Posts Tagged: bees
Who would have thought?
Who would have thought that ants are more closely related to bees than they are to most wasps?
In ground-breaking research to be published Oct. 21 in Current Biology, a team of UC Davis scientists and a colleague from the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History, has found that ants and bees are more genetically related to each other than they are to social wasps such as yellow jackets and paper wasps.
"Despite great interest in the ecology and behavior of these insects, their evolutionary relationships have never been fully clarified," said senior author and noted ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology at UC Davis. "In particular, it has been uncertain how ants—the world’s most successful social insects—are related to bees and wasps. We were able to resolve this question by employing next-generation sequencing technology and advances in bioinformatics. This phylogeny, or evolutionary tree, provides a new framework for understanding the evolution of nesting, feeding and social behavior in Hymenoptera."
The researchers used state-of-the-art genome sequencing and bioinformatics to produce this significant research.
The six-member team: Ward; molecular geneticist and assistant professor Joanna Chiu; honey bee scientist and assistant professor Brian Johnson; doctoral student-researcher Marek Borowiec of the Ward lab; and postdoctoral researcher Joel Atallah of the Johnson lab, all with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and visiting scientist Ernest K. Lee of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History.
Ants, bees and stinging wasps all belong to the aculeate (stinging) Hymenoptera clade -- the group in which social behavior is most extensively developed.
Said Chiu: “With a phylogeny or evolutionary progression that we think is reliable and robust, we can now start to understand how various morphological and/or behavioral traits evolved in these groups of insects, and even examine the genetic basis of these phenotypic changes.”
Said Johnson, whose lab studies the genetics, behavior, evolution and health of honey bees: "Using transcriptomics we were able to resolve a long standing question regarding the evolutionary relationships between stinging wasps, ants, and bees. We found that ants and bees are more closely related than previously thought. This result should be important for future studies focused on eusocial evolution, as it suggests that morphology may not be a good indicator of evolutionary relatedness in these groups of organisms."
The abstract: "Eusocial behavior has arisen in few animal groups, most notably in the aculeate Hymenoptera, a clade comprising ants, bees, and stinging wasps. Phylogeny is crucial to understanding the evolution of the salient features of these insects, including eusociality. Yet the phylogenetic relationships among the major lineages of aculeate Hymenoptera remain contentious. We address this problem here by generating and analyzing genomic data for a representative series of taxa. We obtain a single well-resolved and strongly supported tree, robust to multiple methods of phylogenetic inference. Apoidea (spheciform wasps and bees) and ants are sister groups, a novel finding that contradicts earlier views that ants are closer to ectoparasitoid wasps. Vespid wasps (paper wasps, yellow jackets, and relatives) are sister to all other aculeates except chrysidoids. Thus, all eusocial species of Hymenoptera are contained within two major groups, characterized by transport of larval provisions and nest construction, likely prerequisites for the evolution of eusociality. These two lineages are interpolated among three other clades of wasps whose species are predominantly ectoparasitoids on concealed hosts, the inferred ancestral condition for aculeates. This phylogeny provides a new framework for exploring the evolution of nesting, feeding, and social behavior within the stinging Hymenoptera."
A bee and an ant; they're more closely related than they are to most wasps. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ants and bees are more genetically related to each other than they are to social wasps, such as this yellow jacket. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv'd but three summer days--three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain,” wrote John Keats in Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne.
"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you," wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne
An Irish blessing reads:
"May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond."
From time immortal, we humans have depicted butterflies in our art. There's something about the ballet of butterflies that soothes our mind, brightens our spirit, and captures our soul.
So it is with the talented artists exhibiting their work at McCormack Hall during the five-day Solano County Fair, 900 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo. The fair opens Wednesday, July 31 and ends Sunday, Aug. 4.
Vallejo resident Yoko Warncke cross-stitched butterflies for her needlework exhibit. Another Vallejo resident, Tina Waycie, crafted a paper butterfly and flowers.
Trudy Molina of Fairfield depicted "The Hungry Caterpillar" in a baby quilt. It's a quilt sure to be treasured. It reminds us of the quote by Richard Buckminster Fuller: "There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."
Vallejoan LaQuita Tummings quilted a beautiful bee, dragonfly and ladybug, so spectacular that you just want to sit and study it.
We watched Gloria Gonzalez, superintendent of the McCormack Hall building and her adult and youth assistants hang many of the displays. They're involved in the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, throughout the year, but in the summer when the Solano County Fair rolls around, they're at McCormack Hall accepting entries, recording results and displaying the work.
Insect art is just a small part of the displays in McCormack Hall. You'll see photography, collections, table settings, clothing, baked goods, jams and jellies, and even some farm equipment.
It all ties in with the fair theme, "Home Grown Fun."
Gloria Gonzalez (left) of Vallejo, superintendent of McCormack Hall, Solano County Fair, and assistant Iris Mayhew of Vallejo hang a quilt by LaQuita Tummings of Vallejo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of blue-ribbon quilt by LaQuita Tummings of Vallejo. It features a bee, dragonfly and ladybug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Iris Mayhew of Vallejo, an assistant at McCormack Hall, Solano County Fair, with "The Hungry Caterpillar" quilt by Trudy Molina of Fairfield. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This paper art, of a butterfly and flowers, is the work of Tina Waycie of Vallejo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you've studied bees, you know that there are approximately 20,000 described species of bees in the world.
Most people are familiar with honey bees and bumble bees, but they don't know about "those big black bees" (carpenter bees) or "those green metallic bees" (sweat bees).
Harvard University and the Encyclopedia of Life to the rescue!
Jessica Rykken, Ph.D. of the Farrell lab at Harvard University, and editor Jeff Holmes, Ph.D. of the Encyclopedia of Life, Harvard University, have just published a field guide to bees that is simply outstanding.
The field guide, titled "Bees," is comprised of observer cards that are "designed to foster the art and science of observing nature," Rykken writes.
It's a guide that looks at bees much the way we all first started looking at bees. It's divided into anatomy, foraging, lifestyles, pollination, nesting habits, behavior, life cycle, associations (such as hitchhiking) and techniques (collecting and conservation).
Under nesting habits, you'll learn about the miners, masons, leafcutters and carpenters.
Under anatomy, you'll learn about body plan, look-alikes, size and shape, body color, antennae, wings, males ves females, pollen transport, tongue length, pilosity, stingers. Pilosity? What's that you ask? It means the density and pattern of hair on their bodies.
Lifestyles? No, not of the rich and famous. These point to social bees, solitary bees and cuckoo bees.
Rykken asked permission to use two of our photos, and they're in there, too. One is of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology being stung by a honey bee (Apis mellifera), and the other is a chunk of plum tree wood drilled by valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta). A Davis resident brought the plum tree wood into the Bohart Museum of Entomology for insect identification. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum (home of nearly 8 million specimens) and UC Davis professor of entomology, told him that valley carpenter bees (females) drilled the holes. The female valley carpenter bees are solid black, while the males are blond with green eyes.
The field guide can be downloaded for free on the Encyclopedia of Life website at http://eol.org. Or, just download this link to the PDF.
This photo, appearing in the field guide, is of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen being stung by a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This photo in the field guide shows a chunk of plum tree wood drilled by valley carpenter bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
You'll not only see honey bees in a bee observation hive, but specimens of bumble bees, cuckoo bees, carpenter bees, long-horned bees, squash bees, plasterer bees, mining bees, leafcutter bees, wool carder bees and sweat bees.
The exhibit is in the Southard Floriculture Building on the May Fair grounds, located at 655 S. First St., Dixon.
Participating are the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility and the Bohart Museum of Entomology, both part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology; and the newly formed UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, headquartered at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.
Beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton, owner of BD Ranch and Apiary and a volunteer at the Laidlaw facility for several years, is providing the bee observation hive, a glassed-in box that enables viewers to observe the activity that goes on inside a bee hive.
Fishback, a past president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers' Association and member of the California State Beekeepers' Association, is an educator as well as a beekeeper. He speaks about bees at schools, organizations and festivals. His daughter, Emily, 2, accompanies him on many of his talks.
“Emily loves bees,” said Fishback, who keeps 125 hives on his property in Wilton. She knows that a bee has six legs, four wings and five eyes, and that each bee has three body parts: the head, thorax and abdomen. She knows that a honey bee eats pollen and nectar, pollinates flowers and makes honey.”
UC Davis graduate students, including squash bee expert Katharina Ullmann and area beekeepers (among them Jesse Loren of Winters and Lindsay Weaver of Sacramento) will be available during part of the fair (weekend) to share their experiences with fairgoers.
Children attending the Dixon May Fair on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 12 can make a "Honey Bee on a Stick," an arts and crafts project that doubles as a hand-held fan and puppet. Executive director Amina Harris of the Honey and Pollination Center, an area beekeeper and a former school teacher, will help the children create the take-home art. The free activity is from from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Southard Floriculture Building. Harris crafts the bee art using a yellow paper plate, duct tape, googly eyes, a stick, and pipe cleaners (for antennae).
The Dixon May Fair's floriculture building, staffed by superintendent Kathy Hicks of Dixon, includes stunning garden displays and a myriad of plants and cut flowers. It is open from 4 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Beekeeper Brian Fishback shows his daughter, Emily, his bee observation hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Sunflowers, native to the Americas, are spectacular, especially when you encounter a field of them. If you look closely, you'll see honey bees, sunflower bees and bumble bees working the flowers.
It's pollination at work.
To encourage backyard gardeners to grow sunflowers and collect data about the bees that visit them, the Great Sunflower Project provides free seeds and educational information.
You can obtain the Lemon Queen sunflower seeds from the Great Sunflower Project, from a local nursery or from a seed catalog.
Associate professor and biologist Gretchen LeBuhn of the University of California, Santa Barbara, started the project in 2008 as a way to get citizens interested in bee pollination.
"In 2008, we started this project as a way to gather information about our urban, suburban and rural bee populations," writes LeBuhn, considered "the queen bee" of the Great Sunflower Project. "We wanted to enlist people all over the U.S. and Canada to observe their bees and be citizen scientists. We asked them to plant sunflowers in their gardens so we could standardize study of bee activity and provide more resources for bees. Sunflowers are relatively easy to grow and are wildly attactive to bees."
Since 2008, the Great Sunflower Project has expanded its list of plants studied to include bee balm, cosmos, rosemary, coreopsis (tickseed), and purple coneflower.
"It’s time to turn off your television, take off those earphones, shut down that computer, go outside, and rediscover the wonder of nature," LeBuhn says.
That's one small step toward improving bee habitat--and human habitat, too.