Backyard Orchard News
That’s what it was.
But it was more than that, too.
Every year, Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis, wages a water balloon battle for faculty, researchers, graduate students, staff, family and friends.
It takes place on the lawn, north side of Briggs Hall, near his basement lab and offices. We like to kid around that he’s located on the “garden level” of Briggs. When Hammock hosts Bruce’s Big Balloon Battle at Briggs, it becomes the “water level.”
This year (Friday, Aug. 15) they filled 2500 water balloons and then threw them at one another. Every year when the water balloons are all gone, they empty the buckets—which really makes for some nice photos. I’m glad Bruce Hammock can be so accommodating!
“Nobody can beat Bruce Hammock at water balloons,” said former administrative assistant Jeanette Martin, who returned for the big balloon battle.
The Hammock lab works hard and plays hard.
Bruce Dupree Hammock just won the 2008 UC Davis Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching; he was nominated for his "dedication to his students, his interdisciplinary thrust, and his scientific and professional career guidance."
“This award is one of the most prestigious granted on the UC Davis campus and recognizes consistent outstanding teaching and commitment to student success,” said Krishnan Nambiar, chair of the Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award Committee in a letter to Hammock nominator Michael Denison, professor of environmental toxicology.
Chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor of entomology at UC Davis, described Hammock as an excellent teacher and mentor. “I can unequivocally tell you that teaching is Dr. Hammock’s passion. He considers teaching the most important role of his university career...He motivates, encourages and inspires, molding a whole new generation of scientists who are discovering ways to benefit humankind.”
Hammock is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and holds a joint appointment in Cancer Research with the UC Davis Medical Center. He directs the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund Program on the UC Davis campus, as well as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Training Program in Biotechnology, and the NIEHS Combined Analytical Laboratory.
In the last five years Hammock has hosted more than 40 postdoctoral fellows or senior scientists. He has helped train future entomologists, biochemists, engineers, chemists and biologists.
You could say he also trains them to be water warriors.
Make that water warriors, extraordinaire.
Christophe Morisseau and Karen Wagner
Jun Yang and Junaid ur Rehman
"Water Warrior" Bruce Hammock
Moment of impact
Beauty isn't skin deep. It's wing deep.
The Anise Swallowtail butterfly dazzles you with its yellow stripes and blue dots. If it were a painting, it would be a Michelangelo. If it were music, it would be Vivaldi's "Spring." If it were a car, it would be a sleek Lamborghini.
But there it was, a bit of beauty in the otherwise-drab
“Papilio zelicaon, female,” he said.
Just like that.
Shapiro is the author of the newly published “Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento Valley Regions,” illustrated by Tim Manolis.
The book is as awesome as his Web site, his own butterfly world. His Web site spans more than three decades of research and observations.
So what about my little ol’ Anise Swallowtail?
Glad you asked.
When you were in school, you may have reared it in your classroom. It’s easy to rear, Shapiro said, but don’t provoke it. The caterpillar has “an eversible scent gland (the osmeterium) behind the head. It's yellow or orange and shaped like the letter 'Y' and if the beast is provoked, it releases a mist of butyric acid--rancid butter smell--which will hang in the air many minutes.”
The caterpillar can be a pest in cultivated citrus, but a minor pest.
The caterpillar can be a pest in cultivated citrus, but a minor pest.
The Anise Swallowtail is found in most of the western states. Its main hosts are members of the carrot family, Apiaceae. It also feeds on the rue family, Rutacease.
The carrot family includes anise, fennel, dill, celery, parsley, parsnips (I hate parsnips—I’m glad something likes them!) and Queen Anne’s lace. The Anise Swallowtail even eats the extremely poisonous water hemlock (Cicuta) and poison hemlock (Conium) “without ill effects,” said Shapiro. “When Socrates drinks, everybody drinks,” he quipped.
This little ol’ butterfly is also a famous “hilltopper,” Shapiro said. “In rugged topography, males and virgin females assemble on rocky unforested hilltops to mate--it's a butterfly 'singles bar.' The females do not return once mated, but the males come back day after day looking for action."
If you want to know more about butterflies, then Art Shapiro’s “Field Guide” is a must-have for your collection.
And if you find an Anise Swallowtail in the
Anise Swallowtail butterfly
Anise Swallowtail butterfly
Hillary Thomas' biological control research on a leaf-eating beetle that targets saltcedar has scored a bullseye.
Thomas, a doctoral candidate in entomology at UC Davis, has received a $15,000 Robert and Peggy van den Bosch Memorial Scholarship to support her research.
Saltcedar or tamarix (Tamarix spp.) is a major pest that threatens waterways. In the western
Thomas researches Diorhabda elongata, a saltcedar leaf beetle native to
She won the award for her project, “Impact of Host-Plant Preferences on Establishment and Efficacy of Diorhabda elongata (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), a Biological Control Agent of Saltcedars.” She studies with major professor Frank Zalom, an integrated pest management specialist.
“Hillary is an outstanding young scientist who is committed to the implementation of biological control,” said Zalom. “Her dissertation research on host plant acceptance by the beetles introduced for control of invasive saltcedar is not only useful for that system but will lead to better understanding of the importance of post-release evolution in biological control agent establishment. She is highly motivated."
"The beetle has shown great potential to control the weed in some release areas," said Thomas, who collaborates with the Exotic and Invasive Weeds Unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service. "It causes defoliation to the extent that it appears there will be a population-level effect on tamarix stands.”
Thomas’ work initially focused on improving insect establishment success in the Cache Creek watershed, near Rumsey,
“It seems there might be an increase in host plant acceptability of Tamarix parviflora by the field population,” Thomas said. “I am repeating both field and laboratory experiments at the moment to determine whether there is substantial evidence to support this.”
Saltcedar, first imported to the United States from the Middle East in the 1880s for erosion control and as an ornamental, is extremely aggressive and invasive. As a shrub or small tree, it forms dense thickets, displacing native plants and animals. Its long tap roots suck in massive amounts of water. It also drops its salt-infused foliage on the surface, inhibiting other plant growth.
A single saltcedar can produce as many as 600,000 seeds annually, according to weed specialist Joseph DiTomaso of the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. Chemical, mechanical and cultural control techniques are effective, but expensive and temporary.
Three other UC Davis doctoral candidates shared in the Robert and Peggy van den Bosch scholarships.
Amanda Hodson, who studies with major professor Edwin Lewis (he holds a joint appointment in nematology and entomology) received $10,000 to continue her research on “Ecological Influence of Entomopathogenic Nematodes in Pistachio Orchards.”
Yao Hua Law, of entomologist Jay Rosenheim’s lab, received $5000 to support his work on "Multiple Predators Improve Biocontrol: Niche Complementarity and Cannibalism.” He also received a $1115 van den Bosch travel award to attend the Ecological Society of America annual meeting in Milwaukee, Wisc., to present his work on predation.
Andrew Sutherland, of entomologist Michael Parrella’s lab, received a $1500 van den Bosch travel award for his “Manual Transmission of Powdery Mildew Fungi Mediated by Activity of an Obligate Mycophagous Beetle (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae).” He will attend the Brazilian Society of Entomology conference, set Aug. 24-29.
The van den Bosch scholarship program provides a total of $60,000 to $80,000 annually for work related to biological control, said coordinators Kent Daane and Nicholas Mills, co-directors of the Center for Biological Control, UC Berkeley. Eligible to apply are doctoral candidates from UC Davis, UC Berkeley and UC Riverside. Typically, the winners receive $15,000, $10,000 or $5,000. Selection is by a panel of biocontrol faculty representing the three schools.
In addition, Daane and Mills annually present travel awards totalling $15,000 to $20,000. The maximum amount is $1500 per student.
Others receiving scholarships were UC Berkeley students Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer (major professor: Claire Kremen, also a UC Davis Department of Entomology affiliate), Mel Stravrinides (major professor: Nicholas Mills); and Eleanor Blitzer (major professor: Stephen Welter). Receiving travel funds: Mel Stravrinides and Eleanor Blitzer, UC Berkeley; and Jason Mottern and Jennifer Henke, UC Riverside.
Robert van den Bosch (1922-1978) served as a researcher, teacher, and an administrator in the Division of Biological Control and the Department of Entomological Sciences, UC Berkeley, from 1963 until his death. A native of
With the recent death of his wife, Peggy, more funds (at her request) were added to the van den Bosch awards program.
Hillary Thomas with saltcedar
Adult saltcedar beetle
Larva of saltcedar beetle
But she didn’t and she wasn’t.
She's a pollen-packed sunflower bee enjoying our sunflower. Not a honey bee but a sunflower bee. A native bee.
A Svastra obliqua expurgata (Cockerell), as UC Davis native pollinator researcher Robbin Thorp said.
“ I have seen them nesting in gardens in
“The males,” Thorp said, “spend much time cruising searching for females. The males have long antennae and thus are called ‘long-horn’ bees. The males also have greenish eyes, and bright yellow markings on the lower face.”
Both males and females are larger than honey bees and fly more rapidly when foraging, Thorp said. “They are among the native bees that interact with honey bees on the male rows of hybrid sunflower fields, disturbing the honey bees and causing them to fly out of the male rows into the female rows, thus increasing the pollination efficiency of honey bees as shown in the research by Sarah Greenleaf and Claire Kremen.”
Kremen, an affiliate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and a regular at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on the UC Davis campus, is a conservation biologist at UC Berkeley and the recipient of a MacArthur genius fellowship.
Thorp said Svastra females have dense brushes of hairs on their hind legs and transport pollen dry in these brushes (scopae). Honey bees carry pollen moist on concave hair-fringed pollen baskets (corbiculae).
I wonder what writer Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), known for such prose as “a rose is a rose is a rose” and “there is no there there,” would have said about bees.
Perhaps “a bee is a bee is a bee?”
Or “a sunflower is a sunflower is a sunflower?”
It isn’t and it isn’t./o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/span>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/st1:place>/st1:city>/st1:place>/st1:placename>/st1:placename>/st1:city>/o:p>/span>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>
Pollen-packed sunflower bee
Up, up and away
We know it works, but how?
Just how does DEET work? Does it jam the senses of a mosquito? Does it mask the smell of the host?
You spray the chemical repellent on your arm and thankfully, those darn skeeters leave you alone. They need a blood meal to develop their eggs, so off they buzz to find another host, one that’s not so inhospitable.
But why do mosquitoes avoid DEET?
Well, they avoid it because it smells bad to them. Yes, they can smell it--that's why they avoid it.
The groundbreaking research, the work of UC Davis chemical ecologist Walter Leal and researcher
The research contradicts a Science article published in March by researchers at
The Leal-Syed research solidly establishes the real mode of action.
Noted entomologist James "Jim" Miller of
Said Miller: "For decades we were told that DEET warded off mosquito bites because it blocked insect response to lactic acid from the host -- the key stimulus for blood-feeding. Dr. Leal and co-workers escaped the key stimulus over-simplification to show that mosquito responses -- like our own -- result from a balancing of various positive and negative factors, all impinging on a tiny brain more capable than most people think of sophisticated decision-making.”
“This new work corrects long-standing erroneous dogma, and shows that recent work on DEET mode-of-action published in the flagship journal, Science, apparently was flat-out wrong,” Miller said. “One of the great attributes of science is that, over time, it is self-correcting."
Leal, past president of the International Society of Chemical Ecology and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, said previous findings of other scientists showed a “false positive” resulting from the experimental design.
Now that we know that skeeters can smell it, this will no doubt lead to better methods of insect control. Or, as
Those darn female mosquitoes, always in a “Let-us-prey” mood, have clearly met their match: the "why" behind "Let us spray."
(For more information and a video,access this page.)