Professor Karban of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, who has maintained a study site at Bodega Marine Reserve in central California since 1982, links the decrease to temperature.
“I've been surveying seaside daisies for spittlebugs at Bodega Bay every spring for the past 35 years and found that the number of these highly visible and previously widespread insects was related to temperature,” Karban said.
However, since the spring of 2006, the UC Davis researchers have found no spittle masses on the Bodega Bay Reserve's coastal prairie. Other researchers have also detailed how sensitive spittlebugs are to environmental conditions.
The meadow spittlebugs, Philaenus spumarius, thrive in cool, moist habitats and suck plant juices, feeding on xylem fluid and excreting most of it as a foamy white mass known as spittle. The mass protects them from desiccation, predation and parasitism. In past years, Karban and Huntzinger found an abundance of meadow spittlebugs feeding onseaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus) and the non-native ice plant (Carpobrotus edulus).
The Karban-Huntzinger research paper, “Decline of Meadow Spittlebugs, a Previously Abundant Insect, Along the California Coast,” is especially important in light of alarming research in Germany dubbed “Insect Armageddon.” In that research, published last October in the journal PLOS ONE, German scientists investigated aerial insect biomass across 96 protected preserves in the country. They found that three-quarters of flying insects had disappeared over the past 25 years.
The earth's climate is warming at a rate of 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade over the past 30 year, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. California's coast has also experienced climate change; the recent severely hot years in the state have also been severely dry. Models of future climates predict that the warming trend will continue and that variability in conditions, for example, droughts, also will increase in frequency and severity.
“Whether the altered climates we face globally will change our ecological communities will depend on how able individual species are to adapt to the new conditions,” the UC Davis researchers explained. “Since meadow spittlebugs were widespread and abundant, we might have assumed that they would not be threatened by climate change. What we have found is that even this species has not been able to adjust physiologically or ecologically. If the pattern they show is common, we may also see surprising changes in the abundance or distribution of other insects as well. These changes are likely to have dramatic and unexpected effects on the functioning of ecosystems.”
The public event, to take place from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane, is free and family friendly.
“There are a number of species that are specifically attracted by smoke to damaged trees,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis. “Wildland fire fighters hate them because some of the beetles fly at them, crawling into their turnouts and biting them. Fire insects include jewel beetles, some horntail wasps and a few others."
In addition to fire insects, Kimsey said that the Bohart open house will cover other insects adapted to extremes:
- Ice: ice crickets and ice flies, both native to California
- Extreme acid: midges that live only in highly acidic mine run-off
- Hot water: midges found in hot springs just below the boiling point
- Salt: the brine flies of Mono Lake.
- Desert: sand wasps
Regarding the beetles that attack the firefighters, these are “The flatheaded borers (Buprestidae) and they will actually nip the firefighters as they land,” said chemical ecologist Steve Seybold with the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Davis, and a lecturer/researcher with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Insects that like ethanol/burned phloem include the red turpentine beetle, the ambrosia beetles, the "sour cambium" beetles, and some of the larger woodborers, Seybold said. “These are the 'undertakers' of the trees, if you will. Certain bark and ambrosia beetles specialize in colonizing burned tissue that gives off ethanol as a sign of fermentation. These insects wait until things have cooled off a bit before they bore into the trees."
"Often when you visit a burned area," Seybold said, "you'll see piles of white dust coming out of the trees that have blackened bark. This dust is made by ambrosia beetles--and other larger woodborers--that can make use of the carbon that is still present in these moribund trees. Ambrosia beetles 'consume' this carbon indirectly by farming fungi in their galleries. The fungus serves as a conduit for the nutrients in the wood. Some of the larger woodboring insects have other adaptations like specialized enzymes that degrade cellulose or hemicellulose."
Seybold called attention to an article titled “Attraction of Melanophila Beetles by Fire and Smoke,” authored by noted beetle expert E. Gorton Linsley (1910-2000) and published in April of 1943 in Scientific Notes, the Journal of Economic Entomology. Linsley, who received his doctorate from UC Berkeley in 1938, wrote that cigarette smokers at the UC Berkeley football games complained of beetles swarming into the stadium and biting their hands and necks.
"It is possible that in this case, the beetles are attracted by the smoke from some 20,000 (more or less) cigarettes, which on still days sometimes hangs like a haze over the stadium during a ‘big' game," wrote Linsley, identifying the beetles as Melanophila consputa Lec. and M. acuminata (family Buprestidae). M. consputa is commonly called “the charcoal beetle.”
Linsley also reported receiving "complaints from sawmill operators, fire fighters and smelter plant workers regarding annoyance by buprestid beetles of the genus Melanophila. These beetles appear to be greatly stimulated by heat and attracted by smoke. They normally breed in fire-scarred pines and under ordinary conditions, they are rarely encountered in nature. However, on hot days during the dry season, especially in late summer and fall, they sometimes fly in unbelievable numbers to forest fires, burning refuse dumps, refineries, smelter plants, etc.”
Wildfires continue to rage in California. As of Aug. 13, the 5,255 California wildfires this year have burned 958,812 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the National Interagency Fire Center. To date, the still-active Mendocine Complex fire, the largest wildfire in California history, has charred more than 344,000 acres.
The Bohart Museum open house also will include a family craft activity involving extreme insects. The museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens and is the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. It also houses a live "petting zoo" of Madagasar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and praying mantids, and a year-around gift shop, stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. It is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free. More information on the Bohart Museum is available on the website or by contacting (530) 752-0493 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
They brought home five gold or first-place awards: three silver or second-place awards; and two bronze or third-place awards. “That was quite a haul!” commented an ACE member on Facebook.
Diane Nelson, communication specialist with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, won two golds. One was for promotional writing, “Weighing Pig Personality” (https://bit.ly/2KDdYmQ), featuring animal science professor Kristina Horback's pioneering research examining the role personality plays in the welfare and sustainable production of pigs. The second gold was for web writing, “The Last Stop: When There's Nowhere Colder to Go” (https://bit.ly/2M6iOOR), spotlighting research by animal science professor Anne Todgham who studies how climate change affects polar species. Both of Nelson's submissions drew perfect scores from the judges.
Jim Downing, executive editor of California Agriculture, the peer-reviewed journal of UC ANR, won gold in the magazine division (http://calag.ucanr.edu/). California Agriculture is a quarterly peer-reviewed journal reporting research, reviews and news on California's agricultural, natural and human resources. First published in December 1946, it is one of the country's oldest, continuously published, land-grant university research publications.
Steve Ellliot, communication coordinator for the Western Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Center, won two silvers and a bronze: a silver for his photo essay, “America's Arctic Agriculture: Growing Crops, Managing Pests and Monitoring Invasives in Alaska” (https://bit.ly/2OS2Vtc); silver for the diversity awards video category, “Gold Spotted Oak Borer: A Threat to California's Oaks” (https://youtu.be/In2e5atd3ZY); and a bronze for the Western IPM Center's monthly newsletter, “The Western Front” (https://bit.ly/2M5mL6s). The Center, a USDA-funded program, aims to promote smart, safe and sustainable pest management to protect the people, environment and economy of the American West, encompassing 17 Western states and territories.
Gregory Watry, science writer for the College of Biological Sciences, won a bronze award in the “Writing for Diverse Audiences” (https://bit.ly/2M4Nq3o) in a diversity awards category. It dealt with undergraduate research opportunities in the Rebecca Calisi Rodriguez lab.
ACE, a worldwide association of communicators, educators and information technologists, offers professional development and networking for individuals who extend knowledge about agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences. At the Scottsdale conference, the ACE members joined forces with U.S. crop and livestock media professionals at the 2018 Ag Media Summit.
Brutscher discusses the residents of the hive: the queen, worker bees (females) and drones (males). The third-graders, sitting, standing or kneeling in the garden, listen to her wide-eyed.
“Who knows what the job of a drone is?” Brutscher asks.
A hand shoots up. “The drones protect the queen!” a boy declares.
“The drone's only purpose is to mate with the queen,” Brutscher tells him. “The worker bees or females guard the hive.”
The students learn that the honey bee colony is a matriarchal society. The females do all the work, performing specific tasks with job titles such as nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue" specialists, air conditioning and heating technicians, guards, and undertakers. The queen can lay up to 2000 eggs a day during peak season.
The third graders then suit up, donning assorted beekeeper protective gear. They pose gleefully in oversized suits while adults on the tour--teachers, parents and mentors--photograph them.
Overall, it was a honey of a day at the haven, a half-acre public garden installed in 2009 on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. Divided into small groups, the students excitedly buzzed from one learning activity to another, not unlike bees buzzing from one flower to another.
Statewide Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty and director of the California Master Beekeeper Program, explained pollination and how honey bees differ from such generalists as bumble bees and such specialists as squash bees. She invited the students to build their own bee, using pipe cleaners of various lengths to mimic how they are able to pollinate flowers. The youngsters also tasted apples, blueberries and almonds. Honey bees, she told them, pollinate one third of the food we eat.
Charley Nye, beekeeper and manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, zeroed in on the products of the hive. “When we see bees flying around, what are they doing there?” he asked.
“They're out gathering nectar and pollen,” responded one youngster.
The students and adults liked the meadowfoam the best. “It tastes like cotton candy!” one girl said, slowly savoring the flavor she found reminiscent of a county fair. Most considered the almond honey "a little bitter and acidic," Nye said, but a few favored it because "it's not so sweet."
Wendy Mather, California Master Beekeeper Program manager, showed the youngsters a bee vacuum device and how to catch and release bees. “They gently collected, viewed and released the bee specimens,” Mather related. The other half of her group crafted seed cookies, decorated pots, and planted seeds for pollinators. They also viewed the bee and syrphid (hover) fly specimens loaned by pollination ecologist Neal Williams, UC Davis professor of entomology. The hover fly, sometimes called a flower fly, is a major pollinator.
Another station focused on solitary bees: leafcutter bees and blue orchard bees. The students painted nest boxes and learned how the native bees differ from honey bees. Honey bees are not natives of America; European colonists brought them to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1622. Honey bees did not arrive in California until 1853, the year a beekeeper installed colonies near San Jose.
Marcel Ramos, lab assistant in the Elina Niño lab, opened a hive inside a netted enclosure and showed the students the queen bee, workers and drones and pulled out frames of honey.
The event received financial support from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Programmatic Initiative Grant, the Scott and Liberty Munson Family, and matching funds from Microsoft.
“This program was developed to ensure that our young scientists and future voters are aware of the importance of pollinators to our food production and ecosystems," Niño said. "We are also very excited to partner with programs across the university to recruit and support UC Davis students in becoming interns and mentors for the program. This program has already generated so much excitement with the kids and we want to provide this opportunity to as many schools as possible.”
Ron Antone, chair of the Farms of Amador and an Amador County Master Gardener, coordinated the Amador County visit, which drew third-graders from four schools: 67 from Plymouth and Sutter Creek elementary and "about the same number" from Pioneer and Pine Grove elementary. “The tour was coordinated and funded by Farms of Amador,” he said. “We are also associated with the Amador County Farmers Market Association."
“The program presented by Elina and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven team was an incredible experience for all involved: students, parents, teachers and mentors from Farms of Amador and Amador County Master Gardeners," Antone said. “I could not have imagined a more successful trip."
Neither could the students. It was all that it was cracked up to "bee"--and much more.
- Elina Lastro Niño website
- California Master Beekeeper Program
- E.L. Niño Bee Lab, Facebook
- Amador County Master Gardeners
- Farms of Amador
- Amador County Farmers Market Association
(Embargo lifts at 5 a.m. Pacific Time, July 31, 2018)
There they were--odorant receptor genes, the scent-detecting genes thought to have evolved with winged insects more than 400 million years ago. But this groundbreaking discovery indicates they evolved millions of years earlier.
The sensory gene is considered one of an insect's most important genes, crucial to foraging, mating and avoiding predators.
“It was interesting because a paper published in 2014 claimed that ORs evolved with winged flight and were thus absent in ancestrally wingless (Apterygota) insects,” said Brand, a member of the Population Biology Graduate Group who researches the evolution of olfactory/odorant receptor genes in orchid bees. “Since firebrats are apterygote, we now had proof that this gene family is more ancient than previously thought.”
Brand proposed that they merge their datasets and write a comprehensive paper of higher impact rather than two independent papers. It was a “go.”
The collaborative result: “The Origin of the Odorant Receptor Gene Family in Insects,” a newly published paper by a seven-member team from UC Davis, University of Illinois and the University of Tennessee, in the open-access journal eLife, which prints promising research in the life and medical sciences. The article is online at https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.38340
“Our finding that the odorant receptor gene family evolved at the evolutionary base of the insects makes it a major evolutionary novelty that presumably contributed to the adaptation of early insects to terrestrial living,” Robertson said.
Said Brand: “Odorant receptors are the largest insect gene family underlying the sense of smell. ORs are thus crucial in the majority of behaviors that involve the sense of smell including foraging, reproduction, and detection of predators.” The cell membranes of odorant receptor neurons are key to detecting scents. In insects, the ORs are usually found in the antennae or mouthparts.
In their abstract, the authors wrote that “The origin of the insect odorant receptor (OR) gene family has been hypothesized to have coincided with the evolution of terrestriality in insects. (Christine) Missbach et al. (2014) suggested that ORs instead evolved with an ancestral OR co-receptor (Orco) after the origin of terrestriality and the OR/Orco system is an adaptation to winged flight in insects. We investigated genomes of the Collembola, Diplura, Archaeognatha,
Zygentoma, Odonata, and Ephemeroptera, and find ORs present in all insect genomes butabsent from lineages predating the evolution of insects. Orco is absent only in the ancestrally wingless insect lineage Archaeognatha. Our new genome sequence of the zygentoman firebrat, Thermobia domestica, reveals a full OR/Orco system. We conclude that ORs evolved before winged flight, perhaps as an adaptation to terrestriality, representing a key evolutionary novelty in the ancestor of all insects, and hence a molecular synapomorphy for the Class Insecta.”
Synapomorphy is defined as a characteristic present in an ancestral species and shared exclusively by its evolutionary descendants.
The research is a UC Davis cross-departmental collaboration involving associate professor Brian Johnson of the Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Wei Lin of the Johnson lab and a member of the Entomology Graduate Group; and Brand, who studies with major professor Santiago Ramirez of the Department of Evolution and Ecology.
“A recurring theme in the field of genomics is that incomplete sampling of the relevant taxa often leads to premature conclusions,” said Johnson. “Our work on ORs is a good example of this.” Johnson studies the genetics, behavior, evolution, and health of honey bees. His lab currently focuses on the evolution and genetic basis of social behavior using comparative and functional genomics.”
The seven-member team, in addition to the UC Davis and University of Illinois scientists, included a trio from the University of Tennessee: Ratnasri Pothula, William Klingeman, and Juan Luis Jurat-Fuentes.
Brand recalled that he detected the multiple odorant receptor genes in the firebrat genome in late January or early February. “I was working at home after my normal work day, because this genome work I did with Brian was a side project for me—he knew of my interest in genomics and offered me the opportunity to collaborate on his lab's ongoing projects.”
Brand expects to receive his doctorate from UC Davis in the spring of 2019. A native of Germany and a former research scientist at Ruhr-University, Bochum, he received his master's degree in genetics and evolutionary biology in 2013 from Ruhr-University, and his bachelor's degree in biology in 2010 from Heinrich-Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Winged insects first appeared on earth 406 million years ago, according to research published in a 2014 edition Science by molecular biodiversity researcher Bernhard Misof, a professor at the University of Bonn, Germany.
Fossil records indicate that hexapods diverged from crustaceans 410 to 510 million years ago, according to Misof. “At this time in geological history, land masses were dotted with shallow inland seas, and plant life (mostly algae and bryophytes) was largely restricted to coastal habitats and other sites where water was readily available,” according to a North Carolina State University's Department of Entomology website. “The oldest hexapod fossils are found in rocks of the late Devonian period. These rocks also contain numerous other terrestrial arthropods (mites, spiders, centipedes, scorpions, etc.) suggesting that a major radiation of terrestrial life-forms must have occurred during the Ordovician or Silurian period.”
The first known fossil record of Apterygota insects, which include firebrats, silverfish and jumping bristletails—dates back to the Devonian period, which began 417 years ago.
The firebrat, found throughout the world under rocks and leaf litter, is an indoor pest of dog food, stored foods, fabric and book bindings. It is commonly found in high-humidity environments such as bakeries and boiler rooms.
According to the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM), both firebrats and their cousin silverfish “have enzymes in their gut that digest cellulose, and they choose bookcases, closets, and places where books, clothing, starch, or dry foods are available. Silverfish and firebrats are nocturnal and hide during the day. If the object they are hiding beneath is moved, they will dart toward another secluded place. They come out at night to seek food and water. Both insects prefer dry food such as cereals, flour, pasta, and pet food; paper with glue or paste; sizing in paper including wallpaper; book bindings; and starch in clothing. Household dust and debris, dead insects, and certain fungi also are important sources of food. However, they can live for several months without nourishment.”
“Large numbers of these insects can invade new homes from surrounding wild areas, especially as these areas dry out during the summer,” the UC IPM website says. “They also can come in on lumber, wallboard, and similar products. Freshly laid concrete and green lumber supply humidity, while wallpaper paste provides food.”
UC IPM Pest Note on Firebrat: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7475.html
Information on hexapods: https://genent.cals.ncsu.edu/bug-bytes/hexapods/
Philipp Brand website: https://evolvingors.wordpress.com