Backyard Orchard News
An article in the July 21st edition of Nature asked that very question.
Author Janet Fang, an intern in Nature's Washington, D.C., office, wrote that "Malaria infects some 247 million people worldwide each year, and kills nearly one million. Mosquitoes cause a huge further medical and financial burden by spreading yellow fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephaltis, Rift Valley fever, Chikungunya virus and West Nile virus."
So, how about a world without mosquitoes? "Would anyone or anything miss them?" she asked.
Fang went on to ask scientists that very question. But the fact is, they're here and they're not going anywhere--except over here to bite us.
Meanwhile, over in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, two graduate students just received William Hazelton Memorial Fellowship Awards to further their mosquito research.
Tara Thiemann (top photo), a doctoral candidate studying with major professor William Reisen, received $2100 for her statewide research on bloodfeeding patterns of Culex mosquitoes. She studies both urban and rural populations of mosquitoes and their host meals.
Jenny Carlson (bottom photo), an incoming doctoral student who will be studying with major professor Anthony 'Anton' Cornel, received $2000 for her research on avian malaria parasites.Thiemann's project involves analyzing the blood meals of Culex mosquitoes to identify specific host species--research important toward understanding both the maintenance and epidemic transmission of the West Nile virus.
Carlson’s research will take her to West Africa where she will collect mosquito vector and avian blood samples to study the mechanisms of malaria parasite transmission. She hypothesizes that the diversity of mosquito and avian parasites will be lower in deforested areas than forested areas.
The award memorializes William “Bill” Hazeltine (1926-1994), who managed the Lake County Mosquito Abatement District from 1961-64 and the Butte County Mosquito Abatement District from 1966-1992. He was an ardent supporter of the judicious use of public health pesticides to protect public health. He continued work on related projects until his death in 1994.
Hazeltine studied entomology in the UC Berkeley graduate program from 1950-53, and received his doctorate in entomology from Purdue University in 1962.
UC Davis medical entomologist Bruce Eldridge eulogized Hazeltine at the 2005 American Mosquito Control Association conference. His talk, "William Emery Hazelton II--Rebel With a Cause," was later published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association. (See PDF)
It's good to know that Hazeltine's cause lives on through his family's generosity.
Without this "something," your table fare would be sparse.
And now, there's an official day to celebrate them.
The second annual National Honey Bee Awareness Day is set Saturday, Aug. 21.
The good folks at Pennsylvania Apiculture last year launched the first National Honey Bee Awareness Day to "bring together beekeepers, bee associations and clubs, as well as other interested groups and individuals to connect with communities and advance beekeeping."
They created a website filled with educational information, fun facts about bees, and how to help them survive.
This year the focus is on honey, local honey. The theme: "Local Honey-- Good for Bees, You, and the Environment!”
Of course, bees are more valuable for their pollination services than the honey they produce. Honey bees pollinate about one-third of the American diet. In fact, it's said that "between 50 to 80 percent of the world’s food supply is directly or indirectly affected by honey bee pollination," according to the National Honey Bee Awareness Day website. "Whether it’s pollination of apples, or pollination of the seeds to produce grain for livestock, the food chain is linked to honey bees. The world's production of food is dependent on pollination, provided by the honey bees."
So it was with great concern that we read last week about the killing of two bee colonies at an urban farm in San Francisco. Seems that someone invaded the Hayes Valley Farm--where the non-profit San Francisco Bee-Cause keeps its bees--and deliberately sprayed pesticides inside the openings of three hives. Two colonies collapsed and died--and not because of colony collapse disorder (CCD). The third hive sustained major losses.
Pesticides. Pesticides killed them.
Each hive held between 60,000 and 100,000 bees, so around 200,000 bees died.
Ironically, the bee hives were there not only for pollination, but as educational tools. And the honey was to be sold to benefit more educational activities.
Some theorize that the culprit hates or fears bees, and sought to eliminate them.
Perhaps the vandal would want to exist on foods NOT requiring bee pollination, such as wind-pollinated or self-pollinated crops like barley, corn, oats, rice, rye, sorghums and wheat.
The Entomological Society of America this morning announced the 2010 Fellows. Each year the governing board can elect up to 10 members as Fellows of the 6000-member society.
The highly prestigious honor acknowledges outstanding contributions in one or more of the following: research, teaching, extension, or administration.
This year...drum roll...three UC professors were among the 10 selected: Bruce Hammock and Thomas Scott of UC Davis and Thomas Miller of UC Riverside.
They will be inducted as Fellows at the ESA’s annual meeting, to be held Dec. 12-15 in San Diego.
Hammock (top photo), a distinguished professor of entomology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1980 and holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Cancer Research Center.
Hammock and his laboratory are exploiting inhibitors of epoxide hydrolases as drugs to treat diabetes, inflammation, ischemia, and cardiovascular disease. Compounds from the UC Davis laboratory are in human trials.
Diabetes, arthritis and heart patients are closely following his research.
Thomas Scott (middle photo) joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology Department in 1996 and directs the UC Davis Mosquito Research Laboratory. A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Scott is a past president of the Society for Vector Ecology and co-founder of the Center for Vector-Borne Research.
Scott’s research focuses 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.
He's a noted authority on the mosquito-borne disease, dengue.
Thomas Miller (lower photo) received his doctorate in entomology from UC Riverside in 1967. His research has included the 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.
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.
These three entomologists have published widely--Hammock alone has 763 peer-reviewed publications.
Indeed, their accomplishments could fill several books.
Thomas Scott in Kenya
They're populating the sandy cliffs of Bodega Head, Sonoma County. A sure sign of their presence: dense clusters of turrets.
When they're not foraging among the wild radish (genus Raphanus), lupine (genus Lupinus) and other plants, these ground-dwelling bees are digging nests and rearing their young.
"The female sucks up fresh water from nearby, stores it in her crop--like honey bees store nectar--for transport to the nest," said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
"She regurgitates it on the sandstone, and excavates the moistened soil," he said. "She carries out the mud and makes the entrance turret with it."
The digger bees are sometimes referred to as "alternative pollinators," but they're all members of the Apidae family, which includes honey bees (the super pollinators), bumble bees, carpenter bees, sunflower bees, orchid bees, cuckoo bees and the like.
Building a Nest
Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis.
Drones have no stingers, so they can't sting. In fact, their sole purpose in life is to mate with the virgin queen bee on her maiden flight. After mating, the drones die. If they don't mate, they won't survive the winter. Their sisters, the worker bees, kick them out of the hive in the fall to conserve the precious food resources.
But it was "all hail the drones" during a recent field trip by half-a-dozen second graders from the Grace Valley Christian Academy, Davis.
Before the tour, Elizabeth Frost, staff research associate and beekeeper at the facility, opened the hives and collected a handful of drones.
When the second graders arrived, Frost invited them to "touch and hold the drones." The drones felt warm and fuzzy.
And that's exactly how the young visitors felt about the tour.
To show their appreciation, the second graders crafted a clever "thank you" card for her. The outside of the card depicted the outside of a bee hive. The inside: colorful bees!
"Thank you, Elizabeth," the inscription read. "The students talked about the drones and beekeeper outfits for days. Your hard work was appreciated."
That's one lesson that won't be forgotten. thanks to an enterprising UC Davis beekeeper and a handful of drones.