Bohart Museum Open House: Get Acquainted with Social Wasps

Let's be social!

How much do you know about social wasps? Would you like to engage in a "meet-and-greet" with them and talk to a wasp expert?

UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, will be featured at the next Bohart open house, themed "Social Wasps," from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 20, in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. 

Kimsey will answer questions and show specimens.

The event is free, family friendly, and open to the public. Parking is also free. 

Meanwhile, we asked Professor Kimsey some questions about her favorite research subject:

1. Define social wasps.

"Wasps that live together and cooperate in a colony, with female workers and a queen; only the queen has babies."

2. What drew you to study social wasps?

 "I just like stinging things in general and their anatomy and social behavior are really interesting."

3. What are some of the common myths about social wasps?

  • They are often seen as malevolent beings out to get you and will chase you
  • That they serve no purpose except to annoy us
  • If you're allergic to bee stings you'll be allergic to wasp stings
  • A copper penny place on a sting will make it go away

4. What are 3 main things the public should know about social wasps?

  • They provide valuable ecosystem services
  • They do pest control
  • They assist in nutrient recycling and pollination

5. How many described species of social wasps are there in the world? Undescribed? Estimate?

"There are about 2,000 described species of social wasps worldwide. Undescribed, maybe another 500."

6. What are some of the most-awed social wasps in the Bohart collection? 

"Clearly the murder hornet, Vespa mandarinia." Formerly known by its common name, Asian giant hornet, it is now known as "northern giant hornet," per the Entomological Society of America. The hornet, considered the world's largest hornet, is native to Asia. It was first detected in the Pacific Northwest in 2019, and with nests found in 2021.

7. How many vespids in the collection?
"We have roughly 50,000 vespids in the collection; not sure how many species." 

Kimsey is a recognized authority on insect biodiversity, systematics and biogeography of parasitic wasps, urban entomology, civil forensic entomology, and arthropod-related industrial hygiene. A 34-year member of the UC Davis entomology faculty, she has directed the Bohart Museum since 1990.

Kimsey, who grew up in El Cerrito as Lynn Siri, the daughter of a biologist and a biophysicist,  received her first insect net at age 5. She holds two entomology degrees from UC Davis: a bachelor's degree (1976) and a doctorate (1979). After serving as a visiting professor/lecturer at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, and then a research associate at Harvard, she joined the UC Davis faculty as an associate professor in 1989. 

Bohart Beginnings. When UC Davis entomologist Richard "Doc" Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946, it included only 400 insect specimens at its Briggs Hall location. Under Kimsey's tenure,  it has grown to a global collection of eight million insect specimens in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, and is the seventh largest insect collection in North America.

Today the Bohart draws an average of 15,000 visitors a year, adds an average of 30,000 new specimens annually, and loans an average 7000 specimens yearly to scientists worldwide. It supports campus classes with specimens, live insects and exhibits in keeping with its mission:  “Understanding, documenting and communicating terrestrial arthropod diversity.”

Kimsey served as president of the International Society of Hymenopterists from 2002-2004, and as a member of the board of directors of the Natural Science Collections Alliance in 2000 and 2001. The Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of Ameica (PBESA) singled her out for its highest honor, the C. W. Woodworth Award, in 2020. She received the PBESA Systematics, Evolution, and Biodiversity Award in 2014 and was a member of 'The Bee Team' that won the PBESA Outstanding Team Award in 2013. The UC Davis Academic Senate honored her with its Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award in 2016 in recognition of her outstanding work. She received the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES) Exceptional Faculty Award in 2023.

Kimsey served as the vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 2005-2006 and again in 2009-2010 and chaired the department in 2008-2009. She plans to retire in 2024 but will continue her research and public service at the Bohart Museum. 

The Bohart Museum also houses a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects, tarantulas and more), and an insect-themed gift shop. For more information, contact the Bohart Museum at or access the website at

Amazing Story About What Entomologist Lynn Kimsey Recorded in San Francisco Bay 50 Years Ago (Aug. 23, 2021, Bug Squad)