Beekeepers sometimes see a white-eyed drone in their hives--a genetic mutation.
All drones (male) honey bees, have these spectacular wrap-around eyes that are perfect for finding a virgin queen on her maiden flight. After all, the drone's sole purpose is to mate with a queen and then die. So, every afternoon in spring and summer, weather permitting, the drones fly from their individual colonies and gather in a drone congregation area and wait for a virgin queen to fly by. The queen will mate with 12 to 25 or so drones in in mid-air, some 20 to 50 feet above the ground. The drones immediately die after mating ("they die with a smile on their face" as beekeepers say). The queen bee? She returns to her hive to lay eggs for the rest of her life. She'll lay as many as 2000 eggs a day in peak season.
Life will be different for this white-eyed drone (below), a Caucasian (dark bee) at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis. Note that this is the same race that the European colonists brought to America beginning in the 1622. If the color looks unfamiliar, that's because today the most common bee in the United States is the Italian or honey-colored bee, not the Caucasian.
But, back to the white-eyed drone. Like other drones, he will be fed by his sisters, the worker bees. No reproduction for him, though. No gathering in the drone congregation area. No waiting for a queen.
All white-eyed drones are blind.
So you're sitting in your yard having your morning coffee, and you get buzzed--not a buzz from the caffeine but a buzz by a carpenter bee.
A male carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex, is guarding the salvia, fending off all other male suitors as it waits for a female to arrive. Then, seeking a quick energy fix, our subject stops to rob the nectar (when carpenter bees slit the corolla, bypassing the pollination process, it's called "robbing the nectar").
We managed to photograph this male carpenter (below) in quick succession: (1) in flight (2) stealing the nectar and (3) jumping off the flower.
Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex is the smallest of the three carpenter bee species found in California, according to native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emertius professor of entomology at UC Davis. The other two species: X. varipuncta and X. californica. (See UC Davis Department of Entomology website.)
X. tatabaniformis orpifex may be the smallest, but you wouldn't know it by its buzz.
There's a good reason why they're called "the menace in the mattress." The mattress is one of their hiding spots.
They? Bed bugs. Parasites that feed on human blood.
"Bed bug infestations are rampant locally, nationally and globally," says Tanya Drlik, integrated pest management (IPM) coordinator of Contra Costa County who will speak at the May 3rd meeting of the Northern California Entomology Society, to be held in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
“We’ve had a reprieve from bed bugs for about 50 years, but now they’re back,” said Drlik, who will discuss “The Resurgence of Bed Bugs and Current Effective Control Methods” at 9:45 a.m. in the Laidlaw conference room.
The society (membership is open to everyone) will meet from 9:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Drlik is one of five speakers on topics ranging from bed bugs to lacewings to endangered species.
Drlik, who formed the Bed Bug Task Force to help prepare Contra Costa County to meet the challenges of the mounting bed bug infestation, says that bed bugs “have no regard for wealth or class—everyone is vulnerable. Bed bugs can be found all across the country in apartment buildings, hotels and motels, private residences, hospitals, waiting rooms, fire station, taxis and buses…and the list goes on. They’ve infested four-star hotels and penthouses as well as homeless shelters and rundown apartment buildings.”
“Judging by history and the experience of other jurisdictions across the country, the problem is only going to increase, and more and more public buildings and homes will experience infestations,” said Drlik, who has a master’s degree in ecosystem management and nearly 40 years of experience in the field of IPM.
“Bed bugs are difficult to control because of their small size, their secretive nature and their growing resistance to the pesticides we have at our disposal. Poverty, clutter, and poor housekeeping do not cause bed bug infestations, but they make eliminating infestations much more difficult.”
Bed bugs “can be seen in epidemic proportions in some areas of the United States, including New York City and central and southwestern Ohio,” said Drlik, adding that since 2004, New York City has experienced a 2277 percent increase in complaints about bed bugs in the five boroughs (source: New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development). “Colleagues in the Franklin County Health Department in central Ohio have commented to us that they were completely unprepared for the rapidity with which bed bugs spread throughout their county.”
Other topics at the Nor Cal Entomology Society meeting include:
- “Protecting Invertebrates Listed as Threatened or Endangered Species in California” by Darlene McGriff, California Natural Diversity Database (California Department of Fish and Game).
- “California Forest Insect Conditions Going into 2012” by Cynthia Snyder, U.S. Forest Service, Shasta-McCloud Management Unit.
- “PG&E’s Use of Safe Harbor Agreements and Programmatic Permits to Protect Endangered Organisms on Utility Rights of Way” by Peter Beesley, PG&E.
- “In-Depth Look at Lacewings, an Augmentative California Biological Control Agent” by Shaun Winterton, California Department of Food and Agriculture Biological Control Program.
All great topics, to be sure. Bed bugs, however, are the big draw, in more ways than one.
We remember an Entomological Society of America (ESA) seminar on these bloodsuckers that resulted in a flurry of inspections back in the hotel rooms: mattress, baseboard, furniture, closet and luggage checks.
For excellent bed bug resources, check out the ESA website. And for more information on the Nor Cal Entomology Society meeting, see the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
If you head over to the UC Davis Department of Entomology's displays at Briggs Hall and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology on Saturday, April 21 during the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day, you'll find them.
Bug doctors. Lots of them. They'll be there from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey will be behind a sign that says "Dr. Death" in Room 122 of Briggs Hall. (Briggs is located off Kleiber Hall Drive.) There you can ask him all kinds of questions about forensic entomology and he'll let you peer through his microscope. Ask him about CSI!
Out in front of Briggs Hall will be a "Bug Doctor" booth where you can "bug" the experts about bugs. Entomology faculty and graduate students will rotate shifts.
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) will have a team of experts at Briggs, too, to answer all sorts of questions. "We will do our usual display of information and tools for managing pests in homes and gardens," said Mary Louise Flint, the UC IPM's associate director of urban and community IPM and an Extension entomologist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "We'll give advice on managing pests with less toxic, environmentally sound IPM methods. We will have Quick Tips to hand out, people can try out our touch screen IPM kiosk to answer questions and we will also be distributing live lady beetles (aka ladybugs) for children."
Over at the Bohart Museum in Room 1124 of Academic Surge on California Drive, you'll meet the team of bug experts headed by director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology. You can examine the specimens (there are more than seven million housed in the museum) and they'll even let you hold the critters in their live "petting zoo" which includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks.
Yes, there will be doctors in the house, but you know what? They will be far, far outnumbered by insects. (See the UC Davis Department of Entomology website for the full list of activities.)
Those who attend the free public event, “Mentawai: Listening to the Rainforest,” on Sunday, April 22 on the UC Davis campus will find out.
The unique art/science fusion program, held appropriately on Earth Day, will be presented at 7 p.m. in the UC Davis Main Theatre. Doors open at 6:30. The event is affiliated with the UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dance and the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program.
The program is the work of scholar/performer/composer Linda Burman-Hall, professor of music/ethnomusicology at UC Santa Cruz, and biologist Richard Tenaza, professor of biological sciences, University of the Pacific, Stockton.
Tenaza's UC Davis connection: he received his doctorate in zoology from UC Davis in 1974.
Burman-Hall will present an electronic sound collage composition and videography, coupled with Tenaza’s field recordings and photography of threatened and endangered species in Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands, located more than 100 miles west of Sumatra.
In the abstract, Burman-Hall asks: “What does the rainforest tell us about ourselves and the world? In the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia, wildlife communicates using a complete spectrum of sound that exceeds the range and timbre of a western orchestra. More than 50 meters overhead, female gibbons sing expressive duets in the tree-tops. Hundreds of unique species of birds, frogs, and insects also call and chorus, and in the midst of this sonorous world live indigenous tribes who have listened to the rainforest and existed harmoniously with its flora and fauna for millennia.”
“Mentawai, Listening to the Rainforest, is a extraordinary opportunity to enhance environmental literacy,” said artist Donna Billick, co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art Science Fusion Program. “Listening engages all our senses to a heightened awareness that brings consciousness into the present moment. This approach to research, using sound image and videography, is as good as it can be. I applaud Linda Burman-Hall and Richard Tenaza for drifting out into the Art/Science borderland to bring back the Mentawai gifts.”
Billick, a noted artist who created the six-foot-long bee sculpture in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, will be one of the respondents (asked for their views) following the presentation. Other respondents are UC Davis faculty members Lynne Isbell, professor of anthropology; Andrew Marshall, associate professor of anthropology; Sarah Hrdy, professor emerita of anthropology, Henry Spiller, associate professor of music (ethnomusicology).
The program will showcase wildlife of the rainforest. Tenaza, a wildlife biologist, photographer, world traveler and adventurer, has conducted research in the Arctic, Antarctica, Africa, South America, China, and throughout Southeast Asia with a focus on Indonesia. He specializes in primates and has worked extensively to document and preserve Kloss's gibbon (Hylobates klossii) of Mentawai.
And insects? Among the Mentawai insects Tenaza has photographed are nasute termites and assorted butterflies, including the Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea) and The Cruiser (Vindula erota).
All in all, it promises to be "fantastic," says entomologist/artist Diane Ullman, who does triple duty as (1) professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (2) associate dean for undergraduate academic programs in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and (3) the co-director and co-founder of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program.