Backyard Orchard News
Indeed, we can take lessons from the ants, according to ecologist Rob Dunn (right), assistant professor in the Department of Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh.
Dunn, author of Every Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to Catalog Life, from Nanobacteria to New Monkeys, will open the UC Davis Department of Entomology's winter seminar series on Wednesday, Jan. 5 with a presentation on “Using Collaborative Approaches to See the Geography and Future of life: Lessons From Ants.”
Dunn will speak from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 1022 Life Sciences Addition (LSA), corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall. His host is Bonnie Blaimer of the Phil Ward lab.
Be sure to check out Dunn's website, where you'll find his newly published research on ants and information on a troubling ant (Asian needle ant) in the hardwood forests of eastern North America.
The Department of Entomology seminars, coordinated by graduate student Ian Pearse of the Rick Karban lab, will be held every Wednesday from 12:10 to 1 p.m. through March. 9 in 1022 LSA, a change from last quarter's seminars (held in 122 Briggs Hall). UC Davis graduate students are hosting the individual presentations.
All presentations will be webcast live and then archived on this page. Graduate students James Harwood and Amy Morice of the Jim Carey lab donate their time to webcast the seminars.
The entire list of speakers, beginning with Dunn:
Jan. 5: Rob Dunn, assistant professor, Department of Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Topic: “Using Collaborative Approaches to See the Geography and Future of Life: Lessons From Ants.” Host: Bonnie Blaimer
Jan. 12: Amanda Hodson, UC Davis postdoctoral scholar. Topic: “Ecological Influence of the Entomopathogenic Nematode, Steinernema carpocapsae, on Soil Arthropods in Pistachio Orchards.” Host: Brittany Mills
Jan. 19: Jonathan Pruitt, Center for Population Biology Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Davis Department of Ecology and Evolution. Topic: “From Individuals to Populations to Communities: When Does Personality Matter?” Host: Meredith Cenzer.
Jan. 26: Angela Smilanich, adjunct faculty in biology at University of Nevada, Reno, and affiliate associate research faculty at the Desert Research Institute, Reno. Topic: "Self-Medication vs. Self-Toxicity in Generalist and Specialist Herbivores.” Host: Ian Pearse.
Feb. 2: Don Miller, associate professor, Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Chico. Topic: "Strategies of Tamalia Aphids: Freeloading, Gall Induction, Adaptive Sex Allocation.” Host: Scott McCluen
Feb. 9: Roger Vargas, research entomologist, USDA-ARS. Topic: "Area-Wide Fruit Fly Programs against Fruit Flies in Hawaii, French Polynesia and California." Host: James Harwood
Feb., 16: Gary Blomquist, professor and department chair, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nevada, Reno. Topic: "Pheromone Production in Bark Beetles." Host: George Kamita.
Feb. 23: Tom Turner, assistant professor of ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, UC Santa Barbara. Topic: "Evolutionary Functional Genomics: How Can We Find the Natural Genetic Variants Affecting Interesting Traits in Model Insects?" Host: Jackie Wong
March 2: Stan Faeth, professor and head, Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Title: "Asexual Endophytes in Native Grasses: Tiny Partners with Big Community Effects.” Host: Ian Pearse.
March 9: Jeffrey Feder, professor, Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame. Title: (To be announced.) Host: Meredith Cenzer
Red ornaments on a Christmas tree?
No, ladybugs (aka ladybird beetles or lady beetles) on Artemisia.
Ladybugs are overwintering on our Artemisia (genus belonging to the daisy family, Asteracease).
When the rains come, the drops bubble up on the plants and the ladybugs alike.
It's Christmas Eve and the ladybugs are Nature's sparkling red ornaments, providing comfort, cheer and color to the holiday season.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
There's joy on the horizon for beekeepers battling that pesky Varroa mite.
They may soon have a "fool-proof" method to silence the parasite, considered the honey bee's worst enemy.
A research team led by Alan Bowman of the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom, recently developed a genetic "knock-out" technique that could cause the blood-sucker to self-destruct.
The research could lead to an anti-Varroa medicine placed inside the hive, according to a BBC News article.
So common is the Varroa mite in a typical hive that it's considered the fourth member of the colony. Think queen bee, worker bees, drones, and Varroa mites. (Source: The newly published Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees by Malcolm Sanford and the late Richard Bonney)
The Varroa mite, first detected in the United States in 1987, is a killer. It transmits viruses, suppresses the immune system, weakens colonies, and if left untreated, can decimate an entire colony. BBC science reporter Victoria Gill captured its destructiveness well when she quoted Giles Budge of the National Bee Unit, Yorkshire.
The human equivalent of varroa mite, Budge told her, would be "an organism on your back that's about the size of a dinner plate, which creates a hole through which it can feed and through which its family can feed."
The free-lunch bunch has met its match.
Varroa Mite on Pupa
Varroa mite on adult bee
Chemical ecologist and forest entomologist of Steve Seybold of the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Davis, Calif., and a faculty affiliate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is leading a research group to characterize the disease in California.
A new member of the team is UC Davis entomology graduate student Stacy Hishinuma (right), who just received a McBeth Memorial Scholarship to help fund her research.
TCD is caused by the walnut twig beetle, Pityopthorus juglandis, in association with a newly described fungus, Geosmithia morbida.
“The beetle is believed to be native to Arizona, California, New Mexico and Mexico,” Hishinuma said, “but was never associated with walnut tree mortality until just recently.”
The disease was first noticed in canker-riddled black walnuts in Utah and Oregon in the early 1990s, but scientists attributed that to environmental stress. In 2006, plant pathologist Ned Tisserat and entomologist Whitney Cranshaw of Colorado State University identified the pathogen in declining black walnut trees in central Colorado. TCD is now found in eight western states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington), plus Tennessee.
“My project focuses on understanding more about the biology of the beetle and fungus and documenting the frequency and progression of TCD in various walnut species throughout California,” Hishinuma said. “The McBeth scholarship is funding my travel to field sites across California.”
Hishinuma, who is seeking her master’s degree in entomology, works with major professor and integrated pest management (IPM) specialist Mary Lou Flint and is co-advised by Seybold. Flint, with the statewide UC IPM Program, is the associate director for urban and community IPM, and a Department of Entomology extension specialist.
The fungus enters the tree when the beetle tunnels into the bark to prepare egg galleries. “The fungus is probably carried as conidia on the beetle’s elytra or wing covers,” said Seybold, who has been studying the chemical ecology and behavior of bark beetles for more than 25 years.
Scientists believe that TCD occurs only on walnut, predominantly native black walnut, Juglans californica and J. hindsii, although the disease has been recorded on 10 species of walnuts or their hybrids in California. Often the first symptoms of TCD are flagging and yellowing leaves and branch dieback, Seybold said. Affected branches show sap staining and pinhole-sized beetle holes. Beneath the surface are dark stains caused by the fungus.
A tree can survive the stress produced by a few cankers, but when high populations of the beetle enter the tree and the numerous small cankers coalesce, the disease girdles twigs and branches. Eventually TCD attacks the main stem of the weakened tree down to the soil line.
Last summer, a USDA/UC Davis research team began tracking the pathogen and the beetle throughout the state, particularly in commercial orchards.
To prevent spread, infected trees should be removed and destroyed immediately by grinding or burning to ensure that beetles are destroyed, Seybold said. Infested walnut for chips, firewood, or woodworking should not be moved to new areas. Possible detections can be reported to the local agricultural commissioner’s office or to the local UC Cooperative Extension office.
Hishinuma, from Burbank, completed her undergraduate work at UC Davis in animal biology, with an entomology emphasis. She began her graduate studies this fall after working for a year in southern California assisting with research on the goldspotted oak borer, a relatively new pest in southern California that kills oak trees. Beetle-infested firewood contributes to the problem, as it does with thousand cankers disease.
The McBeth Memorial Scholarship was established in 1986 by Barbara McBeth Woodruff (1924-2007) in honor of her parents, Ira Guy McBeth and Rose McBeth, and her sister Frances McBeth Black. Ira Guy McBeth, an entomologist who received his doctorate from the University of California in 1915, made notable contributions to the citrus industry and served as an executive in agricultural, chemical and development companies.
Meanwhile, a thousand questions about thousand cankers disease...and maybe soon...solutions.
Steve Seybold discussed thousand cankers disease in a seminar presented May 19, 2010 to the UC Davis Department of Entomology. The seminar was webcast and is archived on the entomology website. (USDA Forest Service Pest Alert on Thousand Cankers Disease of Walnut (targeting eastern U.S. region). (May 2010)
UC IPM website (Authors: Andrew Graves, postdoctoral researcher, formerly with the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology; Mary Louise Flint, UC IPM Program and Department of Entomology, UC Davis; Tom Coleman, USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Protection, San Bernardino; and Steven Seybold, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Davis)
Detected in Tennessee (News release, Aug. 9, 2010, UC Davis Department of Entomology website)
Detected in California (News release, July 2, 2010, UC Davis Department of Entomology website)
Dying Walnut Trees in Davis
Walnut Twig Beetle
Three University of California entomology professors were among the 10 newly elected Fellows of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) honored at the organization's 58th annual meeting, held Dec. 12-15 in San Diego.
Their selection speaks highly of the caliber of UC professors. No more than 10 Fellows are selected for the honor every year from the 6000-member organization, and this year the UC system has three.
They are Bruce Hammock and Thomas Scott of UC Davis and Thomas A. Miller of UC Riverside.
Hammock, a distinguished professor of entomology, studies "inhibitors of epoxide hydrolases as drugs to treat diabetes, inflammation, ischemia and cardiovascular disease," the ESA statement of his work reads. "Compounds from the UC Davis laboratory are in human trials."
That in itself--from bench to bedside--is unique in the annals of entomology.
Hammock, a member of the UC Davis Medical Center's Cancer Center and the National Academy of Sciences, is not only a distinguished professor but a highly sought-after mentor who draws students to his lab from all over the world.
Scott, who directs the UC Mosquito Research Laboratory at Davis, is one of the key "go-to" researchers studying dengue. When he's not in his UC Davis lab, you can usually find him doing research in Peru, Thailand or Mexico. Scott is especially known for his research on mosquito ecology, evolution of mosquito virus interactions, epidemiology of mosquito-borne disease, and evaluation of novel products and strategies for mosquito control and disease prevention.
Scott is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is a past president of the Society for Vector Ecology. He serves as a subject editor for the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. (More on Hammock and Scott on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.)
ESA officials pointed out that Miller's research "has included structure and function of the insect circulatory system; mode of action of insecticides; insect neuromuscular physiology; physiology, toxicology and behavior of pink bollworm in cotton fields; transgenic insects; and applied symbiosis for crop protection and biopesticides for crop protection. "
Miller's university teaching includes insect physiology, insect toxicology and first year biology. Current projects include control of bush cricket pests of oil palm trees in Papua New Guinea, oversight of field trials of transgenic grapevines with resistance to Pierce's disease, biotechnology for control of desert locust, and regulatory control of insect transgenic technologies.
In 2003 Miller was awarded the Gregor J. Mendel Medal for Research in Biological Sciences by the Czech Academy of Sciences. That's just one of his many honors.
Indeed, the list of honors and accomplishments for these three UC entomologists could easily fill a book!