Bees Reign at Bohart Museum Open House

Kai Nacua, 9, peers at a bee through a microscope as his sister Kwynn, 5, waits her turn. With them is their mother Kim Nases. The family, from Vacaville, enjoyed the Bohart Museum open house. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Kai Nacua, 9, peers at a bee through a microscope as his sister Kwynn Nacua, 5, waits her turn. With them is their mother Kim Nases. The family, from Vacaville, enjoyed the Bohart Museum open house. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
World Bee Day was May 20, but the Bohart Museum of Entomology celebrated it early--on May 19--with an open house on wild bees and managed bees.

More than 300 attended the May 19th event, noted Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. They included residents of Yolo, Marin, Solano and Sacramento counties.  

Community ecologist Rachel Vannette, associate professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and three lab members--doctoral candidate Lexie Martin, doctoral student Dino Sbardellati, and junior specialist Leta Landucci--displayed  nests of bumble bees, carpenter bees and solitary bees. They also invited visitors to examine  live bee larvae under a microscope and engage in the interactive displays on the bee life cycle.

Others bee researchers participating:

  • Bohart Museum bee scientists Thomas Zavortink and Sandy Shanks
  • UC Davis graduate student Richard Martinez of the lab of apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, associate professor of Cooperative Extension, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He  staffed the honey bee booth and answered questions about bees and beekeeping. He also displayed a bee observation hive (attendees eagerly tried to find the queen). Children and adults alike tried on the  beekeeping suits and veils. He also discussed the apiary equipment, including a smoker and hive tools.
  • Doctoral student Sofía Meléndez Cartagena of the Stacey Combes lab, Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior. She studies the diversity of bees and bee behavior.
  • Doctoral student Peter Coggan of the laboratory of Chancellor's Fellow  Santiago Ramirez, associate professor, Department of Evolution and Ecology. Coggan studies the neurological and genetic basis of orchid bee courtship behavior and evolution.

Brownie Troop 121 of Davis, led by co-leaders Dr. Jaclyn Watkins and Mel McClendon,  attended.  "We thought the event was fantastic!" said Watkins,  associate professor of clinical pathology and residency program director, Department of Pathology and Laboratory. "Our girls also earned their Brownie Bug Badges by attending. They had a blast."

Bee specimens displayed ranged from honey bees and carpenter bees, to bumble bees and orchid bees, to leafcutter bees and sweat bees. Visitors also perused a number of bee books, including the newly published Honey Bee Biology, authored by Brian Johnson, associate professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology; and Calfornia Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, published in 2014 and co-authored by Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), distinguished emeritus professor. California is home to more than 1600 species of undomesticated bees, most of them native, according to Thorp.

The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of eight million insects, plus a live petting zoo,  and a gift shop.  Professor Jason Bond directs the museum, succeeding Kimsey, who served 34 years until her retirement on Feb. 1. Bond is the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, and the associate dean, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He also serves as president-elect of the American Arachnological Society. 

The next open houses are set for

  • Saturday, July 20: "Moth Night at the Museum," 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Saturday, Sept. 28: "Museum ABCs: Arthropods Bohart, and Collecting," 1 to 4:30 p.m.

All open houses are free and family friendly; parking is also free on weekends.

Summer public walk-in hours are on Tuesdays, June 17-Aug. 27 from 9 a.m. to noon, and from 1 to 4 p.m. The museum will be closed to the general public from Sept. 1-22.

For more information, access the website at or contact