It was a perfect St. Patrick's Day--not just for the wearing of the green, but for the wearing of the orange.
The Gulf Fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) arrived in our yard Sunday afternoon, March 16 and deposited an egg, just like E. Bunny will do soon.
The Gulf Frit's host plant is the Passiflora or passion flower vine. Last winter Jack Frost nipped at the leaves and nearly killed one of our two plants but they're both springing back.
The butterfly first touched down on an Amaryllis (Amaryllis belladonna) before she located the two passion flower vines. Her battle-scarred wings related the story of a close encounter with a bird or other predator.
Once quite common in the Sacramento area in the 1950s and 1960s, the Gulf Fritillary vanished for about 40 years and is now making a comeback. It's a brightly colored orange butterfly with black markings and silvery spangled hindwings.
It's good to see it again!
It's a sure sign of spring when we see "the teddy bear bee."
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, calls the male Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) "the teddy bear bee."
An apt description, to be sure. It's gold with green eyes and is often mistaken for "a golden bumble bee." It isn't. It's a carpenter bee. The female of the species is solid black.
Yes, they're pollinators.
Thorp netted one of the teddy bear bees March 12 in front of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, and saved it for doctoral graduate student Margaret "Rei" Scampavia and yours truly to photograph for a quick catch-and-release session.
We placed it on a germander bush in the nearby Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. The boy bee. The blue blossoms. Bee Biology Road.
And oh, those green eyes!
Soon the little fellow abruptly fled our photo session, soaring high above our heads and never looking back.
Probably to meet up with the girls.
Take entomologist Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. Forty years ago, while studying insect development, he discovered a group of anti-inflammatory compounds called sEH (soluble epoxide hydrolases) inhibitors.
In 2005 he began collaborating with cardiologist and cell biologist Nipavan Chiamvimonvat of the School of Medicine’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.
Fast forward to today.
Today an 11-scientist team from the Chiamvimonvat and Hammock labs published groundbreaking research in the Proceedings of National Academic of Sciences that shows a new treatment may help prevent and reduce cardiac fibrosis, a common occurrence in patients after a heart attack.
The research utilized a treatment involving a compound synthesized by Sing Lee and Sung Hee Hwang in the Hammock lab. The scientists determined the molecular mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) inhibitors in a heart attack.
“Our study (using rodents) provides evidence for a possible new therapeutic strategy to reduce cardiac fibrosis and improve cardiac function after a heart attack,” Chiamvimonvat told us.
Every year some 935,000 U.S. residents have a heart attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease kills about 600,000 a year, accounting for one in every four deaths in the nation.
The research, “New Mechanistic Insights into the Beneficial Effects of Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Inhibitors in the Prevention of Cardiac Fibrosis,” is “really important in terms of understanding a unique pathway which may be targeted to reduce fibrosis and adverse cardiac remodeling,” Chiamvimonvat said.
The lead authors of the research paper are Padmini Sirish and Ning Li of the Chiamvimonvat lab, and Jun-Yan Liu of the Hammock lab. In addition, other researchers involved in the project are Kin Sing Stephen Lee, and Sung Hee Hwang of the Hammock lab; Hong Qiu, Cuifen Zhao, and Siu Mei Ma of the Chiamvimonvat lab, and López, who developed the methods to quantitate the fibrotic cells using flow cytometry.
Chiamvimonvat and Hammock have filed patents with the University of California for sEH inhibitors and cardiac hypertrophy therapy and organ fibrosis.
A multi-talented scientist and administrator, Hammock holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Research Center, and directs the campuswide Superfund Research Program, National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Combined Analytical Laboratory. He is a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, and the recipient of the 2001 UC Davis Faculty Research Lecture Award and the 2008 Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching.
Ever watched an in-flight honey bee packing her load of pollen?
A foraging bee carries her ball-like load of pollen on her hind legs and continually moistens it with a little nectar. The size and shape changes as she works. Sometimes you'll see BB-sized loads and at other times the pellets seem as large as beach balls. The color varies, depending on the color of the pollen she collects.
In the UC Agricultural and Natural Resources (UC ANR) publication, Beekeeping in California, (now out of print, but expected to be revised soon) the authors define pollen as "Male sex cells produced in anthers of flowers. Powderlike and composed of many grains, they are gathered and used by honey bees for food as a source of protein. A good mix of many different pollens is essential for adequate nutrition."
Humans use pollen as a supplement or as a way to desensitize the effects of hay fever. If you pick up a jar of pollen granules at your local health food store, the label is likely to read "All naturally occurring: vitamins, minerals, amino acids, carotenoids, bioflavonoids, phytosterols, fatty acids, and enzymes" and the like. Then there's the caution: "Bee pollen may cause allergic reactions in some sensitive people."
And the bees? The brood likes it just fine, except when it's toxic (California buckeye pollen is toxic to the larvae and can result in malformed, nonfunctional adults). Pollen contaminated with pesticides can also be life-threatening. Pesticides used on such crops as alfalfa, oranges, cotton, corn and beans can be hazardous to bees.
Meanwhile, a pollen-packing honey bee in flight is a sight to bee-hold.
It was a gorgeous day to be out in an almond orchard.
Staff research associate Billy Synk of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis was out tending the research bees earlier placed in two Dixon almond orchards.
Volunteer Randall Cass, who is seeking his master’s degree in international agricultural development at UC Davis, accompanied Synk on his rounds. Cass has previous experience working with beekeepers in Chile. And the Laidlaw bees? The 49 bee boxes are part of a research project launched by Brian Johnson, assistant professor of entomology.
The almond blossoms perfumed the air as bees buzzed back and forth carrying their loads of pollen to feed the offspring. They're gearing up for the big spring build-up. Soon the queen bee will be laying 2000 eggs a day.
The grass looked exceptionally green and the almond blossoms exceptionally delicate. You could almost hear the quiet and the excitement of spring.