Latest News from the Bug Blog
If you're looking for a cause to support, consider the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis.
The museum crew, led by director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and dedicated.
They have gained a state, national and international reputation as a key source of information. The museum houses nearly eight million insect specimens, collected from all over the world. In addition to the insect specimens, they maintain a "live" petting zoo that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids and tarantulas. A year-around gift shop is stocked with t-shirts, sweatshirts, jewelry, books, posters, insect nets, butterfly habitats, and insect-themed candy.
"Every year we have new insect adventures and those head-slapping moments when you think 'insects do that, really?'" Kimsey wrote in a recent letter, adding that "2013 has been a very active year, with our staff and students strengthening our efforts to provide services and educational programs to the public. We are very proud of our dedicated group of volunteers and staff who bring insect-based programs to schools and public functions throughout northern California."
As in the past, long-time supporters Marius and Joanne Wasbauer have given the Bohart Museum another challenge grant of $5000. "They hope that their gift will inspire others to give and they will match your gift, one-for-one, up to $5000," Kimsey wrote. "Funds from the campaign will be deposited in the museum endowment, which provides invaluable operating support to the museum, its collections, programs and staff."
Folks can donate online at http://www.bohartmuseum.com.
Folks can also sign up for a sponsorship of $2500 to be eligible to participate in the Bohart's BioLegay program and will be able to name one of the new species listed on the BioLegacy website, http://biolegacy.ucdavis.edu. This contribution could also be counted toward the Wasbauer challenge grant.
The insect museum is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, near the LaRue Road intersection. It's open to the public Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. Special weekend hours are also offered, as are group tours. Contact Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, at email@example.com for more information.
Noted entomologist Jerry Powell, director emeritus of the Essig Museum of Entomology, UC Berkeley, volunteers at the Bohart Museum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Entomologist Jerry Powell selects a specimen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ethan Wells, 7, of the Woodland Montessori School, delights in an Australian walking stick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hands reach out to touch the Australian walking stick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology recognized it right away. He's seen or heard of many a wood duck box taken over by honey bees looking for a suitable home.
It's enough to drive the duck enthusiasts quackers.
The question came up again this week, as it periodically does. Someone asked him: "How do you keep wood duck boxes for their intended purpose?" Mussen's observations are worth repeating.
"Years ago I spent some time with a UC Davis student trying to find ways to dissuade honey bees from nesting in wood duck boxes," Mussen recalled. "They had found one box in which the female duck refused to go, so the bees built their combs right down over and around her, killing her. We tried to prevent the bees from being able to grip the top of the box, where they connect their downward-hanging combs. The Teflon tape that we used prevented them from starting at the top and building down. But, they started on the wall at a corner, build some comb up against the Teflon--yes, beeswax sticks to Teflon--then built the combs down. The stickum on the Teflon tape wasn’t good enough to keep the combs stuck to the top, so the whole thing eventually collapsed in a heap."
"We tried Insectape strips (produced by Rainbow Technology) that were supposed to repel bees and wasps from building in electric boxes. We poured the artificial 'swarms' into the boxes to see if they would be driven out by the pesticide strip. It killed them--they didn’t leave. The strips might repel a real swarm under natural conditions, but that is not how we tested it."
"It would be pretty hard to determine where the swarms originate. Right around swarm time is when many beekeepers are looking for suitable locations to build up their colonies and make 'splits.' The bees need a good supply of food for building up, and beekeepers may be moving their bees close to wood duck nesting areas for the spring nectar and pollens."
One option is placing bee boxes near the wood duck boxes to trap honey bee swarms, "especially of the boxes contain some previously used combs."
"There also is a honey bee attractant--pheromone--that can be purchased from beekeeping supply companies to entice the bees into the trap box," Mussen says. "For whatever reason, the trap hives work best at about nine feet off the ground. Some of the beekeeping supply companies also offer what look like really large flower pots with a cover. They are made of some sort of wood pulp--so they don’t really look like bee boxes. By opening a quarter-sized hole in the narrow end, the pots can be put out as trap hives and work pretty well. Despite your best intentions, however, some of the swarms just ignore the trap hives and go somewhere else. So, some will end up in the duck boxes, anyway."
What to do? Visit the wood duck boxes frequently to remove the bees before they accomplish much. "Unfortunately, once they have built some comb in the box," Mussen says, "the odor makes the box much more attractive to the next swarm."
Another issue: some folks troubled by the declining bee population insist on letting honey bees be. "We have become 'blessed' with an increasing number of individuals who believe that honey bees should be left to their own devices, to do whatever happens," he says.
So, to all those folks wanting to retain wood duck boxes for ducks, Mussen says to engage in periodic monitoring to help out their feathered, webbed buddies. That includes removing the bees.
Mussen didn't say this, but I think he meant that you don't have to get up at the "quack of dawn" to do it.
This wood duck box is being used as a bee hive in The Bee Sanctuary on the UC Davis campus. Examining it is Derek Downey who directs The Bee Collective and The Bee Sanctuary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's rather troubling trying to rear subtropical butterflies, Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), in late autumn.
The string of warm sunny days in late November meant plenty of days for Gulf Frits to mate and reproduce. From eggs to larvae to chrysalids to adults--we watched the life cycle unfold on our passion flower vines (Passiflora).
Now it's freezing cold, with morning temperature dipping below 23 degrees.
No Gulf Frits flying outside.
But there is one Gulf Frit flying inside. It emerged from its chrysalis Friday. It is the sole occupant of our butterfly habitat.
"That butterfly could not have picked a worse time to come out," commented naturalist Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart Museum of Entomology volunteer who rears butterflies, including Gulf Frits.
He's so right. Freezing cold and pouring rain are not conducive to releasing butterflies back into the wild--the wild meaning the Passiflora.
On Sunday afternoon as the mercury rose a bit, I contemplated releasing my Gulf Frit. I asked Siri "How COLD is it in Vacaville, California?"
She answered "It is 49 degrees in Vacaville and I don't find that particularly cold."
What? So, now we're getting editorial comment when we ask a question about the weather?
Siri, as you know, is that "intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator" (thanks, Wikipedia) that responds to questions you ask on your iphone. Siri is Norwegian for "beautiful woman who leads you to victory."
Beautiful woman or not, Siri is neither leading ME to victory nor my boy butterfly.
Yes, my Gulf Frit is a male, according to butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.
Like many other lepidopterists, Shapiro is concerned about the high pressure from the Arctic, resulting in freezing temperatures here. "The low temperatures we have experienced may be enough to extirpate the Gulf Fritillary butterfly regionally," he said. "This subtropical invader has become very popular with local residents (Yolo, Sacrameno and Solano counties, for instance), and if it is indeed wiped out, many will be sad to see it go."
Today Shapiro visited some of the warm pockets on the UC Davis campus but saw no "Leps" (Lepidoptera) of any kind.
There is, however, one restless male Lep in my butterfly habitat. His release date depends on the outside temperatures.
It does not depend on what Siri says.
Newly emerged Gulf Fritillary butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A brief bit of sunlight, and the newly emerged Gulf Frit fluttered its wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's no secret that bugs often get a bad rap.
Take the negative expression, "Bah, Humbug!" uttered by Ebenezer Scrooge, a Charles Dickens character.
Now it seems that everyone who dislikes Christmas says it, with an emphasis on "bug."
Why not turn things around and say "Ah, humbug!" Think of the hum of the buzzing honey bees on a warm summer day.
Or even a cold wintry day.
Yesterday as the temperature hovered at 48 to 49 degrees on the University of California, Davis, we took a noonhour stroll behind the Lab Sciences Building to look for insects. We spotted a lone honey bee buzzing around some spiderylike red flowers, and buds that looked like tiny balls of red yarn. The plant? Calliandra californica, also known as Baja fairy duster, according to Ernesto Sandoval, director of the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory.
Now bees don't usually leave their colony until the temperature hits at least 55 degrees (although we've seen them flying at 50 in our backyard).
This bee apparently wasn't aware of the "no fly" list.
This honey bee was not aware of the "no fly" list; bees don't usually fly when the temperature is 49 degrees, but this one did. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee gathering nectar on Calliandra californica, aka Baja fairy duster. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee continues foraging on Calliandra caifornica. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Because that's what it is.
It's an event held in December, specifically Saturday, Dec. 7 from noon to 3 p.m. when the Bohart Museum of Entomology extends its weekday hours so folks can see the global insect collection, hold live critters from the "petting zoo," ask questions, and browse the gift shop.
Wouldn't it be interesting if "The December Event" drew a long line of bug lovers comparable to the swell of Black Friday shoppers? Can't you just see it? Families eagerly waiting in line for the the noon opening...the big dash when the doors swing open...smiles everywhere...
Science never looked so good...or so popular!
The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million specimens, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. The building is near the intersection of LaRue Road and Crocker Lane.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, was the last graduate student of noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart, for whom the museum is named.
So, Dec. 7 is a good time to stop in, check out the insect specimens, and maybe hold a Madagascar hissing cockroach, a walking stick, a rose-haired tarantula or a praying mantis. Bring your camera. The photo could wind up on a unique holiday card.
Bug lovers can also visit the year-around gift shop, which includes t-shirts, sweatshirts, posters, books, insect nets, butterfly habitats, and insect-themed candy. (Items can also be ordered online. Proceeds benefit the Bohart Museum.)
Wait, there's more! You can have your name or the name of a loved one "permanently attached" to an insect through the Bohart Museum's BioLegacy program.
BioLegacy supports species discovery and naming, research and teaching activities of the museum through sponsorships, said Kimsey. "At a time when support for taxonomic and field research is shrinking, researchers find it increasingly difficult to discover, classify and name undescribed species. Yet there are thousands yet to be discovered. Taxonomy is the basis of all biology and without species discovery and naming much of the world’s biodiversity will remain unknown and therefore unprotectable."
As noted on the BioLegacy website, the program
- Provides donors the opportunity to sponsor and give a scientific name to a newly discovered insect species;
- Provides researchers responsible for identifying the new species with names provided by donors;
- Ensures that names provide by donors are used in a scientifically sound and scientifically correct manner in accordance with International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature rules;
- Provides donors with documentary proof of their name for the new species in question;
- Ensures that donated funds go to the support of taxonomical research in the Bohart Museum of Entomology; and
- Publishes donor-named species and information about the research on its website.
Bottom line: the species naming is a "unique, lasting form of dedication." A minimum sponsorship of $2500 is requested.
A Bohart Museum volunteer at work. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Madgascar hissing cockroaches are a popular attraction at the Bohart Museum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)