Backyard Orchard News
Branstetter delivered an illustrated presentation on “Phylogeny and Biography of the Ant Genus Stenamma: Uncovering the Evolutionary Origins of Mesoamerican Taxa.” Stenamma is a little studied genus of leaf litter ants.
He competed in the Revisions and Evolution Section, moderated by scientists from Laurentian University, Ontario, Canada, and the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C. Following his presentation, judges and spectators asked questions, an integral part of the competition.
Fourteen graduate students from throughout the
A fourth-year graduate student, Branstetter studies with UC Davis entomology professor
Branstetter, a native of
The recipient of several grants, Branstetter has collected ants in
Branstetter’s next collecting trip will be a two-month excursion in
This is the second consecutive year that a UC Davis graduate student in systematics has won the President’s Prize at the ESA meeting, said Lynn Kimsey, chair of the Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Last year
Profile of an Ant
The movie, "Sideways," has nothing on a spotted cucumber beetle climbing up, down and sideways on a rock purslane.
The spotted cucumber beetle is a pest, while the rock purslane has to be among the world's most beautiful flowers. (And also very attractive to insects.)
The 2004 movie is about two guys on a life-altering journey through the wine country of Napa. They drank copious amounts of the adult beverage.
The spotted cucumber beetle was just feeding on nectar, the insect's version of wine.
Spotted cucumber beetle
Spotted cucumber beetle inside rock purslane
Quick! Name three states that have no official state insect.
That was one of the questions at the Linnaean Games, a traditional part of the Entomological Society of America's annual meeting.
This year's meeting, the 56th annual, is now under way in Reno. The Linnaean Games have begun. This is a "bug bowl" type of quiz pitting university teams (graduate students in entomology) against one another.
UC Davis competed in the semi-finals. Several of us from UC Davis watched in the spectator section.
The questions included:
1. How many beetle species have been described to date?
2. According to folklore, what does "telling the bees" mean?
3. Name the main character, the forensic entomologist, in the TV show, CSI.
4. If you walked past an egg mass of deer ticks, what's the risk of getting Lyme disease?
The moderator is noted Purdue entomology professor Tom Turpin, who makes the Linnean Games informative, educational and entertaining.
Turpin, a Cooperative Extension entomologist, is an award-winning teacher and writes a well-read newspaper column, "On Six Legs."
More locally, Turpin served as a mentor for Larry Godfrey, a UC Davis professor who received both his bachelor of science degree and master of science degree from Purdue (and then his doctorate at the University of Kentucky). Godrey was a member of the University of Kentucky championship team in1983. That was the second annual Linnaean Games (second annual in the North Central Branch of ESA, where it all began). The national meeting adopted the Linnaean Games several years later.
Know the answers to the questions above? Fire away! (We'll answer them in another blog.)
Meanwhile, the finals of the Linnean Games take place tonight.
May the bugs be with them.
Last Saturday the rock purslane in our bee friendly garden drew a honey bee, several hover flies and one spotted cucumber beetle.
A hover fly landed on a blossom, only to find a spotted cucumber beetle there first.
Spotted cucumber beetle
Honey isn't always amber-colored.
It can range from white to dark brown, depending on the flowers the bees visit.
Back in 1971, a group of UC Davis bee specialists wrote a booklet, Fundamentals of California Beekeeping, published by the "University of California College of Agriculture." Although now 37 years old, it's still a good source of information in many respects.
The authors included UC Davis faculty members Harry H. Laidlaw (for whom the bee biology facility at UC Davis is named), Robbin Thorp, Norman Gary and Lee Watkins. UC Davis Extension apiculurist Ward Stanger served as the editor, consulting with Len Foote, then supervisor of apiary inspection for the State Department of Agriculture.
"Hundreds of species of California plants yield pollen or nectar, but the most important plants for commercial nectar are alfalfa, oranges, cotton, beans, sages (black, sonoma, white and white leaf), yellow starthistle, wild buckwheats, manzanita, eucalyptus and blue curls," the authors wrote. "Extensive use of herbicides to control yellow starthistle has decidedly reduced its pasturage in California. Alfalfa, oranges, cotton and beans present a hazard for bees because of pesticides used on them."
The book also mentions the toxicity of California buckeye (Aesculus californica). It blooms in May and June and is very attractive to bees.
"...bees feeding on its pollen are believed to produce larval food (pollen and honey) which results in malformed adults," the authors pointed out.
Yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) deserves special mention. Growers hate it and beekeepers love it. It's an exotic, invasive weed that's well established in California. It blooms from May to October.
The honey? It's white to extra light amber and delicious.
So, buckeye is attractive to bees but bad for them, and yellow starthistle is bad for farmers but good for beekeepers.
That's something to think about when you're spreading honey on your freshly baked roll or dribbling it over your pancakes.