Not to worry. Put it all in perspective by thinking about the larvae of the honey bee.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, likes to talk about the massive weight gain that occurs during the larval stage of the honey bee. He speaks at scores of beekeeping functions throughout the year and what he says about the larval weight gain always draws a "Wow!" or "Incredible!" or "Amazing!"
"A honey bee egg weighs about 0.1 mg," Mussen says. "The first stage larva weighs the same. Over the next six days of larval life the larva goes from 0.1 mg to around 120 mg. It defecates once, just before pupating, and the resulting adult bee weighs around 110 mg. Thus, the new bee weighs about 1,000 times the weight of the one-day-old larva."
Now get this:
"If a human baby, weighing eight pounds at birth, were to grow at the same rate, the baby would weigh 8,000 pounds, or 4 tons, at the end of six days."
Four tons in six days? Fortunately, what goes on with Apis mellifera does not apply to Homo sapiens.
Now go get that second helping of pumpkin pie.
As for Mussen, he quips: "I only feel that heavy some days!"
What do flies have in common with us?
For one thing, an innate immune system mechanism to detect and fight off invaders that threaten our health.
Four scientists, including two Nobel Laureates, will discuss host defense at a UC Davis symposium on Wednesday, Jan. 25 in the UC Davis Conference Center.
Nobel Laureates Jules Hoffmann of the University of Strasbourg, France and Bruce Beutler of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas will be among the speakers. They and Rockefeller University researcher Ralph Steinmann (who died in September) shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their groundbreaking discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity.
The symposium, sponsored by the UC Davis Center for Comparative Medicine and the
Murray B. Gardner Research Seminar Fund, will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. Open to all interested persons, it's free but folks must register at http://conferences.ucdavis.edu/immunity to attend.
"In recent years, a remarkable evolutionary conservation of innate immune mechanisms has become apparent between flies, plants, mice and humans," according to the sponsors' flier. "Each of these species uses similar receptors to detect microbes. Therapeutic targeting of toll-like receptors for infectious and inflammatory disease and cancer, and crop engineering of these receptors for resistance to infection, is now a reality."
A Symposium on the Evolution of Common Molecular Pathways Underlying Innate Immunity.
"The Drosophila Host Defense: A Model for the Study of Innate Immunity"
--Jules Hoffmann, University of Strasbourg, 2011 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
"Creating Immune Deficiencies by Random Mutagenesis in Mammals"
--Bruce Beutler, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, 2011 Nobel Laureaute in Physiology or Medicine
"The Rice XA21 Receptor Recognizes a Conserved Bacterial Signaling Molecule"
--Pamela Ronald, professor, Department of Plant Pathology, and faculty, UC Davis Genome Center
"Toll-Like Receptors and Inflammasomes: Key Drivers of Inflammatory Diseases"
--Luke O'Neill, professor, School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity College, Dublin
The Contact Person:
Anita Moore at (530) 752-1245.
The parasitic fly (family Tachinidae) never had a chance.
It went from floral visitor to spider prey to spider dinner when it made a single solitary mistake: it inadvertently fell into a sticky web.
Its life-and-death struggle in our back yard did not escape a trio of cellar spiders (family Pholcidae). They rapidly descended on the squirming fly.
This was the first time I've ever seen cellar spiders hunt together. While one wrapped it in silk for future dining pleasure, another administered a fatal bite. The powerful poison paralyzed it. Then one of the bigger spiders tugged the wrapped prey under the lip of our barbecue table. Out of sight.
Bon appetit! Table for three!
It's not easy identifying "what's for dinner" but Martin Hauser, a senior insect biosystematist with the Plant Pest Diagnostics Branch, California Department of Food and Agriculture, said it's definitely a Tachinid fly. There are hundreds of Tachinidae genera, he says, but this one is very likely a Peleteria.
I'm just glad the catch of the day wasn't a honey bee.
You've probably already "put a bug" in Santa's ear, telling him what you want.
But have you ever thought of putting a bug on your holiday card?
If you're an entomologist, absolutely. If you like insects, probably. If you're not a bug lover, no.
However, here's what can happen if you mosey on over to the Bohart Museum of Entomology this Sunday, Dec. 18 from 1 to 4 p.m. on the UC Davis campus.
The creative folks at the Bohart Museum, located at 1124 Academic Surge on California Drive, are sponsoring an open house, themed "Insects in the Winter Wonderland." There you can learn where insects go in the winter.
And you can create a holiday insect card to take home and share with others.
The event, free and open to the public, is the last of the Bohart Museum's 2011 weekend open houses. You'll have to wait 'til 2012 to attend the others.
"We will be focusing on what insects do and where they go when it gets cold," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at the Bohart. "For example, monarch butterflies survive the winter by clustering together in Mexico or on the California coast; tomato hornworms overwinter underground as pupa, and honey bees can stay warm inside their hives and live off of their stored honey."
Visitors also can enjoy a live “petting zoo” with such residents as Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of more than seven million insect specimens, the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and is also the home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), who was Lynn Kimsey's major professor, founded the museum in 1946.
The Bohart Museum launched its series of weekend openings for the fall season on Saturday, Sept. 24 with “Catch, Collect and Curate: Entomology 101.”
The remaining schedule for the 2011-2012 academic year:
Saturday, Jan. 14, 1 to 4 p.m.: “A New Year, a New Bug, How Insects Are Discovered”
Sunday, Feb. 12, 1 to 4 p.m., “Bug Lovin’”
Saturday, March 10, 1 to 4 p.m., “Hide ‘n’ Seek: Insect Camouflage”
Saturday, April 21: 10 to 3 p.m., UC Davis Picnic Day
Saturday, May 12, 1 to 4 p.m., “Pre-Moth’ers Day”
Sunday, June 3, 1 to 4 p.m., “Bug Light, Bug Bright…First Bug I See Tonight.”
Regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The museum is closed on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
More information is available on the Bohart website or by contacting Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at email@example.com or (530) 752-0493.
It's not too late to have a "buggy" holiday.
Of course you do.
But probably not as much as Andrea Lucky, the "Queen of Ants."
(Or as much as Phil Ward, her major professor at UC Davis or Alex Wild, the Illinois-based biologist and insect photographer who also studied with Ward. Both Lucky and received their doctorates in entomology from UC Davis.)
It's a citizen-scientist driven study of the ants that live in urban areas, particularly around homes and schools, Lucky says.
Anyone can participate: teachers, students, parents, junior scientists and just plain (and fancy) ant enthusiasts.
The project involves collecting ants in backyards and schoolyards "using a standardized protocol so that we can make detailed maps of the wild life that lives just outside (or even in) our doorsteps," Lucky says. The data-rich maps "will tell us a lot about native and introduced ants in cities, not just here in North Carolina, but across the United States and, as this project grows, the world!"
Many folks, Lucky says, have asked her about contributing to the project, so there's now a SciFund Challenge and donations are being accepted. "Our fundraising campaign has just six days left," she says, "but of course the project goes on past that deadline."
And the spectacular ant photos on School of Ants website were generously provided by...drum roll...Alex Wild.
Between the photos and the text, there's a wealth of information about ants on the site.
All in all, it's good to see citizen scientists monitoring ants. Ants don't share the same PR image as ladybugs, butterflies and native bees, also tracked by citizen scientists.
One, two, three, all together now, can you say "Myrmecologists"?