UC Master Gardener Program
UC Master Gardener Program
UC Master Gardener Program
University of California
UC Master Gardener Program

Posts Tagged: entomology

Dying by Inches

Bug of the Year: Long-nosed bee fly, Bombylius major. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Did he really say that?" entomologist  May Berenbaum asked.

"He did," said cultural entomologist Emmet Brady, host of the Insect News Network.

The occasion: a UC Davis dinner honoring Berenbaum, professor and head of the Department of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Berenbaum had just finished speaking at the UC Davis Conference Center on the honey bee crisis and the next day would deliver a talk on "Sex and the Single Parsnip."

At the dinner, Brady gifted Berenbaum with an Insect News Network t-shirt. He hosts the popular show on the Davis radio station, KDRT 95.7 FM.

The conversation, however, soon turned to the lettering on the back: "I am dying by inches from not having anybody to talk to about insects..."--Charles Darwin, 1828.

Did he say that?

Yes, he did. 

In a letter penned June 12, 1828 to his second cousin, clergyman William Darwin Fox (1805-80), Charles complained he had no one to talk to about insects. He started the letter with "My dear Fox." Not "Will" or "Willy" or "William" or "Cuz" but "My dear Fox."

The "I-am-dying-by-inches" quote followed.

In reality, many entomologists feel the same way. Not because they have no one to talk to, but many folks don't listen. Here they are enthusiastically talking about the biology of their favorite insect only to see their "listeners" stifling a yawn, picking imaginary lint off a sleeve, gazing at their watch, or nowadays, checking their cell phone for messages.

Well, doesn't everyone have a favorite insect? And shouldn't everyone be interested in the biology and life cycle of the long-nosed bee fly, the salt marsh tiger beetle, the Madagascar sunset moth and other critters?

Emmet Brady yearns to get people talking about insects. He hosts a show from 4 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and from noon to 1 p.m. on Fridays. (You can also listen online.) In addition, Brady hosts the Bee-A-Thon, a global online marathon dedicated to raising awareness about honey bees and other pollinators. He also sponsors a "Bug of the Year" contest, urging people to vote for their favorite bug. (This year the long-nosed bee fly won a hair.)

Brady works closely with the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, co-founded and co-directed by entomologist/artist Diane Ulllman and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick. He's presented such talks as "Insects Run the Planet—Humans Are Only Along for the Ride" and "Cultural Entomology: A New Horizon for the Arts and Sciences."

As for May Berenbaum, she's an icon in the entomological world and will serve as president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America in 2016. She's a a talented scientist, dedicated researcher, dynamic speaker, creative author, and an insect ambassador who wants people to overcome their fear of insects.

And now, the proud owner of a t-shirt calling attention to her favorite subject: insects.

Emmet Brady, shown here with May Berenbaum, talks about the meaning of the Insect News Network t-shirt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Emmet Brady, shown here with May Berenbaum, talks about the meaning of the Insect News Network t-shirt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Emmet Brady, shown here with May Berenbaum, talks about the meaning of the Insect News Network t-shirt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Emmet Brady presents May Berenbaum with an Insect News Network t-shirt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Emmet Brady presents May Berenbaum with an Insect News Network t-shirt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Emmet Brady presents May Berenbaum with an Insect News Network t-shirt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Quote from Charles Darwin. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Quote from Charles Darwin. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Quote from Charles Darwin. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 9:10 PM

From Beetles to Skeeters

So, you want to become an entomologist...

Entomologists, future entomologists and others interested in science are looking forward to the fall seminars sponsored Oct. 1 through Dec. 3 by the Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis.

All seminars are held on Wednesdays from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. Individual faculty members will host the seminars. 

You'll learn about fungus-farming ambrosia beetles, the invasive brown marmorated sting bug, argentine ants, thrips, and Culex mosquitoes, to name a few. 

The UC Davis entomology faculty do a fantastic job lining up speakers. The key word here is "passion."  (The best advice I ever received in a fortune cookie involved passion: "Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.")

Bring on the bugs!

The schedule:

Oct. 1: Jiri Hulcr of Department of Entomology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, “Evolution and Ecology of Fungus-Farming Ambrosia Beetles. Host: entomology professor Phil Ward

Oct. 8: Anne Nielsen, Department of Nematology, UC Davis, “Population Ecology and Damage Estimates of the Invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Halyomorpha halys.”   Host: nematology and entomology professor Ed Lewis

Oct. 15: Urs Wyss, Institute of Phytopathology, Kiel University, Kiel, Germany, “Biological Control of Greenhouse Pests with Natural Arthropod Enemies.” Host: entomology and nematology professor Harry Kaya

Oct. 22:  Greg Crutsinger, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, “Linking Plant Genetic Variation to Foliage- and Litter-Based Arthropod Communities.” Host: entomology professor Rick Karban

Oct. 29:  Kris Godfrey, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Sacramento "Pest Management of Invasive Insect Pests in California.” Host: nematology and entomology professor Ed Lewis
Nov. 5: Neil Tsutsui, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley, “Exploring the Genetic and Chemical Basis of Argentine Ant Behavior.” Host: entomology professor Phil Ward

Nov. 12: Le Kang, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China Chemical Communications Between Plants, Leafminers and Parasites.” Host: Michael Parrella, associate dean of the Division of Agricultural Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and entomology professor

Nov. 26: Chris Barker, Department of Entomology, UC Davis, “Environmental Drivers of Large-Scale Spatial and Temporal Patterns in Mosquito Abundance and Virus Transmission in California.” Host: Bruce Eldridge, emeritus professor of entomology

Dec. 3: Lisa Chanbusarakum, Department of Entomology, UC Davis, “Exploring the Microbial World of Frankliniella occidentalis, the Western Flower Thrips.” Host: Diane Ullman, associate dean for undergraduate academic programs at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and entomology professor

Chris Barker
Chris Barker

UC Davis mosquito researcher Chris Barker will speak on "Environmental Drivers of Large-Scale Spatial and Temporal Patterns in Mosquito Abundance and Virus Transmission in Californiaā€¯ on Nov. 26 from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 4:18 PM

Teacher Extraordinaire

Okay, be honest.

If you were attending class at 7:30 a.m., could you get excited about flies? No? How about the gender differences? Still no?

You would if Mary Frances “Fran” Keller were there teaching you.

You won’t find anyone more enthusiastic about entomology than Fran Keller.

A doctoral candidate in entomology, she recently received an outstanding teaching award at UC Davis.

She's amazing. Take it from pre-med student Shawn Purnell, one of Keller’s students.

“My perception and expectations of teacher assistants were forever raised when I met Fran,” he said.

“Truthfully, the very first time I had lab, I thought Fran was a little crazy. I had never before seen anyone become so enthralled in explaining the differences between male and female flies, especially at 7:30 in the morning. I thought to myself, why would I ever be interested in this and how is this knowledge ever going to benefit me? To my surprise, by the very next lab I found myself blissfully explaining the conditions of Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium to my lab partner. Fran’s passion toward her students and enthusiasm for not only zoology, but also all aspects of academia, created an irresistible learning environment.”

That’s Fran.

If it creeps or crawls or flies or jumps, Fran wants to know about it. She's especially partial to tenebrionids or darkling beetles (see her Web site). She’s also an accomplished artist, illustrator and nature photographer. And a wife and mother of two.

Her four years as the teaching assistant (TA) in an insect physiology class taught by Charles Judson, emeritus professor of entomology and professors Bruce Hammock and Walter Leal, led to the teaching honor. The trio nominated her for the award, which Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef presented to her at a May ceremony on the UC Davis campus.

How does she do it? Excel at teaching? Fran gets to know her students individually and then focuses on their interests. “She showed me countless examples of how the subject (biological sciences) applied to medicine," Shawn Purnell said. "I especially remember her telling a story about how a graduate student willingly ate a tapeworm to further her research, and what the doctors had to do in order to remove it.”

"It's reassuring to know that out of a maze of 30,000 students and faculty at Davis," he said, "that there are people like Fran who really care."

Said Fran: “Not all students learn in the same way. There are global, linear and kinesthetic learners. I believe that illuminating a student’s learning style opens the door for thinking critically.”

"My very best teachers would not accept less than what they knew I was capable of doing. They understood my potential and treated me as an individual in a sea of many.”

Fran, scheduled to receive her doctorate next June, studies with major advisor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and chair of the Department of Entomology.

The doctoral candidate is based at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, where she also designs museum posters, such as the Butterflies of Central California, Dragonflies of California, California State Insect (California Dogface Butterfly) and Pacific Invasive Ants. Currently she's coordinating a sale of gift items listed on the Bohart Web site. Proceeds benefit the museum's outreach program.

What’s she been up to lately? I hope you're sitting down!

This fall she will be TA’ing Entomology 100 with her major professor Lynn Kimsey, who describes her as "one of my most gifted students ever."

She's an invited speaker for the first California Desert Research Symposium (CDRS), set Nov. 8 at the University of the Redlands. It's billed as "the first biennial CDRS, contributing to the understanding and conservation of desert wilderness.

Fran is also organizing the Coleoptera symposium at the Entomological Society of America annual meeting set Nov. 16-19 in Reno. She'll deliver a presentation on Stenomorpha.

And for all you dragonfly enthusiasts out there, she's designing a new dragonfly t-shirt for the museum gift shop.

And about those flies she so eagerly discusses at 7:30 in the morning? How much time do you have?


Fran Keller
Fran Keller

Fran Keller is an enthusiastic entomologist and an outstanding teacher. Plus, she's an accomplished artist, illustrator, and a nature and insect photographer.

Halictid bee
Halictid bee

Fran Keller captured this photo of a halictid bee on Borrichia (seaside tansy). It's included in her Bahamas gallery on her Web site at www.tenebrionid.net.

buprestid beetle
buprestid beetle

This is a robber fly with a buprestid beetle on a creosote bush branch in the Algodones Dunes. Fran Keller took this photo and "suffered multiple spines from prickly flowers and sand temperatures of 130 degrees, but it was worth it."

Fran Keller and daughter Rachael
Fran Keller and daughter Rachael

Entomologist Fran Keller (left) and daughter Rachael deVries share a hug on the beach after Fran's recent wedding to entomologist Pat Randolph. Yes, Fran collected insects along the beach. (Photo by Cory Unruh)

Posted on Wednesday, September 3, 2008 at 3:11 PM

Big on Butterflies

Our cat is an entomologist.

She has no formal training in the science of insects, but she can catch insects with the best of 'em. Plus, her credentials include a butterfly mark on her leg.

Xena the Warrior Princess is a rescue cat. We first spotted her outside a Costco store in the winter of 2000, the same year our son headed off to college to study computer science and mathematics.

A sign proclaimed "Free kitten!"

Not wanting a kitten, free or not (we already owned an adventuresome calico named Indiana Joan), we started to walk away.

But she was calling my name, this scrawny kitten dressed unabashedly in the same tuxedo colors our son wore while playing double bass for the Sacramento Youth Symphony's Premier Orchestra.

Coincidence? Probably. Fate? Perhaps. Serendipity? Certainly.

I thought about naming her "Free," but husband Jim didn't think that would be such a great idea. You just can't step out on the front porch and yell "Free! Free! Free!"

So Xena the Warrior Princess she became: half-warrior, half-princess, and all kitten. At first, Xena repeatedly performed sofa-to-chair leaps in the family room--antics that prompted friend Marilyn to observe: "I think her mother had an affair with a flying squirrel."

Then came the insects. The butterflies, the beetles (not the kind that play music) the honey bees, the sunflower bees, the carpenter bees and the moths.

(We will not talk about the roof rat and the flicker. They are not insects.)

Every night, or so it seems, our feline entomologist snares a hornworm  moth and eagerly shares it with us. UC Davis entomologist (and apiculturist) Eric Mussen says the mangled specimen (below) is  either a tomato hornworm or  tobacco hornworm.

At least it's not a flying squirrel.



Feline entomologist
Feline entomologist

Xena the Warrior Princess is a feline entomologist. She specializes in butterflies and sphinx moths. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Sphinx moth
Sphinx moth

Our feline entomologist collects moths. This is probably a sphinx moth, the adult form of the tomato hornworm (Manduca sexta (Linnaeus). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Butterfly mark
Butterfly mark

Xena the Warrior Princess sports a butterfly mark on her leg, credentials certifying her as a feline entomologist. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, August 29, 2008 at 1:19 PM

What's Entomology?

I'm standing in line at the photo center, waiting to pay for the dozen 8x10 photos of noted entomologist Richard Bohart that I’d ordered for his UC Davis memorial.

“Doc,” as he was called, died Feb. 1, 2007 in Berkeley at age 93 after a career spanning 70 years--33 at UC Davis.

He was a giant of a man. He towered over his fellow linebackers on the UC Berkeley football team in the mid-1930s, and he towered over his entomology colleagues.

During his career, Doc identified more than a million mosquitoes and wasps, named more than 300 new species of insects, authored 230 separate publications and wrote six books on mosquitoes and wasps, including three editions of Mosquitoes of California. An entire family of insects bears his name: Bohartillidae (twisted wing parasites), genus Bohartilla.

Doc founded the Bohart Museum of Entomology in 1946, the same year he joined the UC Davis faculty. Today the museum, a tribute to much of his lifelong work, houses more than 7 million specimens.

So, here I am, standing in line, thinking of his accomplishments and the passion that drove him and the insects that possessed him.

The photo center line shortens and it’s my turn. I pay for the photos. “Thanks!" I say. "Nice job! These are of the life of Dr. Bohart, a   world-renowned entomologist.”

The clerk, probably in her 30s, looks at me, puzzled. “What,” she asks, “is en-to-mol-ogy?”

She quickly apologizes, saying she ought to know that.

“Study of insects,” I say.

Her question is not unusual. Many folks have no idea what entomology is, which is probably why it should be called “insect science.”

Nancy Dullum, administrative assistant in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, says she’s often asked what entomology means and how it’s spelled. A UC Davis employee since 1977 (25 years in entomology, including 13 years with the UC Mosquito Research Program, and five years in the dean’s office in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), she’s even opened mail addressed to “Department of Antomology.”

Antomology! Now that’s creative!

I think “Doc” would have liked that.



Richard Bohart (1913-2007) on May 15, 2006, when he received the International Society of Hymenopterists Distinguished Research Medal, one of three ever awarded. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, August 8, 2008 at 1:01 PM
Webmaster Email: mgwomack@ucanr.edu