Research entomologist William Meikle of the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center, Agricultural Research Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS) will speak on "Using Continuous Monitoring to Measure Colony-Level Behavior in Social Insects: A Case Study with Honey Bees" when he visits the University of California, Davis, on Wednesday, March 15.
His seminar, open to all interested persons, will take place from 4:10 to 5 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive.
Meikle, who joined the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in 2012, conducts research on continuous monitoring of weight, temperature, humidity, CO2 concentration, and other parameters in honey bee colonies, linking those data with bee colony growth and activity. "I am currently involved in investigating how various stressors, including disease incidence, nutritional stress and agrochemical exposure manifest themselves at the colony level," he says.
"Individuals are the fundamental units of the social insect colony and are thus logical subjects for the study of those colonies," Meikle explains in his abstract. "However, such colonies also exhibit emergent properties or behaviors, such as forager traffic and brood nest temperature control in this case honey bee colonies, that can only be measured using colonies or groups of bees."
"Honey bee colonies offer singular opportunities for study because they can be taken apart with little or no adverse effects, and because they are typically stationary and so can easily be fitted with sensors or placed permanently on electronic scales. The resulting continuous sensor data, such as the weight and temperature data we have focused on, provides information on colony behavior and on how colonies respond to changes in the environment. The idea is that once we know how to interpret continuous data, we can then collect continuous data as response variables in manipulative experiments."
Meikle says much of the work "has focused on collecting such data to monitor behavior of honey bee colonies subjected to sublethal concentrations of pesticides. Because colony behaviors depend on the proper functioning and coordination of many individuals, changes in those behaviors may emerge at lower pesticide concentrations than have been found to affect individual biology. Indeed, field and cage studies showed significant effects at pesticide concentrations as low as 5 ppb in sugar syrup."
Meikle received his bachelor's degree in biology from Pomona College, Claremont, in 1982, and his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1992. His career took him from UC Berkeley to the West African country of Benin, then to France, then back to the United States--Texas and Arizona.
After earning his doctorate at UC Berkeley, Meikle served as a scientist and postdoctoral fellow from 1992 to 2001 at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Calavi, Benin, where he developed an ecological and economic framework of stored product systems in West Africa, including population models of important pests (larger grain beetle and maize weevil), natural enemies (including insects and insect pathogens), sequential sampling plans and scouting programs for farmers, and links of pest population dynamics to weather and to local commodity prices.
Two other positions followed:
- 2001-2009: European Biological Control Laboratory, USDA-ARS, Montferrier-sur-Lez, France, where he researched the use of entomopathogens, such as fungi and nematodes, as biological control agents against different pests, including locusts, termites and Varroa mites of honey bees. "We collected naturally occurring entomopathogenic fungi of Varroa mites, including a new species, and evaluated biopesticide formulations," he related.
- 2009-2012: Honey Bee Research Unit, Kika de la Garza Subtropical Agricultural Research Center, USDA-ARS, Weslaco, Texas, where he explored the ecology and population dynamics of small hive beetles, a recently introduced pest of honey bees in the U.S. "I collaborated with other researchers in investigating the biological control of the Asian citrus psyllid and the larger black flour beetle."
Meikle's seminar, hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomoogy and Nematology, is the last seminar of the winter quarter. Agricultural entomologist Christian Nansen (email@example.com), assistant professor in the department, coordinates the seminars. They are recorded for later viewing on UCTV.
Have you checked your rose bushes lately? Along with the lush new growth, you'll probably notice a new crop of aphids. And if you look closely, probably lady beetles (aka ladybugs).
The UC Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) defines aphids as "small, soft-bodied insects with long slender mouthparts that they use to pierce stems, leaves, and other tender plant parts and suck out fluids." Basically, they're pear-shaped insects with long legs and long antennae and may be green, yellow, brown, red or black "depending on the species and the plants they feed on," according to UC IPM. "Almost every plant has one or more aphid species that occasionally feed on it. Many aphid species are difficult to distinguish from one another; however, management of most aphid species is similar."
"A few species appear waxy or woolly due to the secretion of a waxy white or gray substance over their body surface. Most species have a pair of tubelike structures called cornicles projecting backward out of the hind end of their body. The presence of cornicles distinguishes aphids from all other insects."
UC IPM also says that most aphids don't move rapidly when disturbed. That's the truth! Sometimes they're just a 16th of an inch away from a lady beetle that's gobbling up their siblings.
The lady beetles in our garden today were primarily the multicolored Asian lady beetles (Harmonia axyridis), also known as Harlequin lady beetles. They're native to China, Russia, Korea and Japan. In colder parts of the world, they're considered a nuisance when they overwinter in large congregations in walls, windows or attic. They leave unpleasant odors and stains.
Friend or foe? They're more of a friend, at least here in sunny California.
You're looking for the winter daphne, Daphne odora Aureomarginta. You see a daphne sign in the Storer Garden but what's that on the sign? A butterfly? A Red Admiral? On Jan. 28? Are your eyes deceiving you?
You step closer and the butterfly is as real as real gets. It's basking in the warmth of the sun. Basking warms its flight muscles.
Yes, a Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta, in the dead of winter. Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, points out that the Red Admiral overwinters as an adult. So while we're holed up in our homes, offices or warehouses, it's flying around, weather permitting.
On his website, Art's Butterfly World, Shapiro writes: "One of the most frequently seen butterflies in midwinter at low elevation, and often very common in the urban Bay Area, the Red Admiral occurs all around the Northern Hemisphere. It is multiple-brooded, overwinters as an adult, and may undergo altitudinal migration in the Sierra (where it is generally uncommon."
"The larval hosts are all members of the Nettle family, Urticaceae, including not only the familiar Stinging Nettles (Urtica holosericea and U. urens) but the tiny-leaved ground cover Baby's Tears (Helxine or Soleirolia) in moist, shaded gardens and the climbing urban weed Pellitory (Parietaria) in the Bay Area. The larva is solitary, in a rolled-leaf shelter."
With spring approaching on March 20, we're all anticipating more of Nature's wonders. Meanwhile, if you're seeking pollinator plants--or garden gems--check out the UC Davis Arboretum's plant sale on Saturday, March 11 at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive. The Arboretum's first spring plant sale of the year, it's open to members only (Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Davis Botanical Society) from 9 to 11 a.m., and to the public from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can also join the Friends of the Arboretum online or at the gate.
The inventory includes some 400 varieties and almost 13,000 plants. Here' s the list of "garden gems" you can download: LIFE AFTER LAWN: Garden Gems Plant List.
While you're there, be sure to walk a few yards over to the Storer Garden to see this wonderful little garden that bears the name of physician/philanthropist Ruth Risdon Storer (1888-1986), the first woman physician on the UC Davis campus and the first woman pediatrician practicing in Yolo County. There's always something new to see in the Storer Garden. If you're lucky, maybe a Red Admiral...
Like a moth to a flame...
Except this moth headed not for a flame, but to a porch light. Our porch light.
And what a find.
It was a sea-green mottled moth that looked a lot like lichen.
Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, and Bohart Museum of Entomology associate Greg Kareofelas of Davis identified it as a late-winter noctuid, one that simulates lichen. Feralia februalis.
"It's expected this time of the year," noted Kareofelas.
It's a food plant specialist that feeds on oaks.
A Pacific Northwest website on moths indicates that it flies in oak forests in western Oregon in the early spring: "This species is narrowly endemic to the West Coast. In Oregon, it is common in oak woodlands and mixed hardwood forests with oaks at low elevations west of the Cascades. This species is considered to be management sensitive, depending on oaks as a larval food plant."
In the Pacific Northwest, "Feralia februalis is limited to western Oregon in our region," the website says. "Its range extends north to the Columbia River but it has yet to be found in adjacent Washington."
Its global range? "The range extends south through California where it occurs in the western part of the state to the Mexican border. It is also present in the northern Sierra Nevada."
One more thing: "It is nocturnal and comes readily to lights."
Yes and yes!
It's mid-February and early morning in Vallejo, Calif.
Westringia is blooming along a walking path near the Glen Cove Marina.
Suddenly out of no where, there's a flash of yellow and black. A black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, buzzes by our camera and heads for the Westringia.
Good choice. The Westringia, a genus in the mint family and endemic to Australia, is a late-winter blooming plant that provides nectar and pollen when just about nothing else around does. It's tough. It can take it, whether it's the California drought, heavy rains, hot sun, or cold temperatures. And here, near the Carquinez Bridge, it forms a healthy hedge of white flowers and light gray-green leaves. And it's blooming profusely, beckoning bees.
Bombus melanopygus is the kind of bee that lingers not. One minute you see it, the next minute, it's gone. It knows what it needs, where to get it, and how long to stay to elude those predatory wasps.
That brings to mind the recently published research from Queen Mary University of London that indicates that bumble bees not only possess complex navigational skills, rudimentary culture, and emotions, but they can even use tools. Tools!
It's fairly well known that bumble bees can learn to pull a string to get a sugary reward by watching other bees perform the task. Now Olli Loukola, a behavioral ecologist at Queen Mary University of London, says that in the UK study, bumble bees pushed around a small, yellow ball to a specific target to get a sugary reward.
Of course, bees in the wild, including those buzzing around the Westringia in Vallejo, don't pull strings or push balls, but they do shove aside the flower petals to get at that sugary reward--nectar.
The bumble bee brain is about the size of a sesame seed, but if you say it has a "bee brain," that would not do it justice.
Check out the video and news story on the Science journal website.