A Praying Mantis Named Cupcake Greets Visitors at the Bohart Museum

Most bakers define a "cupcake" as a a small cake designed to serve one person--and one that can be baked in a paper or aluminum cup in a muffin tin.

Not UC Davis animal biology major Crystal Homicz, treasurer of the UC Davis Entomology Club.

"Cupcake" is the name of her six-month-old praying mantis that she exhibited at the Bohart Museum of Entomology last Saturday during the seventh annual Biodiversity Museum Day.

The adult mantis is a Rhombodera megaera, native to southern China and Thailand, Homicz told the crowd.

The species is one of the largest mantises in the world; it can reach 4 to 5 inches in length. However, Cupcake is not that large.

Homicz, a student researcher in Steve Seybold's forest entomology lab, also has the male of this species and hopes to mate it this week. "I've been feeding her lots of flies so I hope the male doesn't lose his head," she said, referring to sexual cannibalism that can occur.

A females can lay about three oothecae (egg cases) in her lifetime. Between 150 to 250 nymphs can hatch from an "ooth."

The Biodiversity Museum Day, featuring 13 collections or museums on campus, drew thousands of visitors exploring the diversity of life, said chair Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Seven were open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology; Bohart Museum of Entomology, Raptor Center, Paleontology Collection, Arboretum and Public Garden; Phaff Yeast Culture Collection; and the Viticulture and Enology Culture Collection. Six were from noon to 4 p.m.: Nematode Collection, Botanical Conservatory, Center for Plant Diversity Herbarium, Anthropology Museum, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and the Design Museum.

Plans are already underway for the eighth annual Biodiversity Museum Day. The next major campus event is the 104th annual UC Davis Picnic Day, set April 21.