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.
If you head over to the California State Capitol tomorrow (Tuesday, March 23) don't be too surprised if there's a John Deere tractor on the west steps.
March 23 is Ag Day when the state's urban and rural folks come out in force to celebrate the state's $34.8 billion ag industry.
"Agriculture drives California’s economy, creates jobs and provides a safe and nutrititous food supply," the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) says on its website.
Indeed it does.
And dozens of booths will be set up on the lawn to prove it. Even in the rain.
Elected officials and staff will tour the booths starting at 10:30 a.m. The public will join in from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
One of the booths drawing a lot of attention last year was the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) booth. The beekeepers gave away honey sticks, bee stickers and honey recipes, and displayed a bee observation hive housing a queen bee, worker bees and drones. Häagen-Dazs, which maintains a close relationship with beekeepers and the scientists at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, provided ice cream from the same booth. (Bees pollinate many of the ingredients in ice cream, including fruits, vegetables and almonds.)
CSBA and Häagen-Dazs will be there again tomorrow. So will dozens of other organizations and businesses. They include the California Farm Bureau Federation, Ag in the Classroom, California Strawberry Commission, 4-H, FFA, California State Grange, California Cattlemen's Association, Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, California Milk Advisory Board, Western Fairs' Association and scores of others.
In some way, shape, or form, however, honey bees make it all possible.
“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have not more than four years to live."
That comment, widely attributed to physicist Albert Einstein, is all over the web. And it keeps surfacing in news stories, talk shows, opinion pieces, documentaries, essays and blogs--just about everywhere where bees are and where they aren't.
Problem is, Einstein (1879-1955) didn't say it.
Even Snopes came out and said Einsten, didn't say it.
Albert Einstein was a physicist, not an apiculturist, ecologist or entomologist. Besides, colony collapse disorder (CCD) didn't gain the news media's attention until 2006.
No one has traced the origin of the comment attributed to Einstein, but some folks think it originated in either France or England. Kind of reminds us of all the places that say "Abraham Lincoln slept here" or "George Washington slept here" or quotes falsely attributed to them.
Snopes said it well: "One tried-and-true method for getting people to pay attention to words is to put them into the mouth of a well-known, respected figure whom the public perceives as being an expert in the subject at hand."
Not only did Einstein NOT say it, but it the quote doesn't take into account that millions of people throughout the world exist on grains (such as rice and wheat), which are not pollinated by bees.
One third of the American diet is pollinated by bees, but that's not the case in much of the world.
"Honey bees are thought to have inhabited our planet up to 40 million years," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "They survived the dinosaurs and the glaciers. It is likely they still will be here long after many other animals have gone extinct."
The United Nations, in its recent report on "Global Bee Colony Disorders and Other Threats to Insect Pollinators," agreed that "the health and well-being of pollinating insects are crucial to life, be it in sustaining natural habitats or contributing to local and global economies."
"The contribution of pollinators to the production of crops used directly for human food has been estimated at $153 billion globally, which is about 9.5 percent of the total value of human food production worldwide," according to the report. Those crops include these categories: vegetables, cereals, sugar crops, edible all crops, fruits, roots and tubers, nuts, and spikes.
Soon someone will be quoting Albert Einstein as saying "the health and well-being of pollinating insects are crucial to life, be it in sustaining natural habitats or contributing to local and global economies."
Or honey bee guru Eric Mussen.
You may have heard about the "Bug Boot Camp" that ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology at the UC Davis Department of Entomology, conducts for graduate and undergraduate students every other summer.
The real name of the five-week field course is "Insect Taxonomy and Field Ecology" (Entomology 109) but everyone calls it "Bug Boot Camp." The primary goal is to acquaint students with the taxonomic and biological diversity of insects. The students--aka happy campers--gather at the UC Sagehen Creek Field Station, located about 6,800 feet on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada.
That's the Bug Boot Camp. Now there's a newly launched "Bio Boot Camp."
The Bio Boot Camp, though, is a one-week camp for young teens interested in science, particularly entomology and wildlife biology. It's sponsored by the Bohart Museum of Entomology and the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology (MWFB).
Youths entering the seventh, eighth or ninth grades this fall and who have a passion for science are invited to apply. The camp will be limited to a maximum of 16 youths.
Dates: June 20 to 24
Site: UC Davis campus with an overnight stay at the UC Sagehen Creek Field Station.
Activities at the full-day camp will include observing animals, comparing valley to mountain fauna, collecting insects and exploring the anatomy of a dissected bird, she said.
“The goal of the camp is to provide an educational opportunity for students who already have a passion for entomology and wildlife biology, but who have outgrown most other camps and are still too young for internships,” Yang said. “We want to fill that gap, and expose them to the process of science as it is conducted at a top research institute like UC Davis.”
“A specialized camp like this has been frequently requested by visitors to the museum and participants in our other education and outreach programs,” Yang said.
Campers will search for and collect insects, dissect a bird, observe mammals and survey fish with other who share the same keen interests, Yang said. Monday through Wednesday, participants will delve into the research conducted at the museums and several research sites along Putah Creek as well as other locations on campus.
On Thursday and Friday the camp will explore the Sierras with a Thursday overnighter at the Sagehen Creek Field Station.
The two museums sponsoring the Bio Boot Camp are both located in Academic Surge on California Drive, UC Davis campus.
The Bohart Museum, located at 1124 Academic Surge and part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, houses a worldwide collection of nearly eight million insect specimens and a “petting zoo” of live insects such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks. It is the seventh largest insect museum in North America and is open to the public Monday through Thursday and on special weekends
The Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, located in 1394 Academic Surge and part of the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, houses one of the most significant modern collections of birds, mammals, and fish in California. It is among the top ten collections of vertebrates in California and the third-largest university-managed collection in the state. The MWFB is dedicated to education, outreach, conservation, and research. This museum is not generally open to the public, but tours can be arranged in advance.
Deep in the bowels of Briggs Hall on the UC Davis campus, entomology graduate student Kelly Hamby works on a pest that is giving growers fits: spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii).
First detected in California in the fall of 2008, the fly has become an significant pest of berry and cherry crops, which have a combined farmgate value of $1.9 billion.
“My research is focused on the molecular biology and genomics of insecticide resistance in this fly,” said Hamby, who works in the lab of her major professor, integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, professor and former vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
“It is closely related to the model organism Drosophila melanogaster for which much is already known, so I hope to draw from those studies to enhance mine. I plan to monitor the genomic changes as resistance develops in both the field and the lab, and use this information to help growers manage insecticide resistance. “
Her work has not gone unnoticed.
The Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA) is honoring her as the branch recipient of the Lillian and Alex Feir Graduate Student Travel Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry or Molecular Biology. She'll receive a commemorative plaque at an awards luncheon on Tuesday, March 29 at PBESA's meeting in Waikoloa, Hawaii.
The branch will then nominate and endorse her for the national award, to be given at the ESA's annual meeting Nov. 13-16 in Reno.
This is indeed a high honor.
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.
Hamby, pursuing her doctorate in entomology, is a graduate of UC Davis with a bachelor of science degree in environmental toxicology. In her fruit fly project, she works closely with molecular geneticist Joanna Chiu, a UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty member who specializes in molecular chronobiology.
"I greatly appreciate Joanna’s willingness to work with my students to add an exciting and useful new dimension to their work," Zalom said.
Dorothy Feir (1929-2008), the 1989 president of ESA, established the award as a tribute to her parents who, “at considerable self-sacrifice, "encouraged education and travel experience for their daughters,” she related.
Feir, who grew up in Missouri, received her doctorate in entomology from the University of Wisconsin in 1968; taught biology at St. Louis University, beginning in 1961; and was the first woman president of the now 6000-member ESA. ESA named her a fellow in 1993, an honor limited to only 10 persons a year.
Feir donated her multimillion estate to various institutions and organizations for the study of insects--so future entomologists can benefit.