It’s Friday, so it must be Friday lite…
When you’re hosting a birthday party for an entomologist, you have to think “bugs.”
That’s the rule. It’s written right there in the
(OK, I made that up.)
When a group of us from the UC Davis Department of Entomology hosted a party today for department chair Lynn Kimsey (in honor of her Feb. 1 birthday), the cake featured a praying mantis, an ant, a beetle, a grasshopper, a wasp, scores of bees, and…er…a cockroach.
Well, it was only ONE cockroach.
Which, I admit, was probably one cockroach too many.
But hey, it was plastic.
Which is what all cockroaches should be.
Fantasy Cakes and Fine Pastries,
The buggy cake drew all “oohs” and “ahs.”
Except for one “yecch.”
That was for the cockroach.
Lynn, who chairs the Bohart Museum of Entomology, home of seven million specimens, is surrounded by insects all day, so she was in her comfort zone.
“That’s the first cake I’ve cut,” she said, “with bugs on it.”
Last year when I was attempting to order a cake at an area bakery for UC Davis forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey (husband of
“You want, what?” the baker said. “Blow flies? Blow flies? You got to be kidding. Anyhow, we’re fresh out of blow flies. No blow flies today.”
Good thing I didn’t ask for maggots.
“Honey bee insurance” buzzed into the news Feb. 1 when Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appeared on the CBS Show, "Face the Nation" and blasted the state of the economy and President Obama's economic stimulus plan.
"I doubt if the government buying $600 million worth of automobiles would provide the kind of stimulus that we're talking about here," McConnell said. "And we certainly don't need honeybee insurance. Look, this thing needs to be targeted right at the problem, if we're going to spend this enormous amount of money.”
Honey bee insurance? I listened closely for more details, but none came.
What he didn’t say--or explain--is that this is a form of crop insurance, similar to what is offered to many crop producers.
One of the earliest to write about honey bee insurance was UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen, who discussed revenue insurance in the November/December 2002 edition of his “From the UC Apiaries” publication. At the time, beekeepers were exploring ways to protect their investments against devastating losses. The program works like this: pay a premium to an insurance company, and if a devastating loss occurs, you’re protected up to a specific portion of your loss.
The program is now under way, but is not offered yet in some states, including
So, bottom line: Beekeepers who elect to pay a premium will receive compensation if the honey crop revenue falls below the listed “trigger” value of that year. The compensation depends on the level of coverage purchased for the colonies they own.
Currently, only honey production--not pollination or queen or bulk production--can be insured through this specific honey bee insurance program, Mussen says. And this is based on weather conditions. If there’s a drought, for example, and the bees have little food, satellite images would verify the lack of plant growth.
Back in 2002, Mussen estimated that the insurance would cost a little over 6 cents for each dollar of coverage. The federal government’s subsidy would reduce the beekeeper’s premium to three cents per dollar.
Fact is, government subsidies are nothing new, but they are new to beekeepers.
Fact is, government subsidies are nothing new, but they are new to beekeepers.
Beekeeping is an agricultural industry involving risks, just like those who plant almonds, strawberries or watermelons. Insurance is part of a good management plan.
It’s taking the good with the bad.
It's like the daphne (below) that offers scented flowers but beware those poisonous berries.
It's a sense of urgency.
When UC Davis researchers Bruce Hammock and Nipavan Chiamvimonvat and their team discovered that a prototype drug reduces heart enlargement--one of the most common causes of heart failure--and published their work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the response was overwhelming.
Electronic and print news media throughout the world picked it up. So did bloggers and other social networkers. But the most heartwarming responses came from heart patients.
One person e-mailed Hammock: "I've been following your research in cardiac hypertrophy for sometime and we really thank you." He said his family has a history of cardiac hypertrophy and wants to know more about the developments.
And to think this research sprang from studies on insect pest control in the Hammock lab.
The research in the Chiamvimonvat and Hammock laboratories showed that the new class of drugs reduces heart swelling in rat models with heart failure.
“This holds promise to treat heart failure and other cardiovascular as well as kidney problems,” said nephrology professor Robert Weiss, Department of Internal Medicine.
Similar compounds are now in clinical trials.
"It certainly gives a feeling of urgency," agreed Hammock.
Vacaville resident James Moehrke was out geocaching last weekend in the Vaca Valley Parkway-East Monte Vista Avenue area of the city when he spotted some red-shouldered black bugs.
"There were many clusters, probably thousands of individuals, in the trees and a few on the ground," he recalled. Some were on deciduous trees and others on evergreen trees.
What were they?
At first glance, they looked like boxelder bugs.
We asked Steve Heydon, senior museum scientist at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, to identify them.
"Soapberry bug or Jadera haematoloma," Heydon said.
They're a close relative of the boxelder bugs.
The soapberry bug is also known as "the red-shouldered bug" or the "golden raintree bug." It's mostly black except for the red eyes and red shoulders. The nympths are primarily red.
They're seed predators and often found on lychee, longan, maples and soapberry trees.
Biologist Scott Carroll, affiliated with the Sharon Lawler lab at the UC Davis Department of Entomology, researches the insects. He lectured on soapberry bugs at the 2007 meeting of the Entomological Society of America, describing them as "excellent organisms for studying responses to global change, evolution in action, ecological speciation, development and behavior."
Some of the fastest rates of evolution recorded are from this group as they have evolved new races on introduced host plants, Carroll told ESA.
The soapberry bugs fascinated Moehrke and his fellow geocaching players. He took time out to photograph them.
And yes, he found the treasure, the cache.
Along with lots of red-shouldered black bugs.
Biodiversity creates biodiversity.
That point comes through loud and clear when you read the scientific paper on the apple maggot/parasitic wasp research led by UC Davis evolutionary ecologist Andrew Forbes.
The news embargo lifted at 11 a.m. today and the research will be published Friday, Feb. 6 in the journal Science.
When the apple maggot shifted hosts from the hawthorn to the apple, that triggered a cascading effect on the ecosystem.
A parasitic wasp (Diachasma alloeum) that attacks the apple maggot (Rhagoletis pomonella) has “formed new incipient species as a result of specializing on diversifying fly hosts, including the recently derived apple-infesting race of R. pomonella,” Forbes said.
The apple maggot, native to
A host race is a group of organisms in the process of becoming a new species due to its close association with a particular host (plant or animal).
In this new study, Forbes and his co-authors showed that the wasp D. alloeum is undergoing the same evolutionary changes.
“The research shows the process of speciation in action and might tell us more about why certain groups of organisms are more diverse than others.” said Forbes, who received his doctorate from the University of Notre Dame and is now a postdoctoral researcher in professor
The research, titled “Sequential Sympatric Speciation Across Trophic Levels,” provides insight into what Forbes calls “the tangled bank of life.”
“As new species form, they create new opportunities for others to exploit which, in turn, begets ever more new species,” he said.
“And all this is happening right before our eyes in our own backyards.”
Forbes captured excellent images of the apple maggot fly and wasp. His image of a wasp emerging from an apple maggot pupa is particularly amazing./st1:personname>/st1:place>