- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The National Geographic just ran a piece titled "Without Bugs, We Might All Be Dead."
"There are 1.4 billion insects for each one of us," wrote Simon Worrall in reviewing the book, Bugged: The Insects Who Rule and the World and the People Obsessed with Them by journalist David MacNeal.
Some you need a microscope to see, but insects are the 'lever pullers of the world,'" MacNeal insists.
And many are extinct, and many more will be. For example, the butterfly, the Xerces blue (Glaucopsyche xerces) is no more. But you can see it at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis.
"Bug extinction is one of the most extensive extinctions on the planet," MacNeal told her in the interview published Aug. 6. "It's scary because you don't notice it until it's too late. Migration patterns are shifting due to climate, and insects offer a great way of looking at that. A collector went to the Antioch Dunes in California, in the 1960s, and caught a range of bugs. When scientists returned decades later, they found many species were gone, and the host plants with them. These creatures rely on plants and certain weather patterns and temperatures, an adaptive power they've gained over the past 400 million years."
"Twenty years ago you could have seen one billion monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico. The latest count is 56.5 million. To combat the decline, the Obama Administration, working with Fish & Wildlife, enacted this migration highway running from Texas to Minnesota. They planted milkweed along the way, which is the host plant for monarch butterflies, hoping to quadruple that 56.5 million by 2020. I am an optimistic cynic, so I feel that insects will outlive us, if we haven't totally screwed the planet."
When's the last time you saw a monarch flutter through your yard? Are you planting their host plant, milkweed? Are you providing nectar by growing such monarch favorites as the butterfly bush (genus Buddleja), Mexican sunflower (genus Tithonia) and lantana (genus Lantana)?
Think about it: "There are 1.4 billion insects for each one of us."
Make mine the monarch. Well, I like the Western tiger swallowtails and anise swallowtails, too. And the honey bees, sweat bees, longhorn bees, bumble bees, European wool carder bees, dragonflies, and yes, praying mantids...and...wait, there's not enough room to list them all!
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Varma's time-lapse video of 2500 images vividly shows the development of eggs to pupae to adults. He captured the video at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis. Varma's images of a bee in flight, and a close-up of an emerging worker bee are also from the Laidlaw apiary.
Those are our girls!
Indeed, our bees from the Laidlaw facility figured quite prominently in the piece, “Quest for a Superbee,” published in the May edition of National Geographic.
Staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk worked with and assisted photographer Varma for about a year. Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen, who retired last June after 38 years of service, served as a research fact-checker. National Geographic contacted him for data confirmation.
The article, authored by Charles Mann, questions “Can the world's most important pollinators be saved?' and ponders “how scientists and breeders are trying to create a hardier honeybee.”
In his article, Mann explores what it would take to build a better bee. He touches on RNAi and quotes bee researcher Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” as saying “If you target one specific area, the organism will always make an end run around it.” She advocates a “healthier, stronger” bee, or what Mann writes as “one that can fight (varroa) mites and disease on its own, without human assistance.”
Spivak was the keynote speaker at the Bee Symposium, hosted May 9 by the Honey and Pollination Center in the UC Davis Conference Center. It drew a crowd of 360. (Soon we'll post video from the symposium.)
Spivak and John Harbo of the USDA's research center in Baton Rouge, La. “both succeeded in breeding versions of hygienic bees by the late 1990s,” Mann writes. “A few years after that, scientists realized that hygienic bees are less effective as the mites grow more numerous.”
Both Spivak and Varma have presented TED talks on honey bees.
Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing
Both of the TED talks should be required viewing for anyone who wants to know more about bees and their needs. Maybe these TED talks should be TEB talks--Take Every Bee Seriously.