There are marathons, read-a-thons, dance-a-thons, quilt-a-thons, paint-a-thons, geek-a-thons and sleep-a-thons.
So why not a bee-a-thon?
YourGardenShow.com is teaming with The Great Sunflower Project to sponsor a worldwide bee-a-thon, a free online town-hall event to be broadcast from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Pacific Time) at www.yourgardenshow.com/bee-a-thon.
You can listen to "bee experts, beekeepers and key environmental players reveal the latest buzz on what's happening to our bees and what you can do this summer to make a difference" and ask them questions.
In the meantime, the sponsors are encouraging you to RSVP and upload your favorite bee photo.
The bee-a-thon serves as the springboard for the citizen-science campaign, The Great Bee Count.
This is a great way to draw attention to the plight of the bees and the importance of these insects. While you're tuning in, the bees will be going about their business as usual--working inside the hive, and gathering pollen, nectar, water and propolis outside the hive.
The sponsors are urging us to "Bee curious, bee aware and bee a good neighbor."
Good advice all year long, but especially on Saturday, July 16.
You can't miss the flame skimmer dragonfly (Libellula saturata). You especially can't miss the male, which is firecracker red.
We watched a male flame skimmer hunt for prey over our fish pond Saturday afternoon. (Hopefully, it was nailing mosquitoes!)
This insect's pattern of flight is so unpredictable that it's difficult to photograph. Where it was, is not where it is. Where it is, is not where it was. It flutters, swoops, soars, and corners a turn like an Indy 500 race car heading for the checkered flag.
But wait! After you watch a dragonfly catch prey, follow it. See where it lands.
In our yard, the dragonflies seem to prefer landing on a tomato stake. The bamboo stake is there for two reasons: (1) to anchor the tomato vines and (2) to attract dragonflies.
We set up a "stakeout." The dragonfly kept returning again and again within a five-minute span to rest or eat its prey.
Nature's pole dancer...resplendent in red...
All that glitters is not gold.
The gold coin flowers (Asteriscus maritimus) planted in our yard attract a goodly number of leafcutter bees and hover flies (aka flower flies and syrphid flies).
But if you look closely, gold coins attract something else--arachnids.
This little crab spider (below) blends in so well that at first glance, it's not easy to spot.
And that's the key. Perfectly camouflaged, it awaits prey.
A golden opportunity...
If the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis Department of Entomology, seemed like a lonely place in 1994, 2004 and 2005, that's because four professors retired.
Now the bee biology program is gaining new strength. In 2009, the Department hired native pollinator specialist/assistant professor Neal Williams.
And this week Michael Parrella, chair of the the UC Davis Department of Entomology, announced another new addition to the faculty: Brian R. Johnson, a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley.
That's good news for the university, good news for the department, good news for bee research and good news for the bees.
Johnson, an assistant professor, has broad interests in evolution, ecology, behavior, genetics, and theoretical biology.
"The Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility has been the site of very innovative bee research over the years that have contributed to the facility's national and international reputation,” Parrella said. “We are excited about hiring Brian Johnson as the new apiculturist at UC Davis as Brian is committed to moving the science of apiculture forward as well as to conducting problem-solving research to help beekeepers, bee breeders and those stakeholders who rely on pollination services provide by honey bees.”
Johnson received his doctorate in 2004 from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. in behavioral biology (thesis: “Organization of Work in the Honey Bee”). A native of Hartford, Conn., Johnson grew up primarily in San Jose but also lived in Omaha, Neb.
Johnson has studied bees for more than 12 years. But, as he said, "I still learn something unexpected and important with every new study. The colony is like a hugely complex puzzle, with many pieces fitting together in functionally cohesive ways. This brain-teaser aspect of figuring out how a honey bee colony works is I think what first attracted me to bee research.”
“In the past (prior to the 1980s) bees were more or less healthy, so little effort went into understanding their basic epidemiology,” Johnson said. “When tracheal mites, and then Varroa moved in, great effort went into controlling these pests, but still little effort went into basic bee epidemiology. Now with colony collapse disorder (CCD), the emphasis is finally transitioning from trying to put out fires--by which I mean control nasty pests of current concern--to both trying to put out fires and understand what causes them in the first place.”
“My hope is that Davis can be at the forefront of this endeavor to both control CCD,” Johnson said, “and to understand what factors underlie a healthy or unhealthy population of honey bees.”
Johnson has already settled into his lab at the Laidlaw facility and his office on the third floor of Briggs Hall.
Being named a Fellow of the 6000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA) is like winning the Pulitzer Prize in the bug world.
So many talented entomologists out there. So few awards. And even fewer prestigious awards.
When the ESA today announced its 10 Fellows for 2011, two University of California, Davis professors were on the list: Diane E. Ullman, who doubles as the associate dean for undergraduate academic programs in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and James R. Carey, considered the world’s foremost authority on arthropod demography and a world expert on the invasion biology of tephritid fruit flies, particularly the Mediterranean fruit fly.
Ullman's research revolves around insects that transmit plant pathogens, in particular plant viruses. She is best known for advancing international knowledge of interactions between thrips and tospoviruses and aphids and citrus tristeza virus.
With the additions of Ullman and Carey, the number of ESA Fellows in the UC Davis Department of Entomology totals 15 since 1947, quite an accomplishment for one department.
Read about the Ullman/Carey accomplishments on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
Three others affiliated with the UC System made the list:
--Anthony A. James, a distinguished professor of microbiology and molecular genetics in the School of Medicine and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, School of Biological Sciences at UC Irvine.
--Brad Mullens, professor of entomology, College of Agricultural Sciences, UC Riverside, and
--Fred Stephen, who began his forest entomology career at UC Berkeley and is now a professor of entomology at the University of Arkansas
Elsewhere throughout the country, the coveted honor went to Susan Brown, professor of biology at Kansas State University; Angela Douglas, professor of insect physiology and toxicology at Cornell University; Frank Gilstrap, former biology control faculty member with Texas A&M and now retired; Naomi Pierce, Hessel professor of biology at Harvard University; and Marlin Rice, former professor at Iowa State University and now a senior research scientist with Pioneer H-Bred International in Johnston, Iowa.
The 10 new Fellows will be inducted at the ESA's 59th Annual Meeting, set Nov. 13-16, 2011 in Reno, Nev.
The Fellow awards are quite prestigious as the ESA Governing Board can select no more than 10 each year. The society, founded in 1889, is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines.
Headquartered in Lanham, MD, the organization is affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry and government. Members are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, and hobbyists.
Some folks toast their accomplishments with a bottle of champagne. We suspect these 10 newly selected Fellows might just tip...an insect net.