The Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis recently received an unusual gift: 50,000 dead wasps.
The collection of more than 50,000 aculeate (stinging) wasp specimens, primarily spider wasps, came from the estate of renowned wasp expert Marius Wasbauer of Brookings, Ore., who died earlier this year. Wasbauer was a retired senior scientist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture and a global expert on wasps, especially spider wasps.
Spider wasps are stinging wasps belonging to the family Pompilidae. Spider wasps are solitary and adults feed on plants. Female wasps catch spiders and use them to feed their larva. The wasp uses its sting to paralyze a spider, drags it into a burrow, lays an egg on it and covers the burrow. When the wasp larva hatches, it feeds on the living, paralyzed spider until it is ready to form a cocoon and develop into an adult.
Wasbauer was a member of the Bohart Museum Society and a strong supporter of the museum. He had been collecting wasp specimens, housed in 13 24-drawer cabinets, since the 1960s.
“A U-Haul was needed to transport the collection from Brookings to Davis last weekend,” said Bohart Museum director and UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, who collaborated with Wasbauer.
The Bohart Museum, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a live “petting zoo” (once pandemic restrictions are lifted) comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas.
Marius Wasbauer’s Massive Wasp Specimen Collection Donated to Bohart Museum (Entomology & Nematology News)
Kathy Keatley Garvey is a writer with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.