The Amazing Art of Entomologists

The Amazing Art of Entomologists

Oh, that praying mantis! Oh, that jumping spider!

When you attend the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on Sunday, Jan. 21, featuring insect art, you will find art so intricate and so breathtaking that you may change your career path!

The family friendly event, free and open to the public, takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building.

Two of the talented artists showing their work will be Charlotte Herbert, who is seeking her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, and Ivana Li, a UC Davis biology lab manager who received her bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis in 2013.

Herbert studies Asilidae (assassin fly) evolution with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology. "I hope to someday make my own scientific illustrations for taxonomic revisions," Herbert says. "My dream is to be a curator of an entomology museum." Herbert started drawing and painting in 2015 and "have loved it ever since." She now helps teach Entomology 001, and entomology and art fusion class. 

Li, a past president of the UC Davis Entomology Club and a recipient of the UC Davis Department of Entomology's 2012 Outstanding Undergraduate Award, recalls that her fascination with insects began in early childhood but she didn't know the meaning of “entomologist” until her second-grade encounter with Chester. Chester is the main character of George Selden's Newbery-award winning book, A Cricket in Times Square. 

"I was pretty thrilled that to find out that there was actually a job in which you get to study insects," Li recalled. "That was the best. It still is.”

The open house, "Bug-Art@The Bohart," will feature a number of artists. UC Davis undergraduate student and artist Karissa Merritt will be on-hand sketching insects for all to see, said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.  You'll see:

  • Art from the collection of the late Mary Foley Bensen, a former Smithsonian Institution scientific illustrator who lived the last years of her life in Davis, and who worked for entomology faculty
  • Art  from Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology, who illustrated under her maiden name Lynn Siri
  • Art by Charlotte Herbert, Ph.D. student; and UC Davis alumni Ivana Li and Nicole Tam, who hold degrees in entomology from UC Davis
  • Exhibit of "insect wedding photography" by Bohart associates Greg Kareofelas and Kathy Keatley Garvey

Visitors are also invited to pick up a colored pencil and paper and sketch an insect, said Yang. For those not artistically inclined, images of dragonflies from Dragonflies of North America: A Color and Learn Book with Activities by dragonfly expert/author Kathy Biggs and illustrator Tim Manolis, will be available for people of all ages to color.

Open house attendees are invited to wear insect-themed attire, including dresses, ties, and jewelry. A contest will take place at 3 p.m. for the best insect-themed outfit, and for the best insect-themed tattoo (tattoo must be in a family friendly location).

Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly and moth collection at the Bohart and is newly returned from a collecting trip to Belize, will be on hand to show the Bohart collection.

In connection with Bohart open house, campus visitors can tour the Design Museum exhibit, It's Bugged: Insects' Role in Design, in 124 Cruess Hall from 2 to 4 p.m. The exhibit, which runs through April 22, includes art from faculty and students affiliated with the UC Davis Department of Design, and specimens from the Bohart Museum, as well as images by UC Davis alumnus and noted insect photographer Alex Wild, curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin. Wild received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 2005, studying with major professor Phil Ward. 

The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity.   Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold some of the arthropods and photograph them.  The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy. 
The Bohart Museum holds special open houses throughout the academic year. Its 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, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free. More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or emailing or Tabatha Yang at