Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, greeted a visitor on Feb. 14 in his office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
This visitor didn't talk, though. She buzzed.
And she buzzed right over to his window.
Well, hello, black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus!
"Guess all one needs to do is sit and wait," he wrote in an email to bumble bee enthusiasts. "Eventually a gyne will find her way into one's office. This one was buzzing against my window just a few minutes ago trying to get back outside."
She came to the right place.
Thorp, a noted expert on bumble bees, is the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalist (Heyday). He also teaches at The Bee Course, an annual workshop hosted by the American Museum of Natural History at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. (The Bee Course is meant for "conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees," according to the website. This year's course is Aug. 21-31.)
The black-tailed bumble bee, native to North America, is one of only 250 species worldwide in the genus Bombus.
What's next with Thorp's bumble bee?
A nest box in an almond tree near the Laidlaw facility--feed her some honey, make her feel at home, "then let her fly out, hopefully to return and establish a nest."
Insect photographer and naturalist Allan Jones of Davis discovered and photographed three Bombus melanopygus foraging on manzanita on Jan. 27 in the UC Davis Arboretum. In doing so, he won the science-based, friendly competition among a small group of bumble bee enthusiasts in Yolo and Solano counties searching for the first bumble bee of the year.
But Allan Jones went looking for his bumble bee; Thorp's bumble bee came to him...
Noted medical entomologist Robert "Bob" Washino, emeritus professor of entomology and a veteran academic administrator at UC Davis, was hanging out in his back yard in Davis last spring when an aedine mosquito bit him.
He wondered whether it might be associated with the Zika virus so he headed over to the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis and handed the specimen to fellow mosquito researcher Tom Zavortink.
"The truth of the matter is that I was concerned that the mosquito biting me was either aegypti or albopictus associated with the Zika virus that is raising commotion all over the U.S. and the world," Washino related. "For that reason, I took the specimen to the museum and asked Tom Z. to identify the specimen, and of course, he excused himself from the meeting he was involved in, and examined the mosquito. When he completed the examination, he looked up at me and just smiled."
The mosquito: Aedes washinoi. Bob Washino's namesake.
"I loved the irony of it all," said his close friend Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis. "Bob Washino being bitten by Aedes washinoi in the Washino yard! Truly awesome."
Aedes washinoi is one of five mosquitoes named for former University of California faculty:
- Anopheles hermsi: for William B. Herms (1876-1949), UC Berkeley
- Anopheles freeborni, for Stanley Freeborn (1891-1960), first UC Davis chancellor (1958-59)
- Culex boharti: for Richard Bohart (1913-2007) UC Davis, for whom the Bohart Museum of Entomology is named
- Culex reevesi for William Reeves, (1916-2004), UC Berkeley
- Aedes washinoi for Robert Washino, UC Davis
UC Davis medical entomologists Bruce Eldridge (now emeritus) and Gregory Lanzaro named the mosquito in his honor in 1992.
Born and reared in Sacramento, Washino never strayed far from his roots, except for two years in France as a medical entomologist with the Army Medical Service Corps, 1956-1958, during the Korean War. His parents, natives of Japan, grew hops on their farm in the Sacramento Valley. Later his father became a successful Sacramento florist shop and hotel owner.
Washino said a career in biomedical sciences always intrigued him, “but there was no one event that led me to a career in medical entomology. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.” He received his bachelor of science degree in 1954 from UC Berkeley; his master's degree in entomology from UC Davis in 1956; and his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1967.
His career at UC Davis spanned 30 years, from 1964-1994. That included multiple terms as chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology) and he also served as an associate dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and as a special assistant. He is a past president of both the American Mosquito Control Association and the California Mosquito and Vector Control Association, and co-author of Mosquitoes of California with Richard Bohart. He is a fellow of the Entomological Society of America.
More locally, he was appointed by the City of Davis to the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District's Board of Trustees in 1973 and served 38 years, longer than any other trustee. He was elected president five times. For research and teaching purposes, he generously gifted his entire collection of books and journals, reprints, unpublished master of science and doctorate theses (from UC Davis, UCLA, UC Riverside) and an estimated 1000 2x2 slides to the library. The building that houses the library, laboratory and lab staff bears his name, the Washino Laboratory.
One of the many highlights of his career: Washino received the prestigious Harry Hoogstraal Medal from the American Committee of Medical Entomology at the 54th annual meeting of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), held in December 2005 in Washington, D.C.
In 2010, Washino coordinated an all-day mosquito symposium at the American Mosquito Control Association's five-day conference in Anaheim, Orange County. He gathered together 17 U.S. and worldwide speakers, including experts from London, Japan, Australia, Portugal and Germany.
And then, six years later...what are the odds? His namesake, Aedes washinoi, bit him in his own back yard.
"I think Lynn really enjoyed the irony of that incident," Washino said, smiling, "and we all had a big laugh at my expense."
Those were just a few of the offering at the sixth annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, held Saturday, Feb. 18. More than 3000 visitors checked out the offerings.
The free family-friendly, science-based event, held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., showcased 12 museums collections, said Biodiversity Museum Day coordinator Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
"It was a real community effort and we were happy to see the people coming to campus to learn about science and the collections," Yang said. Despite the threat of rain, it never occurred.
The Bohart Museum alone drew nearly 1700 people during its four-hour open house, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
All 12 collections were within walking distance on campus except for the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road and the California Raptor Center on Old Davis Road.
The following were open--some from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and others staggered from noon to 4 p.m.:
Anthropology Museum, Young Hall
Arboretum and Public Garden, headquartered on LaRue Road
Bohart Museum of Entomology, Academic Surge Building
Botanical Conservatory, greenhouses along Kleiber Hall Drive
California Raptor Center, Old Davis Road
Center for Plant Diversity, Sciences Lab Building
Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Bee Biology Road
Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, Academic Surge Building
Nematode Collection, Sciences Lab Building
Paleontology Collection, Earth and Physical Sciences Building
Phaff Yeast Culture Collection, Earth and Physical Sciences Building
Viticulture and Enology Culture Collection, Earth and Physical Sciences Building
Committee members are already gearing up for the seventh annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day. The event traditionally takes place in February.
Meanwhile, many of the same collections will be open during the much larger 103rd annual UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 22. The family friendly event is "free for all to come and experience the richness of diversity and achievement at UC Davis and the surrounding community in the areas of research, teaching, service and campus life," according to the Picnic Day website. "More than 200 events will take place throughout campus and will include exhibits, shows, competitions, demonstrations, entertainment, animal and athletic events, Student Organization Fair, Children's Discovery Fair, parade and much more."
And it's definitely not a good time to be a honey bee.
The wind-whipped storms that are ravaging California are wreaking havoc on the state's almond pollination season, says honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and president of the Western Apicultural Society.
The situation: California's million acres of almonds require two hives per acre for pollination. Without bees, no almonds.
Honey bees usually fly when temperatures reach around 55 degrees. During inclement weather, they hole up inside their hives. They're so unlike our postal workers who vow that “neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet” can stop mail delivery. Unfavorable weather for bees? Think "no-fly zone."
Mussen, California's Extension apiculturist for 38 years before retiring in 2014, continues to maintain an office in Briggs Hall, UC Davis, and respond to inquiries about honey bees. Not one to say "no," Mussen is serving a sixth term as president of the Western Apicultural Society (WAS), which was founded at UC Davis and gearing up for its 40th anniversary meeting Sept. 5-8 Davis.
And the steady rain we're having? How will that affect the pollination season?
“Rain," said Mussen, "is hard on the almond bloom for a few important reasons." He lists five reasons:
- Rain frequently is accompanied by cooler weather, which delays bloom. But, the delay can last only a short while, and then the flowers open and shed pollen, despite the weather. Honey bees usually neither forage on damp or wet blossoms, nor fly in the rain.
- If pollen grains come into contact with water, the water enters the openings in the pollen grains, through which the pollen tubes are supposed to emerge. The water is absorbed by the living protoplasm in the pollen grain and bursts its contents.
- Free water tends to transport spores of fungal, and sometimes bacterial, diseases to open flowers. Those microbes can invade the floral tissues, or in some cases, begin a journey through the flowers into the branches of the tree. When rain is imminent, growers usually will apply a fungicide to their trees to reduce the amount of infection. Frequent rains can promote multiple pesticide applications.
- By almond bloom time, honey bee colonies are collecting as much pollen as they can find, to feed an expanding brood nest. A prolonged period of inclement weather will interfere with nectar and pollen foraging, and leave little food to raise be brood. Lack of incoming pollens can reduce brood rearing, sometimes even to the point of the adult workers consuming most of the younger brood to save the nutrients for better times.
- Beekeepers who are used to seeing their colonies increase from 8-10 frames of bees to 10-12 frames during almond bloom may be disappointed this year due to a situation that is beyond their control. Providing supplemental feed can help their bees to a limited extent, but we have no supplemental feed that matches the nutritional value of mixed pollens.
Mussen says that native, solitary bee species, such as the blue orchard bee, also can be impacted negatively by continuous wet weather. “Foraging flight is curtailed, pollens and nectars are diluted or washed away, nesting sites can be flooded, and preferred or required floral sources may not be available that year,” he said. “This can have substantial negative impacts on the size of the following generation.”
Bottom line: it's not a good time for almond growers, beekeepers, and bees.
There's still room in several of the courses to be taught this spring by the E.L. Niño Bee Lab at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Research Facility, University of California, Davis.
Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and her staff will teach the courses. Registration is now underway, and gift certificates are also available.
See list at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/courses.html.
Capsule information on the courses:
- Planning Ahead for Your First Hives; Two Separate Courses Offered (25 spots per session).
Saturday, March 11, 9 to 5 p.m.
Saturday, March 18, 9 to 5 p.m.
Participants can sign up for one of two short courses: the first on Saturday, March 11 and the second on Saturday, March 18. The cost is $95. The all-day course will include lectures and hands-on exercises. "This course is perfect for those who have little or no beekeeping experience and would like to obtain more knowledge and practical skills to move on to the next step of owning and caring for their own honey bee colonies," Niño said.
- Working Your Colonies; Two Separate Courses Offered (25 spots per session)
Sunday, March 12, 9 to 5 p.m.
Sunday, March 19, 9 to 5 p.m.
Two separate short courses will be offered: the first on Sunday, March 12, and the second on Sunday, March 19. The cost is $150. The all-day courses are for novice beekeepers who already have a colony or have taken the previous course and want to develop their beekeeping skills further. Participants will learn how to inspect their colony and how to troubleshoot, as well as glean information on products of the hive. The afternoon will be spent entirely in the apiary with hands-on activities and demonstrations.
- Varroa Management Strategies; Two Separate Courses Offered (25 spots per session)
Saturday, May 13, 9 to 5 p.m.
Saturday, May 27, 9 to 5 p.m.
Two separate courses will be offered: the first on Saturday, May 13, and the second on Saturday, May 27. The cost is $175. Course description: Current beekeeping challenges call for all beekeepers to have a solid understanding of varroa mite biology and management approaches. Participants will dive deeper into understanding varroa biology and discussing pros and cons of ways to monitor, mitigate and manage this pest.
- Bee Breeding; One-Day Course (25 spots)
Sunday, June 11, 9 to 5 p.m.
This is a one-day course, to be held Sunday, June 11. The cost is $75. Course description: This course complements the queen-rearing techniques course. Participants will learn the intricacies of honey bee genetics along with honey bee races and breeder lines. "We will also have an in-depth discussion of various breeding schemes," Niño said.
To register, access this website, http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/courses.html. For more information, contact Bernardo Niño at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530)-380-BUZZ (2899). The Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/