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Posts Tagged: Lynn Kimsey

Male Wool Carder Bees: In-Your-Face Behavior

She described it to a "T."

That would be "T" for territorial.

Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, spotlighted the European wool carder bee in her current edition of the Bohart Museum Society newsletter.

The males are aggressive. Their territorial behavior is "in your face." They will chase away bees, butterflies and even small birds, like hummingbirds. "They will also check out humans, flying up to them and hovering," Kimsey says.

But it's not something we should be worried about. The wool carder bee is a pollinator.

"We tend to think of all exotic species of insects as being pests," Kimsey wrote. "By and large, that's true but there are exceptions. The wool carder bee, Anthidium manicatum, may be one of these exceptions."

She describes it as a species of European leafcutter bee "that has successfully colonized North America. However, North America isn't the only place these bees have invaded. They are now found in north Africa, South America, Asia, the Canary Islands and even in New Zealand. World domination is ahead."

The wool carder bee (so named because the female scrapes or cards leaf fuzz for her nest) was accidentally introduced into the U.S. from Europe in the early 1960s and was first discovered in New York State. It spread quickly across the continent. Scientists found it in Davis, Calif., in 2007.

They're about the size of a honey bee, Kimsey says "but they are brightly marked with yellow on a black background with a bright yellow face. Only honey bees in Disney movies are black and yellow. Males are considerably larger than females, and have a spine on either side of the last two abdominal segments and three spines on the last segment."

Those spines have been mistaken for stingers, but only females have stingers.

We've seen the males protect patches of lamb's ear, catmint, foxgloves, oregano, cosmos, African blue basil, and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in our yard. They mean bees-ness. We've seen honey bees working frantically, trying to forage as quickly as possible without getting targeted. We've also seen some of them crippled on the ground.

The female wool carder bees build their nests, Kimsey says, in rotting wood or preexisting tunnels, such as beetle burrows.

Kimsey mentioned that the Bohart Museum scientist Tom Zavortink experienced female carder bees "carding" wool from his socks! 

The Bohart Museum Society newsletter is mailed to its members. The society is a campus and community support organization, and like the Bohart Museum, is dedicated to teaching, research and public service. For more information on the society, including how to join, see this page.

Male wool carder bee heads for the photographer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male wool carder bee heads for the photographer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Male wool carder bee heads for the photographer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Wool carder bee zeroing in on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Wool carder bee zeroing in on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Wool carder bee zeroing in on catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A male wool carder bee attacking a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A male wool carder bee attacking a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A male wool carder bee attacking a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, October 10, 2014 at 6:04 PM

How to Pin a Butterfly

Fingers and pins. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
How do you pin and spread a butterfly?

Entomologist Jeff Smith, an associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis,  showed everyone from pre-schoolers to adults how to do just that at the Bohart's recent open house.

It was all hands-on.

Smith provided the dried insects and spreading boards. Each participant took home a pinned butterfly on a spreading board for later removal and display. Smith also contributed the labels. 

Cassidy Hansen of Rio Vista, a 2012 graduate of Rio Vista High School, was among the participants. She said she may decide to major in entomology. 

Smith asked a group of participants why the proboscis (tongue) of a white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata), commonly known as the hummingbird moth, is so long. Some looked puzzled. "To reach the nectar of tubed  flowers," he answered. Smith then pulled out the proboscis to show them the length. 

The participants also admired the research collection, held exotic insects and arthropods, viewed a bee observation hive, and collected insects on the lawn behind the building.

This was the first in a series of open houses planned during the academic year.All open houses are free and open to the public.  

The schedule:

  •   Sunday, Nov. 23: “Insect Myths,” 1 to 4 p.m.
  •   Saturday, Dec. 20: “Insects and Art,” 1 to 4 p.m.
  •   Sunday, Jan. 11: “Parasitoid Palooza,” 1 to 4 p.m.
  •   Sunday, Feb. 8: “Biodiversity Museum Day,” noon to 4 p.m.
  •   Saturday, March 14: “Pollination Nation,” 1 to 4 p.m.
  •   Saturday, April 18: UC Davis Picnic Day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  •   Sunday, May 17: “Name That Bug! How About Bob?” 1 to 4 p.m.
  •   Saturday, July 18: “Moth Night,” 8 to 11 p.m.

 The Bohart Museum is located in Room 1124 of Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, off LaRue Road. Directed by  Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, the Bohart Museum houses nearly eight million insect specimens, a live “petting zoo” and a gift shop. 

More information on the open houses are available from Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, at (530) 752-0493 or tabyang@ucdavis.edu.

Want to learn how make an insect collection? An award-winning collection of short videos on "How to Make an Insect Collection" is posted on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website and on YouTube. These student-produced videos, directed by Professor James Carey, are short and concise. The project won an award from the Entomological Society of America. It is considered the best of its kind on the web.

Entomologist Jeff Smith shows Cassidy Hansen fof Rio Vista how to pin a butterly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Entomologist Jeff Smith shows Cassidy Hansen fof Rio Vista how to pin a butterly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Entomologist Jeff Smith shows Cassidy Hansen fof Rio Vista how to pin a butterly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Cassidy Hansen works on a butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Cassidy Hansen works on a butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Cassidy Hansen works on a butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of the project. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of the project. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of the project. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A white-lined sphinx moth, Hyles lineata. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A white-lined sphinx moth, Hyles lineata. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A white-lined sphinx moth, Hyles lineata. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The white-lined sphinx moth has a long proboscis (tongue). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The white-lined sphinx moth has a long proboscis (tongue). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The white-lined sphinx moth has a long proboscis (tongue). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, October 3, 2014 at 5:55 PM

Hide the Cactus!

Hide the cactus! There's a Mexican cactus fly in our midst.

A large black fly hovers over a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in our bee garden and then drops down to sip some nectar. At first glance it looks like a carpenter bee but this one hovers like a syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly.

"Hover fly," I say.

Entomologists Martin Hauser, Lynn Kimsey and Robbin Thorp quickly identified the critter.

Hauser, senior insect biosystematist with the Plant Pest Diagnostics Branch of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, says it's in the genus Copestylum (with over 350 species in the new world) and figured it to be the species,  mexicanum, commonly known as the Mexican cactus fly.

Said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis: "Nice, this is actually a kind of syrphid flower fly, better known as a cactus fly. The larvae breed in rotting cactus tissue."

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, also figured it to be a Mexican cactus fly, Copestylum mexicanum.  "It's commonly known as a cactus fly (Syrphidae, Tribe Volucellini).  "It used to be in the genus Volucella, But now it's in the genus Copestylum."

This fly is not small. It's about 3/4 of an inch long. It lays its eggs in rotting plant material "and they really like rotting cacti," Hauser commented. "As far as I know, they only go into dying cacti and do not attack healthy cacti…. But there is actually not much known about their biology."

The resident cacti expert at our house is worried, showing his best prickly pear expression. He quickly canvasses the yard. Whew! No rotting cacti. All thriving and in good health.

So far, so good...

Black hover fly, aka Mexican cactus fly, sipping nectar from a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Black hover fly, aka Mexican cactus fly, sipping nectar from a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Black hover fly, aka Mexican cactus fly, sipping nectar from a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Side view of the black syrphid fly, a Mexican cactus flower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Side view of the black syrphid fly, a Mexican cactus flower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Side view of the black syrphid fly, a Mexican cactus flower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Mexican cactus fly ready to take off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Mexican cactus fly ready to take off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Mexican cactus fly ready to take off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 5:29 PM

Stop and Smell the Roses! (And Watch for Jumping Spiders!)

"Stop and smell the roses!"

It's a good way to savor the moment, of living in the present instead of the past or future.

We delight in the aroma of the "Sparkle and Shine" yellow rose that we purchased several years ago at the California Center for Urban Horticulture's annual Rose Day on the UC Davis campus.

Sometimes there's an added bonus--a praying mantis, a honey bee, a longhorned bee, European wool carder bee, carpenter bee, a hover fly, a butterfly, or another insect. They do not all get along. Like beginners in an elementary school band, they do not play well together. Some of the territorial bees want to claim ownership ("Mine! mine! mine!"). The honey bees linger longer than they should. The butterflies don't. The hover flies hover. And the praying mantis? It just wants dinner.

Today, it was not an insect but an arthropod that caught our attention: a jumping spider. We pointed the Canon MPE-65mm lens directly in its eyes. It just looked back at us, figuring we were no threat.

If you like to "look back" at insects or arthropods, then you should head over to the UC Davis open house this Saturday, Sept. 27 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane. It's off LaRue Road. The open house is free and open to the public.

The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses some eight million specimens, plus a live "petting zoo," filled with critters you can hold, such as walking sticks, millipedes, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and tarantulas.

It's a day when entomologists will be there to show you how to collect insects, pin a butterfly, and how to look through a microscope. You'll also see a bee observation hive provided by the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.

And, if you have a mind to, you can visit the gift shop and purchase such items as nets, T-shirts, jewelry, posters and books.

You'll even find books on spiders.

A jumping spider, nestled in the petals of a yellow rose,
A jumping spider, nestled in the petals of a yellow rose, "Sparkle and Shine," looks at the photographer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A jumping spider, nestled in the petals of a yellow rose, "Sparkle and Shine," looks at the photographer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 10:01 PM

Like Bugs?

Bees from the UC Davis bee observation hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Like bugs? Thinking about becoming an entomologist or just want some hands-on experience?

Mark your calendar.

The Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus is planning an open house on "How to Be an Entomologist" from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 27. The insect museum is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building, Crocker Lane, off LaRue Road.

The event is free and open to the public and is family friendly. This is the first of nine open houses during the 2014-15 academic year.

Plans call for a number of UC Davis entomologists to participate--to show and explain their work, said Bohart Museum director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

"We will have a pinning and butterfly and moth spreading ongoing workshop with Jeff Smith and tips on how to rear insects," said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. Smith, an entomologist in Sacramento, is a longtime donor and volunteer at the Bohart.

Representatives from the labs of molecular geneticist Joanna Chiu, assistant professor; bee scientist Brian Johnson, assistant professor; ant specialist Phil Ward, professor; insect demographer James R. Carey, distinguished professor; and integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, distinguished professor and current president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America will share their research. 

 The Johnson lab will provide a bee observation hive, and Cindy Preto of the Zalom lab will be sharing her research on leafhoppers. The Carey lab will show student-produced videos, including how to make an insect collection, and one-minute entomology presentations (students showcasing an insect in one minute). The Ward lab will be involved in outside activities, demonstrating how to collect ants. Entomology students will be on hand to show visitors how to use collecting devices, including nets, pitfall traps and yellow pans.

Other entomologists may also participate. "There will be a lot going on inside the Bohart and outside the Bohart," Yang said. "It will be very hands-on."  

The Bohart Museum, founded by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007),  houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens and boasts the seventh largest insect collection in North America. It also houses the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity.  The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.

The museum's gift shop (on location and online) includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.

Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches,  walking sticks and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold the insects and photograph them. The newest residents of the petting zoo are Texas Gold-Banded millipedes, Orthoporus ornatus, which are native to many of the southwestern United States, including Texas.

“They're a great addition to the museum's petting zoo,” Kimsey said. “They are very gentle and great for demonstrations of how millipedes walk and how they differ from centipedes.”

Millipede enthusiast Evan White, who does design and communications for the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, and is a frequent presenter at the Bohart's open houses, recently obtained the arthropods from a collector in Texas.  “Texas Gold-Banded millipedes are naive to many of the Southwestern United States, not just Texas,” he said.

Contrary to popular belief, millipedes are not dangerous. “There is much public confusion about the difference between millipedes and centipedes--not because the two look similar, but because the terms are used interchangeably when not connected to a visual,” White said. 

He described millipedes as non-venomous, and relatively slow moving, with cylindrical bodies, two pairs of legs per body segment, and herbivorous. “In fact, they are more like decomposers – they do well on rotting vegetation, wood, etc.--the scientific word for is ‘detritivore.' Most millipedes are toxic if consumed, some even secrete a type of cyanide when distressed. The point being:  don't lick one.”  

In contract, centipedes are venomous, fast-moving insects with large, formidable fangs, and one pair of legs per body segment. “They are highly carnivorous, although some will eat bananas. Go figure. And they are often high-strung and aggressive if provoked.”

Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, and millipede enthusiast Evan White, both of UC Davis, show Texas Gold-Banded mllipedes. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, and millipede enthusiast Evan White, both of UC Davis, show Texas Gold-Banded mllipedes. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, and millipede enthusiast Evan White, both of UC Davis,

Close-up shot of Texas Gold-Banded millipedes. Millipedes are arthropods. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up shot of Texas Gold-Banded millipedes. Millipedes are arthropods. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up shot of Texas Gold-Banded millipedes. Millipedes are arthropods. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Bohart Museum is home to nearly eight million insect specimens. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The Bohart Museum is home to nearly eight million insect specimens. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Bohart Museum is home to nearly eight million insect specimens. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, September 22, 2014 at 9:03 PM

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