Have you hugged your favorite pollinator today?
It's National Pollinator Week, and you're allowed to do that this week. Actually, any time you feel the inclination.
Honey bees, bumble bees, wool carder bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees--they're all out there, ready for a hug.
'Course, they may misinterpret your actions.
This is the fifth annual Pollinator Week, when we pay tribute to bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles--and flies, too. Don't forget the flies. And all the other pollinators out there.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is encouraging us to celebrate pollinators June 20-26. Perhaps what we should do, along with celebrating them, is vow to save them.
Who celebrated the most? Homo sapiens or Apis mellifera?
It was difficult to tell.
The Celebration of the Bees, held June 18 at the hillside home of a Mill Valley resident, drew avid fans of honey bees and native bees (no, honey bees are not natives; the European colonists brought them to America in 1622).
Sponsored by Savory Thymes, the event featured a honey bee talk by master beekeeper-writer Mea McNeil of San Anselmo; a native bee demonstration and talk by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis; and learning stations staged by the Marin Beekeepers' Association.
Folks tasted honey, sampled meads, listened to live music, and feasted on hamburgers, hog dogs, beans, salad and freshly picked cherries and strawberries. It was all a benefit for the beekeeping projects of SuperOrganism: the Marin Pollen Project and the Marin Survivor Stock Queen Bee Project.
UC master gardener Kathy Ziccardi, who tends the hillside garden twice a week, thoughtfully numbered the native bee plants so guests could match each number to a hand-out sheet containing the common and botanical names. The plants ranged from African blue basil (Ocimum) and California phaelia (Phacelia cicutaria) to tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora).
While the guests mingled, the bees worked the flowers.
There's a "bee" in benefit.
Tabatha Yang saw it first.
She's the education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis.
What she saw--in a grassy field at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus--was a golden ladybug, aka lady beetle.
It looked just like a yellow jelly bean.
Systemic entomologist Natalia Vandenberg of the Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, identified it as Coccinella septempunctata.
Tabatha is "holding an adult ladybug that is newly eclosed from the pupa," Vandenberg said. "Note that the flight wings are yellow in the teneral adult instead of grey and they are stretched out so that they can expand fully and dry properly. The pronotal markings and body shape identify this as a member of the genus Coccinella. When the adult first leaves the pupa the dark pigment of the pronotum is already present, but the elytral spots develop gradually."
"If you had watched the beetle for 15 minutes the spots would begin to show. There is a spotless Coccinella that occurs in California (C. californica), but what you have is most likely to be a 7 spot that hasn’t developed the spots yet."
We watched it for several minutes and then released it back into its habitat.
By now, it's no doubt formed those characteristic spots.
Somewhere out there is a yellow jelly bean....with spots.
A streak of gray, but don't wash it away.
The gray hairstreak is a butterfly.
We spotted this delicate-looking butterfly (Strymon melinus) on a red pincushion flower (Scabiosa) this week in Winters, Yolo County.
Gray on red. Fauna on flora. A Strymon on a Scabiosa.
Butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, includes hairstreaks in his book, Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions (University of California Press).
If you look on his website, Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site, you can read all about the butterflies he studies.
You'll often see the butterfly on the mallows, Spanish lotus, bird's-foot trefoil, white clover, alfalfa, and scores of other plants. We saw it nectaring on catmint (Nepeta) in our yard.
And on Scabiosa. A Strymon on a Scabiosa.
It's been dubbed "The Manhattan Project of Entomology."
And it may have "the potential to revolutionize the way we think about insects," says Richard Levine, communications program manager of the Entomological Society of America (ESA).
Call it "The Manhattan Project of Entomology." Call it "The i5k Initiative." Call it "The 5,000 Insect Genome Project." They're one and the same and will involve entomologists worldwide sequencing the genomes of 5,000 insects and other arthropods over the next five years.
The goal, as the article in the current edition of American Entomologist states, is “to improve our lives by contributing to a better understanding of insect biology and transforming our ability to manage arthropods that threaten our health, food supply, and economic security."
"We hope that generating this data will lead to better models for insecticide resistance, better models for developing new pesticides, better models for understanding transmission of disease, or for control of agricultural pests," Daniel Lawson, a coordinator at the European Bioinformatics Institute, told Levine. "Moving into the genetics era revolutionizes what you can do, what you can try to assay in your species, what you can infer from your experiments."
Professor Gene E. Robinson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, pointed out: "This will provide information that breeders would need to look for ways of dealing with insect resistance to pesticides. It would also provide geneticists with information on what might be vulnerable points in an insect's makeup, which could be used for novel control strategies."
The first step? Entomologists will sign up to create wiki pages.
"We're trying to find out who's working on what insects, and if they feel that having genomic information about their insects would help," professor Susan J. Brown of Kansas State University told Levine. "Quite a few researchers are probably working on transcriptomics, looking at the genes that are transcribed under certain contexts, environmental conditions or life stages. Looking at the whole genome will help us understand these comparatively and not just in one organism."
This is an exciting project with entomologists networking on a project that will benefit us all. We're especially interested in insects of agricultural and medical importance.
Read Richard Levine's piece in American Entomologist at http://entsoc.org/PDF/2011/AE-15k.pdf.