Posts Tagged: Steve Heydon
If you see a patch of California native wildflowers known as "Tidy Tips," look closely.
The yellow daisylike flower with white petals (Layia platyglossa) may yield a surprise visitor.
You may see an assassin.
An assassin bug.
A member of the family Reduviidae, this is a long-legged, beady-eyed beneficial insect that stalks its prey and snatches it with its forelegs, somewhat like a praying mantis. It conquers its victim with a squirt of deadly venom from its beak (the collective term for its piercing, sucking mouthparts).
Once it has immobilized its prey, the assassin sucks the bodily contents, like a milkshake slurped through a straw.
The assassin bug, true to its name, ambushes, attacks and captures other insects, such as aphids, flies, crickets, mosquitoes, beetles, caterpillars and "sometimes a hapless bee," said Bohart senior museum scientist Steve Heydon.One thing about the Zelus assassin bug--it does not fly very fast. In fact, it totally ignored the camera poked close to its protruding eyes.
The camera neither looked like or acted like a predator or prey.
Patch of Tidy Tips
Sip of Nectar
Ladybugs are easy to "spot."
As soon as the weather warms and those dratted plant-sucking aphids emerge, here come the polka-dotted ladybugs. The prey and the predator. The pest and the beneficial insect. The bad and the good.
Actually, many folks have already reported ladybug sightings. Facebook friends are photographing them and posting macro images. Ray Lopez of El Rancho Nursery in Vacaville said he's seen scores of them this season. The building that houses Fox 40 in Sacramento is resplendent with them.
In fact, tomorrow morning (Wednesday, Feb. 24) senior museum scientist Steve Heydon of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, will be interviewed by Fox 40 on that very subject: ladybugs! Look for a 7:20 a.m. live interview.
An article in today's Science Daily calls aphids "the mosquitoes" of the plant world. That's because they depend on the "blood" of plants to survive.
David Stern, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University, is quoted as saying "Look at this little insect, sitting on a plant and sucking plant juices. You don't realize that it is involved in a historic battle with plants for access to its life blood. All its genes have evolved to allow it to exploit its feeding relationship."
The article, about how an aphid's genome reflects its reproductive, symbiotic lifestyle, points out that an aphid can reproduce both sexually and asexually."
That's certainly a key factor in the aphids' evolutionary success.
All the more for the hungry ladybugs.
So, whether you call them "ladybugs" or "lady beetles" or by their family (beetle) name, Coccinellidae, they're found worldwide, with more than 5000 described species.
And they're coming to a garden near you...
Two newly moulted insects in the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, look just like leaves.
But these “leaves” are made for walking.
These are camouflaged insects (Phyllium giganteum), commonly known as "walking leaves." They're green, wide, and flat.
“They’re hard to detect among the leaves,” said senior museum scientist Steve Heydon. “It’s surprising how long it takes visitors to find them.”
The insects, natives of Malaysia, dine on bramble, oak, eucalyptus, raspberry, rose, and red/yellow salmon berry.
They mimic leaves in the wind by swaying as they walk, Heydon said. Females can reach a length of 5 inches.
“We got them as nymphs,” Heydon said. “They grow very slowly, probably the slowest of all the insects we’ve ever had at the museum. It took nine months for them to moult and become adults, and they each did it within a day of each other.”
The insects, splotched with red, look like green autumn leaves turning color. “With insect camouflage, there’s never a perfect leaf,” Heydon said. “You see simulated damage.”
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis entomology professor, said she’s always craved walking leaves for the museum. “They are so incredibly bizarre-looking,” she said. “It’s amazing how this insect develops new skin when its abdomen is as flat as paper.”
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, founded in 1946 by the late Richard M. Bohart, former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is dedicated to teaching, research and service. The insect museum houses more than seven million specimens, the seventh largest insect collection in North America.
The museum also includes live insects such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, and black widow spiders.
But for now, the walking leaves are the big attraction.
At the Bohart, you can actually "turn over a new leaf"--and it will be an insect.
Vacaville resident James Moehrke was out geocaching last weekend in the Vaca Valley Parkway-East Monte Vista Avenue area of the city when he spotted some red-shouldered black bugs.
"There were many clusters, probably thousands of individuals, in the trees and a few on the ground," he recalled. Some were on deciduous trees and others on evergreen trees.
What were they?
At first glance, they looked like boxelder bugs.
We asked Steve Heydon, senior museum scientist at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, to identify them.
"Soapberry bug or Jadera haematoloma," Heydon said.
They're a close relative of the boxelder bugs.
The soapberry bug is also known as "the red-shouldered bug" or the "golden raintree bug." It's mostly black except for the red eyes and red shoulders. The nympths are primarily red.
They're seed predators and often found on lychee, longan, maples and soapberry trees.
Biologist Scott Carroll, affiliated with the Sharon Lawler lab at the UC Davis Department of Entomology, researches the insects. He lectured on soapberry bugs at the 2007 meeting of the Entomological Society of America, describing them as "excellent organisms for studying responses to global change, evolution in action, ecological speciation, development and behavior."
Some of the fastest rates of evolution recorded are from this group as they have evolved new races on introduced host plants, Carroll told ESA.
The soapberry bugs fascinated Moehrke and his fellow geocaching players. He took time out to photograph them.
And yes, he found the treasure, the cache.
Along with lots of red-shouldered black bugs.
It’s official. University of California, Davis scientists who manage campus biological collections have just received a five-year, $4 million grant to research the biodiversity of fungi, bacteria, plants, insects and vertebrates on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, a southeast Asian island threatened by the loss of biodiversity in its tropical forests.
The International Cooperative Biodiversity Group Program is funding the grant. This is a multi-agency program led by the National Institutes of Health with contributions from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation.
Principal investigator Daniel Potter, a plant systematist at the Agricultural Experiment Station and director of the UC Davis Herbarium, said “the alarming rate at which biodiversity is being lost in many tropical regions has resulted in an urgent need for such efforts.”
The grant, “Biodiversity Surveys in
The international team involved in the grant includes UC Davis, UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley and three
Biodiversity refers to all living things in a region and to their interactions of with each other and their surroundings.
The results are expected to aid human health, energy needs, and biodiversity conservation.
The project is sorely needed, said entomologist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and chair of the Department of Entomology. “For biologists,
The Bohart houses some seven million specimens from throughout the world and is the seventh largest insect museum in
Potter described it as an extraordinary opportunity. "When the call for the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group grant proposals came out in the fall of 2007, several of us involved in management of the biological collections here at UC Davis thought this could be an extraordinary opportunity to initiate a project that would include study of organisms in the multiple taxonomic groups (fungi, bacteria, plants, insects, vertebrates) covered by our collections and to engage in international collaborative research with implications for human health, energy needs, and biodiversity conservation.”
Potter said that two other key participants in the project are his former student, Jeanine Pfeiffer, research director for social sciences at the Earthwatch Institute, and Elizabeth Widjaja, research botanist at Herbarium Bogoriense,
“Thanks to the excellent hard work of many colleagues at UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, and three Indonesian institutions, and with the wonderful guidance and assistance of the outstanding Interdisciplinary Research Support group in the Office of Research here at UC Davis, we were able to put together a strong proposal for an ambitious and exciting project," Potter said.
UC Davis is the lead institution from the
The project is organized into six associate programs: macro-organism surveys, led by Widjaja, microbial surveys, led by discovery of energy solutions, led by discovery of human health solutions, led by Len Bjeldanes, professor of toxicology, UC Berkeley; conservation research and vertebrate surveys, led by and conservation partnerships, training and ethics, led by Pfeiffer.
“We will also be forming partnerships with private companies aimed at the commercial development of natural products for pharmaceuticals and energy production,” Potter said. They have also lined up collaborators from several other leading research institutions, including the
Potter said the results of the project will make significant contributions to a broad range of issues, including
- knowledge of the patterns of biodiversity in southeast Asia
- identification and isolation of natural products with potential therapeutic value to treat globally important diseases and to address human energy neeeds
- knowledge of the patterns of biodiversity in southeast Asia
- identification and isolation of natural products with potential therapeutic value to treat globally important diseases and to address human energy needs
- development of effective biodiversity conservation strategies and proactive outreach and education programs to promote those strategies
- establishment of models for effective and equitable internatinal collaborative partnerships and ethical and sustainable international sharing of biogenetic resources
the Preclinical Development Group at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and
Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology
Part of the Indonesian team
Butterflies from southeast Asia