Deep in the bowels of Briggs Hall on the UC Davis campus, entomology graduate student Kelly Hamby works on a pest that is giving growers fits: spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii).
First detected in California in the fall of 2008, the fly has become an significant pest of berry and cherry crops, which have a combined farmgate value of $1.9 billion.
“My research is focused on the molecular biology and genomics of insecticide resistance in this fly,” said Hamby, who works in the lab of her major professor, integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, professor and former vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
“It is closely related to the model organism Drosophila melanogaster for which much is already known, so I hope to draw from those studies to enhance mine. I plan to monitor the genomic changes as resistance develops in both the field and the lab, and use this information to help growers manage insecticide resistance. “
Her work has not gone unnoticed.
The Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA) is honoring her as the branch recipient of the Lillian and Alex Feir Graduate Student Travel Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry or Molecular Biology. She'll receive a commemorative plaque at an awards luncheon on Tuesday, March 29 at PBESA's meeting in Waikoloa, Hawaii.
The branch will then nominate and endorse her for the national award, to be given at the ESA's annual meeting Nov. 13-16 in Reno.
This is indeed a high honor.
PBESA encompasses 11 U.S. states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming); several U.S. territories, including American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands; and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Hamby, pursuing her doctorate in entomology, is a graduate of UC Davis with a bachelor of science degree in environmental toxicology. In her fruit fly project, she works closely with molecular geneticist Joanna Chiu, a UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty member who specializes in molecular chronobiology.
"I greatly appreciate Joanna’s willingness to work with my students to add an exciting and useful new dimension to their work," Zalom said.
Dorothy Feir (1929-2008), the 1989 president of ESA, established the award as a tribute to her parents who, “at considerable self-sacrifice, "encouraged education and travel experience for their daughters,” she related.
Feir, who grew up in Missouri, received her doctorate in entomology from the University of Wisconsin in 1968; taught biology at St. Louis University, beginning in 1961; and was the first woman president of the now 6000-member ESA. ESA named her a fellow in 1993, an honor limited to only 10 persons a year.
Feir donated her multimillion estate to various institutions and organizations for the study of insects--so future entomologists can benefit.
Researchers in the Walter Leal lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology, are engaging in some exciting research.
They just discovered a "generic insect repellent detector" in the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster)--research published today (March 16) in PloS One (Public Library of Science).
What's exciting is that this research may lead to more effective and lower-cost products than DEET, the gold standard of insect repellents.
The five-member team found the sensory organs involved when fruit flies detect and avoid three key insect repellents: DEET, IR3535 and picaridin. They identified the olfactory receptor neuron (ORN) and characterized its receptor, DmOr42a.
The research team of Leal; primary author and chemical ecologist Zain Syed; chemical ecologist Julien Pelletier; and undergraduate students Eric Flounders and Rodrigo Chitolina, first found that the fruit fly avoids all three well-known repellents, DEET, IR3535 (a compound known as Avon Corporation’s “Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard”) and picaridin (derived from pepper) and then set out to find olfactory receptor neurons sensitive to those insect repellents. They scanned all olfactory sensilla in the antennae and the mouthpart structure, maxillary palps, using single unit electrophysiological recordings.
The receptor they found “fulfills the requirements for a simplified bioassay for early screening of test insect repellents,” they wrote in the scientific paper.
When you think that it takes about 10 years and $30 million to develop a new repellent--and only one test compound in 20,000 reaches the market--this could really speed up the process.
Zain Syed told us: "In this study, by using established behavioral assays to dissect the mechanism of repulsion in fruit flies, we demonstrated for the first time that Drosophila equally avoid other repellents--picaridin and IR3535. By challenging every type of olfactory sensilla on the antenna and maxillary palps, we identified neurons and then the odorant receptor that detect these repellents."
The UC Davis research, as Syed said, "adds a new dimension in research towards understanding the molecular, cellular and organismal response to repellents."
Chemical ecologist Coby Schal, the Blanton J. Whitmire Distinguished Professor of Entomology at North Carolina State University, praised the research as “an excellent example of translational research that can lead to a streamlined and less expensive path of discovery of new repellents.”
In earlier research, Syed and Leal identified a DEET-sensitive olfactory receptor neuron in the Southern House mosquito. “Going from the neuron to the receptor, however, is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack as the mosquito genome has some 181 olfactory receptor genes,” Schal said.
The Leal lab knows DEET. Back in August 2008, Leal and Syed drew international attention when they announced they'd discovered DEET’s mode of action or how it works. Scientists long surmised that DEET masks the smell of the host, or jams or corrupts the insect’s senses, interfering with its ability to locate a host. The Leal-Syed research showed that mosquitoes actually smell DEET and avoid it because they dislike the smell.
DEET, developed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and patented by the U.S. Army in 1946, is the go-to insect repellent. Worldwide, more than 200 million use DEET to ward off vectorborne diseases.
Congratulations to integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, professor and former vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
He's just been named the recipient of the C. W. Woodworth Award, the highest award bestowed by the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
Zalom will receive the award on Monday, March 28 during the branch’s 95th annual meeting, to be held in Waikoloa, Hawaii. Brian Holden of Monte Sereno, Calif., great-grandson of Woodworth and a 1981 graduate of UC Davis in electrical engineering, will present the plaque and a check for $1000.
As the recipient of the Woodworth Award, Zalom will present a 45-minute plenary address at the opening session of the meeting.
Pacific branch president Roger Vargas of the U.S. Pacific Basic Agricultural Research Center, Hilo, Hawaii, described the award as the “most prestigious” given by the branch. “It is presented in recognition of outstanding work in the scientific discipline of entomology,” Vargas said.
The award memorializes Woodworth (1865-1940), a trailblazing entomologist credited for (1) being the first entomology faculty member at the University of California--and thought to be the first academic in the western United States who was an entomologist and (2) founding the UC Berkeley and UC Davis departments of entomology.
Chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and the 2010 recipient of the Woodworth prize, nominated Zalom for the award. Leal described Zalom as “one of the world’s most prolific and respected IPM researchers, but his influence in development of IPM policies and practices stretches globally.”
Zalom focuses his research on California specialty crops, including tree crops (almonds, olives, prunes, peaches), small fruits (grapes, strawberries, caneberries), and fruiting vegetables (tomatoes), as well as international IPM programs.
In his three decades with the UC Davis Department of Entomology, Zalom has published almost 300 refereed papers and book chapters, and 340 technical and extension articles. The articles span a wide range of topics related to IPM, including introduction and management of newer, soft insecticides, development of economic thresholds and sampling methods, management of invasive species, biological control, insect population dynamics, pesticide runoff mitigation, and determination of host feeding and oviposition preferences of pests.
The Zalom lab has responded to six important pest invasions in the last decade, with research projects on glassy-winged sharpshooter, olive fruit fly, a new biotype of greenhouse whitefly, invasive saltcedar, light brown apple moth, and the spotted wing Drosophila.
Zalom serves as experiment station co-chair of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) National IPM Committee and is a member of APLU's Science and Technology Committee. He directed the UC Statewide IPM Program for 16 years (1988-2001).
Zalom is a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the California Academy of Sciences. The Entomological Foundation presented him with its “Award for Excellence in IPM” at the ESA’s meeting last December in San Diego.
Zalom is the eighth scientist from the UC Davis Department of Entomology to receive the award. Other recipients: William Harry Lange, 1978; Harry Laidlaw Jr. 1981; Robert Washino, 1987; Thomas Leigh, 1991; Harry Kaya, 1999; Charles Summers, 2009; and Walter Leal, 2010.
The Pacific Branch of ESA encompasses 11 U.S. states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming); several U.S. territories, including American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands; and parts of Canada and Mexico.
California peach blossoms are peachy keen.
Especially when honey bees are foraging.
The pink pastel blossoms, powder blue sky, and golden honey bees...yes, California peach orchards are blooming.
Is it too soon to think about peach cobbler?
When something is a "plum," it's something desirable, whether it be a "plum" position, a "plum" assignment or a "plum" reward.
With honey bees, a bee on a plum blossom is definitely a plum job.
The honey bees foraging today in the Häagen-Dazss Honey Bee Haven at Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, were on a plum assignment.
A gorgeous springlike day with more to come, a colony building itself up, sister bees helping one another, and nectar and pollen all for the taking.
However, when I saw the bees packing huge loads of golden pollen, I figured: "They must be plum-tired."