Backyard Orchard News
The UC Davis Aboretum--particularly the Storer Garden--is full of color--and sunflower bees.
A recent trip to see the New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae from the Asteraceae or sunflower family) yielded a Nikon moment: fuzzy-wuzzy sunflower bees foraging on the striking purple flowers.
The sunflower bee (Diadasia enavata), family Apidae, is a specialist bee instead of a generalist. You'll see it on members of the sunflower family, such as the asters, daisies and sunflowers. Unlike honey bees,it doesn't go for the sage, lavender and catmint.
The sunflower bee is tiny but the sunflower family is b-i-g. How big? It includes more than 1,600 genera and 23,000 species, making it the second largest family of flowering plants.
The sunflower bees would definitely have "a field day" in a field of sunflowers.
Eye See You
Like to know more about the biocontrol of tea pests? Aging of insects? What honey bee research is under way?
If you can't physically attend the UC Davis Department of Entomology's fall seminars, starting Wednesday noon, Oct. 7 in 122 Briggs Hall, you can participate via Webinars or listen to the archived Webcasts. Most will be Webcast.
UC Davis entomology professor James Carey, former chair of the UC Systemwide Academic Senate University Committee on Research Policy, launched a pilot program in February to inform and educate the scientific community and the public on research findings.
Carey's lab researchers and graduate students began taping the series of Webinars on Feb. 18. Then came the summer break. Now that we're into the fall season, the Webinars will continue Oct. 7.
Here's the link to access the Webinar.
The UC Davis Webinars drew international attention on March 4 when chemical ecologist Tom Baker of Pennsylvania State University spoke on “But Do We Shoot the Driver? Meeting New Challenges in Detecting Agents of Harm by Using Old Entomological Knowledge.” Joining in were listeners from 10 countries: Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico, France, Spain, Netherlands, Germany and Japan as well as the United States.
“We were hooked up to Pennsylvania State, too, so my colleagues knew where I was at, what I was doing and what I was saying,” Baker quipped.
Fellow chemical ecologist Walter Leal, UC Davis professor of entomology, who hosted Baker, later marveled at the technology.
“Just think, someone was sitting at a computer in Japan at 4 in the morning listening to Tom,” Leal said.
Both the virtual and physical audience can ask questions.
Webinars not only save time, but money, Leal pointed out. “The average round trip cost for airfare only for the 10 countries that participated in Baker’s seminar is $1,480, with Mexico being the cheapest ($700) and Montivideo, Uruguay the most expensive ($3,600).”
“It means that we saved in average $59,200 considering one participant per computer,” Leal said. “Note that in a couple of cases the presentation was displayed for multiple participants. If all participants would be accounted for, the cost would be astronomical.”
“As for travel time, only for each way, the average for the 10 countries would be 20 hours and 30 minutes, with the shortest trip being from Mexico (six-hour flight plus six hours of layover and check-in) and the longest from Montivideo (19-hour flight, plus six hours for layover and check-in),” Leal said.
The archived Webinars, from Feb. 18 through May 27, are online.
Here's the fall line-up:
Oct. 7: Biological control scientist Madoka Nakai, associate professor, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, will discuss biocontrol of tea pests in her talk, “A Novel Protein from Lepidopteran Virus Killing Endoparasitoid and Viral Control for Tea Pests in Japan” (Webcast)
Oct. 14: Plant taxonomist Dean Kelch, assistant researcher, University and Jepson Herbaria, UC Berkeley, “Mimicking Science Interpretation: A Visit to the Creation Museum” (this one won't be Webcast)
Oct. 21: Entomologist James R. Carey, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology, “Demography of the Finitude: Insights into Lifespan, Aging and Death from Insect Studies" (Webcast)
Oct. 28: Insect virus researcher Michelle Flenniken, Haagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellow, “Microarray-Based Pathogen Detection and the Antiviral Role of RNA Interference in Honey Bees” (not Webcast)
Nov. 4: Chemical ecologist Jonathan Gershenzon, professor, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany, "Plant Volatiles: Versatile Agents of Defense"
Nov. 18: Community ecologist and population biologist Matt Forister, assistant professor, University of Nevada-Reno, on the “Agricultural” Melissa Blue butterfly: “Anatomy of a Niche Shift: Lycaeides melissa and the Colonization of Alfalfa”
Dec. 2: Entomologist Michael Parrella, professor and chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology, “An International Perspective on Sustainable Production in Greenhouses”
It's not just the honey bees that will be foraging in the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
Scores of native bees and other insects will be there, too.
They already are.
A weekend visit to the haven, a bee friendly garden being developed next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, revealed assorted insects, including a dragonfly and a hover fly.
A sage attracted the dragonfly, a Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corrugatum, family Libellulidae), while a strawberry blossom drew the hover fly (Syrphidae, probably genus Paragus sp.).
Emeritus professor and pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, who maintains an office in the Laidlaw facility, is monitoring the level of bee activity at the site. He began establishing baseline data (for bees only) in March.
For two sample days (March 20 and April 19) he found a total of 21 species of bees. As of this week, the number has now reached: 41.
The haven will be a year-around food source for bees and an educational experience for two-legged visitors, who will not only learn about honey bees and native bees but learn what to plant to attract them.
A public celebration of the haven is planned in the fall of 2010 when the haven will be bursting with blossoms. And next to the haven will be the Campus Buzzway, a wildflower garden filled with California poppies, lupine and coreopsis.
Tiny Hover Fly
Dragonfly on Sage
This uniquely colored bee is just one of some 1600 native bee species in California.
It's about one-fourth the size of a honey bee and it's difficult to photograph because (1) it's tiny and (2) it moves fast.
Gordon Frankie, professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley, and Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, and their colleagues wrote an excellent article on native bees being a rich natural resource in urban California gardens, published in the current edition of the California Agriculture journal.
You'll also want to see the video on the home page about attracting native bees to your garden.
We photographed this male Agapostemon texanus at the Mostly Natives Nursery in Tomales.
It vanished within seconds.
Green Metallic Sweat Bee
Anopheles gambiae, the mosquito that transmits malaria, has a new foe.
And his first name is Win.
Win Surachetpong, a UC Davis doctoral candidate in immunology with a designed emphasis in vector-borne disease, has just received the American Committee of Medical Entomology student travel award to present his malaria research at the 58th annual American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) conference Nov. 18-22 in Washington, D.C.
That's quite an honor, indeed.
Surachetpong studies with noted malaria researcher Shirley Luckhart, an associate professor of medical microbiology and immunology at UC Davis.
“Win’s work has demonstrated for the first time that signaling pathways that are well known for immune responsiveness in humans to Plasmodium infection are also important for the mosquito response to parasite infection,” said Luckhart, a faculty member of the Graduate Program in Entomology, and the Graduate Groups of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Microbiology; and Immunology.
“Win will be presenting exciting unpublished work that moves forward from his recent publication in PLoS Pathogens,” she said.
Also by invitation, Surachetpong will discuss his research at the adjoining meeting of the American Committee of Molecular, Cellular and Immunoparasitology, a unit of ASTMH that fosters the transfer of fundamental discoveries in basic research to applications that improve human health.
Malaria, caused by the parasite Plasmodium and transmitted by infected anophelene mosquitoes, strikes some 350 to 500 million people a year, killing more than a million. (Above: The photo of Anopheles gambiae is by UC Davis medical entomologist Anthony "Anton" Cornel, based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier.)Luckhart (at left) said that Win is “working simultaneously on three different, inter-related, redox-regulated signal transduction pathways that will move our current state of knowledge forward significantly when he is through.”
“There are no commercially available tools (such as antibodies, reagents for knockout) that have been designed to study these signaling pathways in invertebrate cells, much less mosquito cells,” she said.
Surachetpong is adapting available tools for mammalian cell studies to his work and developing the remaining tools and reagents on his own. “His data comprised nearly all of the preliminary data for a new NIH grant that will allow us to move forward into new and exciting areas in anti-malarial innate immunity,” Luckhart said.
Earlier this year, Surachetpong won the 2009 William C. Reeves New Investigator Award, a statewide award which acknowledges the best scientific paper submitted and presented at the annual Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California conference.
A native of Thailand, Surachetpong received his doctor of veterinary science degree at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok in 2000, ranking first in his class, and his master of science degree in pathobiology in 2005 from the University of Arizona, where he received the “Above and Beyond Award” from the Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology.
After completing his doctorate at UC Davis, Surachetpong will join the faculty at Kasetsart University, Bangkok, to continue his research on tropical and emerging infectious diseases.
As a medical entomologist and immunologist, his goal is to utilize his expertise in vector-borne diseases and innate immunity to improve malaria transmission control in Thailand and other endemic countries.