Backyard Orchard News
The dull brown moth may be dull-looking but as noctuid cutworms they're not.
We spotted this noctuid cutworm, soon to be a dull brown moth, last week on a yarrow in the Storer Gardens at the University of California, Davis.
Noctuids belong to--guess what--the Noctuidae family, which includes moslty the dull-colored moths.
You're likely to see these moths flying around at night, attracted to your porch light.
Another place you can see these moths--as specimens--is the Bohart Museum of Entomology, 1124 Academic Surge, on the UC Davis campus. Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor and vice chair of the department, the Bohart Museum houses some seven million insect specimens--and a few live ones, such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Yes, they give tours. Contact Tabatha Yang at email@example.com.
What's really interesting about the noctuids is that they have auditory organs that are capable of detecting frequencies from 3 to more than 100 kilocycles per second. This can save them from being bat prey.
Bats, you see, emit high-pitched chirps as they fly around at night seeking prey and avoiding obstacles. The chirps bounce back or echo, enabling them to maneuver in complete darkness.
When the dull brown moths hear the chirps, they fold their wings and drop to the ground.
Three kilocycles (3000 cycles) per second is in the top octave of the piano; the average upper limit of hearing in humans is about 15 kilocycles per second. (Source: An Introduction to the Study of Insects by Donald Borror and Dwight DeLong, former entomologists at Ohio State University)
Dianne DiBlasi did it.
Back in January, we wrote a Bug Squad blog about Dianne DiBlasi’s three-year effort to overturn an Allendale, N.J. ban on backyard beekeeping.
DiBlasi, who leads a group of teen environmentalists known as Team B.E.E.S. (Bergen Environmental Effort to Save Bees) and is a member of the the New Jersey Beekeepers' Association, simply wanted the Allendale Council to remove bees from the city’s list of “banned and dangerous animals” and allow non-commercial beekeepers to keep their bee colonies in their yards.
On Oct. 14, the Allendale Council unanimously voted to lift the bee ban.
This is good news indeed. It shows what one person, with help of her friends and fellow beekeepers, can do to overturn an ordinance that needed overturning.DiBlasi set out to educate the town officials and the community about how vital honey bees are. She pointed out that bees are important pollinators, that they pollinate one-third of the food we eat. She pointed out that bees are in trouble, due to the mysterious malady known as colony collapse disorder, and diseases, parasites, pests, pesticides, malnutrition, and climate changes. She pointed out that bees need our help and one way to help is to plant bee friendly gardens and allow backyard beekeeping.
Of course, the lifting of the bee ban comes with restrictions, such as the number of hives within a certain area. There are also requirements such as notifying the neighbors within 200 feet of any property line (if a neighbor protests, no beekeeping), protecting the area with a fence at least six feet high, licensing the hives with the Allendale officials, registering with the New Jersey apiarist, and the like.
But she did it!
DiBlasi graciously thanked the entire council for their support. "I promise you that you will be amazed at your flower gardens and vegetable gardens. Give me two years."
We suspect it will be a lot less.
Newly emerged bee
Honey bees are involved in a unique "sting operation" utilizing their sense of keen smell to detect explosives and narcotics.
And now a scientist from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, will talk about the project on Wednesday, Oct. 21 on the UC Davis campus.
Robert Wingo, with the Chemical Diagnosis and Engineering of the Chemistry Division, will speak on “Explosives and Narcotics Detection by Monitoring of the Proboscis (Tongue) Extension Reflex in Apis mellifera (Honey Bee)" at 4 p.m., in 357 Hutchison Hall, UC Davis.
The one-hour event is sponsored by the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology.
Wingo's lecture will be Webcast live as part of the pilot UC Seminar Network, which is Webcasting scientific seminars on three UC campuses: Davis, Berkeley and Santa Cruz. Viewers can link to it.
UC Davis entomologist James R. Carey, instrumental in launching the pilot program, is the former chair of the UC Systemwide Academic Senate University Committee on Research Policy.
What's the honey bee project all about?
In a news release issued Nov. 27, 2006, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) news writer Todd Hanson wrote that scientists at LANL “have developed a method for training the common honey bee to detect the explosives used in bombs. Based on knowledge of bee biology, the new techniques could become a leading tool in the fight against the use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which present a critical vulnerability for American military troops abroad and is an emerging danger for civilians worldwide.”
“By studying bee behavior and testing and improving on technologies already on the market,” Hanson wrote, “Los Alamos scientists developed methods to harness the honey bee's exceptional olfactory sense where the bees' natural reaction to nectar, a proboscis extension reflex (sticking out their tongue), could be used to record an unmistakable response to a scent. Using Pavlovian training techniques common to bee research, they trained bees to give a positive detection response, via the proboscis extension reflex, when they were exposed to vapors from TNT, C4, TATP explosives and propellants.”
The bee’s phenomenal sense of smell rivals that of dogs, according to Tim Haarmann, then principal investigator for the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project.
More information is available from the LANL news release.
LANL, a self-described "multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security," is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team comprised of Bechtel National, the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, and the Washington Division of URS for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.
The Tongue Has It
Drones--remotely piloted aircraft used in reconnaissance and target attacks--are in the news, but so are the other drones--male bees.
This time of year drones are as scarce as the proverbial hen's teeth. They're not needed in the hive now--just extra mouths to feed--so their sisters are booting them up. They're basically evicted, cold and shivering, from the hive.
Drones are easy to identify: big eyes, bulky body, and lumbering movements.
It's best to be a drone in the spring. When a virgin queen goes for her maiden flight, a group of drones will mate with her in the drone congregation area. The drones die shortly after mating. If they don't mate, then they'll die before winter sets in.
As Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty says: First the sisters stop feeding their brothers so they're easier to push out.
Then, out they go.
The sisters have no pity.
Drone and worker bee
Big Eyes, Bulky Body
What can we learn from insects?
But first, let's talk about the UC Seminar Network.
It's a pilot program that involves Webcasting scientific seminars on University of California campuses. Scientists and other interested folks from all over California--indeed the nation and the world--can tune in live.
The seminars are as close as your computer. You log in, listen, and at the end of the seminar, you can ask questions.
And the seminars are free.
It all started in Feburary when entomologist James R. Carey, professor of Entomology at UC Davis and then chair of the UC Systemwide Academic Senate University Committee on Research Policy, launched Webinars in the Department of Entomology as part of the pilot UC Seminar Network.
Other departments at UC Davis soon joined in, and now UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz are on board. Long-range plans call for participation on all 10 campuses.
Fittingly, the next Webinar presentation at UC Davis features James R. Carey.
Carey, the director of a federally funded program on lifespan and aging that has just received a $3.4 million grant renewal from the National Institute on Aging, will speak from 12:10 to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 21 in 122 Briggs Hall.
He will offer his insights into lifespan, aging and death from his insect studies, including research on Mediterranean fruit flies in Hawaii, Mexico and Greece and on butterflies in Uganda. Titled “Titled “Demography of the Finitude: Insights into Lifespan, Aging and Death from Insect Studies,” the Webinar can be accessed by clicking this link or accessing the link from the UC Davis Department of Entomology home page.
“One of the paradoxes of aging science is that whereas much is known about the nature of aging, little is known about the nature of lifespan,” said Carey, who has researched aging and lifespan for nearly 30 years. “For example, why do mice live only a few years while humans are capable of living 80 or more years?”
The grant is a two-year extension of his ongoing program, Biodemographic Determinants of Lifespan, a National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Aging-funded program involving scientists from UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, UC Berkeley, Stanford and seven other academic institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Greece.
The scientists study aging in nematodes, honey bees, fruit flies, red deer, soay sheep and humans, and develop mathematical models targeting the evolutionary ecology of aging and lifespan.
The Biodemographic Determinants of Lifespan has been funded since 2003.
“Dr. Carey has expanded the boundaries of entomology with his research,” said Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. “Just as we have learned a great deal about human genetics by studying Drosophila fruit flies, Jim is expanding our overall understanding of mortality and lifespans by using various insects as model systems. He is known worldwide as one of the pioneers of biodemography, an emerging field in the interzone between biology and demography. His research is innovative and unique, and is one of many research programs that makes the Department of Entomology so strong.”
The broad aim of the research, Carey said, “is to develop an evolutionary demography of lifespan. All of the findings will be directly or indirectly relevant to an understanding of human aging and lifespan.”
And what do insect studies tell us about human aging and lifespan? Read more about his work here.And then tune in on Wednesday, Oct. 21. It's open to all interested persons.
If you miss it, it will be archived permanently on the Department of Entomology seminar page. This Web page also includes the list of past and upcoming Webinars.
The fall Webinars at the UC Davis Department of Entomology continue through Dec. 7.
James R. Carey