Backyard Orchard News
Nobody really bats an eye when a chicken lays an egg. That's what we expect them to do.
But when a butterfly lays an egg, that's a different story--especially in December.
Gulf Fritillary butterflies or passion butterflies (Agraulis vanillae) head for the nearest Passiflora, their host plant, and lay their eggs, tiny little yellow eggs about the size of a sesame seed.
It's done so quietly and so effortlessly--and it's such a miracle--that you expect to hear Vivaldi's Spring or the sound of trumpets or loud applause or a standing ovation. Something.
But no, the female butterfly goes about her business of laying eggs, deftly avoiding mate-seeking males that attempt to draw her attention.
The egg will hatch into a larva or caterpillar, and the caterpillar will morph into a munching machine, devouring every leaf in sight. Then comes the chrysalis, and an adult butterfly emerges.
That itself, in the dead of winter, warrants Vivaldi's Spring!
A Gulf Fritillary laying an egg in the dead of winter on a passionflower leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A female Gulf Fritillary, after laying an egg, soaks up some sunshine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Freeman Long, who has been researching and writing about bats for 20 years, has two colonies of bats at her ranch in Woodland. The bats eat moths, cucumber beetles, leafhoppers, mosquitoes, midges and water boatmen--when they disperse from the water.
Long is finishing the third book of her children's trilogy, The Black Rose Desert, which stars a boy named Jack, a pallid bat named Pinta and a coyote named Sonny. She'll be talking about bats and signing her books, "Gold Fever" and the newly published "Valley of Fire" on Saturday, Dec. 13 from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in the Common Grounds Coffee shop, 729 Main St., Woodland. She plans to showcase museum specimens, in lieu of live bats.
At a recent educational program in the Avid Reader, Davis, Long and her friend Corky Quirk of Nor Cal Bats, an organization dedicated to research, rehabilitation and release of bats throughout Northern California, entertained the crowd with information about bats. Quirk displayed live bats: two pallid bats, a big brown-bat and a Mexican free-tailed bat, the latter found beneath the Yolo Causeway.
“Pallid bats are native to the western North America,” Long said. “They're unusual in that in addition to catching prey in flight, they will also hunt on the ground for prey, such as crickets, grasshoppers and scorpions. Pallid bats have huge ears and have amazing hearing—they can pick up the sound of a cricket walking on the ground. They are quite agile on the ground.”
“Some migrate, but it's unclear how far they go,” Long said. “In my story they go long distances. Our neighbor regularly gets colonies of pallid bats in the fall in his barn that then move on somewhere else.”
Long, known for her research and scientific publications about bats and bat houses, said her interest “in writing this trilogy is science literacy for kids to teach them about the natural history of bats and the incredible importance of bats in our world for pollination and pest control benefits. Bats are major pollinators of many plants; without bats we wouldn't have tequila as they are the main pollinators of the agave plant from which tequila is made!"
"In my stories,” Long said, “we learn all kinds of wonderful tidbits about bats, including echolocation, migration, that they feed on insects and that 'blind as a bat' is a total myth.”
Long's avid interest in the ecosystem services of bats revolves around how bats can help with pest control in agricultural crops. "For example, we just determined that in walnuts, each bat provides about $6 in pest control services for codling moth control, a major pest in this crop.
Long recalls telling bat stories to her young son “on our long drives into town from our ranch. He loved them so much that one day I finally decided to write them down to share with other children--and adults too!"
Long's trilogy focuses on a cave-exploring boy named Jack, who is 9 years old that summer when his family heads to their Black Rock Range property to search for gold. Jack, wandering off, falls into a cave and gets lost. His new friends, Pinta, the pallid bat, and a coyote named Sonny help him find his way out but then they all find themselves in danger. Other characters in the book include Jack's parents, uncle, and “the bad guys,” a ring of international poachers. One of the poachers is a newly escaped prison inmate roaming Black Rock Range.
What are some generally unknown facts about pallid bats? “They emit a skunk-like smell when disturbed; it's a predator defense,” Long said. “Their wing membranes are like skin; incredibly sensitive.”
Pallid bats usually have one or two bat pups, once per year, and they can live for more than 20 years, Long said. “These bats glean the tastiest parts of insects and leave other pieces behind --legs, wings, heads-- so you can always tell if you have a pallid bat colony. We find them in our bat houses that are up and around Yolo County.”
Long's efforts to educate young children about bats resulted in praised from science journalist Jim Robbins of the New York Times: “Bats play a little known, but vital role in the world.”
Long's books, published by Tate Publishing Co., Mustang, Okla., introduce “young readers to their world in an engaging and entertaining way,” Robbins wrote.
The general public--children and adults alike--can learn a lot about bats in her books. One of her favorite books on bats is "Bats in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book" by Don Wilson.
Rachael Long (left) and Corky Quirk talk about bats at an educational program at the Avid Reader, Davis. Quirk is holding a bat that's feeding on a mealworm. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Rachael Long displays a bat house made by her friend Ben Frey of Hopland. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Author: Cheryl Reynolds, UC Statewide IPM Program
An online course highlighting how pesticide resistance develops among pests is now available on the UC IPM Web site. Created primarily for pest control advisors and other licensed pesticide applicators, this course describes the mechanisms of resistance in pathogens, insects, and weeds and discusses ways to manage resistance within the different disciplines.
The online course is divided into three narrated presentations followed by a final test for each section. This course has been approved for 2 continuing education units in the “Other” category from the Department of Pesticide Regulation.
This course is based on a series of workshops held in Davis, Fresno, and at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center during the spring of 2014 presented by Dr. Doug Gubler (Dept. of Plant Pathology, UC Davis.), Dr. Larry Godfrey (Dept. of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis), Dr. Beth Grafton-Cardwell (Lindcove Research and Extension Center and UC Riverside), and Dr. Kassim All-Khatib (UC Statewide IPM Program).
Check out the new course at http://www.ipm.ucanr.edu/training/pesticide_resistance.html.
You know she likes stiletto Jimmy Choo shoes and anything that begins with a "D" for designer clothes and shoes and "E" for expensive. She's seen The World's Most Expensive Stilettos and dreams of stilettos by Stuart Weitzman and Borgezie that run as high as $3 million. (They run that high, but you can't run in them.)
But apparel won't last as long as the gift that the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is dangling in front of us.
Ready for this? A stiletto fly. Genus: Agapophytus. It needs a species name. If you'd like to adopt it and own the naming rights, you can--with a sponsorship that will help the Bohart Museum's research.
Shaun Winterton of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, a Bohart associate, collected the stiletto fly (below) in western Australia and photographed it.
"'O sole mio!" Deep in the heart of our soul (sole?), we know it's better than designer shoes.
A little information on the Stiletto fly from Winterton:
Common name: Stiletto fly
Origin: Western Australia: Golden Bay beach dunes
Describer: Shaun L. Winterton
Wrote Winterton: "This new species of Agapophytus in the family Therevidae has been found in the coastal heathland and beach fore-dunes of Western Australia, north of the city of Perth. The genus is known only from Australia and Papua New Guinea and currently includes about 40 known species, with about as many still to be formally named. The stiletto fly family includes many brightly colored species in Australia, many of which are mimics of wasps or ants. This species is unusual in being relatively small in body size, with a polished black body and yellow halters. Larvae of this family are snake-like predators in the sand dunes, swimming through the loose sand using vibrations to home in on prey."
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and a UC Davis proessor of entomology, launched the Bohart's biolegacy program, which is similar to the International Star Registry. "For a sponsorship of $2500, you will be able to select a species you would like to name in honor of a loved one or in respect for a community member," she said. "For your sponsorship, we will name a species after you or someone special to you. Sponsors will also be given a high resolution photography of their namesake, framed with the title page of the naming publication."
Unlike the Star Registry Program, though, the official species name "will be published in a scientific journal read by many in the international scientific community and available to everyone in perpetuity."
So, the Bohart Museum staff and scientists need your help. They describe as many as 15 new species annually "and our associates, many more."
"We could use your help with the selection of new species names in the course of our research," said Kimsey, who can be reached at email@example.com or (530) 752-0493.
The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million specimens collected from throughout the world, joins a number of international organizations that offer species-naming opportunities.
Sponsorships help support museum research, in addition to offering a personal permanent legacy.
Can't you just see it? At a holiday gathering, your friend who has everything is asked what she received.
"Stiletto," she says.
"Omigosh, you got stilettos! Jimmy Choo? Who? Who?"
"No, this stiletto is a fly. And it's all mine. It's named after me!"
Shaun Winterton of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, an associate of the Bohart Museum, collected this stiletto fly, genus Agapophytus, and photographed it. It now needs a name. (Shaun Winterton Photo)
This weevil, found in a Costa Rica forest, is up for adoption: it needs a name. (Photo by Andrew Richards, Bohart Museum of Entomology)
Here's another weevil, found in a Costa Rica forest, that needs a name. (Photo by Andrew Richards, Bohart Museum of Entomology)
Bohart senior museum scientist Steve Heydon collected this new species of chalcid wasp in the Algonedes Dunes. Genus: Psilochalcis. It needs a name. (Photo by Andrew Richards, Bohart Museum of Entomology)
Dingle, who served as a professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology from 1982 to 2002, achieving emeritus status in 2003, recently published the second edition of Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move (Oxford University Press), a sequel to the first edition published in 1996.
A worldwide authority on animal migration, Dingle says the full understanding of migration, or “life on the move,” involves genetics, physiology, and morphology, as well as behavior and ecology. Among the animals that migrate: whales, monarch butterflies, armyworm moths, pelicans, locusts, winged aphids and ballooning spiders.
Dingle has researched in seven countries: UK, Kenya, Thailand, Panama, Germany and Australia, as well as the United States. National Geographic featured him in its cover story on “Great Migrations” in November 2010. LiveScience interviewed him for its November 2010 piece on“Why Do Animals Migrate."
Now Dingle will be heading to the Pacific islands to study monarchs. He just received the UC Davis Edward A. Dickson Professorship Award to research “Monarchs in the Pacific: Is Contemporary Evolution Occurring on Isolated Islands?”
Monarch butterflies established just 200 years ago in remote Pacific islands are undergoing contemporary evolution through differences in their wing span and other changes, Dingle believes. He will be working with community ecologist Louie Yang and molecular geneticist Joanna Chiu, assistant professors in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, to examine the ecology and physiology of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in three islands where contemporary evolution might be expected. The islands are Oahu (Hawaii), Guam (Marianas) and Weno (Chuuk or Truk).
“This is the necessary first step in a long-term analysis of the evolutionary ecology and physiology of monarch butterflies on remote Pacific islands,” said Dingle, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Animal Behavior Society.
The monarch, widely distributed “for eons” in the New World, is fairly new to the Pacific islands and to Australia. He speculates that the monarchs arrived in the Pacific islands with their host plant, milkweed, which was valued at the time for its medicinal properties.
An analysis of a monarch population in Hawaii shows that resident monarchs have shorter, broader wings than the long-distance migrants. The Hawaii butterfly wings were shorter than the eastern U.S. long-distance migrants, but “not so short-winged as the residents in the Caribbean or Costa Rica, which have been present in those locations for eons, rather than the 200 years for Hawaii.”
“If there are indeed wing shape changes associated with evolution in isolation, are there other changes that may have occurred under selection and local adaptation for residency?” Dingle wonders. “Are there other changes that may have occurred under selection and local adaptation for residency? Examples of such traits might be changes in flight muscle physiology, changes in photoperiodic diapause response, changes in the characteristics of orientation ability and its relation to antennal circadian rhythms, or changes in the reproductive capacity or tactics (re-colonization of ‘empty' habitats is no longer part of the life cycle)."
“Diapause and fat storage, necessary to support migration, are triggered by short photoperiods,” Dingle said, “and the butterflies orient using a sun compass synchronized to a circadian rhythm in the antennae." Overwintering sites in North America include the Transvolcanics Mountains of central Mexico, and the California Coast, particularly Santa Cruz, Pismo Beach, and Pacific Grove.
The UC Davis team will study the monarchs on the three islands and compare them with California mainland monarchs. Using an image analyzer and camera equipment available in Yang lab, the team will photograph “chilled” butterflies in a fixed position with wings spread and then release them back into the wild. The image analyzer will measure different variables, including length, width and angles from the photographs and compute multivariate-shape parameters.
The Chiu lab will assess genetic differences using a transcriptomic approach with monarch caterpillars. “This assessment will be greatly facilitated by the fact that the monarch genome has now been sequenced,” Dingle noted. “A major focus of Dr. Chiu's research is circadian rhythm genes, and these will be especially relevant here because of the association of these genes with monarch capabilities. Because the monarch cell line is cycling and has a functional circadian clock, effects of mutations in specific clock genes can be examined with regard to clock function.”
Dingle expects the one-year research program not only to form the basis for “long-term research on the evolutionary genetics of behavior, ecology and physiology on Pacific island monarch butterflies” but on “the general aspects of island biogeography, a subject of great practical theoretical interest in evolutionary biology.”
That's exciting research. We look forward to the results!
A monarch and a honey bee sharing a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)