Quick! What's the answer to this question?
"I am a blood feeder; I have no hair but have a comb. What am I?"
That was the final question posed when the University of California, Davis competed Monday night with the University of Hawai-Manoa team for the championship of the Linnaean Games, Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA).
The Linaean Games are college bowl-type games featuring questions about insects, entomologists and entomological facts. Each branch of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) can send two teams to the nationals. This year ESA meets in Reno Nov. 13-16.
So, UC Davis and the University of Hawaii are in a dead heat at the PBESA meeting in Hawaii. Tied game. Buzzers ready. And then comes that final question. "What am I?"
"A flea," Emily Symmes of the UC Davis team correctly answers.
Yes, a flea! A flea, indeed.
Emily Symmes, who is studying for her doctorate with major professor Frank Zalom, joined the winners' circle with her fellow teammates who also did equally well: Matan Shelomi, studying for his doctorate with major profesor Lynn Kimsey; Meredith Cenzer, studying for her doctorate with major professor Louie Yang; and James Harwood, studying for his doctorate with major professor James R. Carey.
Winning at the branch level is indeed an accomplishment, as well as a fun endeavor. The 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.
If you've never been to any of the Linnaean Games, you can see videos online by Googling "Linnaean Games." See if you can answer those questions.
Might be another question about fleas in there, too.
One of the highlights of Susan Cobey's class on "The Art of Queen Bee Rearing" is a visit to commercial queen bee breeders in Northern California.
Cobey is a bee breeder-geneticist at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, and Washington State University.
It was raining. Did we say it was raining? It was pouring.
When it rains, the virgin queens and drones don't fly out to mate. During her maiden flight, each virgin queen will mate with 12 to 25 drones, and then she'll return to her hive, where she will spend the rest of her life laying eggs. She'll lay about 1000 eggs a day during the busy season, or about 2000 eggs a day during peak season.
Rain stops the mating. So do cold temperatures. The thermometer has to read at least 70 degrees for the mating flights. Otherwise, it's a no-go. A no-fly day.
The process from egg to larva to pupa to adult is almost miraculous. It involves using a grafting tool to remove the tiny, almost microscopic egg from the comb and transferring it to a queen cup. From there, it's back into the hive where the worker bees tend to the queen cells, feeding them royal jelly.
This month, however, proved to be one of the most rainy months on record. It rained nearly every day.
Many of the queens-to-be won't be.
Diners know that a napkin serves a good purpose: touch the lips with it or protect the lap.
Well, honey bees occasionally use a napkin, too. A recent sun break--blue skies, 70-degree temperatures, no rain--resulted in honey bees foraging for water on a rain-soaked napkin on the patio.
They came in twos to stand on the napkin to sip water.
"Water foragers tend to forage at the water source nearest to their colony," writes honey bee expert Norman Gary, emeritus professor of apiculture at UC Davis, in his recently published book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees (BowTie Press).
"Minerals, salts, gases, organic compounds from organisms in the water and other unknown elements influence the bees' preference of water sources," he wrote. "Only the bees know the secret ingredients that determine their choices; otherwise bees would be able to create super-attractive watering holes with special flavors to lure bees away from swimming-pool decks, drinking fountains and birdbaths, where they are sometimes perceived as a problem by beekeepers."
All honey bees are welcome in our yard--with or without a napkin.
His topic is enticing: "The Irritable Insect."
We've all found a few species of insects irritable; some more than others. (Apiculturists know how grumpy bees are when they open a hive on a cold, rainy day.)
Now Bernie Roitberg, professor at the Centre for Pest Management, Department of Biosciences at Simon Fraser University, British Columbla, has taken "The Irritable Insect" to the next level.
He'll speak on that topic Wednesday, March 30 when the UC Davis Department of Entomology launches its spring seminar lecture series.
Roitberg explains about his talk: "Across a broad range of taxa, animals express a wide range of responses when confronted with potentially dangerous situations. I will use a general theory of irritability to explain why and how such plasticity is ubiquitous. I will then describe a series of experiments on aphids, mosquitoes, parasitic wasps and beetles that test predictions from this theory."
Roitberg, whose areas of expertise include behavioral ecology, population ecology, and chemical ecology, received his bachelor's degree from Simon Fraser, his master's degree for the University of British Columbia, and his doctorate in entomology from the University of Massachusetts. Last year he received a lifetime achievement award from the Pest Management Association, B.C.
His talk March 30 takes place from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs. Host is professor Jay Rosenheim.
When honey bees make the transition from egg to larva to pupa to adult, it's magical.
Today we watched bees chew through their cell cappings, flex their antennae, crawl out, and immediately look around for work to do.
The occasion: a queen-bee rearing class taught by bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.
One particularly bee-to-be struggled to emerge. She popped out her antennae, twirled her head, and finally, lifted her head, thorax and abdomen from the cell.
Whew! All that work!
Cobey dipped her finger into honey and fed it to the exhausted bee. "She's hungry," she said.