Ladybugs, aka ladybird beetles, are out there.
Walk through the garden and they're easy to find.
Last weekend we spotted one tucked in the heart of an artichoke, another climbing a nectarine tree, and still another perched on an artichoke leaf.
They're doing what they're supposed to do--eat aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
Red on green--how beautiful is that?
If you're keen on ladybugs--and you ought to be--you'll want to check out Cornell University's Lost Ladybug Project, once confined to New York state and now a nationwide project. It all began in 2000 when Cornell researchers joined the 4-H Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners to survey ladybug populations throughout the state. Now "citizen scientists" participate in ladybug surveys across the country.
The excitement grew in 2006 when two pre-teens found a nine-spotted ladybug (Coccinella novemnotata) near their home in Virginia. This marked the first documented nine-spotted ladybug found in the eastern United States in 14 years.
The Cornell University site seeks ladybug photos--as of today, the count reached 10,661.
Last Saturday, May 19 the San Diego Botanical Garden got in the act by hosting a "Lost Ladybug Project" for Cornell.
They posted the event on their website only to receive this note: "Ladybug! Ladybug! Fly away home. Your house is on fire. And your children all gone. Because it is Judgment Day..."
Only thing being judged, however, was the number of ladybugs counted...that, no doubt, drew the rapt attention of all.
Those ladybugs are out there...
"How are the bees doing?"
That's the question beekeepers are asked all year.
Well, today the annual survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) answered that question.
The response? Roughly the same.
Total losses from honey bee colonies nationwide amounted to 30 percent from all causes for the 2010/2011 winter.
That's about the same for the past four years:
2009/2010: 34 percent
2008/2009: 29 percent
2007/2008: 36 percent
2006/2007: 32 percent
"The lack of increase in losses is marginally encouraging in the sense that the problem does not appear to be getting worse for honey bees and beekeepers," entomologist Jeff Pettis said in a news release issued today by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service. Pettis leads the Bee Research Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., the chief scientific research agency of USDA.
Colony collapse disorder (CCD), first reported in 2006 by Pennsylvania beekeeper (Dave Hackenberg) overwintering his bees in Florida, is still with us. CCD is a mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind the queen bee, food stores and immature brood. The worker bees leave. Nobody knows where they go. There are no dead bees to examine.
According to the ARS news release, the beekeepers who reported colony losses with "no dead bodies present" also reported higher average colony losses (61 percent) "compared to beekeepers who lost colonies but did not report the absence of dead bees (34 percent in losses)."
Some 5,572 beekeepers responded to the survey, which covered autumn to spring--the period from October 2010 to April 2011. Together these 5,572 beekeepers manage more than 15 percent of the 2.68 million colonies in the U.S.
What's interesting is that the beekeepers said they felt losses of 13 percent would be "economically acceptable." However, "61 percent of responding beekeepers reported having losses greater than this," according to the ARS press release.
So, the losses are still not economically acceptable, but the lack of increase is "marginally encouraging."
Bottom line: roughly the same.
He died too soon, a life cut short by a disease he never knew he had.
It happened 14 years ago tomorrow. Chemical ecologist Sean Duffey (right), then professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology--and known for taking teaching, research, public service and administrative duties to exciting new levels--died May 21, 1997 of lung cancer. He was 53.
He left a legacy treasured by the faculty, students and staff, not to mention his family, friends and colleagues. Every day many pass by the “Au Revoir Sean Duffey” wall memorial on the third floor of Briggs Hall. The work of Davis sculptor Donna Billick (a self-described "20th century cave artist") and Davis calligraphy artist Marilyn Judson, it contains recollections of his life. It includes images of everything from the insects he studied, to the hat he wore, to a soccer ball he kicked.
And every May, the faithful place flowers there in his memory.
On Wednesday, May 25, part of that legacy will come to life in the form of one of his graduate students, Gary Felton (left), now professor and head of the Department of Entomology at Pennsylvania State University.
Felton will deliver the Thomas and Nina Leigh Distinguished Alumni Seminar on “Dialogues at the Plant-Herbivore Interface” at 6 p.m. in Ballroom B of the new UC Davis Conference Center, located across from the Mondavi Center.
The lecture is open to the public and will be preceded by a reception at 5 p.m. A buffet dinner for invited guests will follow Felton’s talk.
Felton, professor and head of the Penn State Department of Entomology since 2000, received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1988. He did postdoctoral work at UC Davis from 1988 to 2000, and then joined the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, advancing to professor in 1998.
About his talk, Felton says: “Our understanding of induced resistance against herbivores has grown immeasurably during the last several decades. Based upon the emerging literature, I argue that induced resistance represents a continuum of phenotypes that is determined by the plant’s ability to integrate multiple suites of signals of plant and herbivore origin.”
“Herbivore-derived cues may be perceived by plants to elicit defensive responses, but herbivores may also partially evade plant defenses through a variety of secreted effectors. A more comprehensive model describing induced resistance is needed that illustrates the range of signals arising from early detection through herbivore feeding, and finally, through subsequent plant generations.”
The seminar is named for noted cotton entomologist Thomas Frances Leigh (1923-1993), right, an international authority on the biology, ecology and management of arthropod pests affecting cotton production. During his 37-year UC Davis career, Leigh was based at the Kern County Shafter Research and Extension Center, also known as the U.S. Cotton Research Station. He researched pest and beneficial arthropod management in cotton fields, and host plant resistance in cotton to insects, mites, nematodes and diseases.
Leigh joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 1958, retiring in 1991 as an emeritus professor. However, like many entomologists, he continued to remain active in his research and collaboration until his death on Oct. 26, 1993.
Thomas Leigh, Sean Duffey and Gary Felton…three familiar faces in the world of entomology and all dedicated to learning, teaching and giving back. As poet laureate Maya Angelou so eloquently wrote: ”When you learn, teach. When you get, give.”
They’ve done just that.
A touch of Brazil and a desire to exchange science and technology...
That's what will happen on the UC Davis campus Monday, May 23 when a distinguished Brazilian scientist meets with UC Davis officials and the Brazilian consulate of San Francisco.
Jorge Almeida Guimarães, president of the Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education (CAPES), Ministry of Education, will be meeting all day with various groups to explain the details of a graduate student exchange program between Brazil and UC Davis.
Brazilian-born Walter Leal, professor of entomology and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology will host Guimarães. Leal, active in promoting student exchange programs, is currently involved with an undergraduate student program involving UC Davis, Pennsylvania State and two Brazilian universities.
A highlight on May 23 will be a public seminar from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m., in the Institute of Governmental Affairs (IGA) Reading Room (Room 360), Shields Library. Speaking on “CAPES and Higher Education in Brazil,” Guimarães will outline an agreement inked between Brazil and the United States when President Obama visited Brazil in March. The agreement, signed by Guimarães on behalf of Brazil and by U.S. Ambassador Thomas Shannon on behalf of the National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C., involves an exchange of students and scholars between the two countries.
The series of meetings will include Chancellor Linda Katehi, Vice Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter, Vice Provost Bill Lacy, and Jeffery Gibeling, dean of Graduate Studies.
Joining in: Ambassador Bernardo Pericás Neto, Consul Consulate General of Brazil-San Francisco, Deputy Consul General Evaldo Freire, and coordinator Clelia Piragibe of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Brazil.
“CAPES is responsible for promoting and evaluating the entire graduate system of education in Brazil,” said Leal, a chemical ecologist who works with insect pheromones. “It supports many programs to improve quality in higher education and to promote research in science and technology in the country.”
“CAPES has no equivalent in the United States, as it is in charge of funding graduate education through scholarship and evaluating the program,” Leal said.
It's good to see that the exchange program's objectives include deepening the cooperation between scholarly and scientific communities of the two countries. This means an exchange of students, exchange of scientists and scholars, joint research projects, university partnerships, and seminars, workshops and conferences.
Plus, a digitization of biological collections.
They're definitely attracted to it.
Honey bees forage furiously on the California buckeye (Aesculus californica).
It's not a good bee plant, though. It's poisonous.
Of California's main bee-poisonous plants--buckeye, death camas (Zigadenus veneosus) corn lily (Veratrum californicam) and locoweed (Astragalus spp.)--the most hazardous to bees because of its wide distribution is the buckeye tree.
Its distribution includes the UC Davis campus. If you walk behind Hoagland Hall, you'll see a thriving buckeye.
And bees and other insects foraging on the blossoms.
"Symptoms of buckeye poisoning usually appear about a week after bees begin working the blossoms," according to the Cooperative Extension booklet, Beekeeping in California, published in 1987 by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "Many young larvae die, giving the brood pattern an irregular appearance. The queen's egg-laying rate decreases or stops, or she may lay only drone eggs; after a few weeks, an increasing number of eggs fail to hatch or a majority of young larvae die before they are three days old."
The booklet, co-authored by six bee experts--five from UC Davis--points out that "Some adults emerge with crippled wings or malformed legs and bodies."
"Foraging bees feeding on buckeye blossoms may have dark, shiny bodies and paralysislike symptoms. Affected colonies may be seriously weakened or may die."
UC Davis Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen edited the publication. Other co-authors were UC Davis entomology professors/apiculturists Norman Gary and Robbin Thorp (both now emeriti); apiculturist Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., UC Davis professor of entomology (deceased); and apiarist Lee Watkins (deceased). Also lending his expertise: Len Foote of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
If the name Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. sounds familiar, that's because the bee facility on Bee Biology Road, about a mile west of the central campus, carries his name.