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Eighteen Myths About Insects and Spiders

UC Davis graduate student Alex Dedmon, who studies with forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, shows his butterfly tattoo, the work of entomology student Jessica Gillung. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Oh, the myths about insects and spiders!

It was a fun and educational afternoon when the UC Davis Bohart Museum  of Entomology hosted an open house last Sunday.

Visitors checked out the displays, asked the entomologists and staff questions, and looked over the list of myths.

Yes, there are a lot of myths.

We'll share! (Ask the person next to you if he/she can answer them. No fair peeking at the answers)

1. Butterflies and moths can't fly if you rub the scales of their wings.

Answer: Not true, they can fly.

2. Black widow females eat the males after mating.

Answer: Only if the male isn't fast enough.

3. Chiggers burrow under your skin and suck your blood.

Answer: False. Chiggers simply feed and leave, like mosquitoes.

4. Brown recluse spiders are common in California, biting many people.

Answer: Brown recluse spiders are not found anywhere near California.

5. Ultrasonic devices help keep pests out of your kitchen.

Answer. False. Few insects can hear, certainly not cockroaches.

6. Camel spiders scream like babes, inject toxins and prey on GI's in Iraq.

Answer: Not true at any level.

7. Mosquitoes transmit HIV.

Answer: They cannot transmit HIV under any circumstances.

8. Earwigs crawl into your ear and lay eggs in your brain.

Answer. They sometime do crawl in ears by accident, but do not lay eggs.

9. Bedbugs bore, burrow, dig and fly.

Answer: No, they can only walk or scurry.

10. Insects don't feel pain.

Answer: Probably true; their nervous systems are too limited, any injury would probably kill them.

11. It is illegal to catch preying mantids and monarchs.

Answer: There are no laws against this.

12. Twenty-five percent of the protein in our diet is from swallowing spiders that crawl in our mouths at night.

Answer: This never happens.

13. Love bugs that plague the southeastern United States are the result of government experiments.

Answer: No, Mother Nature came up with this.

14. Ten percent of the weight of your pillow is house dust mites.

Answer: False. House dust mites are found only in coastal southeastern United States.

15. All bees die after stinging.

Answer: False. Only worker honey bees die after stinging.

16. Ticks must be removed by rotating them clockwise.

Answer: False. Just pull the tick straight out.

17. "Daddy long legs" are deadly, but their jaws are too small to bite humans.

Answer: False. Their venom is no more poisonous than most spiders.

18. Copper pennies cure bee stings.

Answer. No, it just doesn't work.

The Bohart Museum of Entomology, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, is open to the public Mondays through Thursdays (except holidays). It is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane (corner of LaRue and Crocker). It is home to nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" (think Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and a year-around gift shop filled with T-shirts, jewelry, insect collecting equipment, posters, books and insect-themed candy.

The beginning of a black widow spider tattoo, compliments of entomology Jessica Gillung of the Bohart. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The beginning of a black widow spider tattoo, compliments of entomology Jessica Gillung of the Bohart. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The beginning of a black widow spider tattoo, compliments of entomology Jessica Gillung of the Bohart. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Entomologist Fran Keller, who received her doctorate from UC Davis, smiles as student Jessica Gillung asks her which insect she wants. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Entomologist Fran Keller, who received her doctorate from UC Davis, smiles as student Jessica Gillung asks her which insect she wants. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Entomologist Fran Keller, who received her doctorate from UC Davis, smiles as entomology student Jessica Gillung asks her which insect she wants. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A youth looking at a ladybug display. The premise,
A youth looking at a ladybug display. The premise, "You can tell the age of a ladybug by counting its spots, is false. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A youth looking at a ladybug display. The premise, "You can tell the age of a ladybug by counting its spots, is false. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, November 24, 2014 at 8:31 PM

Myths and Gifts

Author Fran Keller with her dogface butterfly book. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Myths and gifts...

When the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology hosts its open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 23, the theme will be "Insect Myths." (Okay, and spider myths, too!)

You'll learn about honey bee, ladybug, butterfly and spider myths at this family-oriented event, which is free and open to the public.

The insect museum  located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is not only the home of nearly 8 million insect specimens, but it operates a live "pettting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and a year-around gift shop filled with T-shirts, jewelry, posters, books, bug-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy, including chocolate-dipped scorpions, crunchy crickets, and protein-rich lollipops. 

Insect jewelry is popular at the Bohart Museum. Proceeds are earmarked for educational efforts. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two of the latest books available in the gift shop are Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University Press) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday), co-authored by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Thorp is an associate at the Bohart Museum and maintains an office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.  

Another popular book, published in 2013, is a 35-page children's book, The Story of the Dogface Butterfly, authored by entomologist Fran Keller, who this year received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis. She is a researcher, college instructor, mentor, artist, photographer, and author.

The book, geared for  kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms, and also a favorite of  adults, tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice), and how a classroom successfully mounted a campaign to name it the California state insect. Illustrations by artist Laine Bauer, a UC Davis graduate, and photographs by naturalist Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart Museum volunteer, depict the life cycle of this butterfly and show the host plant, false indigo (Amorpha californica). Net proceeds from the sale of this book are earmarked for the education, outreach and research programs at the Bohart Museum.

Gift shop items are available both in the store (Monday through Thursday) and online, http://www.bohartmuseum.com/.

Among the favorites gifts at the Bohart Museum:

  • T-shirts depicting images of dragonflies, butterflies,  beetles and moths
  • Bohart Museum coffee mug
  • Insect collecting net
  • Posters of butterflies of Central Californian, Dragonflies of California, and the California Dogface butterfly
  • Butterfly habitat
  • Jewelry depicting bees, butterflies, dragonflies and ladybugs (many of the boxes are engraved with the Bohart logo and treasured)
  • Science kits
  • Insect and spider books
  • Insect magnets

The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, is open to the public  from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. It is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free. More information is available by contacting the Bohart Museum at (530) 752-0493 or Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at tabyang@ucdavis.edu.

Robbin Thorp with two of the books he co-authored. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Robbin Thorp with two of the books he co-authored. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Robbin Thorp with two of the books he co-authored. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, November 21, 2014 at 5:40 PM

For the Love of Bats

Big-eared Townsend bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management)
Most of us think about bats at least twice a year: during National Pollinator Week, when bees, beetles, butterflies and bats beckon, and on Halloween, when bats mingle with the witches, ghosts, ghouls, goblins and other things that go bump in the night.

Bats are pollinators? Definitely.  According to the USDA Forest Service, more than 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination. The crops include mangos, bananas and guavas, grown in tropical and desert climates. While bees take the daytime pollinator shift, bats take the nighttime shift. 

Entomologists and agriculturists think about bats a lot, too, because bats eat insects that ravage our crops.

Someone who really knows and appreciates bats is Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Freeman Long. "I've had a long time interest in ecosystem services of bats because they feed on insects and can help with pest control in agricultural crops," Long said.  "For example, we just determined that in walnuts, each bat provides about $6 in pest control services for codling moth control, a major pest in this crop (Long RF et al. 2014. What's a bat worth to a walnut orchard? BATS Magazine [Bat Conservation International] Spring 2014)."

A person of many interests and talents, Long has also written a children's book that features bats.

The cover of Valley Fire.
It's actually part of a trilogy published by Tate Publishing Co. The first was Gold Fever. The second, newly published, is Valley Fire. She's half-way through writing the third and final book in the trilogy, River of No Return.

In honor of bats,  The Avid Reader, 617 2nd St., Davis, between E and F St., is planning a special program from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 22. Long will be there for the book signing, and talk about her book, and Corky Quirk of Nor Cal Bats will be there with her live bats and talk about their importance in the world. The organization is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of bats throughout Northern California. 

"My interest in writing this trilogy is science literacy for kids to teach them about the natural history of bats and the incredible importance of bats in our world for pollination and pest control benefits," Long said. "Bats are major pollinators of many plants; without bats we wouldn't have tequila as they are the main pollinators of the agave plant from which tequila is made!"

"In my stories, we learn all kinds of wonderful tidbits about bats, including echolocation, migration, that they feed on insects and that 'blind as a bat' is a total myth. I'll have to talk about their shiny poop in my third book with all the insect exoskeleton parts that bats can't digest and the fancy name of guano!"

Long recalls telling these stories to her son, when he was little, "on our long drives into town from our ranch."

"He loved them so much that one day I finally decided to write them down to share with other children--and adults too!!"

Sadly, bats often get a bad rap. When a person is mentally unstable, he's "batty" or has "bats in the belfry." Visual issues? "Blind as a bat."  And who hasn't heard the expression, "like a bat out of hell?" (usually referring to a speeding car heading toward you at breakneck speed).

In Long's book, a little boy named Jack falls into a cave and loses his memory. We won't tell you what happens next but that the book is engaging and entertaining.

Just like bats. 

Rachael Long beneath the Yolo Causeway with a bat detector. Notice the bats in the photo.  (Photo courtesy of the California Farm Bureau Federation)
Rachael Long beneath the Yolo Causeway with a bat detector. Notice the bats in the photo. (Photo courtesy of the California Farm Bureau Federation)

Rachael Long beneath the Yolo Causeway with a bat detector. Notice the bats in the photo. (Photo courtesy of the California Farm Bureau Federation)

Posted on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 9:30 PM

Remembering the Wild Bees

Celeste Ets-Hokin working on her app to spread public awareness about native bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native bee enthusiast Celeste Ets-Hokin of the Bay Area is on a mission: she wants residents to provide habitat for wild bees, including bumble bees, sweat bees, miner bees, mason bees, digger bees and long-horned bees.

Earlier this year she came out with an app, "Wild Bee Gardens," the first-known conservation app for North American native bees. That app was exclusively for an iPad, but she promised an app for an iphone later.

Later is "now."

It's out. "Wild Bee Gardens" is an educational tool "showing the dazzling diversity of North America's native bees." The app pairs native bees with many of the flowers they frequent.

Ets-Hokin, a UC Berkeley zoology graduate, wants us all to work together to protect North America's premier pollinators. She seeks to inspire an appreciation for the importance and diversity of our native bees, and anticipates that people will create a habitat for native bees in their own gardens. The habitats are not fancy; in fact, native bee habitats are "a bit on the wild side," she says.

The work is impressive. It opens up the world of native bees and their floral resources through her text and some 300 photographs of native bees, primarily the work of entomologist/insect photographer Rollin Coville of the Bay Area.

Topics covered include:

  • The role of native bees in our natural ecosystems
  • The ecology and life cycles of native bees
  • How to create a successful bee garden
  • How to identify the native bee visitors that will appear in these gardens

The app covers 26 genera and links the bees to their favorite plants.  Consultants included three scientists: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis and UC Berkeley faculty members Gordon Frankie and Clare Kremen. They are acknowledged for their contributions of scientific knowledge and research. Arlo and Rebecca Armstrong of the Bay Area designed the app.

Just as we need food and shelter, so do bees. Native bees forage for pollen and nectar for their offspring. The bee scientists suggest you leave areas of undisturbed, bare ground for ground-nesting bees, and provide "bee condos" (wood blocks drilled with the proper-size holes) for leafcutting bees and mason bees.

While many folks will be out buying computers, laptops, tablets, designer clothes, houseware and the like during the holiday season, Ets-Hokin hopes they will take time to think about the native bees and provide for them.

The app can be ordered from http://appstore.com/wildbeegardens. For gift-giving, access http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT2736, and scroll to the section entitled, “Gift an Item on an IOS Device.”

Meanwhile, Celeste Ets-Hokin continues to spread public awareness about the plight of bees, writing about them, speaking about them, photographing them, and now she has an app for that: "Wild Bee Gardens."


"Wild Bee Gardens" is the first known conservation app for North American native bees.

"Wild Bee Gardens" is the first known conservation app for North American native bees

A sunflower bee foraging on an echinacea flower. (Photo by Celeste Ets-Hokin)
A sunflower bee foraging on an echinacea flower. (Photo by Celeste Ets-Hokin)

A sunflower bee foraging on an echinacea flower. (Photo by Celeste Ets-Hokin)

Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 9:29 PM

Bohart Museum Open House: Insect Myths!

Worker bee. Many myths persist. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
How many insect myths do you know?

Worker bees are males, right? 

Butterflies and moths can't fly if you rub the scales off their wings, right?

Earwigs crawl into your ears and then into your brain, right?  

Wrong. They're all widely known but falsely held beliefs.

What better place to learn about insect myths than the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology, home of nearly eight million insect specimens? An open house is scheduled  from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 23, in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building, Crocker Lane.

The Bohart folks will dispel scores of myths, including these:

  • Brown recluse spiders are found in California 
  • Daddy long-leg spiders are very venomous, but their mouths are too small to bite us.
  • We swallow/eat a significant amount of spiders/insects in our sleep. 

The open house is free and open to the public, and family friendly.

Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, the insect museum 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. In addition, face painting will be among the family-oriented activities. Think bugs!

Visitors can also browse the gift shop, which includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy. (Gifts can also be purchased online.)

The Bohart Museum's popular open houses are in addition to its regular weekday hours, from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. It is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.

Here's a list of open houses through Saturday, July 18: 

  • Saturday, Dec. 20: “Insects and Art,” 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, Jan. 11: “Parasitoid Palooza,” 1 to 4 p.m.
  • 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 (530) 752-0493 or Tabatha Yang, education and public outreach coordinator at tabyang@ucdavis.edu

Gulf Fritillary butterfly on Cosmos. One myth is that if you rub the scales off their wings (who would want to?), they can't fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary butterfly on Cosmos. One myth is that if you rub the scales off their wings (who would want to?), they can't fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Gulf Fritillary butterfly on Cosmos. One myth is that if you rub the scales off their wings (who would want to?), they can't fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Cellar spider wrapping a honey bee. How many myths do you know about spiders? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Cellar spider wrapping a honey bee. How many myths do you know about spiders? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Cellar spider wrapping a honey bee. How many myths do you know about spiders? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 6:06 PM

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