From moths to medicine...
When distinguished professor Bruce Hammock of the UC Davis Department of Entomology speaks at the department's noonhour seminar tomorrow (Wednesday, April 6) in 122 Briggs Hall, his topic is sure to draw attention.
Hammock's topic: "Moths to Medicine: Epoxide Hydrolase Inhibitors as Analgesic Agents for Neuropathic and Inflammatory Pain." His talk is the second in the department's spring seminar series.
Hammock began his entomological career studying pest management (insect development), and then added a new dimension, pain management (humans), to his research expertise.
He and his lab were recently featured in an article, "Shotgun Approach to Drugs," published in Chemical and Engineering News.
A member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, Hammock received the UC Davis Faculty Research Lecture Award in 2001 and the Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching in 2008.
Hammock directs the UC Davis Superfund Research Program, which last year received a $13.2 million, five-year competitive renewal grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). He also directs the National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program and the NIEHS Combined Analytical Laboratory.
If you can't make it to his talk, not to worry. It will be webcast and then archived on the department's website. There you can link to other entomology-related webcasts recorded since February 2009.
Professor James R. Carey of the Department of Entomology spearheaded the webcasting of the departmental seminars.
Beekeepers with more than 50 colonies and who do business in California will soon have the opportunity to help support honey bee research.
"Honey bee research would receive a substantial shot in the arm if beekeepers operating in California decide to form the California Apiary Research Commission to support honey bee research and information distribution," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in his latest Bee Brief.
Only those beekeepers who register to vote with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) by May 30, 2011 will be allowed to vote on the July referendum. If the referendum is approved, the commission will become a reality and thousands of dollars would be funneled into honey bee research.
A 50-cent fee per hive would be assessed on the 500,000 or so colonies residing in California, Mussen said, "as well as the 700,000 or more that are trucked into California from out of state." That could involve more than 1000 beekeepers.
If one million colonies were assessed, that would mean $500,000 for honey bee research, Mussen said.
California has some 740,000 acres of almonds, and each acre requires two colonies to pollinate them. Since California doesn't have that many bees, beekeepers across the country truck in their bees for the almond pollination season.
This all came about when the California beekeeping industry approached the state Legislature and asked for an assessment to fund much needed research. The state Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1912, which allows the formation of the commission IF--and only IF--the beekeepers vote to approve it.
So, first beekeepers eligible to vote must register by May 30, and then they vote in July.
Mussen said that at 50 cents per colony, "that would be one-third of one percent, or three one-thousandths of a $150 almond rental."
"Many beekeepers feel that reducing their income from $150 to $149.50 is worthwhile when the money is going to support research that should provide useful information for their operations," Mussen said.
Check out Mussen's Bee Brief for more information and the registration form that can be mailed to the CDFA.
Very rare, indeed.
It has the eyes of a drone and the body of a worker bee.
And no, this is not science fiction. It's a mutant honey bee.
"They're not totally uncommon," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "But they're there."
It was "there" yesterday at a queen-production business in Glenn County. The occasion: Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis was guiding her "Art of Queen Bee Rearing" class on a tour of several businesses.
As the beekeeping class walked into the grafting room, Cobey stood outside for a moment.
"Look," she said. "A cyclops bee." (In Greek mythology, cyclops is a race of one-eyed giants.)
Cobey picked it up and cradled it in her hand for several seconds before it flew away. Four things about this bee:
1. It could fly.
2. It had the wrap-around eyes of a drone or a male bee.
3. It had a stinger, like that of a worker bee.
4. It had pollen baskets, like that of a worker bee.
"It was a happy, healthy bee," said Cobey. Her mentor, Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003), considered the father of honey bee genetics, did research on them.
This particular bee? Would it be like a worker bee, gathering pollen, nectar and propolis? Or would its sisters feed it, as they do drones?
"I don't know what kind of a job is in store for it," Cobey said. "But I know it had a stinger. It was trying to get me."
Cobey estimates she sees a cyclops bee about "once or twice a year."
Interestingly enough, there's an article on "Mutant and Gynandromorphic Honey Bees" in the March edition of the American Bee Journal. Author Wyatt Mangum of the Mathematics Department, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Va., recalls finding one in his childhood that had "the head of a drone and the body of a worker." His article offers a detailed look at bee genetics.
"Mutant drones usually have a short life," Mangum wrote. "Provided the mutant drone is sexually mature, the mutation can be propagated with instrumental insemination and studied. Workers are found with mutations, too, though very rarely. A particular striking one is the cyclops mutation. Its genetic properties are poorly understood."
Poorly understood, yes. And rarely seen, definitely.
The one Cobey spotted Thursday morning stayed in her hand for several seconds before it buzzed away--but that was just enough time for a quick photograph.
Mark your calendars for a sobering experience.
The University of California,Davis, will observe World Malaria Day with a daylong retreat showcasing UC Davis scientists’ current research in vector biology and genetics.
The event, free and open to the public, will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, April 25 in Room 1102 of the Gourley Clinical Teaching Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, on Garrod Drive.
Malaria is a killer. "Approximately half of the world's population is at risk of malaria, particularly those living in lower-income countries," according to the World Health Organization (WHO). "It infects more than 500 million people per year and kills more than 1 million. The burden of malaria is heaviest in sub-Saharan Africa but the disease also afflicts Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and even parts of Europe."
Postdoctoral researchers Becky Trout (email@example.com) and Michelle Sanford (firstname.lastname@example.org) are organizing the event, and issued this statement: “Malaria remains one of the most deadly vectorborne diseases in the world. Worldwide programs continue to rely on control programs based on the most recent research available. In honor of the Roll Back Malaria Program, promoting the education and research in the fight against malaria, student and researchers at UC Davis engaged in vector biology and genetics will come together to discuss their research efforts.”
During the breaks and during lunch, attendees will see a photo slide show of research experiences.
Malaria researchers associated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology include graduate student advisors Anthony “Anton” Cornel, associate professor, Department of Entomology; Shirley Luckhart, professor, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Medicine; and Gregory Lanzaro, professor, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine.
Through their research and public involvement, they're all doing their part to control a killer.
Those oak trees (Quercus lobata) in California’s Central Valley have a lot of gall.
Ian Pearse, Maxwell Joseph and Melanie Gentles of the UC Davis Department of Entomology recently surveyed 1234 oak apple galls in Davis and Woodland (Yolo County) and Vacaville (Solano County) and got a better understanding of the gall-making wasps and the organisms that prey upon them or live with them.
“Oak apple galls are themselves a complex ecosystem, with over 20 species of insects, that are in many people’s backyards,” said Pearse, who is studying for his doctoral degree in entomology with major professor Rick Karban. “The galls and their wasps are not a major problem for oaks but are themselves food for other organisms such as birds and other insects.”
The wasp (Andricus quercuscalifornicus), a member of the Cynipidae family, lays her eggs on the leaves or twigs of a valley oak, which then forms a gall or a structure that resembles an apple hanging from the tree. “The gall is actually very beneficial, and necessary, for the insect,” Pearse said. In reality, the insect “’coerces’ the plant to make it a great home.”
“This community of insects has been poorly described for most cynipid-induced galls on oaks in North America, despite the diversity of these galls,” Pearse said. Cynipids are small solitary wasps that produce galls on oaks and other plants.
Their research, published in a recent edition of the international journal Biodiversity and Conservation, shed light on the natural history of the common oak apple gall and its parasitoid and inquilines community. They found that the composition of the insect community varies with galls of different size, phenology and location.
The researchers discovered that the gall maker “most often reached maturity in larger galls that developed later in the season. “The parasitoid Torymus californicus (family Torymidae) was associated with smaller galls, and galls that developed late in the summer,” they wrote. “The most common parasitoid, Baryscapus gigas (family Eulophidae), was more abundant in galls that developed late in the summer, though the percentage of galls attacked remained constant throughout the season.”
“Parasitoids and inquilines, in general, had a longer emergence period and diapauses within the gall than the gall-inducer,” they wrote. “The association of different parasite species with galls of different size and phenology suggests that different parasite species utilize galls with slight differences in traits.”
Galls provide their inducer with a consistent food source, a predictable abiotic environment, and a refuge from potential enemies, Pearse said.
Galls, which hang on the valley oaks like apples, are especially visible this time of year.
Researcher Maxwell Joseph, who received his bachelor of science degree last year from UC Davis, is now studying for his doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado. Melanie Gentles, who holds a master's degree from UC Davis, is now the UC Davis campus arborist.