Hissers Are Big Hit at the Bohart; Next Weekend Open House Nov. 19
Ralph Washington talks about the Madagascar hissing cockroaches to Mick,Emme and Molly Dunning of Davis.. (Photos by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
DAVIS--Madagascar hissing cockroaches are a big hit at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis campus.
Some visitors like to look at them, others prefer to touch them, and the bravest of the brave delight in holding them—and ask their parents if they can "please, please," keep a couple as pets.
On a recent visit to the Bohart Museum, Bob Dunning of Davis watched his two daughters, Molly, 9, and Emme, 8, and son Mick, 6, check out the hissers.
Molly preferred to just look at them. Emme and Mick wanted to hold them. Emme especially delighted in them and let them crawl up her back. “Future entomologists!” bystanders said.
Next Bohart Open House: 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19. Theme: Thankful for Bugs!
Bohart volunteer Ralph Washington, who received his bachelor’s degree in entomology from UC Davis, told them that the cockroaches are native to Madagascar of the African coast. The Madagascar hissing cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa) is one of the largest cockroach species and can reach two to four inches in length.
Emme Dunning with a Madagascar hissing cockroach.
“They’re like goodwill ambassadors to the Bohart and the cockroach family,” said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach director, who estimated the museum holds about 40 to 50 Madagascar hissing cockroaches at any given time.
“Some visitors think of them as big beetles, and when we tell them they’re cockroaches sometimes they get a little concerned," she said. "They’re thinking of the pest species.”
An added attraction is that Madagascar hissing cockroaches, aka “hissers,” make a noise—they hiss.
“They hiss for a variety of reasons,” Yang said. “The males hiss at each other over territory and they hiss to attract females. When we pick them up, they do an ‘alarm hiss’ so we will leave them alone and put them down.”
Sometimes they’re so used to being handled that they don’t readily hiss. That’s when the museum staffers raid the personal collection of entomology graduate student Emily Bzdyk, who keeps some in her Bohart office.
Mick Dunning admires a Madagascar hissing cockroach.
The museum, located at 1124 Academic Surge on California Drive, is the home of seven million insect specimens. In addition to Madagascar hissing cockroaches, the “live petting zoo” includes walking sticks and rose-haired tarantulas.
Museum director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, plans her next weekend open house on Saturday, Nov. 19 from 1 to 4. The theme: “Thankful for Bugs.”
The R. M. Bohart Museum of Entomology, founded in 1946 by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) is dedicated to teaching, research and service. The museum houses the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and is also the home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity.
The Bohart's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. It is closed on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
More information is available on the Bohart website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/ or by contacting Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 752-0493. Due to limited space, group tours will not be booked during the weekend hours.
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology