What's Entomology?

Aug 8, 2008

I'm standing in line at the photo center, waiting to pay for the dozen 8x10 photos of noted entomologist Richard Bohart that I’d ordered for his UC Davis memorial.

“Doc,” as he was called, died Feb. 1, 2007 in Berkeley at age 93 after a career spanning 70 years--33 at UC Davis.

He was a giant of a man. He towered over his fellow linebackers on the UC Berkeley football team in the mid-1930s, and he towered over his entomology colleagues.

During his career, Doc identified more than a million mosquitoes and wasps, named more than 300 new species of insects, authored 230 separate publications and wrote six books on mosquitoes and wasps, including three editions of Mosquitoes of California. An entire family of insects bears his name: Bohartillidae (twisted wing parasites), genus Bohartilla.

Doc founded the Bohart Museum of Entomology in 1946, the same year he joined the UC Davis faculty. Today the museum, a tribute to much of his lifelong work, houses more than 7 million specimens.

So, here I am, standing in line, thinking of his accomplishments and the passion that drove him and the insects that possessed him.

The photo center line shortens and it’s my turn. I pay for the photos. “Thanks!" I say. "Nice job! These are of the life of Dr. Bohart, a   world-renowned entomologist.”

The clerk, probably in her 30s, looks at me, puzzled. “What,” she asks, “is en-to-mol-ogy?”

She quickly apologizes, saying she ought to know that.

“Study of insects,” I say.

Her question is not unusual. Many folks have no idea what entomology is, which is probably why it should be called “insect science.”

Nancy Dullum, administrative assistant in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, says she’s often asked what entomology means and how it’s spelled. A UC Davis employee since 1977 (25 years in entomology, including 13 years with the UC Mosquito Research Program, and five years in the dean’s office in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), she’s even opened mail addressed to “Department of Antomology.”

Antomology! Now that’s creative!

I think “Doc” would have liked that.


By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

Richard Bohart (1913-2007) on May 15, 2006, when he received the International Society of Hymenopterists Distinguished Research Medal, one of three ever awarded. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)