"Just wanna be your teddy bear..."
When Elvis Presley sang that, his fans swooned.
Well, there are bee fans that can't get enough of the "teddy bear" bee, aka the male Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta).
It's often called a "golden bumble bee." Golden, it is. Bumble bee, it is not.
The female of this carpenter bee species is solid black.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, spotted this male Valley carpenter bee yesterday in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research at UC Davis. He does research in the half-acre bee friendly garden. (By the way, it's located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, and is open from dawn to dusk. There's no admission.)
We at UC Davis periodically receive phone calls about "golden bumble bees." The green-eyed, golden-haired carpenter bee does attract a lot of attention.
"Oh, let me be, your teddy bear."
Or better yet, let me "bee" your teddy bear.
If you're suffering from a sleep disorder, then you'll want to know the kind of research that molecular geneticist Joanna Chiu of the UC Davis Department of Entomology is doing--with fruit flies.
The research may one day lead to alleviating your sleep disorder.
Chiu and two of her former colleagues at Rutgers just published groundbreaking research in the journal Cell. They identified a new mechanism that slows down or speeds up the internal clock of fruit flies.
By mutating one amino acid in a single protein, "we changed the speed of the internal clock and flies now ‘think' it is 16 hours a day instead of 24 hours a day," said Chiu, an assistant professor of entomology.
"Our goal, of course, is not to trick flies into thinking the day is shorter or longer, but to dissect this complex phospho-circuit (phosphorylation sites) that controls clock speed in metazoans."
Their work, involving the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
The world of circadian clocks is a complex one. "Living organisms-plants, animals and even bacteria-have an internal clock or timer that helps them to determine the time of day," Chiu said. "This internal clock is vital to their survival since it allows them to synchronize their activity to the natural environment, so that they can perform necessary tasks at biologically advantageous times of day."
"A functional clock is required to generate proper circadian rhythms of physiology and behavior including the sleep-wake cycle, daily hormonal variations and mating rhythms," Chiu said.
Read more about her research on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
The fruit fly, small in size--about 1/8th inch long--stands tall as a prized tool for genetic research and developmental studies.
Indeed, the red-eyed fly is a "golden bug.”
If you enjoy climbing the cliffs of Bodega Head on the Sonoma coast, keep your eyes out for bears--woolly bear caterpillars, that is.
The so-called "woolly bear caterpillar" is reddish, black and woolly and has a voracious appetite much like that of Joey Chestnut. It is the Ranchman's Tiger Moth caterpillar, Platyprepia virginalis.
Richard "Rick" Karban, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, studies this critter. "It has a taste for most alkaloid containing plants, like fiddleneck, although it doesn't appear to sequester the alkaloids," he told us. "The alkaloids may help caterpillars survive their parasitoids, however."
The reserve, which surrounds the Bodega Marine Laboratory, is a unit of the University of California Natural Reserve System and is administered by UC Davis.
Several woolly bear caterpillars were munching on fiddleneck. Another rolled around near a patch of California poppies and we couldn't tell what its menu included. It looked good, though!
You can read Karban's research on "Diet Mixing Enhances the Performance of a Generalist Caterpillar, Platyprepia virginalis," published last February in the Ecological Entomology journal.
Nero may have fiddled while Rome burned, but the honey bees just kept on working.
We recently visited an apiary in Glenn County, and the honey bees were all over the fiddlenecks in patches adjacent to the hives. A springtime scene of golden flowers and buzzing bees. An artist's dream...a photographer's delight...
The fiddleneck (genus Amsinckia) is kissing cousins with borage and forget-me-nots in the family Boraginacae. The flower-laden stems curl over like the head of a fiddle or violin in concert. And when a honey bee forages on the fiddleneck, the stems bend even more.
I think there's a country song there somewhere. It bends, but doesn't break. Tune in, tune out. It's livestock's poison but bee's nectar.
Fiddle de-dee (good!) for the bees...fiddle de-dum (bad!) for the livestock.
It's worth the wait.
The two towers of jewels (Echium wildpretti) are blooming in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the half-acre bee friendly garden next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.
The plant is a biennual and it blooms the second year and that's it. Plant specialists call this a monocarpic (dies after flowering).
There's no better place for the towers of jewels to "bee" than next to the six million or so bees at the Laidlaw facility.
The garden is open from dawn to dusk (no charge) year around. It's located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
If you go, bring your camera!