There's a fairy moth named Adela thorpella. Its namesake: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Who wouldn't want to be Adela thorpella? The name just rolls off the tongue.
There's a parasitic orchid bee named Exaerte kimseyae. Its namesake: Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
It is a metallic green. Kimsey says it does not look like her.
There's a strange-looking ant named Pyramica warditeras. Its namesake: Phil Ward, professor of entomology at UC Davis and a noted ant specialist. The species name translates from Greek to mean "Ward's monster."
You wouldn't want to meet a gorilla-sized Pyramica warditeras in a dark alley on a dark and stormy night.
Ah, the naming of insects...If you've ever had a burning desire to learn how newly discovered insects are named, be sure to attend the open house at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14. The Bohart Museum, home of a global collection of more than seven millions specimens, is located in Room 1124 of Academic Surge, corner of California Drive and LaRue Road, UC Davis campus.
Naming insects can also take on a humorous tone. Kimsey collects what she calls "silly scientific names." She didn't name the critters; she just collects the names.
Here are some of them:
Agra cadabra Erwin (carabid beetle)
Agra vation Erwin (carabid beetle)
Agra phobia Erwin (carabid beetle)
Castnia inca dincadu Miller 1972 (castniid moth)
Chrysops balzaphire Philip, 1955 (deer fly) ”balls of fire”
Cyclocephala nodanotherwon Ratcliffe (scarab beetle) “not another one”
Eubetia bigaulae Brown (tortricid moth) pronounced "you betcha by golly"
Heerz tooya Marsh, 1993 (braconid wasp) “here’s to ya”
La cucaracha Blesynski, 1966 (pyralid moth)
Lalapa lusa Pate, 1947 (tiphiid wasp)
Ochisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (true bug) “Oh kiss me”
Dolichisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (true bug) “Dolly kiss me”
Florichisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (true bug) “Flori kiss me”
Marichisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (true bug) “Mary kiss me”
Nanichisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (true bug) “Nanie kiss me”
Peggichisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (true bug) “Peggie kiss me”
Polychisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (true bug) “Poly kiss me” [Kirkaldy was criticized for frivolity by the London Zoological Society in 1912].
Ohmyia omya Thompson, 1999 (syrphid fly) “oh my oh my’a”
Phthiria relativitae Evenhuis, 1985 (bombyliid fly) “theory’a relativity”
Pieza kake Evenhuis, 2002 (mythicomyiid fly) “piece a cake”
Pieza pi Evenhuis, 2002 (mythicomyiid fly) “pizza pie” or “piece’a pie”
Pieza rhea Evenhuis, 2002 (mythicomyiid fly) “pizzaria”
Pison eu Menke, 1988 (sphecid wasp) – I’ll leave this to your imagination
Tabanus rhizonshine Philip, 1954 (horse fly) “rise ’n shine”
Verae peculya Marsh, 1993 (braconid wasp) “very peculiar”
Ytu brutus Spangler, 1980 (water beetle)
To all those, i add "You betcha, by golly!" (Eubetia bigaulae Brown (tortricid moth)
Pop goes the Pieris.
So wrote professor Art Shapiro of the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology from his office in Storer Hall.
Yes, he won his own contest again.
Every year since 1972, the butterfly expert has sponsored a beer-for-a-butterfly contest to see who can find the first cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) of 2012 in the three-county area of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano.
He netted a newly emerged male at 11:50 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 8 in in West Sacramento, Yolo County, to claim his own prize.
Shapiro immediately announced he would take his graduate students and their significant others out for a beer in a few days to celebrate. His students are typically his fiercest competitors in the contest, which is designed to aid in his studies of biological response to climate change.
Sunday’s capture date is the second earliest of record in 40 years, the earliest being Jan. 4, 1990. Shapiro said it reflects “the extraordinary sunny and dry weather that has persisted all winter, with warm afternoons, frosty nights, and little cloudiness or fog.”
“There have been numerous high-temperature records set in northern California, both in the valleys and in the Sierra Nevada, “ Shapiro said. “The abnormal conditions cannot be linked causally to global warming but are related somehow to the current La Nina, now in its second year.”
Shapiro noted that many regional first-flight records for butterflies were set during the severe drought of 1975-76, before “ the signature of global warming was observed.”
“In 1976 we had species flying at the end of January that normally come out in March,” Shapiro observed. “If the current weather pattern continues another two weeks, all those records will be at risk.”
He also pointed out that due to the lack of rainfall, germination of herbaceous plants has been very poor. “If butterflies and other insects are tricked by the weather into emerging early, the resources they need will simply not be there!”
Showing his keen sense of humor, Shapiro joked that politicians of a certain persuasion had something to say about the contest. "Despite my willingness to share the prize, news that I had won again drew harsh criticism" from them, he said. "Despite their own differences, they unanimously pointed out that I teach evolution and study climate change, both of which they consider to be hoaxes."
Shapiro, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Entomological Society and the California Academy of Sciences, maintains a website on butterflies at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu/, where he monitors butterfly population trends in Central California. He has surveyed fixed routes at 10 sites since as early as 1972. They range from the Sacramento River delta, through the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains, to the high desert of the western Great Basin. The sites, he said, represent the great biological, geological, and climatological diversity of central California.
Meanwhile, we're waiting for the 2013 beer-for-a-butterfly contest. We think we know who will win it! The winner's name starts with an "A."
You don't usually see "honey bees" and "malaria" in the same sentence.
That won't be the case, though, when Joseph DeRisi, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor and vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, comes to the UC Davis campus to lecture on Monday, Jan. 9.
His presentation, "A Seminar in Two Acts: Honey Bees and Malaria," is from 10 to 11 a.m. in the main auditorium (Room 2005) of the Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility.
The seminar, open to all interested persons, is sponsored by the Biological Networks Focus Group of the Genome Center. Host is Oliver Fiehn, professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the Genome Center.
DeRisi, a molecular biologist and biochemist, was named the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Grant (also known as "the genius award") in 2004. In 2008, DeRisi won the Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment. Among his many accomplishments: he designed and programmed a groundbreaking tool for finding (and fighting) viruses -- the ViroChip, a DNA microarray that test for the presence of all known viruses in one step.
The DeRisi lab drew international attention last year with publications in Public Library of Science journals.
Chemical Rescue of Malaria Parasites Lacking an Apicoplast Defines Organelle Function in Blood-Stage Plasmodium falciparum (published in PLoS Biology, August 2011)
Temporal Analysis of the Honey Bee Microbiome Reveals Four Novel Viruses and Seasonal Prevalence of Known Viruses, Nosema, and Crithidia (published in PLoS One, June, 2011)
Among those working on the honey bee research and co-authoring the PLoS One paper was insect virus researcher Michelle Flenniken, a postdoctoral fellow in the Raul Andino lab at UC San Francisco and the recipient of the Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellowship in Honey Bee Biology at UC Davis.
Among DeRisi's collaborators on malaria research is UC Davis molecular biologist Shirley Luckhart, professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and an advisor in the Entomology Graduate Program.
DeRisi, who received his Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1999 from Stanford University, does amazing work.
He's a genius, to be sure.
Check out these links:
Joseph DeRisi Lab, UC San Francisco
Joe DeRisi: Biochemist (featured in TED ("Technology, Entertainment, Design" is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.)
Conversation with Joe DeRisi (New York Times)
Solving Medical Mysteries (YouTube)
Hunting the Next Killer Virus (YouTube)
Joseph DeRisi: Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Joseph DeRisi in Wikipedia
It was lovely day today, in more ways than one.
During the lunch hour, we stopped by the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, and discovered more than just blossoms in the planter box filled with fava beans.
Ladybugs, aka lady beetles! Coccinellids!
We spotted five of them, and two were...ahem...in the process of providing the garden with more ladybugs. That's quite nice of them. We need more ladybugs to eat those pesky aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
Meanwhile, as the sun warmed the garden (60 degrees!), honey bees foraged among the blossoms and assorted ants and aphids crawled up and down the leaves.
The half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, is living up to its name as a place for pollinators.
Every year since 1972 Shapiro has challenged the residents of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano to find the first cabbage white butterfly and bring it to him. First one to capture the butterfly in one of the three counties gets a pitcher of beer (or its cash equivalent).
Shapiro sponsors the annual contest to draw attention to Pieris rapae and its first flight. "I am doing long-term studies of butterfly life cycles and climate. Such studies are especially important to help us understand biological responses to climate change. The cabbage white is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago here."
Shapiro usually wins his own contest. He's lost only three times since 1972.
If you want to compete, be sure to check the rules.
Today he went a'hunting in West Sacramento. "What a grand and glorious April day it was!" he said. "Sixty-five degrees in West Sacramento, sunny, light and variable wind...a perfect day to get the first Pieris rapae of 2012. But I didn't. I spent 3-1/2 hours in West Sacramento checking every one of the more than 20 wild radish plants in bloom at least 3 times. If there had been a rapae there, I would have seen it! All I saw was two Vanessa annabella. The drama continues."
I looked through my Solano County photos of cabbage whites and noticed a two-at-a-time image, taken Sept. 7, 2008 in our backyard.
My camera, which can shoot eight frames a second, caught the images on the fly.
Art Shapiro can catch them with his hands. And does.