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Posts Tagged: Steve Heydon

What's It Like to Be Parasitized?

Senior museum scientist Steve Heydon is a world authority on Pteromalids, or jewel wasps, a tiny group of parasitoids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What's it like to be parasitized?

Say you're a caterpillar or an aphid and a wasp comes along and lays her eggs inside you. Her eggs will hatch and then her offspring will eat their way out. You, the host,  are no more. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

If you visit the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on Sunday, Jan. 11 on the University of California, Davis, campus, you'll learn all about parasitoids.

The fun, educational and family-friendly event is themed, "Parasitoid Palooza!" Free and open to the public, it takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane,

"Most everyone knows that mantids eat other insects or that ladybird beetles (lady bugs) consume lots of aphids, but there is another way insects eat other insects," commented Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.

"An insect parasitoid is a species whose immatures live off of one insect host, usually eating it from the inside out," she said. "It is part of their life cycle and the host dies. This sounds like a weird way to make a living, but there are more species of parasitoids than there are insects with any other single kind of life history. The movie Alien with Sigourney Weaver co-opts this phenomenon, but in reality there are no parasitoids on humans or other vertebrates."

The Bohart open house will spotlight this unusual life cycle.  Wasps, flies and beetles are parasitoids to many different insect groups.

Senior museum scientist and collections manager Steve Heydon, is a world authority on Pteromalids, or jewel wasps, a group of tiny parasitoids, and will be on hand to talk about them.

This tachinid fly is both a parasitoid and a pollinator. This is a female of the Peleteria species. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Another group of parasitoids highlighted will be the Strepsiptera, or Twisted-Wing Parasites, an order of insects that the late UC Davis entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) researched for his doctorate, which he obtained in 1938.  The museum not only carries his name, but there's an entire family of Strepsiptera, the Bohartillidae, named in honor of him.

Live parasitoids from the lab of Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomolology and Nematology will be showcased. They include Encarsa, Eretmocerus, Diglyphus and Aphidius.

"Parasitoid Palooza" promises to be a fun and wacky celebration of the diversity of life, Yang said. A family-friendly craft activity with balloons inside of balloons (representing parasitoids) is planned.

Before you go, be sure to check out Wired.Com's piece on a wasp from the genus Glyptapantele laying eggs in a caterpillar. Tachinid flies also provide biological control services, laying their eggs in a number of insects, including  beetles, moths, sawflies, earwigs and grasshoppers.

Along with parasitoids, visitors will see some  "teddy bear" bees or male Valley carpenter bees, to be shown by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.   Allan Jones of Davis, a noted insect photographer, delivered some to Thorp's office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility last week. Their origin? A friend's felled apple tree in Davis. The tree had rotted and male and female Valley carpenter bees were wintering inside.

The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, 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 and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold the insects 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'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. Open houses, focusing on specific themes, are held on weekends throughout the academic year. 

The remaining schedule of open houses:

  • 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.

More information is available by contacting Tabatha Yang, education and public outreach coordinator at tabyang@ucdavis.edu or (530) 752-0493.

A wasp (family Aphidiinae) parasitizing an aphid. (Photo by Fran Keller, who received her doctorate in entomology this year from UC Davis.)
A wasp (family Aphidiinae) parasitizing an aphid. (Photo by Fran Keller, who received her doctorate in entomology this year from UC Davis.)

A wasp (family Aphidiinae) parasitizing an aphid. (Photo by Fran Keller, who received her doctorate in entomology this year from UC Davis.)

Posted on Wednesday, January 7, 2015 at 5:10 PM

Let the Bed Bugs Bite

Most of us remember the old nursery rhyme, "Good night, sleep tight, and don't let the bed bugs bite," and vow to do everything we can to avoid any blood-letting.

Whether we call them "blood suckers," "menace in the mattress," or "human parasites," it's not cool to be bitten by bed bugs.  

Unless, of course, you're part of "show-and-tell" at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis.
 
Entomologist and Bohart Museum employee Danielle Wishon, who received her bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis last year and is now working as a lab assistant at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, kept the crowds pointing and whispering as she fed her colony of bed bugs, allowing them to bite her outstretched arm.
 
It was all part of the Bohart Museum open house, "Snuggle Bugs" featuring not only bed bugs, but ticks, mites, fleas and mosquitoes.
 
Bed bugs, however, were the big draw. Soon prospective "hosts" asked "Can I feed them?" Due to legal issues, however, no one was allowed to feed them except three scientists: Wishon, Bohart senior museum scientist Steve Heydon, and entomology doctoral candidate Matan Shelomi, based at the Bohart.

"Bed bug biting," however, is not part of their job descriptions.

The crowd watched in awe as the reddish-brown blood suckers turned from flat to bulging. The insects, Cimex lectularius, are "visually adorable," Wishon said, noting that they are pests but they don't spread diseases. She keeps two colonies in Briggs Hall for research purposes.

Several visitors told of their personal experiences with bed bugs--in their hotels and homes, and in their bedding and baggage. 

Wishon made sure no one took any home. 

For more information on bed bugs, check out the Entomological Society of America (ESA) website on bed bug resources. ESA includes the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM). Another good source is the relatively new University of Florida bed bug site.  

"Despite their name, bed bugs can infest areas other than beds," according to the University of Florida website. "They tend to locate in cracks and crevices, such as behinds baseboards, wall outlets, and wallpaper; between bed joints, slats, and dresser drawers; and along mattress seams and in linens and clothes. Most bed bug infestations occur in the home, along with hotels, dormitories, and cruise ships. Bed bugs easily transfer from one site to another through infested belongings like clothes, suitcases, second-hand furniture, beds, and bedding."

Forceps held by Danielle Wishon zero in on a bed bug to be fed. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Forceps held by Danielle Wishon zero in on a bed bug to be fed. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Forceps held by Danielle Wishon zero in on a bed bug to be fed. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bed bug scurries away after taking a blood meal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bed bug scurries away after taking a blood meal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bed bug scurries away after taking a blood meal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Two bed bugs on Danielle Wishon's arm. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two bed bugs on Danielle Wishon's arm. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Two bed bugs on Danielle Wishon's arm. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Danielle Wishon (foreground at left) answers questions. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Danielle Wishon (foreground at left) answers questions. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Danielle Wishon (foreground at left) answers questions. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, January 13, 2014 at 10:48 PM

'The December Event' at the Bohart Museum of Entomology

Senior museum scientist Steve Heydon. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
They're calling it "The December Event."

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)
A Bohart Museum volunteer at work. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

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)
Madgascar hissing cockroaches are a popular attraction at the Bohart Museum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Madgascar hissing cockroaches are a popular attraction at the Bohart Museum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 10:12 PM

Things That Go Bump and Boo in the Night

Senior museum scientist Steve Heydon strikes a pose.
It was about things that go bump and boo in the night during the annual Bohart Museum Society's Halloween party.

The society's annual Halloween party in the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, showcased a combination of insects and costumes.

A skull shared the habitat of the giant cave cockroach (Blaberus gigante), native to tropical Central America and northern South America. This cockroach is considered one of the largest cockroaches in the world, according to Wikipedia, with the male reaching lengths of 7.5 cm and the female, 10 cm. Its diet consists of everything from decaying plant material, fruits and seeds to dead insects and bat guano.

The partygoers? Senior museum scientist Steve Heydon came dressed as a witch.

Kate Brown, a third-year student at the UC Davis School of Medicine, donned Monarch butterfly wings.

Meanwhile, the Bohart Society members checked out the assorted insects, ranging from praying mantids to Madagascar hissing cockraoches to walking sticks. Entomologist Leia Matern of Woodland, who is studying for her master's degree at UC Davis, answered questions about a bug display to her curious daughter, Tilly.

The Bohart Museum Society is a campus and community support organization dedicated to supporting the mission of the museum, according to director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis.  The museum, which houses neearly eight million insect specimens,  and the Bohart Museum Society are dedicated to teaching, research and public service.  "Our current growth is financed by memberships and your contributions," Kimsey said. (See membership benefits)

Meanwhile, the Bohart Museum is gearing up for its next Nov. 23rd open house. The theme: "Beauty and Beetles." It will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane. See schedule of weekend open houses.  The museum is open to the public Mondays through Thursdays.

Skull shares the habitat of the giant cave cockroah (Blaberus gigante). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Skull shares the habitat of the giant cave cockroah (Blaberus gigante). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Skull shares the habitat of the giant cave cockroah (Blaberus gigante). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Kate Brown, a third-year UC Davis School of Medicine students, with her Monarch wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Kate Brown, a third-year UC Davis School of Medicine students, with her Monarch wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Kate Brown, a third-year UC Davis School of Medicine students, with her Monarch wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Entomologist Leia Matern answers a question from her daughter, Tilly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Entomologist Leia Matern answers a question from her daughter, Tilly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Entomologist Leia Matern answers a question from her daughter, Tilly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 9:56 PM

What Will It Bee?

Barbara Allen-Diaz
What will it be? Wear bees or eat insects? Let’s do both!

UC ANR Vice-President Barbara Allen-Diaz promises to wear bees—honey bees—if she can raise $2500 by Thursday, Oct. 31 for the UC Promise for Education, a fundraising project to help needy UC students. See her promise page to donate.

Veteran professional bee wrangler Norm Gary, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology, promises to come out of retirement (he retired from bee wrangling, academic service and beekeeping) to assist with the project.

If all goes well—that is, if Allen-Diaz can raise $2500 by Oct. 31--this bee stunt will take place next spring at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central UC Davis campus.

However, if she raises $5000, she will eat insects or insect larvae. Entomophagy!

We asked senior museum scientist and world traveler Steve Heydon of the Bohart Museum of Entomology if he has any insect-eating recommendations.

He does.

“Crickets,” he said. “Fresh-roasted crickets. They’re really good with a little salt.”

What about termites? “Termites don’t have that much of a taste,” Heydon said.

Norm Gary, who will be 80 years old next month, in his bees suit. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beetle grubs, particularly the huge ones in New Guinea and Africa, are also considered good eats, Heydon said.

If Barbara Allen-Diaz needs a little practice, she can enjoy some insect-embedded lollipops available at the gift shop at the Bohart Museum, Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane.  The choices are crickets, ants and scorpions. Heydon says the lollipops are especially popular as Christmas stocking stuffers. Cost? $3 each.

Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, has eaten butterflies, including Cabbage Whites (Pieris rapae). “I’ve eaten several to see if they’re edible to me, ‘though I’m not a bird. They are (edible), but I prefer fried grasshoppers. Yum!"

And what do Cabbage Whites taste like? “Toilet paper,” Shapiro said.

“My former student Jim Fordyce--he has a background in chemical ecology--used to say that he would never work on a bug he hadn't tasted,” Shapiro related. “However, he did work on the Pipevine Swallowtail, which sequesters the two aristolochic acids, which are mutagenic, carcinogenic and can apparently cause kidney atrophy. So I hope he never swallowed it. Fortunately, it tastes awful, or so I hear--I haven't tried it. Female European Large Whites (Pieris brassicae) are somewhat unpalatable and may be the basis of a loose mimicry ring. Larvae of the Large White are gregarious, inedible and smell like spoiled corned beef and cabbage."

According to Wikipedia, more than 1000 species of insects “are known to be eaten in 80 percent of the world’s nations.” Wikpedia lists some of the most popular insects as crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, ants, various beetle grubs (such as mealworms), the larvae of the darkling beetle, various speces of caterpillars, scorpions and tarantulas.

Barbara Allen-Diaz hasn't indicated which insect or insect larvae she will select, but oh, the choices!

But first...the bee promise!

Norm Gary in his bee suit. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Norm Gary in his bee suit. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Norm Gary in his bee suit. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jumping up and down will dislodge the bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Jumping up and down will dislodge the bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jumping up and down will dislodge the bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 8:51 PM

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