Backyard Orchard News
Plain as day. And they’re not going away.
The estimated ratio of insects to humans is 200 million to one, say Iowa State University entomologists Larry Pedigo and Marlin Rice in their newly published (sixth edition) textbook, Entomology and Pest Management. Rice is the 2009 president of the Entomological Society of America.
Rice is the 2009 president of the Entomological Society of America.
There's an average of 400 million insects per acre of land, they say.
“The fact is, today’s human population is adrift in a sea of insects,” they write in their introduction.
Well, what about biomass? Surely we outweigh these critters?
No, we don't. The
There you go. The insects are the land owners; we are the tenants. “They are the chief consumers of plants; they are the major predators of plant eaters; they play a major role in decay of organic matter; and they serve as food for other kinds of animals,” Pedigo and Rice write.
Insects represent the good, the bad and the ugly.
Insects represent the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good: they give us honey and pollinate our crops. They spin our silk. They serve as natural enemies of pests. They provide food for wildlife (not to mention food for some of us humans). They are scavengers. They provide us with ideas for our art work. They are fodder for our horror movies.
And what scientist hasn't benefitted from the inheritance studies of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogasta? What ecologist hasn't studied water pollution by examining the mayfly population? Mayflies are the counterpart of canaries in the coal mine.
The bad: they eat our food crops, forests and ornamental plants. They devour or spoil our stored grain. They chew holes in our clothing. They pester us. They annoy our animals, too.
The ugly: They can—and do—kill us. Think mosquitoes. Think malaria,
But wait, there's more! Many more. Scientists have described more than 900,000 species of insects but there could be seven times as many out there, the authors point out.
Ironically, despite the huge numbers of insects, many people don't know the meaning of the word, entomology, the science of insects. They should. Insects outnumber us and always will. They've lived on the earth longer than us (400 million years) and adapt to changes better than we do. Most are tiny. Most can fly. And most reproduce like there's no tomorrow.
"Based solely on numbers and biomass, insects are the most successful animals on earth," the authors claim.
You can't argue with that.
We're in a recession, but the mosquitoes aren't.
The mortgage meltdown and the resulting green swimming pools are perfect breeding sites for mosquitoes, which can transmit the deadly West Nile virus (WNV). So far this year WNV has sickened 411 Californians, killing 13.
Research just published by UC Davis research entomologist William Reisen and colleagues from Kern County should be required reading. Titled "Delinquent Mortgages, Neglected Swimming Pools and West Nile Virus, California" and published on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, it relates that in 2007, the mortgage crisis caused a 300 percent increase in notices of delinquency in Kern County.
"This led to large numbers of neglected swimming pools, which were associated with a 276 percent increase in the number of human West Nile virus cases during the summer of 2007," the authors wrote.
They concluded "These new larval habitats may have contributed to the unexpected early season increase in WNV cases in Bakersfield during 2007 and subsequently have enabled invasion of urban areas by the highly competent rural vector Culex. tarsalis."
If you check out the California WNV Web site, you'll notice that Kern County tallied 140 of the statewide 380 human cases in 2007. (The second highest WNV-afflicted county was Los Angeles with 36.) Total WNV-related fatatlies in 2007 in California: 21.
Bottom line: unmaintained swimming pools are turning into algae-clogged ponds. It's a public health issue that taxes the mosquito and vector control districts and threatens the health and welfare of the community.
What this means is: We are our brother's keeper. We are our sister's keeper. We are our neighbor's keeper. NIMBYS (Not in My Backyard) need to be replaced by YIMBY (Yes, in My Backyard) and YLGI (Yes, Let's Get Involved).
The tiny female insect that needs a blood meal to develop her eggs is going green and we're seeing red.
It's a high-flying butterfly--rarely seen and rarely recognized.
Ironically, it's now down-to-earth, frequently seen, and frequently recognized, thanks to the Internet.
Last year the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis published a poster of the
Visitors to the Bohart Museum, located at 1124 Academic Surge on the UC Davis campus, love it. So does Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who received a framed copy in April.
Today images of the butterfly are posted prominently on the “California State Insect” page hosted by netstate.com, an educational site providing information on state symbols, emblems, mottos, population, geography, government and the news media.
The one-of-a-kind poster is the work of Fran Keller, doctoral student in entomology at UC Davis, and
“We hope the posting on the Web site will continues to spark interest in our state insect and conservation efforts,” Keller said. “The dogface butterfly is found only in
Keller described the poster as “a great gift for any
The butterfly, so named because of a poodle-like silhouette on the wings of the male, was adopted as the official
The butterfly is also known as the
In addition to posting the Bohart images of the
In 1972, the fourth-grade classrooms of
The fast, high-flying butterfly is elusive except when it nectars on flowers, said internationally renowned butterfly expert Art Shapiro, a UC Davis professor of evolution and ecology who co-authored Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions with T. R. Manolis (UC
“I’d say only one of every 10,000 Californians has ever seen the butterfly in the wild,” Shapiro said.
In April of this year, when the
“Every time I see something like this, I’m even prouder of
The 18x24 poster is available for $18 laminated or $15 non-laminated at the
Did you catch the "The Burns and the Bees" episode on The Simpsons Sunday night?
Dead honey bees take over the otherwise animated TV show.
Bart, on a dare from schoolyard bullies, knocks a bee's nest from a tree and it lands kerplop on the playground. Bart's sister Lisa pounces on it to save the would-be targets--a group of second graders--from painful stings.
But all the bees are dead.
Then Lisa visits a beekeeper and he shows her a carpet of bees.
They're dead. All the bees are dead.
The hymn, "Amazing Grace," plays soulfully in the background.
Next scene: Lisa is determined to save the last remaining colony of bees in Springfield. However, billionaire Mr. Burns is determined to erect a professional basketball stadium at the very site where Lisa's "saved" bees are.
What happens next? If you didn't catch the episode, be sure to watch it on www.hulu.com or You Tube.
We humans rarely see dead bees. The "undertaker bees" quickly and methodically remove them from the hive. I captured this photo last summer as three workers bees prepared to remove their fallen sister.
Where was the hymn for her? Where's Lisa?
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound...
The Dead Bee
"To bee or not to bee."
That is the question. What is the solution?
The plight of the honey bees has not escaped the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Students' Association (EGSA).
This year's winning t-shirt, the result of a departmental faculty-student-staff-vote, stars the "unsung heroes": the honey bees.
Randall "Randy" Veirs, executive assistant for department chair Lynn Kimsey, and communications specialist Kathy Keatley Garvey (yours truly), came up with the winning shirt--Randy created the intricate drawing, and KKG coined the text, spoofing a line from Shakespeare's Hamlet.
To bee or not to bee, that is the question.
What is the solution?
Randy, who describes himself as more of a musician than an artist, drew a framed portrait of a Shakespearean bee in period clothing, complete with an Elizabethan collar.
Randy, who plays principal trumpet in the UC Davis Symphony, said he spent several days drawing the bee, gathering information online about proper Shakespearean attire. His brother, Russell Veirs, also a musician (saxophone), helped prepare the image in Photoshop.
By the way, each brother has a bachelor's degree in music from UC Davis, while Russell has a master's in saxophone performance from Sacramento State University. Music and art do go together!
The t-shirt ties in with Shakespeare's view that "All the world's a stage." (Just add message.) It also ties in with Shakespeare's fascination for bees. One of the playwright's lines from Henry V: "For so work the honey bees, creatures that by a rule in nature teach the act of order to a peopled kingdom."
Yes, bees are well-organized and we can learn much from these hard-working social insects.
The bee t-shirt is not only raising funds for the graduate student association but raising awareness for the honey bees. Beekeepers throughout the country report they are losing from one-third to 100 percent of their bees due to colony collapse disorder, a mysterious phenomenon in which bees abandon their hives.
The t-shirts are $15 and available in child-through-adult sizes, says t-shirt coordinator Yao Hua Law, a doctoral student who studies with professor Jay Rosenheim. "The funds will be used for EGSA activities, including the monetary prizes for the EGSA-organized Undergraduate Entomology Research Poster Competition," he said. Contact Yao Hua at (530) 752-4481 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Plans are also under way to sell the T-shirts through the University Bookstore, thus making online payments possible and shipping fluid, he said.
Other UC Davis entomology t-shirts are also available. One of the favorites is "The Beetles." A parody of The Beatles' "Abbey Road" album cover, the t-shirt features four beetles crossing Abbey Road. Doctoral candidate Hillary Thomas, who studies with major professor Frank Zalom, an integrated pest management specialist, designed the shirt.
The Bees. The Beetles.
The take-home message on these shirts is also a take-everywhere message.
To Bee or Not to Bee
Close-up of Drawing