Bohart Museum Picnic Day: Bugging Out

They came. They saw. They bugged out.

Who wouldn't, when you get an opportunity to pet a rose-haired tarantula named Snuggles, guide walking sticks "strolling" on your arm, or cradle a Madagascar hissing cockroach? Or marvel at the display of Platypsyllus castoris, an ectoparasite of beavers?

That's what awaited the 2000 visitors at the Bohart Museum of Entomology during the 104th annual UC Davis Picnic Day last Saturday, April 18.

Although the theme of the campuswide Picnic Day spanned "Where the Sun Shines," Bohart Museum officials focused on "Where the Sun Doesn't Shine."  They highlighted nocturnal insects, cave-dwelling insects, and parasites, including a beetle, Platypsyllus castoris, found on the south end of a beaver.

Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and professor of entomology at UC Davis, kept busy answering questions about the beaver display--a pelt, and a graphic of the beetle.

As Bohart Museum associate and undergraduate entomology student Wade Spencer said: "These beetles look like they are to fleas what halibut are to other fishes. Instead of the lateral compression fleas exhibit, Platyspyllus castoris are dorso-ventrally flattened, which only adds to their alien appearance. Their unique feeding and lodging preferences have given us so many good laughs, we wanted to make them the star of this year's picnic day event at the Bohart."

"To be a tad more descriptive," Spencer said, "they call the beaver's perianal region home; they help keep the beavers clean both inside AND out by feeding on dead skin, secretions of the castor glands (where "natural" and "raspberry" flavorings come from), and if they are in the mood, they'll indulge in a little blood or fluids from oozing wounds. They're basically like crawling, itchy, toilet paper that occasionally bites and you can never scratch off!"

Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly and moth collection at the Bohart, kept busy encouraging visitors to get acquainted with Snuggles.  They held him, petted him and photographed him. Little Teddy Owens, 2 of Davis, held by his mother, Dina, high-fived Snuggles.

Another display featured scorpions: graduate student Charlotte Herbert shone a black light on them to illustrate how they glow in the dark. All scorpions fluoresce in ultraviolet light.

Visitors also learned about bees in a display featuring sweat bees,  leaf-cutting bees,  mason bees,  bumble bees, honey bees, sunflower bees, and carpenter bees, as well as Andrena and Melissodes anthophora.

The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is 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, praying mantids and tarantulas. The museum's gift shop, open year around, offers T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.

The Bohart Museum 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, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.

More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or emailing or Tabatha Yang at

By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

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