Entomologists Know How to Party

Oct 31, 2016

Entomologists know how to party. They know how to put the "boo" in biology and the "just buggin' ya" in bugs.

The 21st annual Halloween party at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, drew scores of entomology enthusiasts dressed as caterpillars, dragonflies, butterflies and assorted other critters--chased by the bug catchers.

The event, open to Bohart Museum Society and special guests, was all that it was quacked up to be, thanks in part to forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey. Kimsey arrived dressed in his ghillie suit, and virology major Andrew Poon arrived with his pet duck, Quack. Kimsey and Quack became instant friends (ah, the warmth of a ghillie suit) and quacked up the crowd. 

Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum, wore her LED tennis shoes hand-painted by entomologists Charlotte Herbert and Nicole Tam with cuckoo wasps (family Chrysididae), the group that she studies. Her shoes lit up the night like the legendary fireflies do.  (See previous Bug Squad blog)

Among the other stars:

  • Charlotte Herbert, a doctoral candidate in entomology, came dressed as a venomous slug caterpillar (family Limacodidae), much to the delight of bug catchers Wade Spencer and Brennen Dyer, who arrived nets in hand.
  • A black widow spider disguised as a pumpkin. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
    A black widow spider disguised as a pumpkin. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
    Tabatha Yang, public education and outreach coordinator, came dressed as a wet blanket and carried a sign that said “Nope.”
  • Dragonfly enthusiasts Jeanette Wrysinski and son, Aren Scardaci, and friend Eva Butler of Sacramento arrived in their matching dragonfly t-shirts. (Dragonfly expert and Bohart Museum associate Greg Kareofelas declared the insect a new species.)
  • Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, buzzed in as a yellow-faced bumble bee, complete with a yellow head and face and a yellow abdominal stripe. (The bug catchers gave chase.)  
  • Graduate student Jessica Gillung padded in as a cat lady, with pinned stuffed animals on her costume. (The bug catchers declared this the wrong species.)
  • Fran Keller, assistant professor at Folom Lake College who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, came dressed as a graduate student. (She carried no net and proved no competition for the bug catchers.)
  • Entomologist Joel Hernandez and UC Davis Arboretum outreach coordinator Melissa Cruz paired up as a scarecrow and a pumpkin. Hernandez added a mouse to his pocket--scarecrows, you know, attract mice. Another mouse--and yes, a stuffed one, too--graced the cheese table.
  • A butterfly disguised as a pumpkin. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
    A butterfly disguised as a pumpkin. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
    Steve Heydon, senior museum scientist, wore his sailor outfit and carried a mop. When folks inadvertently spilled chocolate from the chocolate fountain or  food from the buffet table (prepared by entomologist Ivana Li), he obliged.
  • Entomologist Danielle Wishon and her eye-popping, spider-webbed face drew "oohs" and "ahs."  (The bug catchers seemed quite interested in the web.)
  • Chemical ecologist Steve Seybold, his wife, Julie Tillman, and their daughter, Natalie, came dressed as a Halloween family.  Natalie dressed as a black caterpillar. That's the spirit! (Oh, where'd the bug catchers go?)

You could tell it was an entomological party by the games played. For the occasion, Charlotte Herbert and her fiancé, George Alberts, crafted a piñata shaped like a tardigrade, aka water bear, and filled it with candy. Blind-folded participants took turns swatting it. Another popular game:  "Pin the Pin on the Beetle." Blind-folded participants attempted to poke a pin in a paper beetle mounted on a wall. 

Carved pumpkins with butterfly and spider motifs, all made by the Bohart staff, glowed.

In keeping with the presidential campaign, Donald Trump and Hilllary Clinton appeared to "party hardy" in the form of  pumpkins portraying political candidates.

The bug catchers, nets in hand, seemed more interested, however, in the venomous caterpillar.

"The slug caterpillar," said Lynn Kimsey, "is very venomous."