Student Spotlight

James Hung Stars in “Lord of the Bees”

Osmia gabrielis (Mason Bee): This large, beautiful species tends to have a deep blueish hue on its head and a brilliant dark purple on its abdomen

UC San Diego biology doctoral student James Hung has had a fondness for insects for as long as he can remember.  Growing up in Taiwan, his pre-kindergarten teachers helped tame his inexhaustible energy by telling him to go outside to observe nature.  At the age of ten, Hung’s family moved to British Columbia, where his fascination with entomology continued to blossom.  However, he no longer was interested in just looking at insects.  Hung had begun to build his own increasingly vast collection of live insects that, from time to time, would escape and run rampant throughout his parents’ home.

By the time he enrolled at Dartmouth College as an undergraduate, Hung’s strong interest in entomology had grown into a full-fledged passion.  Encouraged by his teachers to focus on one group of organisms from multiple ecological and physiological perspectives, he chose to study bees for his senior thesis topic.  With the help of experts at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, he became a largely self-taught bee taxonomist, culminating in a collection of more than 17,000 pinned and cataloged specimens of native bees.

Colletes slevini (Polyester Bee): These bees receive their common name from the cellophane-like secretion they use to line their nest burrows.

According to Hung, San Diego boasts one of the most diverse natural bee populations in the world. Bees can be found everywhere: from the coast, to the mountains, and even in the deserts.  The native bees look nothing like the standard honey bee, and can range from being gnat-sized with long snouts, to bumble-bee sized, to curiously iridescent with transparent wings.  Their role in the ecosystem is critical and examining their behavioral changes and habits is essential in documenting environmental changes.

In his three years at UC San Diego, Hung has focused on the impact of development and habitat fragmentation on the local bee community. His research topics include the effect of drought on bee populations, bee extinction, and the influence of wild bees on local agriculture. Like other biologists, his scientific technique embraces a genetic approach, including the submission of DNA sequences of unique bees to an international database of living organisms.   In addition, he has built a rare and highly-respected bee taxonomy collection.  His knowledge of local bees and his specimen collection have attracted the attention of many, including the San Diego Natural History Museum. He is currently collaboration with the museum to compile a complete inventory of the wild bees found in San Diego County.

Augochlorella pomoniella (Green Sweet Bee): This species can be distinguished from its metallic green cousin, Agapostemon, by its smaller size and smoother, shinier appearance.

A small exhibit of Hung’s native bees are currently on view (thru June) on the main floor of Geisel Library, along with a digital slide-show that presents an incredible array of 46 native bee faces, and a collection of books and other items related to beekeeping owned by collector Joe Bray.

To make scientific research on bees even more accessible, the Library is working with Hung to create a bee dataset that will encompass information from a number of resources, including Hung’s own specimen collection, data from other bee specialists, reports from primary literature, and specimens at the San Diego Natural History Museum. As datasets of this nature and scope are globally rare, this will be an important digital repository that will enable scientists world-wide to access a broad range of primary research information that is easily discoverable, sharable, and preserved.

Exhibits & Events

"San Diego Book Arts Exhibit."

  • May 5 - June 22
  • Mandeville Special Collections, Geisel Library.
  • For more information:
  • Webpage.

"Native Bee Exhibit."

  • May 21 - June 30
  • Lobby, Geisel Library.
  • For more information:
  • Webpage.

"Steampunk Tea."

  • June 29, 3:00 to 5:00 pm
  • Geisel West, 1stfloor.
  • For more information:
  • Webpage.

"Paper Theatre Festival & Exhibit."

  • August 9 - August 10, Noon to 5:00 pm
  • Seuss Room, Geisel Library.
  • For more information:
  • Webpage.

"Toy Piano Festival."

  • September 5, Noon to 1:00 pm
  • Seuss Room, Geisel Library.
  • For more information:
  • Webpage.

"Dinner in the Library."

  • September 12
  • Geisel Library Building
  • For more information:
  • (858) 534-7021
    e-mail Taylor Haglund

Domain Editor

Dolores Davies

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