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UC's Bohart Museum marks 75th anniversary

Outdoor Halloween party featured spider decorations hanging from trees and entomologists dressed as insects.

Kathy Keatley Garvey, Senior writer

November 1, 2021

6 Min Read
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology an a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, cuts a cake in celebration of the museum's 75th anniversary.Kathy Keatley Garvey/UC-Davis

With spider decorations dangling from trees and entomologists representing everything from a horse fly to a tortoise beetle to a lamp, the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology celebrated its 75th anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 23 with an outdoor Halloween party hosted by the Bohart Museum Society. 

Rain dampened the Crocker Lane event but not the enthusiasm as the crowd toasted the work of the Bohart Museum and its director Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology. She has administered the Bohart Museum since 1990.

The UC Davis museum traces its origins back in 1946 to two Schmitt boxes filled with insect specimens collected by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), UC Davis professor of entomology and museum founder. Named the Bohart Museum in 1982, it is now the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, collected worldwide.  

“We should take a moment to not only express our appreciation of the Bohart Museum and the legacy that Dr. Richard Bohart left, but to all the work Lynn has done to make events like this possible and to continue the important work,” emcee Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair and professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, told the crowd. 

Bond, who on Oct. 25 was named Associate Dean for Research and Outreach for Agricultural Sciences, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences,  drew attention to the “remarkable planet that we live on and the diversity of animals and plants we share” and museum collections.

The specimens are an amazing resource, Bond told the crowd. “They not only record the diversity of insects in the past but sometimes we can use them as a key to solving problems associated with human diseases and agricultural pests and the like.” 

He offered a toast to Kimsey, who in turn praised the thousands of collectors “who have their names” on the specimens. “We've been doing this for a long time. Eventually we'll be able to serve the public again like we should. Otherwise it would just be a dead collection in a building somewhere.” 

Kimsey interviewed “Doc” Bohart, then 82, in 1996 as part of the Aggie Videos collection. (See https://bit.ly/2Zv8rvO.) Bohart, who began his UC Davis career in 1946, chaired the Department of Entomology from 1963 to 1967.

Unparalleled research

“His scientific research on insect taxonomy and systematics is unparalleled,” Kimsey wrote on the Bohart website. “His publications include three of the most important books on the systematics of the Hymenoptera, including the well-used volume  Sphecid Wasps of the World. His journal publications total over 200 articles. He revised many groups of insects, discovered new host-associations or geographic ranges, and described many new species." 

Kimsey, an alumnus of UC Davis, received her undergraduate degree in 1975 and doctorate in 1979. She joined the UC Davis faculty in 1989. A two-term president of the International Hymenopterists, and a recognized global authority on the systematics, biogeography and biology of the wasp families, Tiphiidae and Chrysididae, she won the 2020 C. W. Woodworth Award, the highest award given by the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America, for "her 31 years of outstanding accomplishments in research, teaching, education, outreach and public service."

“Collections have a tremendous educational value,” Bond said, “and they also have amazing research value as well. Discoveries of new species don't actually happen in the field, they happen in the museum collections. New species on the average spend about 25 years on the shelf before a graduate student, undergraduate student or a researcher pulls them off shelf and describes or discovers them.” 

A colorful 75th anniversary banner greeted the attendees. The work of entomologist Christine Melvin, who received her bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis in 2017, it features a hover fly, sphecid wasp, snake fly, bumble bee, aphid, twisted wing parasite and a tardigrade (water bear). The Bohart Museum's tardigrade collection includes some 25,000 slide-mounted specimens. A  2,112-pound tardigrade sculpture, crafted by artist Solomon Bassoff of Nevada County and considered the largest in the world,  graces the front of the Bohart Museum.  (See Bug Squad blog on Christine Melvin and her banner.)

Entomologist and UC Davis biology manager Ivana Li prepared and served a buffet. Kimsey cut a specially decorated cake, adorned with images of a monarch, a morpho and a dogface butterfly (the state insect), a dragonfly, and assorted beetles. Tiffany Warrick of CreaTions N EvenTs, Rancho Cordova, created the cake and dozens of Bohart-motif cupcakes. 

The costumes drew smiles of approval and delight. Bohart senior museum scientist Steve Heydon and his wife, Anita, came dressed as steampunk figures; Bohart education and outreach coordinator Tabatha Yang donned a horse fly costume; entomology major Gwendolyn "Gwen" Erdosh portrayed a monarch butterfly; and UC Davis entomology graduate Benjamin Maples (now a California Department of Food and Agriculture scientist) walked in wearing a lampshade. 

“As I was on the way out the door, I didn't have a costume so I grabbed the lampshade,” Maples quipped. Heydon begged to differ. “Some of his friends were planning to come as moths,” Heydon said.

With crayons and ink pens, attendees drew insects and pasted them on a piñata, formed in the shape of the number 75. Then, cheered by the crowd, they took turns whacking it, spilling out Halloween candies, and mementos from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. 

Financial support

Bond urged the crowd to help support the outreach mission of the museum. Bohart Museum scientists are seeking donations for their traveling insect specimen displays. They aimed to raise $5000 by 11:59 p.m., Oct. 31 for their UC Davis CrowdFund project to purchase traveling display boxes for their specimens, which include bees, butterflies and beetles. These are portable glass-topped display boxes that travel throughout Northern California to school classrooms, youth group meetings, festivals, events, museums, hospitals--and more--to help people learn about the exciting world of insect science.

“When COVID halted our in-person outreach programs, we were still able to safely loan these educational materials to teachers,”  Yang related.  “Now that UC Davis is open again to students we have all these bright, students on campus with fresh and diverse perspectives. We want to support their talent, so the funds we are raising will go to students for the creation of new traveling displays. This fleet of new educational drawers will expand and update what we can offer. Some of our current displays were created 15 years ago! One can only imagine all the places these drawers have been and all the people who have been inspired."

Donors can do so in memory of someone, a place, or a favorite insect. Bond donated $500 in honor of Lynn Kimsey, and Lynn Kimsey donated $500 in memory of the founder, Richard M. Bohart. The donation page and map are at https://bit.ly/3v4MoaJ  

The Bohart Museum, currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 precautions, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. In addition to its insect collection, which is the seventh largest in North America, the museum houses a live “petting zoo,” comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas, and a gift shop (now online), stocked with insect-themed t-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, books, posters and other items. Further information is on the website at https://bohart.ucdavis.edu.

Source: University of California, Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

About the Author(s)

Kathy Keatley Garvey

Senior writer, UC-Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology

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