Bugging You at the California State Fair

The Insect Pavilion at the California State Fair, which includes specimens from the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, showcases the good, the bad and the bugly.

The fair opened Friday, July 13 and continues through Sunday, July 29.

You'll see beneficial insects, such as honey bees and lady beetles (aka lady bugs) and pests that ravage our crops.

"Danger lurks in a backyard garden," a sign informs visitors. "Aphids, cutworms, mealybugs and other pests are preying on your vegetables and flowers. Who's a gardener to turn to for help? Bring in the reinforcements and enlist the aid of Beneficial Bugs that will crusade against the Invasive Species and help keep your pest outbreaks under control. Native plants naturally attract these Beneficial Bugs, equipping your garden with its own pest managers. Low costs and low water--It's a win/win!"

Madagascar hissing cockroaches from the Bohart draw "oohs" and "yecchs." Visitors learn that "these cockroaches inhabit Madagascar, a large island off southeastern Africa. They speed up plant decomposition in their native environment, providing an important ecological service.  When provoked, Madagascar hissing cockroaches hiss through their spiracles, the tiny tubes through which insects breathe. Spiracles are visible on adults as tiny black dots on the edges of their bodies."

Another sign meant to engage visitors reads: "If you were a bug, which would you be?" You'll see images of everything from a butterfly to a dragonfly, from a honey bee and lady bug, and from an assassin bug to a praying mantis, not to mention a grasshopper, cockroach, ant, and spider.  

Comments varied:

  • One teenage girl poked her head through the Bug Barn door, glanced at the displays, and dashed off, proclaiming   "Bugs give me the creeps!"
  • A middle-aged woman declared to all present: "I hate, hate bugs!"
  • A preschooler pointed to the butterflies. "Pretty, Mommy, pretty!"
  • A toddler left the Bug Barn waving at the honey bees. "Bye, bye, bees!" he said.

 The good, the bad and the bugly. 

Want to see more insects? The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis, is hosting two summer weekend programs, one in August and one in September. hey're free, family friendly and open to the public:

  • "Fire and Ice: Extreme California Insects" from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 19
  • "Crafty Insects" from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 22.

"For the Aug. 19 open house, we will be exploring extreme insects from the deserts and the mountains of California," said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. "For Sept. 22 we will be having a two-way museum. We will be displaying crafty--think cunning--insects and we are going to ask people to bring insect crafts that they have made, so all those felted, knitted, carved, and sculpted crafts are welcome.  Any and all hand-made, flea-shaped tea cozies are welcomed!"

The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses some eight million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and praying mantids) and a year-around gift shop.