I'm just a little ol' honey bee foraging on lavender.
I left my warm colony in Vacaville, Calif. to see if there's any nectar out there. My sisters are hungry. I'm not sure if we have enough honey to tide us over until spring.
Look, here's some late-blooming lavender amid all those frost-bitten blossoms. Mine! All mine! I don't have to share. No other pollinators around. No predators around like praying mantids and spiders, either. Just me. All mine. I'll take my time.
I'm just a little ol' honey bee foraging on lavender. You can take my photo if you like. Or several.
Just don't take my nectar. My sisters are hungry.
He not only did--they were the larvae of the common buckeye, Junonia coenia--but this was exciting news--a first-of-its-kind discovery that led to a piece published today (Dec. 13) in the News of the Lepitopterists' Society.
The discovery: The plant is a larval host of the butterfly.
This is the first known case of buckeye larvae feeding on Russelia equisetiformis, an ornamental shrub with red tubular flowers that's widely favored by gardeners and pollinators, including hummingbirds.
The news article, authored by Shapiro and de Grassi, is titled "Buckeye, Junonia coenia, Uses the Garden Ornamental Russellia equisetiforis (Plantaginacease) ("Firecracker Plant") as a Larval Host in California."
As Shapiro explained: The buckeye "oviposits and feeds on a variety of plants that produce iridoid glycosides. The pattern of usage suggests that iridoids are necessary stimulants to oviposition and larval feeding but can be overriden by the presence of other chemicals that act as deterrents. It should not be surprising to find these butterflies using novel hosts that produce iridoids."
Russelia equisetiformis produces a variety of iridoid glycosides, Shapiro says, but up until July 10, there were no previous records of the buckeye feeding on the plant. The colorful plant, native to Mexico and Guatemala, is especially popular in California and the southwestern United States. It is also known by such common names as "fountain bush" and "fountain plant" for its long arching branches. It can reach a height of 4 to 5 feet.
On his Art's Butterfly World website, Shapiro points out that the "buckeye breeds on plants containing bitter iridoid glycosides, including plantains (Plantago, especially P. lanceolata), various Scrophulariaceae (especially Fluellin, Kickxia), and Lippia (Lippia or Phyla nodiflora). The spiny, black-and-white caterpillar has a bright orange head. Its behavior suggests its diet makes it virtually immune to vertebrate predation, but the pupa and adult are quite edible."
Back in 2010, Shapiro and K. Biggs discovered another larval host of the buckeye--an emergent aquatic plant, Hippuris vulgaris, also known as mare's tail or common mare's tail.
As for Russelia equisetiformis, it draws its genus name from Scottish naturalist Alexander Russell (1715-1768). The species name refers to its resemblance to horsetail rushes (the Latin term equisetiformis means "like Equisteum.")
De Grassi, an alumna of UC Davis (bachelor's degree in agricultural science and management, and master's in animal science), said she purchased the plant at a UC Davis Arborteum plant sale when she was transforming her backyard to a "Life without Lawn" project. She was seeking attractive, low-water, long-blooming pollinator plants.
One was a firecracker plant. And along came the buckeyes!
Katie Hetrick, director of Marketing and Communications for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, wrote about the larval host discovery on the Arboretum website: "It goes to show you that observant home gardeners are important citizen scientists – you never know what discoveries are waiting to present themselves. Now there's yet another reason to love the firecracker plant; not only is it a low-water, long-blooming plant that hummingbirds love, it also appears to be larval host plant for buckeye butterflies!"
As for de Grassi, she continued to see the buckeye caterpillars on her firecracker plant through Aug. 26. And, later, after hearing of her find, Shapiro discovered a female buckeye laying eggs on a firecracker plant by the Sciences Lab Building on the UC Davis campus.
In the piece in News of the Lepitopterists Society, Shapiro wrote that the Russelia equisetiformis "is occasionally cited in horticultural sources as vulnerable to damage by unidentified caterpillars."
Unidentified caterpillars? Mystery solved?
Here's how to join the ranks of California's estimated 11,000 backyard and small-scale beekeepers. Or, if you're already a beekeeper, here's how to improve your knowledge and skills.
Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the University of California, Davis, and her lab have announced a series of short courses for the 2018--and folks can register now and/or purchase gift certificates. (Gift certificates are especially favored during the holiday season.)
All courses will take place at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis campus, beginning Saturday, March 24, with the last one ending June 16.
The schedule and capsule information:
- Planning Ahead for Your First Hives: Saturday, March 24
- Working Your Colonies: Sunday, March 25
- Queen-Rearing Techniques Short Course: Saturday and Sunday, April 21-22 course; Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29 course
- Bee-Breeding Basics: Saturday, June 9
- Varroa Management Strategies: Saturday, June 16
Planning Ahead for Your First Hives: The short course will include lectures and hands-on exercises. This course is perfect for those who have little or no beekeeping experience and would like to obtain more knowledge and practical skills to move on to the next step of owning and caring for their own honey bee colonies.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the March 24 class
Working Your Colonies: Get up close and personal with bees. This course is for novice beekeepers who already have a colony and/or have taken the previous course, and want to develop their beekeeping skills further. Instructors will discuss products of the hive, present a lecture on inspecting your colony, and solve problems with your colony. The afternoon will be spent entirely in the apiary with hands-on activities and demonstrations.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the March 25 class
Queen-Rearing Techniques Short Course: This two-day course will include lectures, hands-on exercises and lots of group discussions. This course is perfect for those who have some beekeeping experience and would like to move on to the next step of rearing their own queens or maybe even trying their luck at bee breeding.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the April 21-22 course
Click here to register for the April 28-April 29 course
Bee-Breeding Basics: This course is an excellent complement to the Queen Rearing Techniques Short Course. During this one-day course, the instructors will talk about the intricacies of honey bee genetics along with honey bee races and breeder lines. An in-depth discussion of various breeding schemes will take place.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the June 9 class
Varroa Management Strategies: Current beekeeping challenges call for all beekeepers to have a solid understanding of varroa mite biology and management approaches. The instructors will dive deeper into understanding varroa biology and will devote a majority of the time to discussing pros and cons of various means to monitor, mitigate, and manage this crucial honey bee pest.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the June 16 class
The Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is located at 1 Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. It is named for former UC Davis professor Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr., the father of honey bee genetics./span>
Congratulations to the California Master Beekeeper Program, the newly announced recipient of a $199,949 grant from the UC Agricultural and Natural Resources through its 2017 Competitive Grants Program.
California Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, based at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is the principal investigator of the grant, titled "The California Master Beekeeper Program: Development of a Continuous Train-the-Trainer Education Effort for California Beekeepers."
The California Master Beekeeping Program uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping.
"Honey bees are arguably the most important managed pollinator and are used as the primary pollinator for over 30 crops in California many of which are considered specialty crops such as almonds," wrote Niño in her successful grant application. "Therefore, the food security of our state and our nation depends largely on robust and healthy honey bee populations. However, in recent years, U.S. beekeepers have been reporting annual colony losses of up to 45 percent. These losses are attributed to many pathogens and pests associated with bees, as well as pesticide exposure and lack of access to plentiful and diverse forage."
"Colony losses have also prompted those who have never kept bees before to try their hand at beekeeping in an effort to help honey bee conservation," Niño pointed out. "Currently, in California there are an estimated 11,000 backyard and small-scale beekeepers, with many of them belonging to one of 35 beekeeper associations within the state. While these associations often serve as hubs of information transfer, the information provided is not always accurate or supported by research findings. Considering the importance of California to the US agriculture and the fact that almost 80 percent of the U.S. colonies start their pollination and honey production routes in almonds, it is clear that there is an urgent need to develop a comprehensive, science-based, and state-wide apiculture curriculum."
Niño noted that "Development of these educational opportunities will help minimize potentially disastrous consequences, such as increased pest and pathogen transfer or spread of Africanized bees which are considered a public-health risk, due to lack of understanding of proper honey bee husbandry. To fulfill this need we established the first-ever California Master Beekeeper Program which provides California-centric, contemporary, research-based training in apiculture."
In 2016, 56 participants successfully passed the Apprentice Level exams and "there are already 46 registrants for the 2017 Apprentice class with anticipated full roster of 75 participants," Niño wrote. The funding will enable the program to expand to the intermediate and advanced levels of the curriculum; create partnerships with advisers in UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) offices throughout the state (UC Davis currently has collaborators in Fresno and San Diego); begin creating comprehensive web-based resources such as a library of on-line materials including an on-line classroom; and support the expansion of the program's educational apiary.
Currently, the program is overseen by an advisory committee consisting of UCCE specialists and advisers, Department of Entomology and Nematology research staff, the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center staff at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, California beekeepers, and other apiculture specialists.
This program will establish UCCE and the Department of Entomology and Nematology (chaired by Professor Steve Nadler) in partnership with the Honey and Pollination Center (directed by Amina Harris) as a center of excellence in apiculture.
That's wonderful news!
"Most importantly," as Niño wrote, "members of the program will serve as knowledgeable ambassadors that will disseminate science-based information about the importance of honey bees, preserving bee health and responsible beekeeping."
Organizers of the Consilience of Art and Science Show, a biannual display sponsored by the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program and the Pence Art Gallery, Davis, are reminding everyone that if you fuse art with science, remember this deadline: Dec. 15.
They're looking for drawings, paintings, watercolors, photographs, sculptures, textiles, video, and mixed media.
Entomologist-artist Diane Ullman, UC Davis professor of entomology and co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, says artists selected will show their work in the Pence Gallery from Jan. 26-March 2. The goals of the exhibition are three-fold: to show creative work that explores the intersection between art and science; to foster communication between the arts and sciences, and to spark new ways of viewing the world and ourselves, according to Ullman and Pence Gallery director Natalie Nelson.
The organizers encourage "creative work that transcends pure scientific illustration to explore the conceptional realm where art and science both reside." All artists and scientists, regardless of residence, can exhibit up to three works. This refers to original 2D and 3D work in any medium, related to the intersection between art and science. It encompasses photography, drawing, textiles, painting, sculpture, video and mixed media. Dimension restriction is at the discretion of the jurors.
Artists will upload their submissions online at http://www.pencegallery.org. A vital part of the submission is the artist's statement--not to exceed 100 words--which should clearly explain how the work relates to the art/science connection. The statement may be displayed with the accepted work. Work must be available for the entire run of the exhibit.
To enter, access http://www.pencegallery.org and click on "Call to Artists" to apply directly to the site. Entry fees are $35 and $40, respectively, for Pence and non-Pence members. Fees will be used for expenses and awards related to the exhibition. No hand-delivered art work will be accepted. Accepted work may be hand-delivered or shipped and insured by the artist to the Pence Gallery, 212 D St., Davis, CA 95616.
Jurors are Jiayi Young, a UC Davis assistant professor of design, and Helen Donis-Keller, Ph.D., the Michael E. Moody Professor of Biology and Art at Olin College of Engineering, Needham, Mass. The Consilience exhibit will be displayed in the Pence's Main Gallery's glass tower lit space, measuring 1000 square feet with 12-foot ceilings.
The Pence, established in 1975, is a non-profit art gallery. Its mission is to educate and inspire the community by exhibiting high caliber art by local and regional artists, according to director Natalie Nelson.
Dec. 15: Entry deadline online by 5 p.m.
Dec. 28: Notification via email
Jan. 19-20: Drop off between 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., or deadline for shipping arrival
Jan. 26-March 2: Exhibit dates
Feb. 9: Reception from 6 to 9 p.m.,with awards ceremony at 8
March 3-4: Pick up work, 12 to 4:30 p.m.
Sales are encouraged. The Pence Gallery will retain a 50 percent commission on work displayed at the exhibit. For more information on the exhibit, contact Nelson at (530)-758-3370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.