That was the most commonly asked question at the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) booth during the California Agriculture Day on Wednesday, March 22 on the west lawn of the State Capitol.
The annual event, heralding the first day of spring and showcasing the state's many crops and commodities, also offers an opportunity "for farmers and ranchers to show their appreciation by bringing together state legislators, government leaders and the public for agricultural education," a spokesperson said. This year's theme: "Food for Life."
Despite the light rain, several thousand crowded through the gates to visit the 52 booths, see 4-H and FFA animals, and to sample everything from tri-tip sandwiches from the Buckhorn Restaurant to strawberries from the California Strawberry Commission to milk from the Dairy Council of California to honey from the CSBA. Scores of other activities abounded.
The CSBA crew handed out some 2500 honey bee sticks-- long straws filled with honey--to two groups of people: legislators and staff from 10:30 to 11:30, and the public from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
A message affixed to each honey stick emphasized the importance of honey bees.
Honey bees, the five-bullet message related:
- Are the backbone of U.S. agriculture
- Pollinate 1/3 of the human diet
- Pollinate 120 various U.S. crops worth over $15 billion
- Pollinate California's $5.3 billion almond productions
- Produced over $200 million in U.S. honey and beeswax
The bees arrived, too. Providing the two bee observation hives: Bernardo Niño, who serves as the program manager of the California Master Beekeepers' Program, based at UC Davis, and Bill Cervenka, a longtime CSBA member. To visitor queries, they pointed out the whereabouts of the queen bee in the Laidlaw hive with: “Look for the pink one!” referring to the queen bee marked with a pink dot.
And just how are the bees doing?
"It's a challenge," Niño said, detailing some of the issues, from parasites, pesticides and pests to diseases and malnutrition. The "bee educators" also referred to the 44 percent loss: a national survey showed that beekeepers across the United States lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2015 to April 2016. "Rates of both winter loss and summer loss—and consequently, total annual losses—worsened compared with last year," according to Bee Informed. This marks the second consecutive survey year that summer loss rates rivaled winter loss rates. (See survey.)
CSBA, a non-profit organization serving California's beekeeping industry--primarily commercial beekeepers and queen breeders--actively supports bee research efforts; works with government officials to protect and promote the interest of the beekeeping industry; and educates the public about the beneficial aspects of honey bees. Officials say that the group supports research beneficial to beekeeping practices, provides a forum for the cooperation among beekeepers, and supports the economic viability of the beekeeping industry. Membership also includes a subscription to "The California Bee Times" and automatic membership in the $10,000 Bee Theft Rewards Program.
The E. L. Niño lab, directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, supports California beekeepers through research, extension, and outreach. Their website lists current beekeeping courses which began March 11 and continue through June 11. They also maintain the E. L. Niño Lab Facebook site.
The ecologist, an associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, has been named the faculty recipient of the 2017 Eleanor and Harry Walker Academic Advising Award from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES).
The award will be presented at the college's Celebration of Advising Reception, set from 4:30 to 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 2 in the Robert Mondavi Institute Sensory Theater, Old Davis Road. Also honored will be student advisor Emma Martinez of the Student Affairs Officer, Animal Science.
The committee was especially impressed with Yang's focus on student diversity, his efforts in helping students link their academic studies to research and other career goals, and his innovative programs working with high school students and connecting these students with undergraduate and graduate student mentors, said Sue Ebeler, the CA&ES associate dean of Undergraduate Academic Programs.
“His tremendous contributions in advising students seeking to expand their research experience, and programmatic development to enhance such opportunities have helped change the face of undergraduate education in our department,” wrote nominator Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Nadler described him as a gifted teacher, mentor and scientist who has been instrumental in influencing the lives of many undergraduates.
Yang, who holds a bachelor's degree (ecology and evolution) from Cornell University, 1999, received his doctorate from UC Davis in 2006, and joined the UC Davis faculty in 2009. He is one of the three co-founders of the campuswide Research Scholars in Insect Biology (RSPIB) with professors Jay Rosenheim and Joanna Chiu. The program's goal: to provide academically strong and highly motivated undergraduates with a multi-year research experience that cultivates skills that will prepare them for a career in biological research.
In addition to his RSPIB mentoring, Yang mentors many undergraduates in his lab. He has welcomed and mentored students from UC Davis and from around the country with the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program and the UC Davis-Howard University Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Ecology & Evolution Graduate Admissions Pathways (EEGAP) program (Kabian Ritter).
Over the past year, Yang mentored 15 undergrads in his lab. The studies involved:
- The nonconsumptive effects on monarch development to see if parasitoid avoidance behaviors in early development have a long-term cost for monarch development.
- the factors that contribute to herbivory by generalist herbivores on milkweed.
- the effects of a recently observed plant foliar fungal pathogen on milkweed on monarch growth and development.
- the costs of switching milkweed species for monarch larvae.
- The density dependence in larval and adult blue milkweed beetles
- the fractionation of H and O isotopes from water to milkweeds to monarchs, using three species of native California milkweeds reared with water from two distinct isotopic sources
Yang also launched the Monitoring Milkweed-Monarch Interactions for Learning and Conservation (MMMILC) Project in 2013 for high school students in the environmental science program at Davis Senior High School or those associated with the Center for Land-Based Learning's GreenCorps program. They monitor milkweed-monarch interactions in a project funded by the National Science Foundation. Yang and UC Davis undergraduate and graduate students serve as mentors.
“The goal of the MMMILC Project is to better understand the ecology of milkweeds and monarch butterflies,” Yang explains on his website. “We are particularly focused on understanding the role of seasonal timing (phenology) on the interactions between milkweeds and monarchs…While this project is centered around milkweed-monarch interactions, we are really interested in all of the creatures that interact with milkweed. The ecological community of surrounding milkweeds includes lots of fascinating species interactions, and we are interested in understanding how those interactions are connected over time.”
MMMILC accomplishments include weekly measurements on 318 plants for eight months/year; approximately 89 participants spent 24,000 field minutes; about 30,000 plant and 1100 monarch measurements; and weekly data quality checks and internal cross-validation.
Yang strongly supports student diversity, under-represented groups, and graduate education. Two of his undergrads, including one Latina, were supported by a supplemental Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU). He has mentored grad students from the Entomology Grad Group, the Grad Group in Ecology and the Pop Bio Grad Group. In addition, he serves on many guidance, exam and advising committees and has participated in mentoring workshops at the Center for Population Biology.
Yang was nominated by the Associated Students of UC Davis in 2012 for an Excellence in Education Award. In 2013, he received a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award of $600,000
Despite other major attractions--including the gorgeous spring day and the March Madness basketball tournament--nearly 300 people visited the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology last Saturday during its three-hour open house, themed "Eggs to Wings: Backyard Butterfly Gardening."
They conferred with Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis; Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and a number of Bohart associates, including entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the moth and butterfly display; naturalist Greg Kareofelas, a butterfly and dragonfly enthusiast; entomologists Jessica Gillung and Ziad Khouri, doctoral candidates; Nicole Tam, junior specialist; and Joel Hernandez and Alex Nguyen, recent entomology graduates.
"Hungry, hungry caterpillars!" read one poster, illustrated with photos of the monarch, gulf fritillary and pipevine swallowtail caterpillars and their adult stages. "Having a garden full of flowers provides nectar, an important food source for adult butterflies, but what about their hungry, hungry caterpillars? It seems counterintuitive to grow plants that yu want insects to eat, but that is exactly what butterflies need when they are larvae."
Jeff Smith kept busy showing visitors the drawers of butterfly specimens, including blue morphos, monarchs and swallowtails. As he opened one drawer, he explained that "this drawer contains several species of South American rainforest butterflies, Preponas, in the genus Archaeoprepona." He described them as "extremely strong and fast fliers, but they love to settle on baits such as fermenting fruit on the ground. We (Bohart team) caught several in the ongoing Belize biodiversity work this past year."
Robbin Thorp showed live male Valley carpenter bees, Xylocopa varipuncta, green-eyed blond bees that are also known as "teddy bear" bees. "Boy bees can't sting," Thorp said, reassuring a few leary visitors. The female of the species is solid black. (Following the open house, Thorp returned the bees to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road.)
The bottle is tucked inside a zipped, meshed butterfly habitat and placed indoors or in a screened patio to prevent tachinid flies and wasps from laying their eggs in the caterpillars or chrysalids. Once the monarchs pupate and eclose, they are released to start another generation. This is a small-scale conservation project.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free. Special open houses take place throughout the academic year. The next open house takes place during the annual campuswide Picnic Day on April 22.
More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or email@example.com. The website is http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/
"Well, yes, I would like some aphids for dinner," said every lady beetle (aka ladybug) everywhere.
With the lush green growth of spring, come aphids (the prey) and lady beetles (the predators).
And now, if you look closely, you'll see clusters or rows of lady beetle eggs on your roses. Luck be a lady...
"The name 'ladybug' was coined by European farmers who prayed to the Virgin Mary when pests began eating their crops," National Geographic says on its website. "After ladybugs came and wiped out the invading insects, the farmers named them 'beetle of Our Lady.' This eventually was shortened to 'lady beetle' and 'ladybug.'"
Globally, we have some 5000 species of lady beetles. Entomologists call them ladybird beetles. Yes, they're beetles, not bugs. The term, bugs, applies to insects in the order Hemiptera, while lady beetles belong to the order Coleoptera.
Lady beetles range in color from red to orange to yellow, with or without spots. See the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program website for photos and descriptions.
The red and orange are warning colors in nature. Hey, don't eat me. I don't taste good! You'll be sorry! In fact, their hemolymph is both toxic and foul-smelling. Predators steer clear of them.
Although lady beetles don't taste good to predators, aphids are a different matter. Aphids are apparently quite tasty. One hungry lady beetle can gobble up about 50 to 75 aphids a day or 5000 over a lifetime, scientists say. But who's counting? There's no "Weight Watchers" or "Waist Watchers" program in place.
Lady beetles also devour other soft-bodied insects, such as scale insects, white flies and mites.
Today (March 20) marked the first day of spring and the international Day of Happiness, one and the same. Rain pelted our roses, and doused the lady-beetles-that-were-eating-the-aphids, and the aphids-that-were-sucking-the-plant-juices and the roses that were just trying their darndest to grow.
Meanwhile, the goldlike eggs just glistened...with promises of a new generation of lady beetles...
Think "Monarch Starter Set."
And it's just in time for open house at the Bohart Museum of Entomology from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, March 19 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane, University of California, Davis. The open house, themed “Eggs to Wings: Backyard Butterfly Gardening,” is free and open to the public. There you'll learn ideas on how to garden for butterflies and perhaps…you may go home with a Monarch Starter Set.
The Monarch Starter Set?
- Take one zippered, meshed butterfly habitat container, available for purchase from the Bohart Museum of Entomology's gift shop (or you can buy a zippered meshed laundry bag elsewhere)
- Add one Patrón tequila bottle, selected because it is a sturdy, chunky bottle with a broad base and a narrow neck.
- Fill bottle with water.
- Add milkweed plants (from your backyard or found in the wild)
- Add monarch caterpillars (from your backyard or found in the wild)
- Place in no-fly zone area, such as inside your house or on a screened porch. That's to deter tachinid flies and the wasps that lay their eggs inside the caterpillars and chrysalids and kill the hosts
- Watch a caterpillar eat its fill, form a chrysalis, and then observe the monarch eclose
- Release the monarch and voila! You're doing your part to help the declining monarch population
Using this method, we reared and released 64 monarchs last year in our small scale conservation project. What's good about the Patrón tequila bottle: the heavy bottle won't tip over, the caterpillars won't drown, and the milkweed will stay fresh. However, be sure to change the milkweed every day to keep the food fresh and abundant for your caterpillars.
Thanks to generous donations from TJ's Tavern on Main Street, Vacaville, the Bohart Museum can now provide the bottles to a limited number of "Monarch Moms" and "Monarch Dads." The butterfly habitats are available in its gift shop for around $20. The bottles are a gift. (Note: Teetotalism runs in our family so when I say "I'm going to the bar," that comment usually draws a raised eyebrow and a giggle or chuckle until I add "umm, to get the Patrón tequila bottle donations.")
The bottles are also perfect for the Bohart's live petting zoo and other uses at the insect museum.
Not to be overlooked is the bee logo--pollinators matter!--on each Patrón tequila bottle. The Patrón Spirits Company, which produces the product in Mexico, chose a bee as its logo "because of the well-known attraction bees have to Weber blue agave," according to Reference.com. "Weber blue agave is the primary plant from which Patrón tequila is made.” Tequila, as most folks know, is made from heart or core of the blue agave plant.
The primary pollinator of the blue agave, however, is the greater long-nosed bat or Mexican long-nosed bat, Leptonycteris nivalis. The lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae) also is a key pollinator. Check out Purdue entomologist Gwen Pearson's informative piece on "Tequila, Booze and Bats" on wired.com. It includes a link to a video of bats pollinating agave. This is a favorite pollinator subject especially during National Pollinator Week, which this year is June 19-25.