And it's an enemy to be reckoned with, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen told students in the UC Davis "Biology of Parasitism" class, taught by forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey and nematologist Steve Nadler, Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Guest-lecturing at a special session held at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, Mussen talked about the varroa mite--its history, biology, damage and control methods--and then opened several hives at the apiary.
The Varroa destructor, a native of Asia, is now found in hives throughout the world except in Australia. It was first detected in the United States in 1987.
The eight-legged reddish-brown parasite, about 1–1.8 mm long and 1.5–2 mm wide, is a blood sucker that's difficult to control, Mussen said. Mites transmit viruses (there are now some 22 named RNA viruses) that can wipe out a hive. A familiar mite-transmitted disease that beekeepers see is DWV or Deformed Wing Virus. Mites are also known lowering the protein level of a bee's blood, and reducing its weight and life span.
Mussen said that mites spread from colony to colony by phoresy (animal-to-animal transport). They ride on flying drones (males) and adult worker bees (females). They also spread changing hosts on flowers.
"A mite enters a honey bee cell just before or during the time it is being capped," Mussen said. "It feeds on older larva or prepupa. Sixty hours later, the mite lays its first egg. The egg will hatch in about 24 hours."
"The number and release of offspring depend on the length of the pupal stage. The queen is pupa for 8.5 days (no mites). The worker is pupa for 12.5 days (1.3 mites) and the drone is pupa for 14.7 days (3 or 4 mites)," he said. Thus, due to the longer time required for drone development, drone pupae get the worst of it.
"When maturing, the newly emerged mites climb onto adult bees and feed by puncturing the intersegmental membranes and sucking the bee blood," Mussen related. "Often these are nurse bees that stay around the brood nest. Sometimes the hosts are drones and older foragers that are flying from the hive every day. Eventually the new mite climbs off the nurse bee onto a comb in the brood nest and enters a cell. The reproductive cycle starts and within 6 days, 44 percent of the young mites have moved into the brood cells; within 12 days, 69 percent of the mites are in the brood cells; and within 24 days, 90 percent of the mite are in the brood cells."
"If there is no brood, the mite has to feed on adult bee blood every six days or so to remain alive," Mussen said. "Mite life expectancy in summer is around 60 days; bees about 42 days. Mite life expectancy in the winter is up to 9 months; bees about six months."
Mussen also discussed how to detect mite infestations through non-chemical and chemical methods, and listed chemical treatments being used throughout the nation. Mites are developing resistance to a few chemical treatments, he pointed out. And, some of the chemical treatments not only kill the mites, but damage or kill the queen and the brood.
Beekeepers who try to go organic, figuring that "if the bees can't make it on their own--if they're not fit--let them die" are really doing a disservice to neighboring beekeepers, Mussen said. The mite will overrun a colony and then infest other colonies.
Public Enemy No. 1--definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Maggot Art. Yes, you read that right. Maggot Art.
It's a traditional and popular part of the Department of Entomology and Nematology's many activities at Picnic Day. This year the UC Davis Picnic Day is Saturday, April 12, and the Briggs Hall events take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Maggot Art is especially for children, but anyone can participate. You grab a special pair of forceps, pick up a maggot, dip it into non-toxic, water-based paint and let it crawl around on white paper. Voila! Maggot Art. Suitable for framing!
Rebecca O'Flaherty, former entomology doctoral candidate at UC Davis, coined and trademarked the term in 2001 while a student at the University of Hawaii. She was organizing a community outreach program and seeking ways to teach youngsters about insects. Not to hate them. Not to fear them. To respect them and learn about them.
Maggot Art was the way. Her way. It worked.
"I love my work and being able to share my love with so many people has truly been a joy," she told us in an interview back in 2007. "I tend to target young elementary students, second and third graders, because I find that at that age, most children are enthusiastic, uninhibited and extremely open to new ideas. They haven't developed aversions to insects, and we're able to instill in them an appreciation for and interest in all organisms, no matter how disgusting those organisms may be perceived to be."
Some adults find maggots revolting, she acknowledged. "A few parents have pulled their children away with a 'Eeew!' and 'Don't touch that!'"
Since 2001, O'Flaherty has taught thousands of students, ranging from kindergarteners to college students to law enforcement professionals. She even showcased her own Maggot Art at a 2007 art show in the Capital Athletic Club, Sacramento. Some art critics compared her work to that of American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock.
While at UC Davis, O'Flaherty studied with major professor/forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey. Although she no longer participates in Picnic Day's Maggot Art, her art continues.
UC Davis entomology undergraduate and graduate students now guide little hands in creating art that is like no other.
Some youngsters are concerned about the welfare of the maggots (no maggots are harmed in the making of the paintings) and a few ask to take the maggots home.
Just the art work goes home, thank you. No maggots, please.
It's appropriate during National Pollinator Week to remember that.
We spotted this newly emerged green bottle fly (below) nectaring on lavender last week in our yard.
It seemed out of place among the honey bees, leafcutter bees and carpenter bees working the blossoms.
We didn't recognize it as a newly emerged green bottle fly, Lucilla sericata. But fly experts Martin Hauser of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and Terry Whitworth of Washington State University, did.
Family Calliphoridae. Genus Lucilla. Species sericata.
"This looks like a Calliphoridae which just emerged, so the wings are still folded," said senior insect biosystematist Hauser.
Said Whitworth, an adjunct professor of entomology at WSU who maintains the websites birdblowfly.com and blowflies.net: "This is a teneral fly, not fully sclerotized. You can see it just emerged and the wings have still not extended so identification can be tough. However, the shot clearly shows three postacrostichals which almost certainly makes it the common, cosmopolitan Lucilia sericata."
Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of UC Davis marveled at the newly emerged fly. "Something dead in your yard?" he quipped.
"No," we said. "But the cat caught a rat the other day. We disposed of it quite quickly." Not the cat, the rat.
'Course, flies aren't known for being pollinators. They're better known--and rightfully so--for disposing of carrion and as the key tool in forensic entomology. They're also used in medical science as maggot therapy. And for art: one of Kimsey's former graduate students, forensic entomologist Rebecca O'Flaharty, coined the term "Maggot Art" (trademarked) and that's one of the activities at the annual UC Davis Picnic Day. Graduate and undergraduate students in the Department of Entomology and Nematology show youths how to dip a maggot in water-based, non-toxic paint, place it on white paper, and let it crawl. Voila! Maggot Art! Suitable for framing...
Everything in life--and death--has a purpose.
Bugs will rule at the 99th annual UC Davis Picnic Day this Saturday, April 20.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology is planning lots of "bug" activities as part of the campuswide celebration.
Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, coordinator of the department’s Picnic Day activities, says there will be cockroach races, termite trails, ant colonies, Maggot Art, face-painting, fly-tying, honey tasting, T-shirt sales, and much, much more at Briggs Hall.
Briggs is located off Kleiber Hall drive, near the campus police and fire stations, while the Bohart Museum is in Room 1124 Academic Surge on Crocker Lane.
The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, will feature wasp nests in its new display case. Displayed will be nests once occupied by European paper wasps, yellow jackets, carpenter bees and bumble bees. The Bohart also will include a live “petting zoo” where visitors can hold Madagascar hissing cockroaches, a rose-haired tarantula, and walking sticks. Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, directs the Bohart Museum.
At Briggs, you can also expect to see forensic, medical, aquatic, apiculture, and forest entomology displays, as well as a honey of a honey tasting. In the courtyard, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen will share six varieties of honey: manzanita, lima bean, pomegranate, almond blossom, orange blossom, and Northern desert shrub Nevada), a reddish honey. In Room 122, staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility will provide a bee observation hive.
One of the most popular activities at Briggs is Maggot Art, a term trademarked by forensic entomologist Rebecca O’Flaherty, a former doctoral candidate in entomology at UC Davis. This involves dipping a maggot in non-toxic, water-based paint. “Artists” pick up a maggot with special forceps, dip it in the paint and then let it crawl on white paper. O’Flaherty launched Maggot Art in 2001 at the University of Hawaii as a community outreach project when she was teaching entomology to youths.
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) will set up its traditional display in front of Briggs Hall where visitors can learn about managing pests in their homes and garden. In addition, UC IPM will give away live lady beetles (aka ladybugs) to children.
Plans at Briggs Hall also call for a “Bug Doctor” to answer insect-related questions. The doctor is in! Last year’s “Bug Doctors” included Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
So, bugs will rule!
She delighted in the insects on her parents' rose buses--the aphids, the ladybugs, grasshoppers and the caterpillars.
“I would trap those in containers and I kept my tiny companions underneath the bed where I could easily take them out for play and also hide them away from my mother," she recalled. "I knew I liked insects.”
But credit a cricket named Chester with really getting her into entomology.
Chester? He's the main character in George Selden's Newbery award-winning book, A Cricket in Times Square.
Young Ivana encountered the book in the second grade and learned the definition of "entomologist."
"I was pretty thrilled that to find out that there was actually a job in which you get to study insects," related Li, who was born and reared in Monterey Park, near east Los Angeles. "That was the best. It still is.”
After graduating from Schurr High School in Montebello, Li enrolled as an entomology major at UC Davis. Now a fourth-year entomology major and president of the UC Davis Entomology Club, she was just announced as the recipient of the Department of Entomology’s 2012 Outstanding Undergraduate Award.
And well deserved!
Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey presented her with the coveted award at a recent departmental barbecue. A perpetual plaque, displayed outside the department's administration office on the third floor of Briggs Hall, now bears her name.
Ivana Li does love bugs! When she's not in class, you'll find her working in the Bohart Museum of Entomology, home of more than seven million insect specimens.
Said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology: “Ivana has worked for me for several years. She is a gifted student with many impressive talents, and a maturity well beyond that of her peers. She will go far.”
As for career choices, Ivana Li hasn't’ decided yet, but it will be either “forensics or ecology.”
“Both,” she said, “are appealing at this point in my life.”