parasitoid that lays its eggs inside stink bugs and other agricultural pests. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The feather-legged fly is a parasitoid that lays its eggs inside stink bugs and other agricultural pests. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The feather-legged fly is a parasitoid that lays its eggs inside stink bugs and other agricultural pests. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 11:01 PM

Fran Keller: Entomologist, Teacher, Artist, Author

Fran Keller
When Mary Frances "Fran" Keller, doctoral candidate at the UC Davis Department of Entomology, delivers her exit seminar on Wednesday, May 29, the audience will get a glimpse of all the titles she holds.

In her professional life, she's an entomologist, researcher, teacher, mentor, artist, photographer, and author.

In her private life, she's a wife and mother.

Her specialty: darkling beetles. You'll often find her at her "home away from home," the Bohart Museum of Entomology where she studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, Bohart Museum director and UC Davis professor of entomology.

Fran Keller is the designer and impetus  behind the many Bohart Museum of Entomology posters and t-shirts. Posters include Butterflies of Central California, Dragonflies of California, California State Insect (California Dogface Butterfly) and Pacific Invasive Ants. T-shirts spotlight dragonflies, butterflies and walking sticks. (Access them at the Bohart's online gift shop.)

Fran Keller also found time to author a children's book on the California dogface butterfly, with sales benefitting the Bohart Museum.

If you belong to the Entomological Society of America (ESA) or another entomological organization, you've probably seen her leading symposiums, presenting talks, and conferring with other scientists.

There's not much that she CAN'T do.

So, on Wednesday, Fran Keller will probably convince her audience that darkling beetles are more exciting than any other insect. After all, her enthusiasm is well known and led to her UC Davis honor as an outstanding teacher.

Keller's exit seminar, "Taxonomy of Stenomorpha Solier, 1836 (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae: Asidini,"  will be from 12:05 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, May 29 in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, located on the corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives. Plans call for the seminar to be videotaped for later public viewing on UCTV.

“My research focuses on a very large genus which historically had 88 species and no modern species level work for several taxa for nearly 175 years,” Keller said. “Part of my research focuses on a group of flightless species restricted to the Sierra Transvolcanica or southern Transverse range in Mexico.  Using biogeography, morphological analyses and the examination of over 10,500 specimens, I recognize 51 valid species of Stenomorpha Solier, 1836, with seven newly recognized subgenera, while 37 formerly recognized species are synonymized or newly combined."

Stenomorpha costata
 One of the species that she studies is Stenomorpha costata (at left), which occurs in Mexico and is flightless. 

 “Certain Stenomorpha species occur in California vernal pools but are not listed as vernal  pool species,” Keller said.  She also will discuss the importance of taxonomy in conservation.

If time allows, Keller will discuss her other projects, working in the Bahamas and mentoring students, as well as her recent research on morphology and developmental patterns of gene expression.

Keller received her associate science degree in biology and chemistry, with highest honors, from Sacramento City College in 2001 and then transferred to UC Davis where she received her bachelor’s degree in evolution and ecology (2004), and her master’s degree in entomology (2007).

She served as a teaching assistant for a number of courses at UC Davis and has also presented guest lectures, including “Insect Sex and Mating Systems” and “Insects and the Environment—Ecological Physiology.”

Among her many awards at UC Davis:

  • Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award, May 2008
  • Division of Biological Sciences (DBS) Commencement Speaker, June 2004
  • DBS Departmental Citation for Outstanding Achievement in Academics and Research in Evolution and Ecology, Spring 2004
  • Outstanding Senior, 2004
  • Undergraduate Research Conference, Oral Presentation, April 2004
  • President’s Undergraduate Fellowship, Spring 2003

Her students applaud her teaching skills, her enthusiasm, and her care and concern. Said one student: "It's reassuring to know that out of a maze of 30,000 students and faculty at Davis that there are people like Fran who really care."

Fran Keller photographing insects in the Mojave Desert. (Photo by Mark deVries)
Fran Keller photographing insects in the Mojave Desert. (Photo by Mark deVries)

Fran Keller photographing insects in the Mojave Desert. (Photo by Mark deVries)

Fran Keller is a big fan of all things insects. She designed the monarch t-shirt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fran Keller is a big fan of all things insects. She designed the monarch t-shirt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Fran Keller is a big fan of all things insects. She designed the monarch t-shirt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 9:40 PM

No-See-Ums, But You Feel 'Em

Lynn Kimsey
It happened unexpectedly.

Tabatha Yang and her six-month-old son, Karoo, were sitting on their lawn last Sunday at their West Davis home, when she saw red.  Literally.

One minute they were enjoying the springlike weather, and the next minute his head was covered with bright red dots.  Looking closer, she spotted a tiny insect in his eye, which she quickly removed.

Then her legs began to welt and itch.

They had just encountered no-see-ums, tiny Valley Black Gnats that feed on blood.

“The adults are emerging in large numbers now and need blood so residents need to beware of grassy areas that cover alkaline clay soils,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor entomology at UC Davis.  “These insects are ferocious biters. Even though they don’t spread any diseases, they are sufficiently annoying to keep people indoors in some areas of California.”

The Bohart Museum is now fielding scores of calls and emails.

“These no-see-ums are smaller than fleas and have a supreme itch,” said Yang, Bohart Museum education and outreach coordinator, who knew immediately what they were.  

The biting gnats are particularly troublesome along the west side of  the Sacramento Valley, including Davis and Woodland. “They’re often in grassy areas, such as in parks and on golf courses on the west side of California’s Central Valley,” Kimsey said. “When the soil begins to dry and cracks develop, the adults emerge.” The complete life cycle from egg to adult takes about two years.

The no-see-ums  (Leptoconops torrens) belong to the family Ceratopogonidae and are about 1/16-inch long. They are so tiny they could pass through window screens, but they don’t, Kimsey said. However, they can and do slip beneath loose clothing, unnoticed, to get a blood meal.

Like mosquitoes, only the female no-see-ums bite. The insects breed when the weather warms in the spring, usually in May and June, and they remain a pest for several weeks, Kimsey said. They need a blood meal to complete their reproductive cycle.

They also bite domestic and wild animals and birds.

The females inject saliva into the skin, which pools the blood just beneath the surface, resulting in a small red dot that becomes excruciatingly itchy. A single bite can welt into a one-or two-inch diameter spot, which lasts about two weeks.

Kimsey cautions people not to scratch the welts, as scratching makes the itchy bites last twice as long and can lead to infected sores.

To avoid being bitten, Kimsey recommends that you limit exposure by not sitting long in places where they are likely to occur, or where you’ve heard of problem areas.  “Move quickly through the area.”

“Repellents,” she added, “aren’t effective against these flies.”

No-see-um, 70 times life size. (Illustration by Lynn Kimsey)
No-see-um, 70 times life size. (Illustration by Lynn Kimsey)

No-see-um, 70 times life size. (Illustration by Lynn Kimsey)

Even after five days, the bites are still visible. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Even after five days, the bites are still visible. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Even after five days, the bites are still visible. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, May 24, 2013 at 9:08 PM

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