Posts Tagged: insects
Why shouldn't there be?
When you pick up Sarah Albee's book, Bugged: How Insects Changed the World, you'll also see and read about mosquitoes, honey bees, beetles, fleas, bedbugs, mayflies, praying mantids, silkworms, and assorted other insects, or what she calls “The Good, The Bad and the Uggy.”
An entomologist's favorite subject. A kid's delight. A history book like no other.
Newly published by Walker Books for Young Readers (Bloomsbury), Bugged is about how insects influenced human history not only in America but throughout the world. It's especially good reading on the Fourth of July, Independence Day, when you're focused on fireflies and fireworks and pondering parades and picnics. (That's what I did today!)
Frankly, it's delightful to see a children's book on bugs (it's targeted for readers 8 and up but actually, it a good book for adults, too). It's not your usual history book: it's an easy-to-read, fun and cleverly written book full of sidebars, photos, cartoons, and illustrations.
Bugs, as we all know are loved, hated, feared, scorned or shunned. And misunderstood.
“Most of my books and blog posts tend to be where science and history meet up--my goal is always to find a topic that is interesting and accessible to kids and get them interested in history,” Albee told us. In her last book, Poop Happened: A History of the World from the Bottom Up, she devoted an entire chapter about "filth diseases," or insect-vectored diseases.
“That's what gave me the idea to do a whole book about them,” she said.
Albee, who says her inner child is 12 years old, loves bugs that are cool, amazing or just plain gross. No fairy tales here. No “Buttercup Goes to the Ball” here.
In her childhood, “I was the kind of kid that was always outside exploring, collecting, catching,” the Connecticut resident acknowledged.
In her book, Albee touches on what she calls “the bad-news bugs”:
- Public Enemy No. 1, the mosquito (think of all the mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, yellow fever and dengue)
- Public Enemy No. 2, the fly (it's to blame for sleeping sickness, typhoid and leishmaniasis, among others)
- Public Enemy No. 3, the flea (Remember the Oriental rat flea transmitted the bubonic plague?)
- Public Enemy, No. 4, the louse (Note: these critters, head lice and body lice, are not your friends. They may be close and personal but they are not your friends)
The beneficial insects, including honey bees, come into play, too. (And why not? There's a "bee" in her last name!) Albee points out that honey bees are not native to America; European colonists brought them here in 1622. She also touches on honey bee health, mentioning the mysterious colony collapse disorder, characterized by adult bee abandoning the hive, leaving behind the queen bee and brood.
Although many people are afraid of bee stings, bee venom is “used to treat patients suffering from many ailments, including arthritis, back pain and skin conditions because it contains melittin, which is an anti-inflammatory substance,” Albee explains.
Reactions of little kids to her book? “It's been really great to see how much kids like the book," she said. "At school visits I use volunteers who dress up as doctors, and others as patients, and together we try to diagnose the insect-vectored diseases they're suffering from. Kids love the remedies we try--dosing with mercury, quarantine, bleeding and cupping, smoking cigars--all pretend of course."
Back to George Washington. If you don't know this, insects figured in our country's founding when we were battling Great Britain for our independence. As Albee correctly points out: Gen. George Washington “had both the female mosquito and the body louse on his side.”
She tells all in her chapter on “How Revolutionary!”
This photo of a bee sting, by Kathy Keatley Garvey, appears in Sarah Albee's book, "Bugged."
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is showcasing insects in the Floriculture Building, where displays include a bee observation hive from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, butterfly and other specimens from the Bohart Museum of Entomology, and arts and crafts from the Honey and Pollination Center.
In Today's Youth Building, six-year-old Mieko Heiser of Dixon is displaying "My Bug Exhibit," telling fairgoers how to catch, identity and pin insects. Her pinned insects include a honey bee, lacewing, field cricket and ladybug larvae. And, oh, yes, a spider (not an insect, but an arthropod).
"It's an amazing exhibit," said Sharon Payne, building superintendent and president of the Solano County 4-H Council. It won a best-of-show award, spotlighting the fair's theme, "Best of Show."
Here's what's "buggy" in the Floriculture Building, headed by florist Kathy Hicks:
- Entomologist Jeff Smith of the Bohart Museum will let fairgoers pet and hold a 22-year-old rose-haired tarantula from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., both Saturday and Sunday, May 10-11. He also plans to bring along Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks. Those are a few of the live critters, permanent residents, in the Bohart Museum's "petting zoo." The UC Davis-based museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is home to nearly eight million insect specimens.
- Billy Synk, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, is scheduled to answer questions about bees from 11 to 4 p.m., Friday, May 9.
- Cameron Jasper, bee scientist with the Brian Johnson lab at UC Davis, plans to share bee information with fairgoers from 4 to 6 on Friday, May 9.
- Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, headquartered in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, will show youngsters how to make bee/flower puppets from 1 to 5 p.m., Saturday, May 10.
- You can also expect to see native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, there, too, schedule permitting.
Meanwhile, over on the UC Davis campus, a special event will take place on Friday, May 9 in the department's bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. The occasion: National Public Gardens Day. The open house will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and includes a guided tour from 6 to 6:30. Haven manager Christine Casey says "We'll also be giving away sunflower plants along with information about how to monitor them for bee activity."
The half-acre bee garden is open daily from dawn to dusk. Expect to see lots of bees and other pollinators, plus the amazing work of the UC Davis Art/Science Program.
Sharon Payne, superintendent of the Today's Youth Building at the Dixon May Fair, stands by a 6-year-old's bug exhibit, which won a blue ribbon and best of show. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, will engage youngsters in arts and crafts. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Entomologist Jeff Smith of the Bohart Museum of Entomology will show fairgoers his rose-haired tarantula. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
“Our crowd sourcing ends on Sunday night, April 20," said wildlife biologist David Wyatt, professor at Sacramento City College. (To learn more about the effort or to donate, check out the "Cataloging Insect and Bat Diversity in Belize" website.)
Wyatt, a professor in the field ecology program and a veteran of nine trips to Belize, in Central America, has scheduled the trip for June 2-16, 2014. A veteran of nine trips to Belize, he will guide the research team of six other biologists, including entomologist Fran Keller, his former student. Keller, who is finishing her doctorate in entomology at UC Davis, studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology.
In addition to establishing a major entomology collection in Belize, the research team will conduct an inventory of bats from this area of Belize. An added bonus to the bat work is that the team will be collecting insect ectoparasites from the bats - in particular the bat flies (Nycteribiidae and Streblidae). “These are a fascinating group of parasitic dipterans that only occur on bats with a high degree of coevolution between the bats and the bat flies,” said Wyatt, who specializes in mammals (ringtails and bats) and also extensively studies in entomology.
The researchers are also teaming with the Biodiversity Center of Belize to conduct DNA barcoding of the insect specimens they collect (each will donate a leg to the analysis) and also barcoding of small wing punches of skin from the bats. Regular updates of the project are being blogged under the Lab Notes section of the website. Supporters who donate are automatically informed of new Lab Notes updates by email.
Keller said that starting an entomological collection “is not an easy thing nor is it inexpensive. With university and governmental cutbacks, funding for basic scientific research, such as biodiversity surveys and discovering new species, is rejected and being replaced by studies focused on climate change and alternative energy resources. Insects act as indicators of climate change and understanding the distribution of insects over time informs the scientific community on how various ecosystems are being altered by climate change.”
“Our crowdsource funding is an attempt to fund research through a unique online company called Experiment.com. We are presenting our research proposal to the public and the public will decide the value by backing the project with donations that range from $5 to--well we will take any maximum amount. Any funds over the requested amount will be applied to the collection set up equipment. With only three days left we are hoping to get as many backers as possible. Getting to work with David to establish this collection in Belize is also an opportunity for a former student to give back to a dedicated mentor.”
Keller is an alumnus of Sacramento City College. She began her academic career as a microbiology major but after completing classes in natural history, entomology, and field entomology, she turned her interests from single-celled organisms to multi-cellular animals. She is now teaching science at the college.
Keller credited Wyatt with encouraging her to transfer to UC Davis to continue her education. “David's enthusiasm and energy for teaching and entomology were contagious,” Keller said. “Although I really do enjoy cell and molecular biology, entomology is my true passion and David helped me recognize that fact. David and I have collected insects together many times in the Mojave Desert and Arizona. He also encouraged me to sign up for a one-week course in the summer to work with bats. Many bats rely on insects as their major food source.”
“I guess I have been an entomologist since I was a child but just didn't know it,” Keller said. During her childhood, she collected bees in jars and added flowers "to see what the bees would do." She and her sisters also collected caterpillars and watched them form chrysalids and emerge as butterflies.
Fran Keller chasing dragonflies. (Photo by Alex Wild)
David Wyatt with a ringtail.
Well, on Saturday, Feb. 8 your wish will come true. You can not only see what's inside but ask those questions you've always wanted to ask.
It's the third annual UC Davis Biodiversity Day, when six biological museums open their doors to an eagerly awaiting public. It's set from noon to 4 p.m.
It will be open house at these sites:
- Bohart Museum of Entomology
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology
- Botanical Conservatory
- Center for Plant Diversity
- Anthropology Collections, and
- Paleontology Collections
They're all within walking distance but you may want to bike or drive. This event is free and open to the public. There's free parking, too. Families are encouraged to attend.
What's to see? Well, for starters: insects and insect specimens, carnivorous plants, fossils and birds. You'll be able to talk to the experts.
See the Bohart Museum website to download a map. For more information on Biodiversity Day, contact Tabatha Yang of the Bohart Museum at email@example.com.
A walking stick being fed a leaf at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (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)