Posts Tagged: UC Davis
Chemical ecologists at the University of California, Davis, are changing their navel-orangeworm research direction after an elementary school student’s science project found that the major agricultural pest prefers pistachios over almonds and walnuts.
Gabriel Leal, 11, a sixth grader at Willet Elementary School, Davis, prefers pistachios over all other nuts so he figured that the navel orangeworm (NOW) would, too.
“Pistachios taste better,” reasoned Gabriel, whose family says he can eat an entire bag of pistachios at one sitting. Pistachios have long been his favorite nut, so why wouldn’t the navel orangeworm prefer pistachios over almonds and walnuts, too?
So the sixth grader hypothesized that the insect would lay more eggs in pistachios than in almonds and walnuts, contrary to widely published research that indicates an almond preference.
“Everybody knows that navel orangeworms prefer almonds,” said his father, Walter Leal, a chemical ecologist and professor of entomology at UC Davis. Research published recently in the California Agriculture journal also indicates the preference.
“But in science,” Leal said, “we should believe what we see, not what others tell us. I know that Gabriel prefers pistachios, but I assumed the navel orangeworm’s taste receptors were different.”
Wrong. Gabriel’s research showed that the insects preferred pistachios, just like him.
The findings led to a report at the Almond Board of California’s 32nd Almond Industry Conference, held Dec. 1-2 in Modesto, and launched a new direction of navel orangeworm chemical ecology research at UC Davis
Gabriel performed his research in his father’s UC Davis lab, under the volunteer supervision and mentoring of chemical ecologist Zain Syed.
“It was a ‘choice’ experiment where Gabriel placed mated and gravid (egg-filled) females in a cage,” Syed said. “He used four commercially available navel orangeworm traps (Ovitraps). One trap was filled with 50 grams of shelled pistachios, another with 50 grams of almonds, and the third with 50 grams of walnuts. The empty trap served as the control to check if the trap itself had any effects on attracting egg-laying moths. The eggs laid in the ovitraps were counted for two consecutive nights.”
Said Leal: "Gabriel got enough replicates to demonstrate that female orange navelworms do prefer pistachios over walnuts and almonds. We are very excited with our little scientist’s discovery. I reported ‘our’ findings at the state almond industry conference in Modesto. And these findings changed our research direction, because we are now interested in determining what chemistry in pistachios attracts female navel orangeworms.”
“Oviposition (egg-laying) attractants derived from almond oil are used to monitor female populations in the field,” Leal explained, “but during hull split, the chemical from the natural source (crop) competes with the synthetic material in traps. If we use pistachio-derived attractants in the almond field there will be no competition throughout the flight season.”
So how significant a pest is the navel orangeworm?
According to research entomologist Brian Higbee of Paramount Farming, Bakersfield, "it is the primary and most destructive pest on almonds and pistachios." California has some 152,000 acres planted in pistachios, while the state's almond acreage totals more than 700,000.
"The economic impact of NOW damage varies from year to year, but it can easily reach $10-15 million for our company and much higher statewide," Higbee said.
The take-home message? "Well, in science we should never underestimate anyone's idea,” Leal said. “That's why the academic environment is so enriching: students come with new ideas, but I never imagined we would benefit so much from a science project for elementary school."
For more, see news story on the UC Davis Department of Entomology Web site.
Young scientist Gabriel Leal
I always thought the red-hot poker was primarily red.
This one in the Storer Gardens at the University of California, Davis, was mostly yellow.
It was Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008, five days before Christmas, and a lone honey bee, packed with pollen, was heading for the red-hot poker, variety "Christmas Cheer" (Kniphofia).
Seemed quite appropriate.
Red-Hot Poker in Storer Gardens
American humorist-entertainer Will Rogers said "I never met a man I didn't like."
I wonder if he would have said the same thing about insects.
Oh, sure, he probably liked--and appreciated--the butterflies, the honey bees and the ladybugs.
But cockroaches? I bet not.
Cockroaches just don't give you that fuzzy-wuzzy-lovey-dovey feeling--unless you're another cockroach.
Enter Catherine Chalmers, a New York-based multi-media artist who centers much of her work on cockroaches, their place on the planet, and people's reaction to them.
Chalmers, who explores the lives of cockroaches and other creatures that the general public disdains, will speak on “Sex, Food Chains and Cockroaches” from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 7 at the Wyatt Pavilion, University of California, Davis.
Her presentation is the second in a series of four lectures on “The Consilience of Art and Science,” a centennial colloquium sponsored by the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion experimental learning program. The lectures are free and open to the public.
“Catherine Chalmers investigates the natural world, from food chains to insect sex, revealing new points of view about our place in the ecosystem,” said Art/Science Fusion co-director Diane Ullman, associate dean of Undergraduate Academic Programs, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and professor of entomology.
Chalmers specializes in photography, sculpture, drawing and video, preferring to let the subject matter dictate the particular media. She displays her art-science work throughout the country. The Boise (Idaho) Art Museum showcased her most recent show, “The American Cockroach.” She’s been featured in the New York Times, Kansas City Star, The Idaho Statesman and others.
Chalmers possesses this incredible talent of combining humor with biology to make people think. She paints cockroaches to resemble other insects, camouflages them in garden settings, and even “executes” them, strapping one to an “electric chair” or “burning” another at the stake. You can see her videos on her Web site.
Chalmers is quick to point out, however, that no animals are harmed in the making of her art. (Whew! For a minute there i thought the twitching cockroach was actually burning at the stake.)
Chalmers lives with her artist-husband in Rensselaerville, N.Y., where she buys, rears and poses insects for her art work. A native of San Mateo, she received a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Stanford University, and a master’s degree in painting from the Royal College of Art, London.
She said "American Cockroach" grew out of an earlier piece, "Food Chain," which shows animals mating, eating one another, or in the case of the praying mantis, both. (An insect's gotta do what an insect's gotta do.)
I told Catherine Chalmers she should expect a standing-room only crowd.
"Sex, Food Chains and Cockroaches."
The title alone should draw folks in.
Maybe a few cockroaches, too.
Okay, what are the answers?In a prior blog, we listed several questions asked at the Linnaean Games, a college-bowl type of quiz that’s a traditional part of the Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting. You have to know insect facts and figures and ESA history to win.
It's a fun game that draws entomologists and would-be entomologists from throughout the world. Professor Tom Turpin of Purdue, decked out in a tuxedo and a monarch butterfly bowtie, moderates the event and provides more humor than some of the late-night TV shows. This year's ESA meeting, the 56th annual, took place Nov. 16-19 in Reno.Ready for the questions and answers?
Question: U.S. states have an official state insect. List three states that do not have one.
Answer: Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Wyoming. Source: See http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/Lists/state_insects.html
Question: What is the purpose of the process in folklore known as “Telling the Bees?”
Answer: To keep honey bees from leaving the hive when a bee keeper had died.
Question: Approximately how many beetle species have been described to date? Choices:
Answer: 350,000 (c)
Answer: Gil GrissomQuestion: Imagine that you have wandered through an area where an egg mass of deer ticks has just hatched, and you find yourself in intimate association the dozens of tick larvae. What is your risk of getting Lyme disease?
Answer: None. This would be their first blood meal, and Lyme disease is not transovarially transmitted.The University of California, Riverside team won the competition, edging North Carolina State University. The UC Riverside team included Jennifer Henke, Jason Mottern, Casey Butler and Rebeccah Waterworth.
UC Davis, our home team (Go Aggies!), also competed. Hillary Thomas, Andrew Pederson, Dominic Reisig and Michael Branstetter gave it the ol' Aggie try but didn’t quite make the finals. Next year! Their coach, Larry Godfrey, was on a University of Kentucky championship team.What year was that? "Are you trying to make me feel really old?" Godfrey quipped. "Well, it was 1983 at the second annual Linnaean Games (second annual in the North Central Branch of ESA where it started). It was a few years before the other branches started this competition and several years before they did it at the national meeting. Tom Turpin, who started this with another professor at Purdue (Rich Edwards) was my major professor for my M.S."
(Godfrey received his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Purdue and his doctorate at the University of Kentucky.)Ready for more questions?
Question: Name three insects of the five that are athletic team mascots at universities in the United States.
Answer: Bees, Black Flies, Hornets, Wasps, Yellowjackets
Question: What well known American poet wrote a poem entitled “The Bird to the Bees” that began with the lines “There is obviously a complete lack of understanding between the bee/ And me?"
Answer: Ogden Nash
In future columns, we'll take a look at some of the other questions and answers.
Meanwhile, check out the Smithsonian Magazine article on the University of Maryland team at the Linnaean Games. The article mentions that the students crammed for the Linnaean Games by poring over "The Insects," written by UC Davis entomology professors Penny Gullan and Peter Cranston.
Pondering a Question
UC Davis Team