Bugs Share Spotlight with Pigs, Polar Bears and Pigeons: ACE Awards

This was a case of bugs sharing the spotlight with pigs, polar bears and pigeons.
Six communicators affiliated with the University of California, Davis, or the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) received a total of 10 awards for excellence at the 2018 conference of the international Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Life and Human Sciences (ACE), held in Scottsdale, Ariz.

They brought home five gold or first-place awards: three silver or second-place awards; and two bronze or third-place awards. “That was quite a haul!” commented an ACE member on Facebook.

The recipients:

  • Diane Nelson, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, two golds
  • Kathy Keatley Garvey, Department of Entomology and Nematology, one gold and one silver
  • Jim Downing, California Agriculture journal, gold
  • David Slipher, College of Biological Sciences, gold
  • Steve Elliott, Western IPM Center, two silvers and a bronze
  • Gregory Watry, College of Biological Sciences, bronze

Nelson wrote about pig personalities and polar bears. Slipher's topic was pigeons. (See other topics in the awards news story)

And me--bugs. The news story that won the gold (by yours truly) involved a visit to the Bohart Museum of Entomology by children of California migratory workers.

The piece, “Why These Youngsters Want to Become Entomologists” (https://bit.ly/2sYwhye) covered the children's tour of the insect museum, which houses some eight million insect specimens, a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and praying mantids), and a year around-gift shop. The students engaged the director, Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, in a press conference. They asked the "who, what, when, where and how come" questions like pros. It was delightful to see them so well prepared and perceptive.

The Bug Squad blog that won silver  (https://bit.ly/2BrePU5) involved a late-season monarch caterpillar that we found Oct. 27, 2017 on one of our milkweeds in our pollinator garden in Vacaville. It formed a chrysalis on Nov. 4.

On Day 19, Nov. 22 (the day before Thanksgiving), it happened. The monarch eclosed.  A big, strong and healthy girl. 

What to do...no way could she fly three hours in the rain and cold from Vacaville to an overwintering site in Santa Cruz. And with predators abounding, survival looked bleak.

From the Bug Squad blog:

"It just so happened that a friend and pollinator advocate, Rita LeRoy, the self-described 'farm keeper' at the Vallejo City Unified School District's Loma Vista Farm, was heading to Santa Cruz on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, to show her out-of-town relatives the overwintering migratory butterfly sanctuary at the Natural Bridges State Beach Park.  That's about a 100-mile trip from Vallejo.

"Could Ms. Monarch hitch a ride?

"She could. And she did."

Rita is a Monarch Mom (she rears and releases monarchs) and is active in the Bay Area-Based Pollinator Posse. She teaches Vallejo City Unified School District youngsters about farming, cooking and gardening. And that includes gardening for butterflies.

So Ms. Vacaville Monarch hitched a ride with Rita and her family.

"She flew so fast that we didn't get a picture of her flying away," Rita related. "She was anxious to join her new friends."

A happy ending. 

And hopefully, Ms. Vacaville Monarch provided the butterfly world with another generation.