Backyard Orchard News
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 email@example.com. 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
Chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and his postdoctoral researcher Zain Syed have done it again.
In August of 2008, they discovered the secret mode of the insect repellent, DEET. In groundbreaking research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they found that DEET doesn't mask the smell of the host (that would be you and me), nor does DEET jam the insect's senses.
Mosquitoes CAN indeed smell DEET. They avoid it because they don't like the odor.
Then on Monday, Leal and Syed published more groundbreaking research, also in PNAS. They identified the dominant compound that attracts Culex mosquitoes to both birds and humans.
It's a compound called nonanal, naturally produced in birds and humans. This not only explains the host shift from birds to humans, but paves the way for key developments in mosquito and disease control.
Infected Culex mosquitoes transmit life-threatening diseases, including West Nile virus. Since 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded 29,397 human cases and 1,147 fatalities in the United States alone.
“Nonanal is how they find us,” Leal said. “The antennae of the Culex quinquefasciatus are highly developed to detect even extremely low concentrations of nonanal.”
Researchers from throughout the country this week praised their work.
Yale University professor John Carlson, a leading scientist in insect olfaction, described the study as “exciting with important implications for the intriguing question of how mosquitoes find the humans they bite.”
“Leal and Syed have identified a human odor that is detected with great sensitivity by the antennae of mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus,” Carlson said. “In addition to its scientific interest, the study may have important practical applications in the control of these mosquitoes and the diseases they carry.”
Chemical ecologist Coby Schal, a professor at North Carolina State University, described the research as representing “some of the best research on insect olfaction that I have ever read. By combining trapping experiments in the field with careful characterization of the response profiles of antennal and maxillary sensilla of Culex mosquitoes, Syed and Leal show not only that the combination of carbon dioxide and nonanal is an important beacon for blood-seeking mosquitoes, but also that a large fraction of the sensilla on the mosquito’s nose (antennae) is dedicated to the detection of nonanal at incredibly low concentration.
“Such high sensitivity of olfactory receptor neurons to nonanal – rivaling the response characteristics of pheromone responsive neurons – suggests that nonanal has played an important role in the evolution of host-finding and host-preferences in Culex mosquitoes,” Schal said. “This is a truly exceptional achievement by the outstanding Syed/Leal team, but in step with their previous outstanding contributions on a wide range of arthropods.”
More information on the Leal lab research is on the Department of Entomology Web page.
Leal, a newly elected Fellow of the Entomological Society of America (he's one of 10 entomologists to be so honored this year) and Syed, named one of the top post-doctoral researchers at UC Davis this year, have indeed done it again.
When you think of all the havoc that mosquito-borne diseases have wreaked, this is the kind of research that definitely deserves a round of applause.
Dr. Leal and Dr. Syed are a highly efficient and effective SWAT team.
Walter Leal and Zain Syed