Posts Tagged: UC Davis
In the bug world, we're all grateful for the people who study insects, monitor them, and share information to impart scientific data and help save declining species.
Take butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolution at the University of California, Davis (of Art's Butterfly World).
How he does it, we'll never know, but he has monitored butterflies in the area for more than three decades and knows when a population is declining or increasing.
On a trip to Vacaville on Nov. 12, Shapiro discovered six gulf fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) in gardens on Buck Avenue, and one at the base of Gates Canyon (that's only the second he's seen; the first he saw in May of 1984).
That's great news!
"I suspect the colony has expanded into the upscale hillside neighborhood off Foothill but had no time to go looking," Shapiro commented.
Meanwhile, he says, there are fewer gulf frits in Sacramento this year than in the last two years.
The gulf frit is one of the showiest butterflies in California. The bright orange-red butterfly, with a wingspan that can reach four inches, was first recorded in the Bay Area before 1908. Shapiro says it became established there only in the 1950s.
The last time we saw gulf frits in Vacaville was a couple of months ago, on Sept. 14. They were all over a passionflower vine (Passiflora)--the adults, the pupae, the larvae and the eggs--in a Buck Avenue garden. Later we saw several nectaring lantana.
Now they appear to be expanding their territory in Vacaville.
We all ought to be attracting them! The larval hosts include passionflower vines, such as the maypop (Passiflora incarnata), blue passionflower (P. caerulea), and corky-stemmed passionflower (P. suberosa). As an adult, the gulf frit nectars on such plants as lantana (Lantana camara), tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis), pentas (Pentas lanceolata), drummond phlox (Phlox drummondi) and something called "tread softly" (Cnidosculous stimulosus).
Gulf fritillary nectaring a passionflower vine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Mating gulf frits. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf frit caterpillar munching on passionflower leaves. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Until recently, praying mantids were thought to be deaf. We now know that 65 percent of all mantid species can hear. Where do the tympanal organs occur in mantid species?
The answer: The two tympanal membranes face one another inside a narrow groove between the metathoracic legs (hind legs).
That was just one of the questions asked at the 2011 Linnaean Games, a traditional part of the annual meetings of the Entomological Society of America (ESA). It's a spirited college-bowl type of game in which students respond by ringing a bell and shouting out the answers. The winning team receives a huge trophy--and bragging rights.
The UC Davis Linnaean Team, fresh from winning the ESA Pacific Branch championship, journeyed to Reno to compete in this year's Games. Like the other branch winners, UC Davis was there not just to compete, but to have fun and enjoy the camaraderie.
Fun, they did. For the occasion, emcee Tom Turpin, professor of entomology at Purdue, wore his trademark butterfly bow tie. His sharp eyes quickly noticed the bright red bow tie of UC Davis graduate student Matan Shelomi.
So Turpin leaves the podium and walks over to Shelomi to congratulate him on his fashionable choice of ties. The audience erupts into applause.
Then, let the Games begin! When it was all over, the University of Nebraska took home the trophy.
In the championship game, pitting Nebraska against North Carolina State, it was touch-and-go for awhile until Nebraska pulled solidly ahead.
Think you can answer some of the questions? Give them a try. (Answers below)
1.If you donate blood, you are asked about your exposure to babesiosis. What is the common name of the arthropod group that is the main vector of this disease?
2. What is the term for the separation of the cuticle from the epidermis during molting?
3. What does acuminate mean?
4. What is the common and scientific name of the beetle described by LeConte that is a significant pest of corn and was introduced into Europe in the 1990s. The larvae feed on corn roots.
5. What is the meaning of rugose?
6. Most ants use chemical trailing to navigate to and from the nest. However, as a result of high winds and blowing sand, ants that inhabit dessert environments use a different mechanism. How do desert ants find their way?
7. What is the name of insecticidal extract derived from dried chrysanthemum flowers and what chemical is typically added as a synergist to help the performance of this material?
3. Tapering to a long point.
4. Western Corn Rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera)
6. They have the ability to count steps. A recent study experimentally altered the length of ant legs after their search for food. They found that ants with longer legs overshot the nest while ants with their legs shortened didn’t go all the way back to the nest. They then placed all the ants in the nest, and the next day all ants went out in search of food and came exactly back to the nest, showing that desert ants have some kind of pedometer. Source: http://www.entsoc.org/buzz/ants-count
7. Pyrethrum – Piperonyl butoxide.
UC Davis team of Matan Shelomi, Mohammad-Amir Aghaee, Meredith Cenzer and Andrew Merwin competed in the semi-finals. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Tim Husen, Wayne Ohnesorg, Ken Miwa, and Jess Jurzenski of the University of Nebraska pondering a question. They went on to win the championship. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Collembola! Watch the springtails spring!
Over the last several days, Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of Caifornia, Davis, has patrolled a UC Davis sidewalk checking out a huge volume of springtails.
"Literally millions of little buff-colored springtails," he related Monday, "have been swarming for the past three days on the sidewalk and adjacent strip under the oak trees on the east side of Howard Way, about halfway between the parking garage and Russell Boulevard, mostly around 7 to 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. I've never seen such numbers, except for the snow springtails in winter in upstate New York."
I trekked over to Howard Way at 7 a.m. today and it took awhile to find these little buff-colored organisms. That's because they're oh, so tiny! They're less than six millimeters long--that's 0.24 inches in length. And they move fast.
Obviously, Art Shapiro has the eyes of an eagle. I don't.
Springtails (order Collembola) are those primitive, wingless six-legged critters you find in soil, leaf litter, decaying wood and other damp places. Basically, they're known for working the soil. However, some springtails, such as Sminthurus viridis, are agricultural crop pests.
Why are they called springtails? Retired UC Berkeley entomologist Jerry Powell writes in California Insects (a University of California Press book co-authored by entomologist Charles Hogue): "Most springtails are readily recognizable by a forked, tail-like appendage (furcula) which arises toward the rear of the abdomen and which the insect snaps against the substratum, springing itself into the air."
California has about 130 species that spring themselves into the air.
Frankly, it's a wonder anyone can see them, springing or not springing.
A springtail (look to the right of "of") next to a penny. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The springtail is less than 6 millimeters long. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Site of the springtail sightings on Howard Way, looking toward Russell Boulevard on UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Scientists based at the University of California, San Francisco, have discovered four new honey bee viruses.
Their research, published today in the international Public Library of Science (PLoS) journal, documents what they found in a 10-month study of healthy, commerically managed honey bee colonies.
One virus, the newly named Lake Sinai virus strain 2 (LSV2), predominated. “In fact, we found more than 1 billion LSV2 viral genomes (an approximation of actual viruses) per honey bee in some of the colonies,” said insect virus researcher Michelle Flenniken, a postdoctoral fellow in the Raul Andino lab at UC San Francisco and the Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellow in Honey Bee Biology at UC Davis.
The virus strain is one of two Lake Sinai strains found among the 431 samples the scientists collected. Both replicate in honey bees, Flenniken said.
Flenniken is part of a seven-member team from the Raul Andino and Joseph DeRisi labs at UC San Francisco that today published “Temporal Analysis of the Honey Bee Microbiome Reveals Four Novel Viruses and Seasonal Prevalence of Known Viruses, Nosema, and Crithidia" in PLOS.
The research, Flenniken said, provides “a baseline for future epidemiological studies aimed at understanding current and emerging threats to honey bees and determining the causes of the declining bee population."
That it does.
"Michelle Flenniken is particularly adroit at explaining these findings and techniques to academic audiences and the general public," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty. Mussen was not involved with the research.
Knowing that numerous viruses, microbes and mites threaten honey bee colony health, the researchers set out to answer the question: “What is normal microbial flora (virus, bacteria, fungi) associated with honey bee colonies over the course of a year?”
They used cutting-edge technology to document the seasonal incidence and abundance of previously characterized viruses. Their broad-scale analysis incorporated a suite of molecular tools: custom microarray, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), quantitative PCR (qPCR) and deep sequencing. Their work enabled rapid detection of the presence—or absence—of all previously identified honey bee pathogens and facilitated the detection of the four novel pathogens.
The research was primarily funded by Project Apis m., (PAm), a Chico-based non-profit organization established in 2006 by beekeepers and orchardists to fund honey bee research on managed colonies. PAm, headed by executive director Christi Heintz, brings together representatives of the American Honey Producers Association, the American Beekeeping Federation, the National Honey Board, California State Beekeepers Association, and California almond farmers.
Honey bee nectaring on lavender. A UCSF team just discovered four new honey bee viruses. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Insect virus researcher Michelle Flenniken, the Haagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis, explains a bee colony. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Emcee Tom Turpin of Purdue University stood at the podium and acknowledged he might mispronounce an entomology student's name. "If it sounds anything like your name and I’m looking at you, that’s you."
So began the Linnaean Games, a college-bowl type competition that's as lively as it is entertaining and educational.
And it's all about insects, entomologists and entomological facts.
The Linnaean Games, held at the annual Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting, is an event that pits student-teams against one another until a winner is declared. The 2010 event, hosted in San Diego, ended with Ohio State University winning the championship.
Students buzz in with the answers to questions such as:
What’s the loudest insect in the world? What is the egg case of a cockroach called? Kissing bugs, in the family Reduviidae, are vectors of what disease? About how long have insects been on earth? Give three official common names for Helicoverpa zea.
Ohio State defeated UC Davis, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Georgia and finally, in the championship game, toppled the University of Nebraska.
But first, the Ohio team of Joshua Bryant, Glene Mynhardt, Kaitlin Uppstrom and Nicola Gallagher had to get by the UC Davis team of Meredith Cenzer, Matan Shelomi, Andrew Merwin, and Ralph Washington.
As the crowd cheered them on, the two teams tied the score several times. Finally, with the score knotted at 90-90, Ohio correctly answered the final question to advance to the next round.
Tom Turpin of Purdue emceed the program while a trio of judges--J. E. McPherson of Southern Illinois University, Carol Annelli of Washington State University and Susan Weller of the University of Minnesota--scored the answers.
Each ESA branch sponsors a Linnaean Games competition and sends up to two teams to the nationals.
Pacific Branch sent UC Davis and Washington State University.
Southeastern Branch: University of Georgia and University of Florida
Eastern Branch: Pennsylvania State University (University of Maryland also won at the branch level but did not participate in the nationals)
North Central Branch: Ohio State University and the University of Nebraska
Southwestern Branch: New Mexico State and Texas A&M
Answers to the above questions (see sixth paragraph):
What’s the loudest insect in the world?
African cicada (Brevisana brevis); it has been measured at 106 decibels, (equivalent to a gas mower at 3 feet away).
What is the egg case of a cockroach called?
Kissing bugs, in the family Reduviidae, are vectors of what disease? Answer:
About how long have insects been on earth?
Some 400-380 million years ago.
Give three official common names for Helicoverpa zea?
Corn earworm, tomato fruitworm, and cotton bollworm
Other questions and answers included:
Which sexes of cicadas have tymbals and which have tympana?
Males have both. Females have only tympana.
What term is used to describe the antennae found on male mosquitoes? Answer:
Crickets are well-known music makers. What are the names of the two specialized structures that allow them to make that wonderful noise and where specifically on the body are they located?
File and scraper, located on the forewings.
At what American school was the first entomology class taught and who was the teacher?
Harvard (1805-1822) W.D. Peck.
In the Amazon rain forest, what are the common names of two groups of insects that make up about 1/3 of the biomass of all animals in the habitat?
Ants and termites.
Problems with honey bee hives in what state led to the recognition of colony collapse disorder?
Name two orders of insects that are entirely predatory.
Odonata and Mantodea
The monarch is actually the second-most popular state insect. What insect is the most frequently adopted state insect?
Robert Frost wrote a poem that begins with the lines: “An ant on a table cloth ran into a dormant moth of many times his size.” As you might guess the poem is about ants. What is the title of the poem?
UC Davis Team