Backyard Orchard News
He passed Jan. 22, 2015. A celebration of life will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 1, at the University Retirement Community at 1515 Shasta Drive, Davis.
Characterized as having a wonderful sense of humor, an always-ready smile and quick wit, Vern Burton was also an avid golfer. That's why a “Putt One for Vern” contest will be included in the reception festivities.
Vern was born in Omaha, Neb., on June 3, 1924, the only child of John and Vesta Burton. He spent his childhood in several states: Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois before his father, in the tire business, moved his family to Los Angeles in 1939.
In July 1943, young Vern was inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to Camp Adair, Ore., to a new wartime infantry division – the 70th Infantry “Trailblazer” Division. Burton would later say that his three years in the Army proved to be “a great educational experience and quite an adventure for someone just out of high school." He landed in Marseille, France on Dec. 15, “the day the Germans launched the Battle of the Bulge. “I went overseas as a squad leader (Battle of the Bulge) and came back as a platoon sergeant." He received his honorable discharge in April 1946.
It was while he was completing basic training in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, that he met his future wife, Charlotte McKnight. They were married for more than 66 years. The couple raised two daughters, who in turn gave them four granddaughters.
Young Vern earned a bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Berkeley and a master's from LSU. He retired from his entomological career in December 1988.
Back in the fall of 2009, we interviewed Vern Burton for a feature story. He was 85 then and residing in the University Retirement Community.
"Vern Burton didn't set out to become an entomologist.
"Home from the World War II battlefields, he enrolled in Compton Community College and then the University of California, Berkeley.
"A family friend promised him a job in his termite control business once he finished his studies.
"His college associates, however, couldn't envision 'Vern and termites' in the same sentence.
"Neither could he."
Burton told us during the interview: "There were better things to do in life than crawling under a house looking for termites."
So began a 38-year career that would encompass 10 years as a Kern County Farm Adviser and 28 years as an Extension entomologist affiliated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology. During his career, Burton worked with crops such as alfalfa, beans, cotton, potatoes, small grains and sugar beets and helped resolve pest problems through integrated pest management (IPM) strategies and close associations with university researchers.
Burton enjoyed working with researchers like noted alfalfa seed expert Oscar Bacon, now a retired professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. “I'd help identity problems in the field and take them back to the researchers” he told us. "I always enjoyed helping people in ag and urban settings with their insect problems,” Burton said, “or their perceived problems.”
Tuber worms in potatoes? Check. Lygus bugs in seed alfalfa? Check. Spider mites on dry beans? Check. Nematodes in cotton? Check. Green peach aphids in sugar beets? Check. Burton helped recommend the guidelines in several of the Statewide IPM Program's commodity manuals. His collaborative research also appears in California Agriculture and other publications.
When Burton retired in December 1988, then Cong. Vic Fazio lauded him for his outstanding contributions to California agriculture, particularly in the field of IPM. In remarks entered into the congressional record on Jan 4, 1989, Fazio said that Burton “contributed greatly to California agriculture and to the University of California's mission for excellence in agricultural research, education and public service.”
“Mr. Burton's outstanding contributions include the development of innovative methods and strategies for nematode control in cotton, which have improved production while reducing pesticide use. He also aided in the development and establishment of treatment thresholds for green peach aphid on sugar beets and established and supervised the cotton pest management program in the San Joaquin Valley in the 1970s. That work resulted in the appropriation of permanent federal funds for an integrated pest management program.”
"Other successes included more effective and efficient control of lygus bugs and spider mites on dry beans, development of a successful pest management program on Burbank potatoes, and investigations on an aphid believed to be a serious insect pest on small grains. Mr. Burton helped prove that the aphid actually had no significant impact on grain yields and thereby insecticide use was markedly reduced.”
Fazio noted that over the years, Burton “has provided support and guidance to county programs conducted by Farm Advisors through field test pilot activities, recommendations, and suggestions for problem solutions, and printed information and participation in educational programs. He has also helped disseminate education and informative entomological information to a diverse clientele in agricultural and urban areas throughout the state.”
"Vern was dedicated to California growers, and worked tirelessly to provide new and useful information to them," IPM specialist Frank Zalom, professor of entomology at UC Davis, told us. "He understood the research-extension continuum better than most people ever could, having served the university as an extension entomologist in the county and also here on campus.”
Also active in entomological organizations, Burton served as president and secretary-treasurer of the Northern California Entomology Club and as secretary-treasurer of the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
Burton and his wife, a retired 20-year accountant with the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology Department, moved into the University Retirement Community, Davis, in 2004.
In his early retirement years, he served as a lieutenant governor in 1992-93 of Division 7, Kiwanis International; worked four years in the UC Davis Medical Center gift shop and helped with the Kiwanis Family House at the Med Center. He traveled with his family, played golf and fished.
A favorite activity since childhood was “to get up early and go fishing in the morning and fry it for breakfast the same day.”
Emeritus Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1976 and retired in 2014, remembers Vern as a “dedicated scientist with a terrific sense of humor.” They shared office space with two other scientists on the third floor of Briggs Hall.
Vern claimed that bees would always single him out for special attention, Mussen said.
“Whenever I'd watch a honey bee demonstration in alfalfa and clover fields (which bees pollinate), honey bees would find me and deposit their stinger," Burton told us. "I'd stay out of the fields if they just moved in the honey bees.”
At age 85, Vern was enjoying retirement: spending time with his wife, reading mysteries, using his computer (“I used to be scared to death of computers and since my retirement, I've become friends with it”), playing computer card games (bridge, poker and hearts) and watching occasional sports on TV, especially professional golf and football (he played football in high school) and college baseball and basketball.
Burton was preceded in death by his wife, Charlotte Burton. He is survived by his daughters Maryn Mason (Bill) and Anice Isaacs (Bob); and granddaughters Kimberly Mason, Audra Anderson (Kory), Rebecca Mason, Ashley Nolan (Bowie).
In lieu of flowers, the family requests remembrances to the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis, 1 Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616; the Kiwanis Family House, 2875 50th St., Sacramento, CA 95817; or The University Retirement Community Foundation, 1515 Shasta Drive, Davis, CA 95616.
Remembrances can be posted on the online guestbook at http://www.wiscombefuneral.com/
Vern Burton at 85. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, received the 2015 Distinguished Emeritus Award and Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor of entomology, received an Edward A. Dickson Emeritus Professor Award at the chancellor's luncheon on Monday, Feb. 23 in the UC Davis Pavilion.
The two emeriti professors from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology were among those honored at the event. UC Davis Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi, Provost Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter, and emcee Bill Rains, past president of the UC Davis Emeriti Association, praised them for their work.
Thorp was singled out for the distinguished emeritus award for his outstanding scholarly work and service accomplished since his retirement in 1994. "Dr. Robbin Thorp should be the first scientist to be cloned," said emcee Rains, quoting James Cane of the USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit, Utah State University, Logan
Thorp, who joined the UC Davis entomology faculty in 1964 and achieved emeritus status in 1994, is a state, national and global authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, contribution of native bees to crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.
Since his retirement, he has compiled an exemplary record for his research, teaching, publications, presentations, and advisement services, sharing his expertise with local, statewide, national and international audiences. In his retirement, he has published 68 papers and is the first author on 15 publications. He received several prestigious awards: the 2013 outstanding team award, with several colleagues, from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America, and the 2010-2011 Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship, UC Davis. Thorp is the North American regional co-chair for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bumblebee Specialist group. He is a member of 10 professional societies, including the International Society of Hymenopterists.
A fellow of the California Academy of Sciences since 1986 and a world authority on bumble bees and other native bees, Thorp keynoted the Smithsonian Institution's public symposium on “The Plight of the Bumble Bees” in June of 2009 in Washington D.C., delivering a presentation on “Western Bumble Bees in Peril.” He continues to monitor bumble bee populations in California and Oregon, including Franklin bumble bee (Bombus franklini), which he fears may be extinct. He has sounded the alarm on protecting bumble bees.
Thorp spends much of his time in the Bohart Museum of Entomology, which houses collections critical to his bee identification work. He identifies species and regularly volunteers at the open houses and other event.
Thorp is an integral part of The Bee Course, an annual 10-day workshop sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and held at the Southwestern Field Station near Portal, Ariz. He has taught there since 2002 (the instructors are all volunteers), and even though he is 81 years young, he plans to continue teaching there. (See more on the departmental web page.)
Hugh Dingle. an international authority on animal migration, received a Dickson award to help fund his research on monarch butterflies, “Monarchs in the Pacific: Is Contemporary Evolution Occurring on Isolated Islands?” Monarch butterflies established just 200 years ago in remote Pacific islands are undergoing contemporary evolution through differences in their wing span and other changes, he believes.
Dingle, author of two editions of Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move, said his previous studies reveal that migrant and resident monarchs exhibit different wing shapes. He will be working with community ecologist/associate professor Louie Yang and molecular geneticist/assistant professor Joanna Chiu of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology to examine the ecology and physiology of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in three islands where contemporary evolution might be expected. The islands are Oahu (Hawaii), Guam (Marianas) and Weno (Chuuk or Truk).
“This is the necessary first step in a long-term analysis of the evolutionary ecology and physiology of monarch butterflies on remote Pacific islands,” said Dingle, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Animal Behavior Society.
Dingle said the monarch, widely distributed “for eons” in the New World, is fairly new to the Pacific islands and to Australia. “In addition to North America, the monarch occurs as a resident throughout the Caribbean and Central and northern South America—and probably as a migrant farther south. One of the more intriguing aspects of its distribution is that beginning in the early part of the 19th century, it spread throughout the Pacific all the way to Australia, where there are now well-established."
An analysis of a monarch population in Hawaii shows that resident monarchs have shorter, broader wings than the long-distance migrants. The Hawaii butterfly wings were shorter than the eastern U.S. long-distance migrants, but “not so short-winged as the residents in the Caribbean or Costa Rica, which have been present in those locations for eons, rather than the 200 years for Hawaii.”
“If there are indeed wing shape changes associated with evolution in isolation, are there other changes that may have occurred under selection and local adaptation for residency?” Dingle wonders. “Are there other changes that may have occurred under selection and local adaptation for residency? Examples of such traits might be changes in flight muscle physiology, changes in photoperiodic diapause response, changes in the characteristics of orientation ability and its relation to antennal circadian rhythms, or changes in the reproductive capacity or tactics (re-colonization of ‘empty' habitats is no longer part of the life cycle).
Dingle published the second edition of Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move (Oxford University Press) in November 2014. It is the sequel to the widely acclaimed first edition, published in 1996. National Geographic featured Dingle in its cover story on “Great Migrations” in November 2010. LiveScience interviewed him for its November 2010 piece on “Why Do Animals Migrate?” (See more on the departmental web page.)
Congratulations, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Robbin Thorp, and Dickson Professorship Awardee Hugh Dingle!
(Note: This blog, Bug Squad, focuses on entomology. Other recipients of the Dickson award were Daniel Anderson of the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources; Martha Macri of the Department of Linguistics; and Peter Schiffman, Department of Geology. (See web page.)
Emcee Bill Rains (left) congratulations Robbin Thorp. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
From left are Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter; emcee Bill Rains; Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor; and Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hugh Dingle (standing right) and Daniel Anderson (standing left), two of the Dickson recipients, receive the applause of the crowd. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What does a bee have in common with a bulldog?
If you've ever been to Cornerstone Sonoma on Arnold Drive (Highway 121) in Sonoma, and admired the luxurious gardens and intriguing shops, you know. The bees go head-first in the blossoms and Axel, an English bulldog, goes head-first in a bucket.
Bees and blossoms. Bulldog and bucket. You pick.
Axel, the mascot at one of the shops, Artefact Design and Salvage, likes to play tug-of-war or keep-a-way with a bucket. That's the only thing on his bucket list: the bucket. For the bees, four items are on their bucket list: nectar, pollen, propolis and water.
Cornerstone Sonoma, smack-dab in Wine Country, is not really meant for bees and a bulldog. It's home to more than 20 artistic gardens, the creations of renowned landscape architects and designers. It's also the site of thought-provoking indoor and outdoor art. Visitors frequent the art galleries, wineries and a restaurant.
However, we go for the bees and the blossoms, and then for the bulldog and his bucket.
It's a win-win situation with the bees, but not so with the bulldog. if you think you can beat Axel at his bucket game, no, you can't. He wins; you lose.
A honey bee gathering nectar from a bush germander at CornerStone Sonoma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
There's only one thing on Axel's bucket list: a bucket. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Axel, his tongue out, prepares to grip his bucket. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Is it organic?
And if you're a beekeeper, has a consumer ever asked you if your honey is organic? How do you know?
An inquiring mind--a beekeeper--asked Extension apiculturist (emeritus) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology about organic honey. We thought we'd share his comments.
"The answer to the question about 'organic honey' makes sense only if the inquisitive person knows about the mechanics of producing any 'organic' commodity," said Mussen, who retired last June after 28 years of service but continues to maintain an office.
"There are a set of government definitions that set the requirements for producing many organic products – honey is not one of them. So, we try to play by the rules for organic livestock and organic plant producers. Basically, you have to find a 'certified organic certifier'who will certify your operation, at a cost. You have to develop a 'plan' that explains how and where you are going to keep your bees. Often the certifier wants them to be kept on previously certified organic farms. The likelihood of the bees just sticking around that farm for food and water are practically zero."
So true! Remember that bees forage four to five miles from their colony or within a 50-square mile.
"So, you have to pay attention to the possible locations of 'contaminated' food and water within a 50-square mile area surrounding your apiary," Mussen told the beekeeper. "Things that catch the eye of the certifiers are landfills, golf courses, heavily-trafficked highways, agricultural plantings, etc. where contaminants are likely to be encountered.
"Like milk cows, you are supposed to start, or develop over time, an organic 'herd' of bees. Like dairy cattle, if mastitis or American foulbrood shows up, the infected individuals have to be removed from the herd – not allowed to be killed – and medicated back to health. After a period of time--pretty long--following recovery, the no-longer-sick animals can return.
Mussen points out that "any honey harvested and processed has to be done so in just the right way: no contact with plastics or other synthetics--pretty restrictive on packaging and sealable covers, right?"
Bottom line: "Producing organic honey is nearly impossible around the state (California)," Mussen says.
Now, the truth of the matter, as cited by Mussen:
- Honey is hardly ever contaminated, even in areas of frequent use of possible contaminants. If the contaminants are very toxic, the bees will die when working with the nectar and the honey is never produced.
- Honey is a water-based product, so it does not mix readily with waxes and oils in the hive. Nearly all pesticides are petroleum-based compounds that do not mix well with water or honey at all. So, your honey is not likely to be contaminated no matter where you are. The more secluded your apiaries are from humanity, the better things will be.
Mussen says the United States "produces quite a bit of honey from crops within the center of commercial agriculture and we are not having problems with contaminated honey."
So, whether beekeepers wish to call their honey organic. is up to them. "You would have to become certified, then have occasional visits by your certifier, if you wished to be legal," says Mussen. "It will not change your honey. And, I have never heard of any certifiers testing honey for impurities."
Mussen further points out that the United States does not have a set of standards for organic honey production in as Canada and some European countries do. "We just borrow them from elsewhere!" He recommends this website for more information on organic honey: https://www.organicfacts.net/organic-products/organic-food/organic-honey-standards.html.
Honey bee sipping honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The theme? "Keeping Bees Healthy." An excellent topic.
The symposum is designed for beekeepers of all experience levels, including gardeners, farmers and anyone interested in the world of pollination and bees, said Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, housed in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. (See news article. To register, access this page.)
Keynote speaker is Marla Spivak, Distinguished McKnight Professor, University of Minnesota and a 2010 MacArthur Fellow. Spivak will speak on "Helping Bees Stand on Their Own Six Feet."
Another speaker is Amy Roth, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, Department of Entomology, Iowa State University, Ames. She will be doing double-speaking duty when she makes the 1761-mile trip to UC Davis. Roth will deliver separate talks on honey bees and social wasps. At the May 9th symposium, she'll speak at 11 a.m. on "Combined Effects of Viruses and Nutritional Stress on Honey Bee Health."
A few days later, on Wednesday, May 13, her topic will turn to social paper wasps. She'll present a seminar, hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, on "Molecular Evolution in Insect Societies: Insights from Genomics of Primitively Social Paper Wasps" from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive.
A little more about social wasps...
"The evolution of highly cooperative, eusocial behavior from solitary ancestry represents one of the major transitions in the evolution of life," she says. "Thus, understanding the evolution of insect eusociality can provide important insights into the evolution of complexity. Recently, with the advent of the genomic era, there has been great interest in understanding the molecular underpinnings of social behavior and its evolution. Several hypotheses about how eusociality have been proposed; these ideas can be roughly divided into two camps—one proposes that eusociality involved new (novel, or rapidly evolving) genes, and the other, that old (deeply conserved) genes took on new functions via shifts in gene regulation."
Toth will provide an overview of recent research in her laboratory "aiming to address the genomic basis of social evolution in insects, with a focus on gene expression. Utilizing a comparative approach involving multiple species and lineages of bees and wasps, as well as denovo sequencing of genomes,transcriptomes, andepigenomes, our work aims to trace the types of genomic changes related to the evolutionary transition from solitary toeusocial behavior."
Toth will present results from several lines of research mainly focused on primitively social Polistes paper wasps, that have led to the following insights:
- Relatively minor shifts in gene expression patterns may accompany earlier stages of social evolution
- Convergent evolution of social behavior in different lineages involves similar gene expression patterns in a small set of key pathways,
- Epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation are variable across species and evolutionarily labile.
"Although more data on additional solitary and social species, and on novel genes, are needed, the emerging picture is that earlier transitions from solitary to simple eusociality involved relatively small changes in gene expression and regulation," Toth points out.
All in all, it's going to be a busy week for Amy Toth. Honey bees first, on Saturday, May 9. The vegetarians. Then their cranky cousins, the social wasps, on Wednesday, May 13. The carnivores.
Amy Toth with a Polistes paper wasp.