Two communicators based at the University of California, Davis, and affiliated with the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, won a total of five awards for their writing and photography in a competition sponsored by the international Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences (ACE). The awards were presented at the ACE meeting, held June 13-16 in New Orleans.
Steve Elliott, communication coordinator for the Western Integrated Pest Management Center, received a gold award (first place) promotional writing for his story, "Safflower Makes an Areawide IPM Program Work. published in the newsletter, Western Front. Judges scored his work 100 out of a possible 100. They wrote: "You had me at Rodney Dangerfield. Very creative, the lead drew me right in wanting to read more. Excellent flow, packed with information in a narrative style. Congratulations on the terrific analytics for the newsletter."
He also received a bronze (third place) for his photo essay, "Loving the Land of Enchantment." Judges wrote: " Good variety of shot sizes which keeps it interesting. Diversity of stories along with photo content is engaging, and sticking to the IPM theme helps. There is so too much text info that it was difficult wade through. The words compliment the photos instead of the usual where the story supersedes the photos."
- A silver award (second place) for a photo series entitled the "Predator and the Pest: What's for Dinner?" on her Bug Squad post on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website on Oct. 3, 2016. Her series showed a praying mantis eating a cabbage white butterfly. Judges commented" "Definitely tell a story, interesting angles and good macro technique. Caught in the moment, but has a still life feel to it, like it's a diorama in a museum and we get to look at the scene from all sides. A unique look and good capture. "
- A bronze award (third place) for her feature photo, "Save the Monarchs," posted Aug. 8, 2016 on her Bug Squad blog. It showed a monarch clinging to a finger. Judges commented "The detail in this photo is incredible. The lighting on the hand against the black background is definitely striking. And it makes the white spots on the monarch pop! Beautiful!"
- ·A bronze award (third place) for blog writing on her Bug Squad blog posted Sept. 6 and entitled "A WSU-Tagged Monarch: What a Traveler!" Judges wrote: "Short and sweet and to the point. Perfect for web reading. The photo is so helpful to the reader. The call to action at the end is a plus and not something I've seen on other entries. Fabulous use of social media to extend the reach of the article, too. "
The Western Integrated Pest Management Center is funded by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture to promote the development, adoption and evaluation of integrated pest management, a safer way to manage pests. The Western IPM Center works to create a healthier West with fewer pests. It is located in the UC ANR Building in Davis.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, headquartered in Briggs Hall, is affiliated with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). The department is globally ranked No. 7 in the world.
In real life, insects "get" milkweed.
We all know it's the only host plant of the monarch butterfly--where monarchs lay their eggs--but it's also a a great source of nectar for butterflies and other insects.
Take the showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa. Native to California, it is found throughout North America, including in our little pollinator garden!
Speciosa nectar is sweet, tantalizing and irresistible.
Recently we've been watching the diversity of insects gathering on our milkweed. Sometimes it's a pushing/shoving match or I'll-fly-away-but-I'll-be-back-as-soon-as-you-leave vow.
Have you ever seen a male Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, nectaring on milkweed? The male, a green-eyed blond about the size of a queen bumble bee, can't sting. Or as native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis says--"Boy bees can't sting." He calls it "the teddy bear bee." What could be more cuddly than this little fellow?
So here's this teddy bear bee trying to grab some nectar while honey bees are buzzing around him trying to get their share. He's bigger; they're louder.
And then, the female of this Valley carpenter bee species (she's solid black--the two represent a clear case of sexual dimorphism) comes along and the bees scatter. Our boy bee does, too.
The bees will be back. The nectar is sweet, tantalizing and irresistible.
Erected in 1852, this historic building was ostensibly intended for Benicia City Hall. Offered as the state capitol and promptly accepted, it had that honor from February 4, 1853 to February 25, 1854. Deeded to the state in 1951, it was one of the four locations of the 'Capitol on Wheels.' California Registered Historical Landmark No. 153.
Another sign informs us: "This historic state capitol building dedicated to TRUTH - LIBERTY-TOLERATION by the Native Sons of the Golden West, March 5, 1958."
Still another sign pays tribute to Joseph Fischer of Switzerland who immigrated to New York in 1845, and to Benicia in 1849 "and purchased this lot on July 1, 1858." His home, now known as the Fischer-Hanlon House, is a California Registered Historical Landmark.
Visitors stop to read the signs and see the signs of life: the flora and the fauna...from a double-blossom pomegranate tree to the fluttering butterflies.
Today, on June 14, Flag Day, a Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) spread its wings on a bush, and a Gulf Fritilliary (Agraulis vanillae) nectared on lantana.
Our California legislators probably enjoyed the flora and fauna, too.
The conversation usually starts like this:
"I saw this huge, huge bumble bee with yellow on its back. It was buzzing like crazy."
Often it's not a bumble bee, but the Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, that's been foraging on the blooms of the passionflower vine (Passiflora).
The yellow "markings?" Tiny yellow grains of pollen.
Valley carpenter bees are passionate about the passionflower vine, a robust climbing vine that's the host plant of the Gulf Fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanillae).
The Valley carpenter bees are large (about the size of a queen bumble bee). The females are solid black, while the males are golden/buff-colored with green eyes. If you're lucky, you'll see both on your passionflower vine.
Planting Passiflora will usually result in a diversity of visiting species, from butterflies to honey bees to carpenter bees. You'll see Gulf Frits laying their eggs on the leaves and tendrils.
Yes, the vine will cover your fence, but not for long. The Gulf Frit caterpillars will skeletonize the plant. (And that's why we plant ours--for the Gulf Frits.)
Well, also for the other insects, too!
Take the nectar of the sticky monkeyflower, Mimulus auranticus.
UC Davis community ecologist Rachel Vannette and colleague Tadashi Fukami of Stanford University decided to examine microbial communities inhabiting the nectar of the sticky monkeyflower at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve in California's Santa Cruz Mountains.
Their paper, "Dispersal Enchances Beta Diversity in Nectar Microbes," published in Ecology Letters, revealed that contrary to popular assumption, “increased dispersal among habitats can actually increase biodiversity rather than decrease it."
The flower, in the family Phrymacease, is a native shrub common in chaparral and coastal scrub habitats of California and Oregon. It is primarily pollinated by Anna's hummingbird. Other common pollinators include bumble bees, carpenter bees, and thrips.
Dispersal is considered a key driver of beta diversity, which is “the variation in species composition among local communities,” Vannette said.
They are the first to publish work showing that increased dispersal can increase biodiversity.
In their experiment, they reduced natural rates of dispersal by eliminating multiple modes of microbial dispersal. “Specifically we focused in nectar-inhabiting bacteria and yeasts that are dispersed among flowers by wind, insects and birds,” they said. “We imposed dispersal limitation on individual flowers and quantified microbial abundance, species composition and microbial effects on nectar chemistry.”
This work has direct implications for conservation of many organisms in addition to bacteria and yeast, suggesting that preserving routes of dispersal among habitat patches may be important in the maintenance of biodiversity. In contrast to previous work showing that dispersal can homogenize communities or make them more similar, the published work demonstrates that dispersal can in some cases generate communities that are more different from each other. The authors hypothesize that this could be driven by priority effects, where early arriving species change the species that can establish within that habitat.
More broadly, “Studying the role of microbes in the environment addresses one of the biggest mysteries in science,” Vannette says. In her current work, she and her lab are investigating how microbial communities form, change, and function in their interactions with insects and plants. They are also researching how microorganisms affect plant defense against herbivores and plant attraction to pollinators.
Vannette, a former postdoctoral fellow at Stanford, joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty as an assistant professor in 2015.
Vannette's research was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through the Life Sciences Research Fellowship. Stanford also funded the research through grants from the National Science Foundation, the Terman Fellowship, and the Department of Biology at Stanford University.