"Him" is Vernard Lewis, who terminated termites, bugged bed bugs, and controlled cockroaches.
As Pamela Kan Rice, assistant director of News and Information Outreach, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) wrote in her wonderful feature story this week on his retirement:
"He built a villa for termites, delighted school children with giant cockroaches, did “time” at San Quentin State Prison, traveled the world looking at insects and, in 2016, Vernard Lewis was inducted into the Pest Management Professionals' Hall of Fame. On July 1, UC Berkeley's first African American entomologist retired from a 35-year career as an urban entomologist, the last 26 years as a UC Cooperative Extension specialist."
We asked Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, and integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology and a past president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA), for their comments:
"Vernard was The Expert for anything termite in California," Kimsey said. "He was the best; knowledgeable, personable and engaged. I'm really annoyed that he retired."
Can you imagine anyone building a home, Villa Termiti, just for termites? Or, rather, to do research?
Wrote Pam Kan-Rice:
"In the early 1990s, the UC Cooperative Extension specialist needed a place to test drywood termite detection and control methods. The College of Natural Resources wasn't keen on infesting a building with destructive pests near UC Berkeley's historic buildings, but ultimately allowed Lewis to construct the Villa Termiti in Richmond, about six miles north of campus."
"Villa Termiti has since hosted ants, subterranean termites, wood-boring beetles, and bed bugs for subsequent research projects."
Lewis, born in Minnesota and the oldest of 10 children, gleefully recalled his fascination with bugs when he moved from Minnesota to Fresno to live with his grandparents for six years. “California has a lot more bugs because Minnesota is frozen six months out of the year,” he said wryly. “During recess, while other kids were kicking balls, I was catching grasshoppers and feeding them to harvester ants.”
Lewis was also known for mentoring young scientists at UC Berkeley and stimulating children's interest in science. He joined the Oakland Unified School District's City Bugs project to educate K-12 school teachers and students about insects, life sciences and biodiversity.
He liked to bring live props and engage his audience. He recalled the time in 1993 when he brought a Madagascar hissing cockroach to show to 300 students at Claremont Middle School, Oakland. You guessed it. The center of attention escaped and both the cockroach and the kids ran for cover. (Well, they ought to visit the Madagascar hissing cockroaches in the Bohart Museum of Entomology. The roaches are part of the insect museum's live "petting zoo.")
Vernard Lewis led a fascinating and productive life. Be sure to read Kan-Rice's entire piece on Vernard Lewis on the UC ANR blog.
You'll note that:
- He showed his can-do attitude with: “My high school counselor said I wasn't bright enough to go to college. I took offense to that,” said Lewis, recalling his high scores on IQ tests administered in the 1950s and 1960s. “I asked him what was the best university in the country. He said, ‘UC Berkeley,' so I decided to go there.”
- He went on to receive three degrees from UC Berkeley: his bachelor of science degree in agricultural sciences in 1975; his master's degree in entomology in 1979; and his doctorate in entomology in 1989.
- He was fondly known as "Killer" at San Quentin Prison because as head of vector control (contract work), he exterminated bed bugs and cockroaches there from 1986 through 1988.
- The ESA featured him in its book “Memoirs of Black Entomologists,” published to spotlight African-American entomologists and to encourage black students to pursue careers in the life sciences.
Bottom line: UC ANR has lost a great scientist, researcher, collaborator, colleague and friend to retirement. Lynn Kimsey is still annoyed that he retired, but the termites, bedbugs and cockroaches--not so much.
No sweat? Or, are you...ahem...sweating the answer?
You can learn more about native bees at a special presentation on Saturday, Sept. 17 in the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Hopland Research and Extension Center, Hopland.
"Native Bees in Your Backyard," sponsored by UC ANR, will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature entomologist Gordon Frankie, UC Berkeley professor and co-author of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, and award-winning pollinator garden designer Kate Frey, co-author of The Bee-Friendly Garden (written with co-author Gretchen LeBuhn, professor of biology at San Francisco State University.)
Entomologist/insect photographer Rollin Coville, who captured the spectacular images in California Bees and Blooms, will share his photos.
"The morning will be spent learning about some of the 1,600 native bee species found in California, from the leafcutting bee to the cuckoo bee, the sweat bee to the mining bee!" a spokesperson said. Attendees will learn how to identify them and how to accommodate the needs of the native bees in their own gardeners.
After a locally sourced lunch from Black Dog Farm catering, the participants will carpool to the gardens of Kate Frey, about five miles from the Hopland Research and Extension Center. Her gardens are renowned for their floristic diversity, color and the habitats they provide for wildlife. (See previous Bug Squad blog on Kate Frey.)
California Bees and Blooms is "the bible" of California bee books. A main co-author is Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Thorp, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley, co-teaches The Bee Course every year at the Southwestern Research Station Portal, Ariz., which began today (Aug. 22) and continues through Sept. 1. Rounding out the list of co-authors of California Bees and Blooms is plant expert/curator Barbara Ertter of UC Berkeley.
Registration for "Native Bees in Your Backyard" is now underway at http://hrec.ucanr.edu/?calitem=336669&g=61984. Early bird registration before Sept. 1 is $35. Registration is $40 after this date.
For more information, contact Bird at (707) 744-1424, Ext. 105 or email her at email@example.com.
Think ACP. Think HLB. Think ASAP.
ACP spreads the killer huanglongbing (HLB) disease, also called "citrus greening," which is threatening California's citrus industry and residential landscapes. Some 60 percent of California homeowners have at least one citrus tree.
The brown-mottled, aphid-sized pest (Diaphorina citri), a native of Pakistan, was first detected in California in 2008. It earlier wreaked havoc in Florida's citrus industry. Due to HLB and citrus canker, the Florida citrus industry has lost nearly 50 percent of its citrus production in the past 10 years, according to the national Citrus Research Board.
California has more to lose. The Golden State is the No. 1 economic citrus state in the nation, ranking first in the U.S. in terms of economic value and second (after Florida) in terms of production, says the national Citrus Research Board. "California produces approximately 80 percent of the nation's fresh fruit citrus and is the country's main source (80 percent) of fresh-market oranges (Florida grows oranges mainly for juice)."
It's crucial to check for signs of this pest now--right now--because of the new leaf growth (flush). The young, tender leaves are perfect for psyllids. Tell-tale signs of psyllid presence include distorted new leaves and stems, waxy deposits, honeydew and sooty molds.
Checking for psyllids is our first line of defense.
“We encourage home citrus growers and farmers to go out with a magnifying glass or hand lens and look closely at the new growth,” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) citrus entomologist. “Look for the various stages of the psyllid – small yellow eggs, sesame-seed sized yellow ACP young with curly white tubules, or aphid-like adults that perch with their hind quarters angled up.”
Photos of the Asian citrus psyllids and the life stages are posted on the UC ANR website at http://ucanr.edu/acp. If you find signs of this insect, you're urged to telephone the California Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Exotic Pest Hotline at (800) 491-1899.
Yellow mottling on the leaves may be the first sign your citrus tree is infected with the HLB. Other indications are sour misshapen fruit. If your tree has HLB, that's a death sentence. It will die. You cannot save it.
CDFA officials recently removed a few HLB-infected trees in urban Los Angeles County.
“In California, we are working hard to keep the population of ACP as low as possible until researchers can find a cure for the disease,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “We need the help of citrus farmers and home gardeners.”
A new UC ANR ACP website for citrus growers and homeowners provides help in finding the pest and what to do next. The site, spearheaded by Grafton-Cardwell, includes an interactive map so viewers can locate where the psyllid is established, and areas being targeted.
The website outlines biological control efforts that are underway, and directions for insecticidal control, if it is needed. An online calculator allows farmers and homeowners to determine their potential costs for using insecticides.
Additional measures and precautions are advised:
- When planting new citrus trees, purchase the trees only from reputable nurseries. Do not accept tree cuttings or budwood from neighbors, friends or relatives. HLB can be spread by grafting.
- After pruning or cutting down a citrus tree, dry out the green waste or double bag it to ensure that live psyllids won't hitch a ride to another region and spread HLB from tree to tree.
- Control ants in and near citrus trees with bait stations. Scientists have released natural enemies of ACP in Southern California to help keep the pest in check. However, ants will protect the psyllids from the natural enemies. Ants feed on honeydew.
- Learn more about the Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing disease on UC ANR's Statewide Integrated Pest Management website.
- Assist in the control of ACP by supporting CDFA insecticide treatments on your citrus or treating the citrus yourself when psyllids are present.
- Support the removal of HLB-infected trees.
HLB has seriously impacted citrus production in Brazil, India, Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, Africa and now Florida. We don't want California added to that list.
The Extension apiculturist, aka "honey bee guru," officially retired at the end of June after a 38-year academic career. A native of New York, he joined the faculty of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology) in 1976 after receiving his doctorate in entomology from the University of Minnesota.
He's known not only as the "honey bee guru," but “the pulse of the bee industry" and as "the go-to person" when consumers, scientists, researchers, students, and the news media have questions about honey bees.
Mussen was just named the recipient of the 2013-14 Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Extension from the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), a well-deserved honor.
For nearly four decades, he has devoted his research and extension activities toward the improvement of honey bee health and honey bee colony management practices.
His nominators wrote that what sets Dr. Mussen apart from his Extension-specialist peers are these seven attributes:
- His amazing knowledge of bees
- His excellent communication skills in a diverse clientele, including researchers, Extension personnel, legislators, commodity boards, grower organizations, pesticide regulators, students, news media, and beekeeping associations at the national, state and local levels,
- His eagerness to help everyone, no matter the age or stature or expertise, from an inquiring 4-H'er to a beginning beekeeper to a commercial beekeeper
- His ability to translate complicated research in lay terms; he's described as “absolutely the best”
- His willingness—his “just-say-yes” personality---to go above and beyond his job description by presenting multiple talks to every beekeeping association in California, whether it be a weekday, evening or weekend, and his willingness to speak at a wide variety of events, including pollinator workshops, animal biology classes, UC activities and fairs and festivals
- His reputation for being a well-respected, well-liked, honest, and unflappable person with a delightful sense of humor; and
- His valuable research, which includes papers on antiobiotics to control American foulbrood; fungicide toxicity in the almond orchards; the effect of light brown apple moth mating pheromone on honey bees; the effects of high fructose corn syrup and probiotics on bee colonies; and the invasion and behavior of Africanized bees. He is often consulted on colony collapse disorder and bee nutrition.
"Without question, Eric is the No. 1 Extension person dealing with honey bees in the nation, if not the world," said MacArthur Genus Awardee Professor Marla Spivak, Distinguished McKnight University Professor Apiculture/Social Insects at the University of Minnesota. "Research colleagues, beekeepers and the public are all very lucky to have him.”
"I am basically all pro-bee,” Mussen told the American Bee Journal in a two-part feature story published in September of 2011. “Whatever I can do for bees, I do it...It doesn't matter whether there is one hive in the backyard or 15,000 colonies. Bees are bees and the bees' needs are the bees' needs.”
That says it all in a nutshell--or a bee hive.
What next? Eric Mussen will be around the UC Davis campus--his office in Briggs Hall and the bee lab at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility--to help the new apiculturist, Elina Lastro Niño of Pennsylvania State University get adjusted when she arrives in September. She's known for her expertise on honey bee queen biology, chemical ecology, and genomics. (See news story on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website.)
We rather expect that Mussen will continue to be involved with the bees. Maybe he'll write a book on California beekeeping, or update the one he co-authored years ago.
That could very well "bee."
Great job, Eric Mussen! A tip of the veil!
The occasion: Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), was on the UC Davis campus recently to fulfill her UC Promise for Education. Last October she vowed that if she received $2500 in contributions for UC students, she would wear honey bees. Actually, she not only reached her goal but surpassed it.
Enter Norm Gary, no doubt the world's best bee wrangler until his retirement last year. A UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology (specializing in apiculture or bee science), he showed that his work is definitely buzzworthy: he kept bees for 66 years, researched bees, wrote about them in peer-reviewed publications and popular books, and appeared in movies, TV shows, commercials, and fairs and festivals and other special events.
So, he volunteered to come out of retirement and train a few bees at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility to land on a nectar-soaked sponge, which he then transferred to Allen-Diaz' hand.
"I wanted to help her communicate the importance of honey bees to everyone, regarding pollination, research on pollination and teaching of bees and I wanted to help her do this by showing her how much fun it is to work with bees," he told videographer Ray Lucas of UC ANR. (See video.) The artificial nectar he used was a special one he patented.
"It was no threat," he said. For the bees it was "like kids in an ice cream store."
Allen-Diaz graciously thanked all her supporters. "I wanted to promise to do something that would highlight this incredibly important part of our ecosystem." (See video.)
He once trained bees to fly into his mouth to collect food from a small sponge saturated with his patented artificial nectar. He holds the Guinness World record (109 bees inside his closed mouth for 10 seconds) for the stunt. He is well known for wearing a head-to-toe suit of bees while "Buzzing with his B-Flat Clarinet."
What now? At the young age of 80, he says he's "devoting the rest of my life to music."
He's in a duo, Mellow Fellas, and plays clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, and flute.
"For the last two years I have also been performing in a Dixieland band, Dr. Bach and the Jazz Practitioners. We are playing lots of gigs in every imaginable venue," he said. "Our most notable performances are at the Sacramento Music Festival, a four-day event held each Memorial Day weekend. We also perform at pizza parlors, senior retirement organizations, etc. We play swing-music style, too. "
Gary also performs with a quartet, Four For Fun, that has eclectic tastes, but most tunes, he says, have a Dixieland flavor. "I still play duo gigs with several piano/keyboard professionals. And I play clarinet occasionally with the Sacramento Banjo Band."
The "B" flat clarinet, of course.