It's not spring yet, but don't tell that to the pollinators at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park.
We traveled to the state park on Monday, Jan. 25 to see if we could find a bumble bee foraging on the jade blossoms. Or more specifically, the black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus. It's been out as early as December. We encountered Bombus melanopygus on Christmas Day, 2013.
Would we spot one again?
But the jade was in full bloom and honey bees were all over it. So was another pollinator, a syrphid fly, identified by fly expert Martin Hauser of the California Department of Food and Agriculture as a Lathyrophthalmus aeneus or Eristalinus aenus--depending on whether you follow the European or U.S. nomenclature, he says. "It is an introduced rattail maggot syrphid (family Syrphidae) from Europe which overwinters as adult and is one of the first syrphids you can find here during the first warm days." Hauser is a senior insect biosystematist in the CDFA's Plant Pest Diagnostics Branch.
Check out the distinguishable dotted eyes! And see more photos of Eristalinus aenus on BugGuide.net.
Oh, an American bee and a European fly on the South African jade? No. Both species hail from Europe. European colonists brought the honey bee, Apis mellifera, to the Jamestown colony (what is now Virginia) in 1622. We're not sure about the fly!
When you see honey bees foraging on the early blooming oxalis, that's a sure sign that February is approaching.
And that means it's time for some mead, music and a bee-influenced dinner.
The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is hosting its third annual fundraiser, The Feast: A Celebration of Mead and Honey, from 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 6 in the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science. Reservations are now underway. (See registration page.)
Mead, says Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, is "the world's oldest fermented beverage."
What's mead? "It's a fermented blend of honey, water and often fruits, yeast, or spices that dates back to about 7000 BCE," Harris says. Ceramic shards found in Jiahu, Henan Province, China held a mead-like residue, according to Patrick McGovern, the leading authority on ancient alcoholic beverages. According to the BBC the number of meaderies in the United States has increased from 30 to 40 to more than 250 in the last 10 years.
The event, to take place in the Mondavi Institute's Sensory Building on Old Davis Road, will begin at 6 with cocktails, live music, hors d'oeuvres and the featured ginger mead from Schramms Mead in Michigan. Select wines, honey lemonade and sparkling mead also will be served.
Ann Evans, author of the Davis Farmer's Cookbook, and Kathi Riley, caterer and former chef at Zuni Cafe, San Francisco, will serve a Mediterranean-style dinner.
Harris says the menu will include a triple avocado salad, followed by "a tagine of chicken, vegetables and couscous served family-style. A light cheese course will accompany a dessert mead flight with a wonderful citrus almond torte closing the festive evening."
Proceeds from the dinner will be used to support the outreach and education programs of the Honey and Pollination Center. Its mission is “to make UC Davis a leading authority on bee health, pollination and honey quality," Harris says.
Tickets for the dinner are $125 and are available online at http://honey.ucdavis.edu/. For more information contact Amina Harris at email@example.com.
The more we know about monarch butterflies, the better we can understand them and help conserve them.
Newly published research on California's overwintering monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) confirmed many previous migratory studies, but found some unexpected and surprising patterns of movement, said lead researcher Louie Yang, a community ecologist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The study, “Intra-Population Variation in the Natal Origins and Wing Morphology of Overwintering Western Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus)," published in the early online version of the journal Ecography, examined the natal origins, or “birthplaces,” of butterflies at four California overwintering sites.
It will be incorporated into an online issue, perhaps within six months, but it has not yet been assigned to an issue, said journal managing editor Maria Persson.
Natal origins of butterflies collected from the two northern sites--Lighthouse Field State Beach and Moran Lake, both in Santa Cruz County--varied significantly from those collected at the two southern overwintering sites--Pismo State Beach, San Luis Obispo County; and the Coronado Butterfly Preserve, Santa Barbara County, they said.
“We hope that this paper improves our understanding of where monarch butterflies grow up in western North America,” said Yang, an associate professor. “This study uses a naturally occurring continental-scale pattern of hydrogen isotopes in precipitation in order to estimate the natal origins of overwintering butterflies. Building a clearer understanding of where they come from could help us better understand many aspects of their ecology.”
The research is the work of Yang; Dmitry Ostrovsky of the University of Colorado, Denver; and Matthew Rogers and Jeffery Welker of the University of Alaska.
The research team set out to answer two key questions: “How do broad geographic areas of potential natal habitat contribute to the overwintering population of western monarch butterflies in California?” and “How does the individual variation in the wing morphology of overwintering western monarch butterflies correlate with estimated migratory distance from their natal origins?”
They first compared the wings of 114 monarch butterflies collected from the four overwintering sites with a continental-scale monarch butterfly wing isoscape derived from the U.S. Network for Isotypes in Precipitation (USNIP) database. They used spatial analyses of stable isotype ratios and correlations with wing morphology. Then they examined the correlations of monarch butterfly forewing size and shape.
Of the 114 butterflies sampled, they found that 30 percent developed in the southern coastal range; 12 percent in the northern coast and inland range; 16 percent in the central range, and 40 percent developed in the northern inland range.
“Interestingly, the two most northern overwintering sites in the study showed the largest contributions from the southern coastal range (Lighthouse Field, 45 percent; Moran Lake, 37 percent; Pismo Beach, 22 percent; and Coronado Preserve, 24 percent) while the two most southern overwintering sites showed the largest contributions from the northern inland range (Lighthouse Field, 30 percent; Moran Lake, 35 percent; Pismo Beach, 53 percent; and Coronado Reserve, 39 percent),” they wrote.
The researchers randomly collected the monarchs Dec. 4-6, 2009 from aggregations in trees. The collecting resulted in: 19 males and 9 females from Coronado; 22 males and 8 females from Pismo State Beach; 20 males and 10 females from Moran Lake; and 18 males and 8 females from the Lighthouse Field State Beach.
In addition, the male monarch butterflies showed mean total masses that were 5.8 percent larger than those of the females.
The monarch butterfly of North America overwinters along the California coast and in the central mountains of Mexico. Previous studies have indicated that the western monarchs or those from natal habitats west of the Rocky Mountains, overwinter along the California coast. Those that develop east of the Rockies overwinter in central Mexico.
The project was funded in part by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Career Development Program grant awarded to Louie Yang, and a NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program grant awarded to Jeffrey Welker.
And that one, they agreed, they should have known. Oops!
Here's what happened: The "Bug Bowl" team, aka the Linnaean Games team from the University of California, Davis, won the national championship at the 2015 Entomological Society of America's annual meeting, and was invited to appear Friday, Jan. 22, on the TV show, Good Day Sacramento.
The background: The UC Davis graduate students--captain Ralph Washington Jr., and members Brendon Boudinot, Ziad Khouri and Jessica Gillung--defeated the University of Florida 130 to 70 last November to win its first-ever national championship in the 32-year history of the ESA's Linnaean Team Games. See YouTube video at https://youtu.be/_hA05K0NET4.
Professor Larry Godfrey and Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, Extension apiculturist, served as the team's advisors. The team members are candidates for a Ph.D. in entomology. Washington studies with Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and professor Brian Johnson; Boudinot with professor Phil Ward; and Khouri and Gillung with professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
So fast forward to Friday, Jan. 22. The team (minus Khouri, who was unable to attend), answered surprise questions posed by Good Day Sacramento co-anchor Marianne McClary in a fast-paced, fun-filled, witty encounter.
The first question, however, stumped them: "What year was the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis established?" They knew who founded the museum and about his work.
That was noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), former professor of entomology at UC Davis. He founded the museum, now located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, in...drum rolll...1946.
The team answered 1949. Close, but just a few years off.
"Lynn Kimsey is going to be really angry at me," Washington deadpanned.
"She's going to kill us," Gillung said. Both of them have spent many hours volunteering at the Bohart Museum's open houses, introducing visitors to the specimens and the live petting zoo.
The UC Davis team, however, went on to successfully answer the remaining four questions, questions that would have puzzled many an entomologist (see their online answers on the video):
- "The active ingredient of the most commercial termite trapping system is novalumeron. What is its mode of action?"
- "In some insects, the tarsal claws are bifid. What does that mean?"
- "Fly fishermen follow the emergence of adults of various aquatic insects. What do typical fly fishermen call these emergence events and why is this entomologically wrong?"
- "There are more than 2600 species of termites worldwide. Which continent houses the most species?"
Richard M.Bohart, also known as "Doc," completed a 32-year career at UC Davis. "He was the reason many students chose entomology as a major," wrote professor Lynn Kimsey, former student Norman Smith and professor Robert K. Washino in their memoriam on the UC Senate page. "He had a passion for entomology, which began when he was very young and continued well beyond retirement... Doc's passion was collecting, identifying, and classifying Strepsiptera mosquitoes and wasps. During his career, he identified more than one million specimens, many of which are housed in the R. M. Bohart Museum of Entomology, a teaching, research, and public service facility that he founded on campus in 1946."
"His teaching and collecting activities resulted in the development of one of the finest collections of stinging wasps in the world in the Bohart Museum of Entomology," wrote Kimsey, Smith and Washino. "A great deal of this material was obtained through his collecting and that of his students. During his tenure, the museum collection grew from 500 specimens to 7 million, a span of some 60 years. Chancellor James Meyer dedicated the entomology museum in his name in 1983. The R. M. Bohart Museum moved into a new building in 1994 and was dedicated by Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef."
As an aside, Doc Bohart was not only a talented entomologist but an athlete. He played football at UC Berkeley and "even in his 60s he could still throw a football across a football field," Kimsey said. She was his last graduate student before he retired.
Access ESA's YouTube video featuring the championship game between UC Davis and the University of Florida.
It was a bee. One little bee.
What are the odds of a honey bee landing on the window of a UC Davis vehicle parked outside the California Bee Breeders' Association meeting on a cool January day--Wednesday, Jan. 20--at the Ord Bend Community Center, Glenn County?
Inside, it was a gathering of bee breeders talking about industry issues. Outside, it was a gathering of clouds, as the sun struggled to cast shadows where it could. The clouds would darken tomorrow, but it would not rain today.
There were no pollinators in sight.
Except for this one little bee, which landed on the windshield. Was it looking for those scarce floral resources? Or soaking in the warmth of the sun? Or waiting to be photographed?
Surely it will be involved in the almond pollination season which begins around Feb. 14.
"There are now 890,000 bearing acres of almonds!" bee breeder Jackie Park-Burris of Jackie Park-Burris Queens, Palo Cedro, and a past chairman of the California Sate Apiary Board, told us last week. "They're needing approximately 1,780,000 hives! That is probably close to 85 percent of the commercial hives in the U.S. It is definitely 100 percent of the quality commercial hives in the United States."
"Beekeepers are very thankful for the job," she added. "The pollen from the almonds is one of the healthiest pollens my bees get all year, they love it!The largest pollinating event in the world happens in California during the almond bloom. It is a $5.8 billion crop for growers and the economy of California."
And it all starts with the bees. One. Little. Bee.