Backyard Orchard News
All over the UC Davis campus, departments are gearing up for fall seminars.
At the UC Davis Department of Entomology, native pollinator specialist Neal Williams (top photo) and community ecologist Louie Yang (lower photo) have booked a lineup of speakers ranging from a malaria expert to an expert on wildlife ecology.The seminars will take place from 12:10 p.m. to 1 p.m. every Wednesday, beginning Sept. 29, in 122 Briggs Hall. The only exception: No seminar during Thanksgiving week. Then "T" is for turkey!
Some of the lectures will be webcast; that information will be posted in advance on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
First to the podium is noted malaria expert Shirley Luckhart.
The complete list:
Sept. 29: Shirley Luckhart, associate professor, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, who will discuss “Systems Biology of Complex Regulatory Signaling in Malaria Host-Parasite Interactions.” Host: Professor Ed Lewis.
Oct. 6: Yao Hua Law, doctoral candidate who studies with major professor Jay Rosenheim. His topic: "My Neighbors Drive Me Cannibalistic: Mechanisms of Density-Dependent Cannibalistic Behavior and its Effects on Population Dynamics." Host: Professor Jay Rosenheim.
Oct. 13: Shalene Jha, UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (working with Claire Kremen), UC Berkeley. Her topic: "Movement in the Matrix: Population Genetics and Ecosystem Services Across Human-Dominated Landscapes." Host: Assistant Professor Neal Williams.
Oct. 20: Anandasankar "Anand" Ray, principal investigator, molecular basis of insect olfaction, UC Riverside. His topic: "Expanding the Olfactory Code for Behavior Modification in Insects." Host: Professor Walter Leal.
Oct. 27: Murray Isman, dean and professor, Applied Biology (Entomology/Toxicology), University of British Columbia. His topic: "Aromatherapy for Pest Management? Pesticides Based on Plant Essential Oils for Agriculture, Industry and as Consumer Products." Host: Professor and Department Chair Michael Parrella
Nov. 3: John Stark, professor, Ecotoxicology Program, director, WSU Puyallup R&E Center, Washington State University. His topic: "Pollutant Soup: Effects of Toxic Mixtures on Fish and their Food.” Host: Professor and Department Chair Michael Parrella.
Nov. 10: Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor, insect behavior, UC Davis. His topic: "And the Beak Shall Inherit: Contemporary Local and Reverse Evolution in Morphology and Life History in American and Australian Soapberry Bugs." Host: Professor Sharon Lawler
Nov. 17: Elizabeth Crone, associate professor of quantitative wildlife ecology, Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula. Topic: "How Can Theoretical Ecology Guide Management of Plant and Insect Populations?" Host: Assistant Professor Neal Williams.
Nov. 24: None scheduled; this is Thanksgiving week.
Dec. 1: Erin Wilson, postdoctoral scholar, Louie Yang lab. Tentative Title: "Shifts in Life History Influence Invasion Outcomes.” Host: Assistant Professor Louie Yang
How did you learn how to collect, display and preserve insects?
If you look on the Internet, you'll find a few videos, but none as succinct, fast-paced and informative as the video clips on "How to Make an Insect Collection" that emerged from Professor James R. Carey's class at the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Being a strong proponent of "information by video" and knowing that today's generation obtains much of its information that way, Carey (shown above) came up with the idea of a series of entomological "how-to" videos.
The first: "How to Make an Insect Collection."
The class that he taught last spring resulted in a series of video clips now posted on the department's website.
The entire series, totaling 11 clips ranging in length from 32 seconds to 77 seconds, can be viewed in just less than 10 minutes.
“So in less than 10 minutes, someone can learn how to make an insect collection,” Carey said. The clips are tightly scripted, with an emphasis on brevity, simplicity and low cost.
To learn how to make an insect collection, you just have to click on the titles.
“It was an engaging, enjoyable fulfilling and productive experience,” Carey said. The project will also serve as a model for other entomology students who wish to create their own module of “how to” videos.
Making the insect-collection module, Carey said, was a low tech-low cost operation partly by design: “I wanted production to be ‘low tech’ so that anyone who could use a point-and-shoot camera and basic movie-editing software could produce a video clip."
It needed to be low cost not only because of no funding for the project, but because the basic challenge was to produce a set of high-content-high quality video clips at virtually zero cost.
The videographers were undergraduate students Joseline Saldivar, Tylan Selby and Ralph Washington Jr., all with a strong interest in entomology; and entomology graduate students Emily Bzdyk, James Harwood, Brittany Nelms and Amy Morice.
Lights, camera, action!
Oh, where did that bug go?
The very presence of a black widow spider, shiny black with a globe-shaped abdomen, strikes fear in most people.
And not just on Halloween.
"Many spiders will bite when trapped but black widow spiders (Theridiidae: Latrodectus) are the most dangerous North American species," write Charley Eiseman and Noah Charney in their newly published book, Tracks and Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates: A Guide to North American Species.
"Their strong venom can kill," agrees George C. McGavin in the Smithsonian Handbooks' Insects, Spiders and Other Terrestrial Arthropods, "but a fast-acting antivenom can be given by injection."
The black widow is a cobweb spider and "the females produce about 200 to 250 eggs, attached to the web in a sac," McGavin says.
So, where can you find black widow spiders? They're usually in more concealed places than the common house spider, which is "found in any dry structure, including houses, basements an barns, as well as under natural 'roofs' such as overhanging ledges," according to Eiseman and Charney.
And, Eiseman and Charney point out, the black widow spider webs are "composed of extremely strong, coarse threads"--unlike those of common house spiders.
McGavin says black widow spiders are commonly found in leaf litter, under stones and in and around buildings.
We sighted one under leaf litter recently at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. Its distinguishing mark: the reddish-orange hourglass on its stomach.
Then last week we spotted a black widow spider guarding her gumdrop-sized sac in a secluded area of a UC Davis parking garage.
She didn't pay attention to the "permit parking only" signs.
Black Widow Spider
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, emphasizes that if you're planting flowers to attract bees--and you should--be sure to remember them in the fall--not just the spring and summer.
In the fall, food is scarce. In the spring and summer, food is abundant.
We're often asked for plant lists. UC Berkeley has an excellent site on urban bee gardens, and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has a comprehensive list of what to plant in your area.
The blueprint for what's planted in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, is online (21-page PDF). You can download it and see what's planted there.
Also see California native plants that bees visit on the Laidlaw website.
Another way to come up with what to plant is to visit your local nursery. Observe where the bees are.
A visit today to the Mostly Natives Nursery, Tomales (Marin County), showed the bees all over scores of plants, including lavender (below).
Follow the bees and you'll know what to plant.
Honey Bee on Lavender
Working the Lavender
She didn't come home last night.
The little honey bee at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, wound up in a spider's stomach.
This morning we stopped by the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the half-acre bee friendly garden planted last fall next to the facility, and a spider was having breakfast--one of Susan Cobey's New World Carniolans.
We spotted the same spider chowing down on a ladybug during the grand opening celebration on Saturday, Sept. 11, and we remember saying "Good, it didn't get a bee."
This time it did.
I jokingly asked beekeeper Elizabeth Frost, staff resource associate who works with Cobey at the Laidlaw facility, if she were missing any bees. (After all there are "only" about six million of them in the apiary.)
It would have been hilarious if she had said "Did a bed check. One unaccounted for."
Bee and the Spider