Backyard Orchard News
So, you want to become an entomologist...
Entomologists, future entomologists and others interested in science are looking forward to the fall seminars sponsored Oct. 1 through Dec. 3 by the Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis.
All seminars are held on Wednesdays from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. Individual faculty members will host the seminars.
You'll learn about fungus-farming ambrosia beetles, the invasive brown marmorated sting bug, argentine ants, thrips, and Culex mosquitoes, to name a few.
The UC Davis entomology faculty do a fantastic job lining up speakers. The key word here is "passion." (The best advice I ever received in a fortune cookie involved passion: "Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.")
Bring on the bugs!
Oct. 1: Jiri Hulcr of Department of Entomology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, “Evolution and Ecology of Fungus-Farming Ambrosia Beetles. Host: entomology professor Phil Ward
Oct. 8: Anne Nielsen, Department of Nematology, UC Davis, “Population Ecology and Damage Estimates of the Invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Halyomorpha halys.” Host: nematology and entomology professor Ed Lewis
Oct. 15: Urs Wyss, Institute of Phytopathology, Kiel University, Kiel, Germany, “Biological Control of Greenhouse Pests with Natural Arthropod Enemies.” Host: entomology and nematology professor Harry Kaya
Oct. 22: Greg Crutsinger, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, “Linking Plant Genetic Variation to Foliage- and Litter-Based Arthropod Communities.” Host: entomology professor Rick Karban
Oct. 29: Kris Godfrey, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Sacramento "Pest Management of Invasive Insect Pests in California.” Host: nematology and entomology professor Ed Lewis
Nov. 5: Neil Tsutsui, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley, “Exploring the Genetic and Chemical Basis of Argentine Ant Behavior.” Host: entomology professor Phil Ward
Nov. 12: Le Kang, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China Chemical Communications Between Plants, Leafminers and Parasites.” Host: Michael Parrella, associate dean of the Division of Agricultural Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and entomology professor
Nov. 26: Chris Barker, Department of Entomology, UC Davis, “Environmental Drivers of Large-Scale Spatial and Temporal Patterns in Mosquito Abundance and Virus Transmission in California.” Host: Bruce Eldridge, emeritus professor of entomology
Dec. 3: Lisa Chanbusarakum, Department of Entomology, UC Davis, “Exploring the Microbial World of Frankliniella occidentalis, the Western Flower Thrips.” Host: Diane Ullman, associate dean for undergraduate academic programs at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and entomology professor
It's all about the bees.
When A. G. Kawamura, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the newly selected State Apiary Board meet from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 3 at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, they'll talk about the troubled bee business, tour the facility, elect new officers, and listen to research presentations.
Members of the apiary board are all beekeepers. The five members represent the state's major geographical regions. They are Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, president of the California State Beekeepers' Association; Leroy Brant of Oakdale; Lyle Johnston of Madera; Steve Godlin of Visalia; and Richard Ashurst of Westmorland. They will each serve a four-year term. The UC Davis liaison is apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty and a Cooperative Extension bee specialist since 1976.
If there's ever been an industry under attack, it's the apiary industry. The bees are subjected to stress, parasites, diseases, pesticides, malnutrition, climate change, and that mysterious phenomonen known as colony collapse disorder (CCD), in which bees abandon their hives..
Meanwhile, the United States is facing its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The new "buzz words" include mortgage meltdowns, skyrocketing fuel prices, diving stocks, and crumbling financial institutions.
But there's another "buzz" that should grab our attention: the bees.
Honey bees pollinate about one-third of the food we eat. They pollinate more than 90 fruit, vegetable and nut crops, including apples, strawberries, cherries, peaches, cantaloupe, tomatoes, cucumbers, and almonds.
As state legislators agreed when they formed the apiary board: "A healthy and vibrant apiary industry is important to the economy and welfare of the state" and the industry's "promotion and protection is in the interest of the people of the state of Califonria."
It is indeed.
Quick! How long have insects inhabited this earth?
If you're taking a biology or an entomology course, you'll be asked that question on an exam. If you're attending the Entomological Society of America conference Nov. 16-20 in Reno, you probably already know that.
A good answer: 400 million years.
The world's oldest known insect fossil is 400 million years old. according to findings published Feb. 12, 2004 in the journal Nature.
The evidence: jaw fragments measuring less than one two-hundred-fiftieth of an inch across discovered in 1919 in chert (a partly translucent crystalline rock) in Rhynie, Scotland. Shortly after that, scientists moved the fragments to a drawer in the Natural History Museum in London.
Under high magnification, the miniscule fragments show sockets that form part of a "hingelike mechanism that clearly identifies them as mouth parts of a true insect," the New York Times wrote.
To think that insects existed at least 400 million years ago! Scientists earlier thought 300 million years ago. What's a few million years? Well, the fossil record suggests that insects were among the first animals to live on land. The first ancient animals to fly were undoubtedly insects (even before flying dinosaurs).
Scientists David Grimaldi, a curator of entomology at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, and Michael S. Engel, a paleoentomologist at the University of Kansas, said that when they first discovered the age of the fossil fragment they looked at each other and said "Holy moly!
It's been a long time since I've heard "Holy moly!" but then it's been a long time since insects have inhabited the earth.
Holy moly! 400 million years!
Honey bee on sage
It's tough being a drone honey bee this time of year.
The drones, or male bees, don't survive the winter.
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis admits to having a soft spot for drones. Once the honey-gathering season is over, the worker bees (sterile females) evict the drones from the hive, as the only function of the males is to mate.
“They’re cold and hungry, sitting there on the doorstep and wanting to go back in. They’re attacked and they die. Well, it’s a matriarchal society.”
Throughout the spring, summer and early fall, drones routinely leave the hive in mid-afternoon on a mating expedition. Last Friday at the Laidlaw facility, the drones exited the hives around 3 p.m. They wobbled out of the hive and then took off. The plan? Head for "the drone congregration area," said UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen. Drones congregate not far from the hive and wait for a virgin queen bee to arrive.
The virgin queen mates with mulitple drones, often as many as 12 to 25, and then returns to her hive to lay eggs for the rest of her life. She never leaves the hive after her maiden flight. "She's an egg-laying machine," as Cobey says.
For the drones, it's a different story. They mate and then they die. And if they can't find a mate? With the onset of cold weather and winter, if they try to return to the hive, their sisters won't let them back in. They don't want the drones taxing their food supply.
Oh, brother, where art thou?
Drone takes off
Ever wonder why the stink bug stinks?
The stink bug, from the family Pentamodae, is a shield-shaped insect that tomato growers would love to ban from the face of this earth.
Some 50 species exist in California. The adults are either brown or green. Most stink bugs are plant feeders. However, the species of one subfamily prey on other insects, according to the excellent guidebook, California Insects, written by Jerry A. Powell and Charles L. Hogue and published by the University of California Press.
When a group of us from the UC Davis Department of Entomology worked the soil today at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central UC Davis campus, we encountered several lizards, lots of centipedes and ladybeetles, and several stink bugs.
So, how did the stink bug get its name? It stinks when it's disturbed. It emits a powerful odor from its thoracic glands to ward off predators.
The stink bugs we unearthed didn't stink. Guess we didn't disturb them enough!