Bugging the Bug Bowl Team

Jan 25, 2016

They answered all the questions correctly except one.

And that one, they agreed, they should have known. Oops!

Here's what happened: The "Bug Bowl" team, aka the Linnaean Games team from the University of California, Davis, won the national championship at the 2015 Entomological Society of America's annual meeting, and was invited to appear Friday, Jan. 22, on the TV show, Good Day Sacramento.

The background: The UC Davis graduate students--captain Ralph Washington Jr., and members Brendon Boudinot, Ziad Khouri and Jessica Gillung--defeated the University of Florida 130 to 70 last November to win its first-ever national championship in the 32-year history of the ESA's Linnaean Team Games. See YouTube video at https://youtu.be/_hA05K0NET4.

Professor Larry Godfrey and Extension apiculturist  Elina Niño, Extension apiculturist, served as the team's advisors.  The team members are candidates for a Ph.D. in entomology. Washington studies with Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and professor Brian Johnson; Boudinot with professor Phil Ward; and Khouri and Gillung with professor Lynn Kimsey,  director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.

So fast forward to Friday, Jan. 22. The team (minus Khouri, who was unable to attend), answered surprise questions posed by Good Day Sacramento co-anchor Marianne McClary in a fast-paced, fun-filled, witty encounter.

The first question, however, stumped them: "What year was the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis established?" They knew who founded the museum and about his work.

That was noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), former professor of entomology at UC Davis. He founded the museum, now located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, in...drum rolll...1946.

The team answered 1949. Close, but just a few years off.

"Lynn Kimsey is going to be really angry at me," Washington deadpanned.

"She's going to kill us," Gillung said. Both of them have spent many hours volunteering at the Bohart Museum's open houses, introducing visitors to the specimens and the live petting zoo.

The UC Davis team, however, went on to successfully answer the remaining four questions, questions  that would have puzzled many an entomologist (see their online answers on the video):

  1. "The active ingredient of the most commercial termite trapping system is novalumeron. What is its mode of action?"
  2. "In some insects, the tarsal claws are bifid. What does that mean?" 
  3. "Fly fishermen follow the emergence of adults of various aquatic insects. What do typical fly fishermen call these emergence events and why is this entomologically wrong?"
  4. "There are more than 2600 species of termites worldwide. Which continent houses the most species?"

Richard M.Bohart, also known as "Doc," completed a 32-year career at UC Davis. "He was the reason many students chose entomology as a major," wrote professor Lynn Kimsey, former student Norman Smith and professor Robert K. Washino in their memoriam on the UC Senate page. "He had a passion for entomology, which began when he was very young and continued well beyond retirement... Doc's passion was collecting, identifying, and classifying Strepsiptera mosquitoes and wasps. During his career, he identified more than one million specimens, many of which are housed in the R. M. Bohart Museum of Entomology, a teaching, research, and public service facility that he founded on campus in 1946."

"His teaching and collecting activities resulted in the development of one of the finest collections of stinging wasps in the world in the Bohart Museum of Entomology," wrote Kimsey, Smith and Washino. "A great deal of this material was obtained through his collecting and that of his students. During his tenure, the museum collection grew from 500 specimens to 7 million, a span of some 60 years. Chancellor James Meyer dedicated the entomology museum in his name in 1983. The R. M. Bohart Museum moved into a new building in 1994 and was dedicated by Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef."    

As an aside, Doc Bohart was not only a talented entomologist but an athlete. He played football at UC Berkeley and "even in his 60s he could still throw a football across a football field," Kimsey said. She was his last graduate student before he retired.

Access "Bug Bowl" link on Good Day Sacramento.

Access ESA's YouTube video featuring the championship game between UC Davis and the University of Florida.