Mark your calendars for a sobering experience.
The University of California,Davis, will observe World Malaria Day with a daylong retreat showcasing UC Davis scientists’ current research in vector biology and genetics.
The event, free and open to the public, will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, April 25 in Room 1102 of the Gourley Clinical Teaching Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, on Garrod Drive.
Malaria is a killer. "Approximately half of the world's population is at risk of malaria, particularly those living in lower-income countries," according to the World Health Organization (WHO). "It infects more than 500 million people per year and kills more than 1 million. The burden of malaria is heaviest in sub-Saharan Africa but the disease also afflicts Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and even parts of Europe."
Postdoctoral researchers Becky Trout (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Michelle Sanford (email@example.com) are organizing the event, and issued this statement: “Malaria remains one of the most deadly vectorborne diseases in the world. Worldwide programs continue to rely on control programs based on the most recent research available. In honor of the Roll Back Malaria Program, promoting the education and research in the fight against malaria, student and researchers at UC Davis engaged in vector biology and genetics will come together to discuss their research efforts.”
During the breaks and during lunch, attendees will see a photo slide show of research experiences.
Malaria researchers associated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology include graduate student advisors Anthony “Anton” Cornel, associate professor, Department of Entomology; Shirley Luckhart, professor, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Medicine; and Gregory Lanzaro, professor, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine.
Through their research and public involvement, they're all doing their part to control a killer.
Those oak trees (Quercus lobata) in California’s Central Valley have a lot of gall.
Ian Pearse, Maxwell Joseph and Melanie Gentles of the UC Davis Department of Entomology recently surveyed 1234 oak apple galls in Davis and Woodland (Yolo County) and Vacaville (Solano County) and got a better understanding of the gall-making wasps and the organisms that prey upon them or live with them.
“Oak apple galls are themselves a complex ecosystem, with over 20 species of insects, that are in many people’s backyards,” said Pearse, who is studying for his doctoral degree in entomology with major professor Rick Karban. “The galls and their wasps are not a major problem for oaks but are themselves food for other organisms such as birds and other insects.”
The wasp (Andricus quercuscalifornicus), a member of the Cynipidae family, lays her eggs on the leaves or twigs of a valley oak, which then forms a gall or a structure that resembles an apple hanging from the tree. “The gall is actually very beneficial, and necessary, for the insect,” Pearse said. In reality, the insect “’coerces’ the plant to make it a great home.”
“This community of insects has been poorly described for most cynipid-induced galls on oaks in North America, despite the diversity of these galls,” Pearse said. Cynipids are small solitary wasps that produce galls on oaks and other plants.
Their research, published in a recent edition of the international journal Biodiversity and Conservation, shed light on the natural history of the common oak apple gall and its parasitoid and inquilines community. They found that the composition of the insect community varies with galls of different size, phenology and location.
The researchers discovered that the gall maker “most often reached maturity in larger galls that developed later in the season. “The parasitoid Torymus californicus (family Torymidae) was associated with smaller galls, and galls that developed late in the summer,” they wrote. “The most common parasitoid, Baryscapus gigas (family Eulophidae), was more abundant in galls that developed late in the summer, though the percentage of galls attacked remained constant throughout the season.”
“Parasitoids and inquilines, in general, had a longer emergence period and diapauses within the gall than the gall-inducer,” they wrote. “The association of different parasite species with galls of different size and phenology suggests that different parasite species utilize galls with slight differences in traits.”
Galls provide their inducer with a consistent food source, a predictable abiotic environment, and a refuge from potential enemies, Pearse said.
Galls, which hang on the valley oaks like apples, are especially visible this time of year.
Researcher Maxwell Joseph, who received his bachelor of science degree last year from UC Davis, is now studying for his doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado. Melanie Gentles, who holds a master's degree from UC Davis, is now the UC Davis campus arborist.
Quick! What's the answer to this question?
"I am a blood feeder; I have no hair but have a comb. What am I?"
That was the final question posed when the University of California, Davis competed Monday night with the University of Hawai-Manoa team for the championship of the Linnaean Games, Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA).
The Linaean Games are college bowl-type games featuring questions about insects, entomologists and entomological facts. Each branch of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) can send two teams to the nationals. This year ESA meets in Reno Nov. 13-16.
So, UC Davis and the University of Hawaii are in a dead heat at the PBESA meeting in Hawaii. Tied game. Buzzers ready. And then comes that final question. "What am I?"
"A flea," Emily Symmes of the UC Davis team correctly answers.
Yes, a flea! A flea, indeed.
Emily Symmes, who is studying for her doctorate with major professor Frank Zalom, joined the winners' circle with her fellow teammates who also did equally well: Matan Shelomi, studying for his doctorate with major profesor Lynn Kimsey; Meredith Cenzer, studying for her doctorate with major professor Louie Yang; and James Harwood, studying for his doctorate with major professor James R. Carey.
Winning at the branch level is indeed an accomplishment, as well as a fun endeavor. The PBESA encompasses 11 U.S. states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming); several U.S. territories, including American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands; and parts of Canada and Mexico.
If you've never been to any of the Linnaean Games, you can see videos online by Googling "Linnaean Games." See if you can answer those questions.
Might be another question about fleas in there, too.
One of the highlights of Susan Cobey's class on "The Art of Queen Bee Rearing" is a visit to commercial queen bee breeders in Northern California.
Cobey is a bee breeder-geneticist at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, and Washington State University.
It was raining. Did we say it was raining? It was pouring.
When it rains, the virgin queens and drones don't fly out to mate. During her maiden flight, each virgin queen will mate with 12 to 25 drones, and then she'll return to her hive, where she will spend the rest of her life laying eggs. She'll lay about 1000 eggs a day during the busy season, or about 2000 eggs a day during peak season.
Rain stops the mating. So do cold temperatures. The thermometer has to read at least 70 degrees for the mating flights. Otherwise, it's a no-go. A no-fly day.
The process from egg to larva to pupa to adult is almost miraculous. It involves using a grafting tool to remove the tiny, almost microscopic egg from the comb and transferring it to a queen cup. From there, it's back into the hive where the worker bees tend to the queen cells, feeding them royal jelly.
This month, however, proved to be one of the most rainy months on record. It rained nearly every day.
Many of the queens-to-be won't be.
Diners know that a napkin serves a good purpose: touch the lips with it or protect the lap.
Well, honey bees occasionally use a napkin, too. A recent sun break--blue skies, 70-degree temperatures, no rain--resulted in honey bees foraging for water on a rain-soaked napkin on the patio.
They came in twos to stand on the napkin to sip water.
"Water foragers tend to forage at the water source nearest to their colony," writes honey bee expert Norman Gary, emeritus professor of apiculture at UC Davis, in his recently published book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees (BowTie Press).
"Minerals, salts, gases, organic compounds from organisms in the water and other unknown elements influence the bees' preference of water sources," he wrote. "Only the bees know the secret ingredients that determine their choices; otherwise bees would be able to create super-attractive watering holes with special flavors to lure bees away from swimming-pool decks, drinking fountains and birdbaths, where they are sometimes perceived as a problem by beekeepers."
All honey bees are welcome in our yard--with or without a napkin.