But they did when UC Davis student Hannah Trumbull, a human development major and political science minor from Albany, Calif., delivered her address at the recent UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences commencement.
What's a nematode, you ask?
Short answer: worms. Longer answer? “Nematodes are an amazing phylum of organisms—they exist in almost every known environment on the plant, and different species eat everything from bacteria and fungi to plant and animal tissue,” says UC Davis nematologist/parasitologist Lauren Camp, received her doctorate from UC Davis last December.
Enter Hannah Trumbull. Last winter she enrolled in a human development course on longevity taught by James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis, and a recipient of national and international teaching recognitions.
What Trumbull had to say about worms, aka flatworms, at her commencement address stirred the crowd.
“Out of all the lessons I learned at Davis, the one I am thinking about today, that I come back to again and again, is that the best I can hope for in my life is to uphold the standard of a healthy flatworm,” Trumbull told her audience.
“I took a human development course on longevity with Professor Carey last winter and one day he lectured about how to characterize nematode health as an example of lifespan measures.”
"Here are the four stages of nematode health, in order from most to least healthy, and I hope you'll see why this struck me as profound.
- A Class A nematode is in constant motion.
- A Class B nematode only moves when prodded.
- A Class C nematode does not move even when prodded.
- A Class D nematode is a dead nematode.
"To reiterate: Constant motion, moving when prodded, not moving when prodded, death. In essence, all possible human responses to life can be boiled down to categorize us as degrees of healthy nematodes.
"Walking out of Haring Hall after Professor Carey's lecture, I stopped and bought a square of baklava from the Afghan Student Association bake sale and got handed about seventeen half-sheet flyers encouraging me to rush a service sorority, come to a disco dance-a-thon, volunteer at a honey bee festival and learn how to make my own shoes. I smiled at the man in all white who preaches on the quad with his dog and the guy who wears a kilt and plays celtic flute music. Young people threw frisbees, climbed trees, and played guitar, and I knew that if I went up to any of them I would be welcome to join in. This university is a massive petri dish with as many opportunities for motion as you have hours in your day. The difference between a Class B and a Class C nematode is whether we choose to respond.
"When a swastika was spray-painted near campus that year, those same community members were at my door with flowers and hugs checking in on me and asking how they could help. When the Davis mosque was attacked in a hate crime this year, I was immediately at their doors with all the support I could give. Communities set us into motion by propelling us outside of our own petri dishes and respond to the ways that other people are prodded. As a textbook Class A nematode once told me: 'the name of the game is do your best every single time and never stop.' The hard part, and the empowering part, is that from here on out the rules of the game are open to interpretation.
"Nematodes do not undergo somatic cell division, so they only ever have 159 cells. In contrast, millions of the cells in your body have divided, died, and been replaced since we entered this room today. How lucky are we to have the chance to recreate ourselves, in these constantly moving bodies? Entering this new stage of our lives, we must be cognizant of the threat of stillness. It is easy to become jaded and apathetic Class C nematodes who do not even move when prodded. Say yes to constant motion, take the hand of the opportunities for creation around you and in your future. College has taught me that hard work pays off, as does intelligence, but most of all it pays off to keep moving. To do your best every time. As we move into the next stage of our lives, I encourage each of you to take what you have learned in the course of your journey, and find how it can motivate necessary motion, widely, constantly and to the best of your ability. Thank you."
At UC Davis, Trumbull served as a board member of Challah for Hunger, program leader at the Multifaith Living Community, program staff at YMCA Youth and Government, and a recreation leader for the City of Davis. She lived at the Turtle House, a cooperative living house where she published magazines of student art and operated a “Taco Trike” that raised money for Planned Parenthood.
Career plans? Trumbull draws inspiration from her mother, a kindergarten teacher, to go into public education policy, and her father, a general contractor and small business owner, "to try to one day build an intentional living community." Next step: working at the Bay Area nonprofit Rising Sun.
Bees are known to prefer yellow and blue flowers, but pink suits them just fine, too.
- Two honey bees nearly collide over a pink zinnia.
- Another honey bee burrows into a pink oxalis.
- A young honey bee takes a liking to a pink begonia. Begonias aren't considered bee friendly flowers, but this bee buzzes to its own tune.
Meanwhile, the Western Apicultural Society (WAS), under the presidency of Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and Nematology, is gearing up for its 40th annual meeting, returning to its roots at UC Davis, and the major concern is bee health.
The conference takes place Sept. 5-8 and you're invited. Registration is now open.
Mussen, who retired as Extension apiculturist in 2014 after a 38-year career, is serving his sixth term as WAS president since 1984.
WAS, which serves the educational needs of beekeepers from 13 states, plus parts of Canada, was founded in 1977-78 for “the benefit and enjoyment of all beekeepers in western North America,” said Mussen, who retired as Extension apiculturist in 2014 after a 38-year career. As emeritus, he continues to maintain an office on the third floor of Briggs Hall, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The organization was the brainchild of apiculture professor Norm Gary (UC Davis faculty, 1962 to 1994), who patterned it after the Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS). Gary participated in the EAS meetings as a graduate student at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., where he received his doctorate in apiculture in 1959.
Now why do we want our bees to "be in the pink?"
"In the pink!" means being in good health.
As noted entomologist May Berenbaum pointed out, it's "a celebration of Earth's 100,000-plus animal species that, by transporting pollen and facilitating flower fertilization, make life possible for two-thirds of the world's flowering plants."
Berenbaum wrote an excellent pollinator piece posted yesterday on the National Academy of Sciences' Facebook page. It bears repeating.
Berenbaum, professor and head of the Department of Entomology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a past president of the Entomological Society of America, related: "Not entirely coincidentally, 2017 is an anniversary for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine—it's the tenth year since the publication of the Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America report, a committee I chaired."
"My association with pollinator issues goes back to 2004, when, as Chair of the Board of Agriculture and Natural Resources, I was an outspoken advocate for a study to determine whether North America's pollinator species were declining, as appeared to be happening elsewhere in the world. The committee released its findings in October 2006, among the most striking of which was a decline in the numbers of commercial honey bees such that, were the trend to continue, the U.S. apiculture industry, on which producers of over 90 crops depend, 'would vanish by 2035.' In a remarkable confluence of events, that same month, the first reports of what was later dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) surfaced; bees literally began vanishing, abandoning depleted, doomed colonies. Concern in the agricultural community and then the general public escalated and has remained high ever since. So, sadly, have losses; although CCD itself has declined, in the past year America lost one-third of its commercial colonies."
"The 2007 report also concluded that, unlike honey bees, population data for thousands of America's native pollinators (including its 4,000 native bee species) were sorely lacking and called for increasing efforts to engage the public in documenting, mitigating, and reversing declines," Berenbaum noted. "Since then, many data gaps have been filled and conservation strategies implemented. In 2014, President Obama prioritized a national strategy to promote pollinator health, including public-private partnerships to restore pollinator habitat."
This year the rusty-patched bumblebee "became the first continental bee to be protected under the Endangered Species Act," Berenbaum wrote.
Let's hope there will be many others.
Background on the rusty-patched bumble bee: Among those credited with sounding the alarm was Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. It was a long, dedicated and challenging effort by many people who care. In 2010 Thorp co-authored a petition sent to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The petition was submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013. In 2015, agency officials agreed to consider it. In 2016, they proposed protection. Then on Jan. 10, 2017, the agency listed the rusty-patched bumble bee as an endangered species.
Other key players in making this all happen included natural history photographer/filmmaker Clay Bolt and his friends at the Day's Edge Productions, which created the award-winning film, A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee with support from the Xerces Society and others. The result: nearly 200,000 persons signed a petition seeking endangered status for the bee.
Thorp, co-author of Bumble Bees of North America, An Identification Guide. continues to sound the alarm on the declining bumble bee population, especially Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini), found only in a five-county area of northern California and southern Oregon.
He's been monitoring the elusive bee since 1998, but sadly, hasn't seen it since Aug. 9, 2006 when he spotted it in a meadow near Mt. Ashland. (See Bug Squad)
Thorp helped place Franklin's bumble bee on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). "Bombus franklini occurs only in the USA," IUCN relates. "It is found only from southern Oregon to northern California between the Coast and Sierra-Cascade Ranges, in Douglas, Jackson and Josephine and Siskiyou and Trinity counties in Oregon and California, respectively. This area is around 190 miles in the north-south direction (40º58' to 43º30'N latitude) and 70 miles from east to west (122º to 124ºW longitude)."
Franklin's bumble bee is named in 1921 for Henry J. Franklin, who monographed the bumble bees of North and South America in 1912-13. During its flight season, from mid-May through September, Franklin's bumble bee frequents California poppies, lupines, vetch, wild roses, blackberries, clover, sweet pea, horsemint and mountain penny royal. It collects pollen primarily from lupines and poppies, and gathers nectar mainly from mints.
As the end of the 10th annual National Pollination Week nears, there is so much more to be done to understand, protect and celebrate our pollinators to ensure that they don't "end."
As May Berenbaum said: "A week hardly seems long enough for the celebration!"/span>
“I'd love to attract honey bees, bumble bees and other pollinators, but what can I do?" you ask. "Where do I start?"
So we asked world-class garden designer Kate Frey of Hopland, a two-time gold medal winner at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London, co-founder of the American Garden School, and co-author of The Bee-Friendly Garden (with Professor Gretchen LeBuhn of San Francisco State University) for her advice.
Few people are as passionate about pollinators and pollinator gardens as Kate Frey.
We heard her speak at the Native Bees Workshop last September at the Hopland Research and Extension Center, Mendocino County, and we tagged along on her guided tour of her one-acre spectacular garden at her Hopland home, where she and husband Ben and assorted pets reside. We also heard her speak on "Gardening for Bees, Beauty and Diversity" May 14 at Annie's Annuals and Perennials, Richmond.
Kate is highly sought as a speaker, whether it be at sustainable landscape programs, gardening seminars, or at UC workshops. Among her affiliates: University of California entomologists Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor at UC Davis, and Professor Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley. (Read what Frankie has to say about native bees.)
So, what to do first? Kate offers these tips:
- Create healthy gardens that require no pesticides by using the right plant, right place approach, add quality compost to all plants and irrigate adequately.
- Choose appropriate plants for your water, soils, exposure, climate, and if annuals, season!
- Think in terms of abundance, not minimalism. Plant at least a 3-x-3 foot area of each plant, or repeat the same plant throughout your garden. Each honey bee colony needs an estimated one-acre of flowers to support it.
- Goal: 12 months of bloom. Plants can be annuals, perennials, shrubs or trees.
- Make sure plants do offer floral resources, as many landscape plants don't.
- Have patches or repeated plants of the same flower. Honey bees practice floral constancy.
- Include water for honey bees
- Sunny spaces are the best.
- Provide bee-block nests and mulch-free nest sites for native bees.
All great advice! Indeed, we should think of pollinators as not mere "visitors," but permanent residents. Plant what they like and they will come. To ensure that they will stay stay, leave soil bare for ground-nesting bees, such as bumble bees. And don't forget those bee-block nests, or bee condos, for leafcutter bees and blue orchard bees.
- Asclepias milkweeds, all
- Asters, Aster x frikartii 'Monch' A. ericoides ‘Monte Casino', A. laterifolius Lady in Black'
- Agastache, ‘Black Adder' ‘'Purple Haze' Rosy Giant' ‘Tutti Frutti' and many more
- Arbutus unedo, Strawberry tree
- Arctostaphylos, most Manzanita
- Calamentha nepetoides, Calamentha
- Ceanothus, all California lilac
- Epilobium, California fuchsia. There are many good cultivars
- Eriogonum fasciculatum, California buckwheat
- Gaillardia, Blanket flower
- Helianthus bolanderi, native shrubby sunflower
- Monardella villosa, Coyote mint
- Nepeta faassenii, all nepetas, Catmint
- Origanum, flowering oregano, all. Origanum 'Santa Cruz' and 'Bristol Cross' are good.
"Bee gardens make people happy," Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn write in their book. "Whether you enjoy a brilliant chorus of saturated color, a tranquil sanctuary from the busy world, or a hardworking edible garden, there is a glorious, flower-filled bee garden waiting for you."
Yes, we all need a happy place. And so, too, do the pollinators.
Hey, honey bee, I'll race you to the flowers.
Okay, but you'll lose. I can go faster. Watch me!
The scene: a male bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, and a worker honey bee, Apis mellifera, are buzzing along at breakneck speed toward the lavender in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif.
They nearly collide but Mr. Bumble Bee pauses in mid-air and gives Ms. Honey Bee a free pass---and just in time for National Pollinator Week, when all of our pollinators need free passes! That starts out with two crucial steps: plant bee-friendly flowers and avoid using pesticides. Feed them food, not poison.
The end result here: plenty of nectar for everyone.
Bombus melanopygus, also known as the black-tailed honey bee, is among the bumble bees featured in the book, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University), the award-winning work of Paul H. Williams, Robbin W. Thorp, Leif L. Richardson and Sheila R. Colla.
Thorp, a distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, is also the co-author (along with Gordon Frankie, Rollin Coville, and Barbara Ertter) of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists. They offer great information on bee identification, but also crucial advice on how to attract and retain bees in your garden.
Happy Pollinator Week!/span>