Backyard Orchard News
It blooms in winter and the bees love it.
Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), a rambling vine with trumpetlike yellow flowers, is charming visitors in the Storer Gardens at the University of California, Davis. The plant originates from western China.
The six-petaled blossoms gleam like gold in the wintry garden. When the pelting rain strikes them, they look like delighted kindergarteners splashing around in yellow raincoats.
Don't be surprised to see winter jasmine among the selections in the half-acre bee friendly garden being planned at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. The nationwide landscape design competition, which ends Jan. 30, is sponsored by Häagen-Dazs. The garden is expected to be a reality by October.
Unfortunately, the winter jasmine has no fragrance. But that doesn't stop the bees from greeting and hugging the flowers and gathering pollen. It would take the long beak of a hummingbird to reach into the trumpetlike flower for the nectar. Or a carpenter bee to slit the corolla and steal the nectar.
But for now, on the afternoon of Jan. 24, 2009, the moments are golden.
BEE IN BLOSSOM
When you think of a teddy bear, you think of a huggable stuffed animal.
Not so entomologists. When they think of a teddy bear, they think of the male Valley carpenter bee.
It's a green-eyed, fluffy golden insect that's nicknamed "teddy bear." You can hug it, too. Unlike the females, male carpenter bees don't sting.
When a Davis resident recently cut down a plum tree, hordes of buzzing insects tumbled out. Seeking identification, the resident carted a chunk of the wood and the golden insects into the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
What were they?
“Male carpenter bees, Xylocopa varipuncta, also known as Valley carpenter bees,” said entomologist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
“Some of us refer to these males as ‘teddy bear’ bees, because of their yellowish-brownish color and fuzzy burly bodies,” said UC Davis emeritus entomology professor Robbin Thorp, who studies pollinators. “The females are all black with violaceous (violet) reflections on their dark wings.”
Carpenter bees, so named for their ability to tunnel through wood to make their nests, carve with their mandibles (jaws) but do not ingest the wood. Only the females excavate the tunnels, which average six to 10 inches in depth.
Thorp says he tries to convince people to learn to live with these bees as “they are important pollinators in our environment and have potential as pollinators of some crops.”
“Carpenter bees are beneficial in that they pollinate flowers in native plant communities and gardens,” he said. “That far outweighs any damage to wood structures.”
California is home to three carpenter bee species. I've seen X. tabaniformis orpifex buzzing around my backyard but never The Golden One.
What a gorgeous insect!
If you like to combine art with science, here you go.
In keeping with the theme, “The Consilience of Art And Science," the Pence Gallery and the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program are sponsoring a juried exhibition, open to all artists and scientists.
The deadline to submit a CD and entry information is Feb. 20. The Pence Gallery, located at
The goals of the Pence Gallery exhibitions are three-fold, said Art/Science Fusion co-director Diane Ullman, associate dean of Undergraduate Academic Programs,
The goals are:
1. To show create work that explores the intersection between art and science
2. To foster communication between the arts and sciences
3. To spark new ways of viewing the world and ourselves.
You can find more information--the rules and an entry form--here. For additional information, contact Natalie Nelson, director of the Pence Gallery, at (530) 758-3370 or at email@example.com.
One has only to look at photographs of insects to realize that "Neither science nor the arts can be complete without combining their separate strengths."
Call it serendipity. Call it a major collaborative effort. Call it a keen eye for science.
Whatever you call it, research that sprang from studies on insect pest control in the Bruce Hammock lab at the
We all know of people suffering from heart failure, which occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood throughout the body. The condition affects 5 million people in the
The research in the laboratories of cardiologist and cell biologist Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, UC Davis School of Medicine, and entomologist Bruce Hammock, Department of Entomology, showed that the new class of drugs reduces heart swelling in rat models with heart failure.
“This holds promise to treat heart failure and other cardiovascular as well as kidney problems,” said nephrology professor Robert Weiss, Department of Internal Medicine.
Similar compounds are now in clinical trials.
"The study of rat models showed that heart failure is driven by high angiotensin associated with high blood pressure, artery disease and some kidney disease,” Hammock said. “When that occurs, a key enzyme called soluble epoxide hydrolase is increased."
The 11-member research team showed they could inhibit the enzyme with a drug made by Paul Jones, a former postgraduate researcher at UC Davis. The swelling and ultimate failure of the heart is blocked and reversed, Hammock said.
“Interestingly, the increase in heart size associated with extreme exercise does not increase levels of the epoxide hydrolase, and exercise induced heart enlargement fortunately is not blocked by the drug.”
This research follows earlier studies reported from the Chiamvimonvat laboratory on cardiac hypertrophy. The two UC Davis laboratories collaborated with the laboratories of John Shyy at UC Riverside and Yi Zhu, Cardiovascular Sciences,
The paper, “Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Plays an Essential Role in Angiotensin II-Induced Cardiac Hypertrophy,” is online.
This is definitely a significant discovery that could result in saving scores of lives. And to think it all started with the Hammock lab discovering an enzyme inhibitor that regulates insect larvae development.
Yes, they are.
The ladybugs are out, at least in some parts of Northern California.
We received an email last week from a professional wildlife photographer from Germany who wants to film hibernating ladybugs in February. He's on a magazine assignment.
So, where are the hibernating ladybugs in the wild?
Last weekend, while over in Fairfield, Calif., I captured some images of Asian ladybugs and pupae in and around a redwood tree.
So, some are out.
Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, says that overwintering aggregations of ladybugs are almost trade secrets.
"These aggregations are harvested by individuals who then sell the beetles to nurseries for the public to release in their garden," Kimsey says. "I personally don't know the location of any aggregations although we know that they occur in the mid-elevations in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains."
And, of course, there's the springlike weather we're having that can break the dormancy of the ladybugs.
Ladybug photographers can also purchase packages of ladybugs from commercial dealers, chill them, and "create" aggregations.
Ladybugs, aka ladybird beetles from the family Coccinellidae, are wonderful residents of a garden. They eat aphids, mealybugs, mites and other soft-bodied insects.
"One of the most common insects in California, this species assembles in great numbers in canyons and hills of the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada for hibernation," write Jerry Powell and Charles Hogue in their book, California Insects. "The beetles are often seen when the overwintering masses begin to disperse on warm days in February or March. They migrate to the valleys where they feed on aphids. Adults of the following generation return to the mountain aggregations in May or June, when the lowland vegetation is drying."
Look for them in a garden near you!
Ladybug to Be
On Blade of Grass
Spotting a Ladybug