Email Print Site Map
Cooperative Extension San Joaquin County
University of California
Cooperative Extension San Joaquin County

Posts Tagged: insects

How Revolutionary!

Sarah Albee
There's a fly on President George Washington's nose.

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.

Cover of "Bugged"
“A hungry flea is just trying to get a bite to eat, a stinging bee is just trying to defend her home from invaders, and a dung beetle rolling a ball of poop is just trying to make a living,”  Albee writes.

“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!”

Related links:
Sarah Albee website
Sarah Albee interview with National Public Radio
Sarah Albee interview with the School Library journal

This photo of a bee sting, by Kathy Keatley Garvey, appears in Sarah Albee's book,
This photo of a bee sting, by Kathy Keatley Garvey, appears in Sarah Albee's book, "Bugged."

This photo of a bee sting, by Kathy Keatley Garvey, appears in Sarah Albee's book, "Bugged."

Posted on Friday, July 4, 2014 at 3:02 PM
Tags: Bugged (1), honey bees (2), insects (14), Sarah Albee (1)

Bugs Galore at Dixon May Fair

This rose-haired tarantula from the Bohart Museum will be at the Dixon May Fair on May 10-11 in the Floriculture Building from 1 to 4 p.m. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
There are bugs galore at the Dixon May Fair, which opened today (Thursday, May 8) and continues through Sunday, May 11.

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.

A six-year-old, Mieko Heiser of Dixon, pinned these bugs. Her display won a best-of-show award. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
And in case you didn't make it over to Briggs Hall for the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day, many of the insect science posters are being displayed in the Floriculture Building. You can learn how to identify dragonflies and butterflies of California, what makes an insect an insect, and read interesting facts about cockroaches and mosquitoes.

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)
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)

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)
Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, will engage youngsters in arts and crafts. (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)
Entomologist Jeff Smith of the Bohart Museum of Entomology will show fairgoers his rose-haired tarantula. (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

Posted on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 7:26 PM

Let's Hear It for 'The Buzz'

Vivienne Statham: the fascination shows in her face. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's such a joy to see little kids fascinated with bugs.

The UC Davis-based Bohart Museum of Entomology, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, is a good place to start.

Last Sunday two little 18-month-old girls intently watched an observation bee hive, much as their older counterparts would gaze at a computer screen.

The hive, an educational tool, was from the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.

The toddlers quickly spotted the queen bee, the one with a red dot on her thorax. They watched the worker bees tend to her every need. They watched the nurse bees feed the brood, and undertaker bees carry off their dead. 

With ears pressed closely to the hive, they listened to "The Buzz."

Tilly Matern of Woodland and Vivienne Statham of Davis knew what was making the buzz. 

"Bees," said Tilly.  Then she looked at a painted bug on the floor and identified another insect. "Ant," she said.

The occasion: the Bohart Museum's open house, themed "Insect Societies."

It doesn't appear that they will develop entomophobia (fear of insects) or apiphobia (fear of bees) or myrmecophobia (fear of ants) any time soon.

Start 'em while they're young and who knows--maybe they'll become entomologists!

Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, serves as the director of the Bohart Museum, located at 1124 Academic Surge on Crocker Lane (formerly California Drive. The insect museum includes a live "petting zoo," complete with Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and a rose-haired tarantula. There's also a gift shop filled with t-shirts, sweat shirts, posters, jewelry, insect nets and insect-themed candy. 

The Bohart Museum has scheduled its next weekend open house (free and open to the public) for Saturday, Dec. 15 from 1 to 4 p.m. The theme: "Insects in Art." Check the schedule for the remaining open houses for the 2012-2013 academic year.   

Although special weekend open houses are held once a month, visitors can tour the museum from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday.  It is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. 

Leia Matern (far left) shows Vivienne Statham (center) and Tilly Matern the honey bee observation hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Leia Matern (far left) shows Vivienne Statham (center) and Tilly Matern the honey bee observation hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Leia Matern (far left) shows Vivienne Statham (center) and Tilly Matern the honey bee observation hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Two 18-month-old girls checking out the bees: Tilly Matern (left) and Vivienne Statham (right). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two 18-month-old girls checking out the bees: Tilly Matern (left) and Vivienne Statham (right). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Two 18-month-old girls checking out the bees: Tilly Matern (left) and Vivienne Statham (right). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Queen bee with a red dot on her thorax. She is cared by by worker bees (infertile females). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Queen bee with a red dot on her thorax. She is cared by by worker bees (infertile females). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Queen bee with a red dot on her thorax. She is cared for by worker bees (infertile females). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, November 19, 2012 at 11:12 PM

Why Spiders Are Not Insects

It's almost time for Halloween, when all self-respecting little ghosts, goblins and ghouls take a special interest in spiders. 

We saw this little jumping spider (below) on a pink rose. It doesn't look like it could scare anything--except for maybe a sweat bee or hover fly.

This year the Explorit Science Center of Davis, a hands-on science museum located at 3141 5th St., is taking a special interest in spiders.

The center is sponsoring a number of programs on these critters and posted "Facts About Spiders" on its website.

For one thing, many people think spiders are insects. They're not.

Both spiders and insects are invertebrates, but spiders are not insects.

Insects have a head, thorax and abdomen, and the thorax has three pairs of legs. They also eyes, antennae and mouthparts, the Explorit Science Center website points out.  "The entire body is protected by a tough outer covering called an exoskeleton. Animals that share these characteristics are called insects. The group to which they belong is called the Insecta."

Spiders, as the Explorit Science Center explains, have two main body parts. "The body consists of a combined head and thorax called the cephalothorax, and the abdomen. The cephalothorax has the eyes, mouthparts (no antennae) and four pairs of legs. Animals that share these characteristics include ticks, mites, scorpions and spiders. The group is called the Arachnida."

And speaking of spiders, schooolchildren visiting the Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus occasionally ask to "see the spiders." The Bohart is an insect museum (although the officials have been known to showcase a few spiders, too.)

Mark your calendar for Saturday, Oct. 27 for the Bohart's public open house from 1 to 4 p.m. in 1124 Academic Surge on Crocker Drive (nearest intersection is LaRue Road.) This is a pre-Halloween open house and there definitely will be assorted spiders at the insect museum!

A jumping spider on a pink rose soaks in some sun. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A jumping spider on a pink rose soaks in some sun. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A jumping spider on a pink rose soaks in some sun. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Garden spider weaving a web. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Garden spider weaving a web. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Garden spider weaving a web. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Black widow spider with egg sacs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Black widow spider with egg sacs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Black widow spider with egg sacs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, October 19, 2012 at 5:37 PM

What's a Fair Without Bugs?

What's a picnic without bugs? What's a county fair without bugs?

If you meander through McCormack Hall at the Solano County Fair, Vallejo, you'll see plenty of insects. The Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis is staffing a table of "Meet Your Local Pollinators," including butterflies, bees and bee mimics. Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at the Bohart Museum (home of seven million insect specimens) also brought along honey bee photos, posters and other information from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Department of Entomology.

The museum specimens include two "oh-my!" drawers (that's what people say when they see these fascinating displays); a collection of native bees from UC Davis graduate student Emily Bzdyk; and California butterflies. Accompanying the display is a framed poster of California's state insect, the California dogface butterfly, the project and design of Fran Keller, UC Davis doctoral candidate in entomology. Davis naturalist-photographer Greg Kareofelas scanned the butterfly images.

But be sure to look on the walls where young photographers and graphic artists are displaying their blue-ribbon work. You'll see honey bees, dragonflies, butterflies and other insects. Future entomologists, perhaps?

A three-year-old named Nicholas Razo of Dixon created a colorful paper butterfly, the kind that UC Davis butterfly expert Art Shapiro probably would like to see in real life. Young Nicholas may give Professor Shapiro some competition in a few years.

The fair, which opened today (Aug. 3) and continues through Aug. 7, is themed "There's No Place Like Home."

There's no place like home for us--and the insects who populate the earth.

This colorful butterfly is the work of 3-year-old Nicholas Razo of Dixon. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This colorful butterfly is the work of 3-year-old Nicholas Razo of Dixon. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This colorful butterfly is the work of 3-year-old Nicholas Razo of Dixon. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Colorful display by the Bohart Museum of Entomology at McCormack Hall, Solano County Fair. (Photo by Elisa Seppa)
Colorful display by the Bohart Museum of Entomology at McCormack Hall, Solano County Fair. (Photo by Elisa Seppa)

Colorful display by the Bohart Museum of Entomology at McCormack Hall, Solano County Fair. (Photo by Elisa Seppa)

Posted on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 7:34 PM

Next 5 stories | Last story

Webmaster Email: mdhachman@ucdavis.edu