Backyard Orchard News
Butterflies, honey bees and hover flies can't get enough of red buckwheat.
Tight clusters of pink blossoms, coupled with gray-green foliage, grace red buckwheat (Eriogonum grande rubescens), a California native.
It's good for the insects and good for the gardener. It's drought-tolerant.
We planted red buckwheat in our bee friendly yard several weeks ago, and among the first to find it were hover flies, aka flower flies.
Hover flies (family Syrphidae) hover over flowers like a sightseeing helicopter. Then they dip down and sip the nectar.
They're often mistaken for honey bees. Many an editor has published a photo of a "honey bee" that was in reality, a hover fly.
California buckwheat is one of the attractions in the newly planted Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. It is serving as a year-around food source for bees and an educational opportunity for humans. A public celebration will take place next June.
Look for the buckwheat!
Looking for Nectar
Everything's coming up roses at the Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus.
Make that rose-haired tarantulas.
See, the Bohart not only houses some seven million insect specimens in its quarters in 1124 Academic Surge, but they have a few live ones, too.
Such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches, praying mantids and rose-haired tarantulas.
The Bohart, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology is one of our favorite places. You never know what you'll find.
We stopped by the museum last week and one of the Bohart student employees, Nanase Nakanishi, a UC Davis senior majoring in animal science, was caring for the occupants.
She and her colleagues were feeding the Madagascar hissing cockroaches, aka "hissers." While they were eating, Nanase picked up the rose hair, a favorite among budding entomologists and pet enthusiasts. On her red blouse, it looked like very much like a beautiful brooch. It's a soft, docile, gentle critter.
Nanase, who has worked at the Bohart for three years, feels very much at home there.
And, no wonder. Following graduation, she wants to study veterinary medicine and become a veterinarian.
Remember the ravenous light brown apple moth (LBAM) and all the controversy?
The invasive agricultural pest, from Down Under, soars high on the agenda at the Northern California Entomology Society’s meeting on Thursday, Nov. 5 in Concord. Also on the agenda: honey bee regulatory research.
The meeting, open to the public, will be held from 9:15 to 2:30 p.m. in the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District office, 155 Mason Circle, Concord.
Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty and secretary-treasurer of the society, said attendance at the meeting is free. The only fee is the $15 catered lunch.
In addition to LBAM and other exotic invasive pests, the meeting will include a talk on “Honey Bee Regulatory Research” by Mike Beevers of California Agriculture Research, Fresno.
“Mike is involved with research on the effects of pesticides on honey bees,” Mussen said. "Consideration of honey bees always has been important, but colony collapse disorder (CCD) has brought extreme attention to the possible consequences of bees becoming contaminated with insecticide residues, especially the ‘sublethal effects.’”
The meeting begins at 9:15 a.m. with registration and coffee.
9:30 a.m.: “Biological Control Agents for Light Brown Apple Moth,” Nick Mills of UC Berkeley
10:15 a.m.: “New Exotic Pests and Invasives of Regulatory Significance in California,” Kevin Hoffman, Plant Diagnostic Center, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)
11 a.m. “Responding to New California State Pests: Control Programs and Pesticide Products,” by Duane Schnabel, CDFA Pest Detection and Emergency Projects
11:45 a.m.: Annual business meeting, with election of new president
12 Noon: Catered lunch by Kinder’s Custom Meats ($15 per person, reservations required with Eric Mussen)
1:15: “Update on Light Brown Apple Moth Eradication Program,” by Laura Irons of CDFA’s Light Brown Apple Moth Program
2 p.m.: “Honey Bee Regulatory Research” by Mike Beevers, California Agriculture, Fresno
Those planning to attend should contact Mussen at (530) 752-0472 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For those needing continuing education hours in Laws and Regulations, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, this meeting will satisfy three hours, he said.
The Nor Cal society membership is comprised of university faculty, researchers, pest abatement professionals, students and other interested persons. Susan Sawyer of the Pest Detection/Emergency Projects, CDFA, has served as president for the last two years.
The society meets the first Thursday in February; the first Thursday in May and the first Thursday in November. Membership dues are $10 year.
Male Light Brown Apple Moth
Female Light Brown Apple Moth
The "honey bee reproductive ground plan" hypothesis that originated two dec
Page, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis and now founding director of the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, and his collaborator Gro Amdam, are featured in the Oct. 23rd edition of Science, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Writing in the behavior ecology section in an article headlined, "Sex and Social Structure," journalist Elizabeth Pennisi related that the scientists' research "has shown that reproductive traits help shape a honey bee worker's role in life and that ovaries are active players in the process-even if they play little role in reproduction in worker bees."
The specialized tasks "have their basis in what Amdam and Page call a reproductive ground plan," she wrote. Their work has provided a framework and tools to study division of labor, which now "converges on two genes that may explain both ovary size and behavior."
Page and Amdam, an associate professor in the School of Life Sciences and Norwegian University of Life Sciences, believe that genes and hormones likely control social roles as well as longevity.
Their research centers on the role of the ovary in honey bee colonies, and how the worker bees partition the labor of the colony with duties that include rearing young bees, constructing the nest, foraging for pollen and nectar, and processing the food.
Page, a pioneer in the field of evolutionary genetics and social behavior of bees, has long marveled at how highly social bees are. Worker bees, or infertile females, instinctively divide up their roles to run the hive, freeing the queen to lay eggs.
The worker bees serve as nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, architects, builders, foragers, guards and undertakers.
But why are some colonies high-pollen collectors and hoarders, while others aren't?
His research on high and low pollen hoarding strains that began two decades led to the "reproductive ground plan" hypothesis. Page continues to keep his specialized bee stock, managed by bee breeder-geneticist M. Kim Fondrk, at UC Davis.
This is exciting research.
As Page told us: "The reproductive ground plan research is integrating developmental biology into insect sociobiology. It is completing the synthesis by looking for the signatures of levels of selection above the organism, at the level of the genes, physiology, and embryogenesis. It is substantiating the superorganism."
UC Davis is the hub for the development and maintenance of the high and low pollen hoarding strains of bees "that have been fundamental in testing the reproductive ground plan hypothesis and understanding how selection on colonies affects different levels of biological organization from genes to societies," he said.
Page, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, retired from UC Davis in 2004 to develop the School of Life Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.
Page and Amdam are the co-principal investigators on a federally funded project directed by UC Davis entomology professor James R. Carey. Carey directs the Biodemographic Determinants of Lifespan, a National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Aging-funded program involving scientists from UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, UC Berkeley, Stanford and seven other academic institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Greece.See more information on the UC Davis Entomology Web site.
Hives of International Interest
There's something so magical and captivating about the metallic green sweat bee.
Shouldn't it be yellow? No.
Is it a bee? Yes.
Does it attract attention? Definitely.
We spotted this male green sweat bee, Agapostemon texanus, on what is commonly known as a Seaside daisy, Erigeron glaucus Wayne Roderick. This is a lavender-petaled flower with a yellow center.
The location: the Mostly Natives Nursery, Tomales.
Wayne Roderick (1920-2003) who developed many cultivars, served as head of the California Native Section at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden for some 24 years. He retired as director of the East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden at Tilden.
His name is legendary among horticulturists.
So is the Erigeron glaucus Wayne Roderick--especially when a metallic green sweat bee visits it.
Green Metallic Sweat Bee
The Eyes Have It