RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A UC Riverside entomology graduate student was standing among Hollywood stars Monday, June 29 at the red carpet premiere of Marvel’s Ant-Man at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. Kevin Welzel, invited by Walt Disney Studios, stood alongside a giant formicarium – or ant house – to answer questions red carpet attendees had about ants.
The 27-year-old Fontana native is a big Marvel fan himself and said being at the event was very exciting. “When I first arrived I helped set-up the ant farm to make sure the humidity was just right for the ants to survive,” he explained. He described the event as all “glitz and glamour,” and said Marvel did a great job of getting the ambiance just right. “They even had the Ant Man suit there!”
1. What was your favorite part of the evening?
Talking to people and answering their questions about ants. I talked to some folks for about 20 minutes because of their genuine interest in ant biology.
2. What was the most commonly asked question?
People wanted to know what types of ants are in the movie! There were four different genres – carpenter, fire, crazy, and bullet ants. They did synopsis of each of ant, and gave background on what each one is known for, and it’s “power.” It was great way to explain different types of ants to the public.
3. In your experience, what do people find most interesting about ants?
Most the time people are truly fascinated by the ant’s social structure. They work together to build elaborate labyrinths underground and help each other take care of the colony. I think this hits home with most people considering we are a social group as well.
4. Throughout your studies, what have you found most fascinating about ants?
They have a surprisingly advanced communication system which has become more complex as we learn more about it. Unlike humans that rely on sound, ants use chemicals for communication.
5. What got you interested in Entomology? And why specifically ants?
I think it’s the beauty and diversity of insects is what keeps me captivated and interested in studying them. They are truly a work of art, the colors and their behaviors have been the inspiration for many artist throughout the ages. Ants are my favorite because they are just cool. They have a really fascinating social structure that allows us to relate better to them.
6. Your feelings toward attending the premiere?
I am really thankful for this experience. It was an awesome opportunity to educate the public on the merits of ants and insects in general.
The red carpet opened at 5:30 p.m., the film was screened at 7 p.m. Welzel answered questions during that time, and had the opportunity to head into the premiere and watch the film.
Welzel is earning a Ph.D. in entomology at UC Riverside, where he teaches undergraduates and researches in a lab studying the pheromones of Argentine Ants.