Okay then, "What are the three primary conditions that define eusociality?"
Or how about "Nicrophorus americanus is listed under what legislative act?”
Those are just three of the questions that the UC Davis Linnaean Games Team correctly answered to win the national championship at the Entomological Society of America's annual Linnaean Games competition, held recently in Minneapolis. UC Davis defeated the University of Florida 130 to 70.
The Linnaean Games is a college-bowl type competition in which teams answer questions about insects and entomologists. The teams hold practice sessions throughout the year. So much to know, and you never know what questions will be asked! And then you have to pounce on the buzzer quickly to beat the other team to the answer!
The UC Davis team is comprised of captain Ralph Washington Jr., and members Jessica Gillung, Brendon Boudinot and Ziad Khouri. All are graduate students in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. They earlier won the Linnaean Games competition at the regional level: the Pacific Branch of ESA.
This is the first year in ESA's 32-year history that UC Davis has won the championship.
Washington is studying for his doctorate with major professors Steve Nadler and Brian Johnson, who respectively specialize in systematics and evolutionary biology of nematodes and the evolution, behavior, genetics, and health of honeybees; Boudinot with major professor Phil Ward, systematics and evolutionary biology of ants; and Jessica Gillung and Ziad Khouri with major professor Lynn Kimsey, who specializes in the biology and evolution of insects. Kimsey directs the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Two members of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty--Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey and Extension apiculturist Elina Niño--served as the team's advisors.
The questions that UC Davis correctly answered in the championship game:
Toss-Up Question: What is the smallest insect that is not a parasite or parasitoid?
Answer: Beetles in the family Ptiliidae.
Bonus Question: Some species of mosquitoes lay eggs that can undergo diapause or aestivation. Give at least three cues that trigger the aquatic eggs to hatch.
Answer: Temperature, immersion in water, concentration of ions or dissolved solutes.
Toss-Up Question: Chikungunya is an emerging vector-borne disease in the Americas. Chikungunya is derived from the African Language Makonde. What means Chikungunya in Makonde?
Answer: Bending up.
Toss-Up Question: A Gilson's gland can be found in what insect order?
Toss-Up Question: Certain Chrysomelid larvae carry their feces as a defensive shield. To what subfamily do these beetles belong?
Bonus Question: The first lepidopteran sex pheromone identified was bombykol. What was the first dipteran sex pheromone identified? Give the trade or chemical name.
Answer: Muscalure, Z-9-Tricosene. It is also one of the chemicals released by bees during the waggle dance.
Toss-Up Question: What famous recessive gene was the first sex-linked mutation demonstrated in Drosophila by T.H. Morgan?
Bonus Question: Cecidomyiidae are known as the gall flies. What is unique about the species Mayetiola destructor, and what is its common name?
Answer: Mayetiola destructor is the Hessian Fly, a tremendous pest of wheat. It does not form galls.
Toss-Up Question: Nicrophorus americanus is listed under what legislative act?
Answer: The Endangered Species Act
Toss-Up Question: In what insect order would you find hemelytra?
Answer: The order Hemiptera.
Toss-Up Question: The subimago stage is characteristic of what insect order?
Answer: The order Ephemeroptera
Bonus Question: A 2006 Science article by Glenner et al. on the origin of insects summarized evidence that Hexapods are nothing more than land-dwelling crustaceans, which is to say that the former group Crustacea is paraphyletic with respect to the Hexapoda. What hierarchical name has been used to refer to this clade?
Toss-Up Question: What are the three primary conditions that define eusociality?
Answer: Cooperative brood care, overlapping generations, and reproductive division of labor
A total of 10 teams competed in the 2015 Linnaean Games:
Eastern Branch: Virginia Tech University and University of Maryland
North Central Branch: Michigan State University and Purdue University
Pacific Branch: UC Davis and Washington State University
Southeastern Branch: University of Georgia and University of Florida
Southwestern Branch: Oklahoma State University and Texas A&M
A YouTube video of the championship game--with all of the questions asked--will be posted soon. Last year North Carolina State University defeated the University of Florida to win the finals.
Strange weather we're having here in Central California.
After soaring into the 90s, the temperatures pushed again into the 80s today (Oct.21). The Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) are "making the most-est" of their host plant, passionflower vines. Blossoms keep popping up like so much popcorn. And the Gulf Frits are there to lay their eggs all over the plant, including the tendrils, leaves, stems and blossoms.
The showy reddish-orange butterfly with the silver-spangled wings is a favorite this time of year. It's sort of like a Halloween gift before Thanksgiving.
We remember when it vanished in the Sacramento-Davis area and was even considered extinct around here in the early 1970s.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, sounded the alarm back then. He knows its history well.
“It first appeared in the vicinity of San Diego in the 1870s,” he told us. “It spread through Southern California in urban settings and was first recorded in the Bay Area about 1908. It became a persistent breeding resident in the East and South Bay in the 1950s and has been there since.”
Since 2000, the Gulf Frit has been recolonizing again throughout the area. Thankfully!
The butterfly lays its eggs only on passionflower vines (genus Passiflora)--lots of eggs--so expect the caterpillars to skeletonize the plant. It's a good idea to offer some nearby nectar for the adults, too. Their favorites include the butterfly bush, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) and lantana.
Let's see, fall began Sept. 23, and winter arrives Dec. 21.
For the Gulf Frits, it might as well be spring!
It's delightful to see the gray hairstreak.
We're not talking about the gray streaks in our hair as we age (to perfection, of course!).
We're talking about the gray hairstreak, a common gray butterfly found throughout the United States, coast to coast, as well as parts of Canada and Mexico. Entomologists describe Strymon melinus as a small gray butterfly with a wingspan of from 2.6 to 3.65 centimeters. It is distinguished by its black-eyed orange spot at the base of its hindwing tails. It also has a small patch of blue before the tail, and two broken crossbands of black and white spots.
You may have seen it nectaring on a variety of plants. Indeed, it's considered one of the most polyphagous of butterflies. It works such flowers as sunflowers, lantana, clover, cosmos, mallows, and the like. In abundance, the larvae can become pests of cotton, peas, corn, corn, hops and other commercial agricultural crops. Cotton farmers call the larvae the "cotton square borer." The insect, however, is a pollinator more than it is a pest.
Perched on a flower with its wings up, the gray hairstreak resembles a sailboat.
It's on a winning steak. It flies fast, skillfully avoiding birds bent on a quick meal. It's a winner in other ways, too:
- it's abundant; not endangered.
- It's gray, but colorful.
- It's a flexible eater, not picky.
Read what Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, says about the butterfly on his website.
We first met Sheridan Miller, 11, of Mill Valley when she visited the Harry H.Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, to give $733 to bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, now of Washington State University.
Young Sheridan, concerned about the plight of the bees, began raising money for bee research at age 10. This included selling jars of honey, baked goods featuring honey, beeswax candles, olive oil, soap and a self-penned booklet about the plight of honey bees.
At the time, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, was the interim chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (later to become the Department of Entomology and Nematology).
“It's very thoughtful and generous of a little girl to think of the plight of the honey bees and to raise funds for research,” Kimsey said. “We are overwhelmed.”
Said Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976 and now retired: “I really appreciate the fact that so many members of the general public have become concerned about the plight of honey bees. I am particularly impressed by individuals such as Sheridan who have devoted so much time and effort in really trying to improve the health and longevity of the honey bees.”
Then in October 2009 at the opening of the department's Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden that supports the Laidlaw bees and serves as an educational resource, the officials honored Sheridan and her family. Sheridan's name is engraved on donor plaque in the garden.
Fast forward to today. Sheridan is now a high school senior and yes, she's still raising funds for Cobey's bee research. She has raised more than $5000. See WSU article.
In the WSU article, Sheridan's father, Craig, a Bay Area lawyer, is quoted as saying: “Sue has been generous with her time and her gratitude toward Sheridan, She has instilled confidence in Sheridan and an incredible sense of pride. I guess an organization could simply send a thank-you note for a donation. Sue, on the other hand, sent friendship, knowledge, encouragement–and even bees!”
Sheridan Miller's enthusiasm for bees now extends to her becoming a beekeeper. Beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton, a former volunteer at the Laidlaw facility and a past president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers' Association, has worked with Sheridan for the past four years. He set up her hives and is teaching her how to care for and manage bees.
And, Cobey and Fishback continue to answer Sheridan's questions. Meanwhile, Fishback also shares his bee expertise with students in area classrooms.
Cobey and her fellow WSU researchers are working to build a better bee. Their research includes importing germplasm (honey bee semen) from Europe and crossing it with domestic breeding stocks to create healthier stock.
Sheridan hasn't decided on what college to attend or her major, but Cobey and Fishback hope that maybe it has something to do with bees.
"Sheridan is amazing," said Cobey, who traveled to Mill Valley a couple of years ago to participate in one of Sheridan's bee research fundraisers and "to talk bees."
If you're interested in helping Sherican help the bees, access the Go Fund Me account.
Sheridan is the human equivalent of a worker bee.
If you plant it, they will come.
Western tiger swallowtails (Papilio rutulus) can't get enough of our butterfly bush. For the first time ever, we saw two of them and managed to get both in the same image. Courtship? Curiosity? Chance encounter?
Whatever it was, they came together, touched and flew away.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, says that "the Western tiger swallowtail is basically a species of riparian forest, where it glides majestically back and forth along the watercourse. It has expanded into older urban neighborhoods where several of its host genera are grown as shade trees, and behaves as if the street were a watercourse. In the high country and on the Sierran east slope its usual host is Aspen.
"One brood (June-July) at higher elevations; one and a partial second at Washington; 2-3 at lower elevations with a long flight season (late February or March-September or October). An avid puddler. Visits Yerba Santa, California Buckeye, Milkweed, Dogbane, Lilies, Coyotemint, etc., etc. and in gardens frequent at Lilac and Buddleia. Spring individuals are smaller and usually paler than summer. Low-elevation hosts include Sycamore (Platanus), Ash (Fraxinus), Cherry and other stone fruits (Prunus), Willow (Salix), Privet (Ligustrum), Lilac (Syringa) and (in Sacramento County) Sweet Gum (Liquidambar)."
Nevertheless, "the tiger" is common in Western America and its bright yellow and black markings with its blue and orange spots on its tail is a sight we never tire of--even when parts of the swallowtail are missing. Predators, such as birds, praying mantids and spiders, try to grab it.
They may have a "tiger" by the tail, but that doesn't mean they can hold on.