Our museums will be closed until further notice to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Our first priority is the well-being and safety of our guests, staff and volunteers. Stay up to date with NHMLAC's response to COVID-19.​​​ Nuestros museos estarán cerrados hasta nuevo aviso para minimizar la propagación del COVID-19. Ve la respuesta de NHMLAC ante el coronavirus (COVID-19).

Spiky, Hairy, Shiny: Insects of L.A.

Spiky Hairy Shiny Insects of LA header image

ONLINE EXHIBITION

Spiky, Hairy, Shiny: Insects of L.A.

If we want to understand how our decisions shape the world around us, we can start by simply paying attention to what insects are doing in our own neighborhoods.

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On any given day in L.A., count on running into thousands of insects, many of which are barely visible. Since 2012, volunteers and Museum scientists have been collecting and photographing samples of this diversity as part of the BioSCAN (Biodiversity Science: City and Nature) project—in the process documenting environmental change over time. Spiky, Hairy, Shiny, an online exhibition, zooms in on this hidden world: come meet these six-legged Angelenos and let their beauty surprise and delight!

Flower fly

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Flower fly, Helophilus latifrons, 14 mm.

Acorn Weevil microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Acorn weevil, Curculio occidentis, 7 mm.

Mason Bee microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Mason bee, Osmia sp., 9mm.

Halloween ladybug microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Halloween ladybug, Harmonia axyridis, 5 mm.

Eupelmid Wasp microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2020. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Eupelmid wasp, Metapelma sp., 7 mm.

Mantisfly microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Mantisfly, Plega sp., 18 mm.

Keeled Treehopper microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Keeled treehopper, Antianthe expansa, 7 mm.

Torymid wasp microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Torymid wasp, Diomorus zabriskii, 5 mm.

Eucharitid wasp microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Eucharitid wasp, Pseudochalcura gibbosa, 4 mm.

Digger bee microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Digger bee, Anthophora californica, 13 mm.

Soldier Fly microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2020. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Soldier fly, Euparyphus cinctus, 5 mm.

Leafhopper microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN / Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Leafhopper, Draeculacephala sp., 5 mm.

Sharpshooter microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN / Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Sharpshooter, Graphocephala versuta, 6 mm.

Snakefly microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Snakefly, Agulla sp., 13 mm.

Tachinid fly microscopic image with a life-size pinned specimen on the left

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Tachinid fly, Archytas sp., 15 mm.

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Flower fly, Helophilus latifrons, 14 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Acorn weevil, Curculio occidentis, 7 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Mason bee, Osmia sp., 9mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Halloween ladybug, Harmonia axyridis, 5 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Eupelmid wasp, Metapelma sp., 7 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2020. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Mantisfly, Plega sp., 18 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Keeled treehopper, Antianthe expansa, 7 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Torymid wasp, Diomorus zabriskii, 5 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Eucharitid wasp, Pseudochalcura gibbosa, 4 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Digger bee, Anthophora californica, 13 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Soldier fly, Euparyphus cinctus, 5 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2020. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Leafhopper, Draeculacephala sp., 5 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN / Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Sharpshooter, Graphocephala versuta, 6 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN / Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Snakefly, Agulla sp., 13 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Tachinid fly, Archytas sp., 15 mm.

Photo: Lisa Gonzalez, 2019. © BioSCAN/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Soothing Sounds

We're all missing the outdoors just about now. When you have a quiet moment, put on your headphones and be transported via the sounds of Los Angeles insects, from dawn to dusk.

Sound recordings courtesy of Dr. Jeffrey Cole, as well as the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (ML124737, ML22874, ML50544, ML118628, ML109521621, ML193751751, and ML213298021).


BioSCAN: The World's Largest Urban Biodiversity Study

What makes BioSCAN the biggest survey of its kind? First of all, the number of insect traps (80) placed by Museum staff and volunteers. Second, the urban setting: the BioSCAN project is discovering new species and examining insect distributions in the core of the Los Angeles Basin and out to the coast, mountains, and nearby deserts. Through biodiversity studies like these, scientists can track which species are in an area and how common they are. To date, we have identified 800 species, including 47 species new to science. For more results, see here.

Malaise trap in garden for BioSCAN community project

We set up Malaise traps at sites across the L.A. Basin. Site hosts monitor the traps and remove the sample once a month.

Petri dishes with malaise trap samples

We bring the samples back to the Museum, where we process them and record the data.

Work-study student looking through microscope

Work-study students and volunteers sort the insects.

Entomologist looking at insect sample

After preliminary sorting, our entomologists identify the species.

Jars of insect specimens

We dry and label specimens; some go to collaborators at other institutions, but most stay in our collection.

Ecologist on laptop analyzing data

Our ecologists analyze the data.

two children looking at specimen samples in Nature Lab

We publish and share our findings.

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We set up Malaise traps at sites across the L.A. Basin. Site hosts monitor the traps and remove the sample once a month.

We bring the samples back to the Museum, where we process them and record the data.

Work-study students and volunteers sort the insects.

After preliminary sorting, our entomologists identify the species.

We dry and label specimens; some go to collaborators at other institutions, but most stay in our collection.

Our ecologists analyze the data.

We publish and share our findings.


Finding Insects in Your Neighborhood

No matter where you live in Los Angeles, you can find—and support—native insect communities. Roll over a few of our BioSCAN collection sites on the map below to see examples.

Activities

Here are some things you can do at home (or just about anywhere) to observe and learn more about the insects around you.

Acknowledgements

The BioSCAN project was made possible in part through the generous support of Esther S.M. Chui-Chao and The Seaver Institute. The project also would not have happened without the collaboration of our BioSCAN site hosts, who provided access to their yards, community gardens, local green spaces, and schools. We are grateful for their cooperation and dedication.