The winner of the 2018 Beer-for-a-Butterfly Contest, sponsored by Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, is…drumroll…Art Shapiro.
Shapiro collected the cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae, at 11:23 a.m. Friday, Jan. 19 in one of his frequented sites—a mustard patch by railroad tracks in West Sacramento, Yolo County. He caught it with his hands--no net.
“Today should not have been the day,” he said, noting the weather forecast of "a chance of rain" when he left his Davis home at 10 a.m. for West Sacramento.
“I spotted the male butterfly dorsal basking (sunbathing) on low vegetation shortly after the first cumulous formed at 11 a.m.,” Shapiro said. “As I approached to collect it, a small cumulus occluded the sun and it closed its wings over its back--allowing me to just pick it up without using my net at all, and drop it into a glassine envelope. It turned out that that was the ONLY cloud that crossed the sun in the next two and a half hours! It got up to about 60 degrees and was a gorgeous day with a trace of a west wind.”
Shapiro said that "It probably emerged an hour or so before I got there so this really is the start of the season! Let the rites of spring begin!”
He described the butterfly as quite yellow instead of white. “Cold weather promotes sepiapterin formation, so early ones are often quite yellow.”
Apparently the newly emerged butterfly had not yet flown. When he placed it in the glassine envelope, “it voided meconium, metabolic wastes of metamorphosis, normally ejected before the first flight.”
Shapiro, who maintains a research website at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu, launched the contest in 1972 as part of his scientific research to record the first flight of the butterfly in the three-county area of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano. He offers a pitcher of the beer, or its equivalent, to the first person who collects the “first of the year” butterfly. It's a contest he usually wins. He has been defeated only four times, and all by UC Davis graduate students.
His former graduate student, Matt Forester, now a professor of biology at the University of Nevada, Reno, and a research collaborator with Shapiro, accurately predicted the first butterfly would be found on Jan. 19.
“Since 1972, the first flight has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20,” Shapiro noted.
This is the seventh year the winning butterfly has been collected in Yolo County. Last year Shapiro found the winner on the UC Davis campus; in 2016, graduate student Jacob Montgomery netted the winner outside his home in west Davis, and Shapiro collected all five winners from 2012 to 2015 in West Sacramento.
“I am basically all pro-bee; whatever I can do for bees, I do it,” Mussen told the American Bee Journal in a two-part interview published in 2011. “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.”
Today a nationally awarded plaque “bee-speaks” of his work.
Mussen is the recipient of the 2018 Founders' Award from the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, presented Jan. 12 at the 75th annual American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) conference in Reno.
“He received a well-deserved rousing standing ovation!” said president Gene Brandi of Los Banos, who presented him with the plaque and praised him as a outstanding liaison between the academic world of apiculture and real world beekeeping and crop pollination.
Considered by his peers as one of the most respected and influential professional apiculturists in the nation, Mussen was known as the “pulse on the bee industry” and as "the go-to person" for consumers, scientists, researchers, students, and the news media. Mussen retired in 2014 but continues answering bee questions. As an emeritus, he maintains an office in Briggs Hall, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Previous recipients of the coveted award include the husband-wife team of James and Maryann Frazier, professor and Extension apiculturist, respectively, from Pennsylvania State University, University Park; former research leader Jeff Pettis, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Beltsville (Md.) Bee Laboratory; and multi-state commercial beekeeper David Hackenberg of Hackenberg Apiaries, who sounded the alarm about colony collapse disorder (CCD) in 2007.
Mussen, recipient of numerous state and national awards, has been described as the “premier authority on bees and pollination in California, and is one of the top beekeeping authorities nationwide" and “a treasure to the beekeeping industry... he is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to honey bees."
Mussen served as a longtime board member of the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) and a consultant for the Almond Board of California. He co-founded the Western Apicultural Society (WAS), serving six terms as president, the last one during the 40th anniversary meeting at UC Davis in 2017. He also was involved in the formation of the American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA) and held the offices of president or treasurer of that association for many years.
Mussen was instrumental in the development of the Almond Board of California's Honey Bee Best Management Practices for Almonds. The Almond Board earlier honored him with a service award, describing him as being an “authoritative and trusted source for guidance on research, technical, and practical problem solving and issues facing both industries.”
Shortly after he retired, both the CSBA and WAS created an Eric Mussen Honorary Award to present to its outstanding members.
For 38 years, Mussen wrote and published the bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, and short, topical articles called Bee Briefs, providing beekeepers with practical information on all aspects of beekeeping. His research focused on managing honey bees and wild bees for maximum field production, while minimizing pesticide damage to pollinator populations.
Mussen worked closely with Cooperation Extension, California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, the California Farm Bureau Federation, researchers in the UC system, researchers at the USDA/ARS honey bee laboratories at Beltsville, Md.; Baton Rouge, La.; Tucson, Ariz., Weslaco, Texas, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others.
Highly sought by the news media for his expertise on bees, Mussen has appeared on the Lehrer Hour, BBC, Good Morning America, and quoted in the New York Times, National Public Radio, Boston Globe, and Los Angeles Times, among others.
“Eric is a worldwide authority on honey bees, but no problem is too small and no question too involved for him to answer,” said the late Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey prior to Mussen's retirement. “He devotes his research and extension activities to the improvement of honey bee health and honey bee colony management practices. Eric helps growers, consumers, UC Farm Advisors, agricultural commissioners, scientists, beekeepers, researchers, pesticide regulators, 4-H'ers, and state and national agricultural and apicultural organizations. He ignites their interest in maintaining the health of bees, cultivates their friendship, and generously gives of his time and intellect.”
Highly honored by his peers, Mussen received the 2006 California Beekeeper of the Year award, the American Association of Professional Apiculturists' 2007 Award of Excellence in Extension Apiculture, the 2008 Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America; the 2010 statewide Pedro Ilic Outstanding Agricultural Educator, and was a member of the UC Davis Bee Team that won the 2013 team award from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
His other awards include the 2013 Alexander Hodson Graduate Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota; and the 2014 Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Extension from the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR).
As Extension apiculturist, he served on various committees and task forces of state and national organizations, reviewed numerous manuscripts for journals; reviewed annual research proposals to the California State Beekeepers' Association, the Almond Board of California, and the National Honey Board; and reviewed Small Business Innovation Research applications at the federal level. He assisted U.S. beekeepers in writing letters to receive compensation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for their CCD bee losses.
During his tenure as Extension apiculturist, Mussen traveled to beekeeping clubs throughout the state, addressing some 20 beekeeping organizations a year. For the last 10 years, Mussen conducted the California State 4-H Bee Essay Contest, disseminating guidelines, collecting entries and chairing the judging.
A native of Schenectady, N.Y., Mussen credits his grandfather with sparking his interest in insects. His grandfather, a self-taught naturalist, would take his young grandson to the woods to point out flora and fauna. As a child, “my only concern was what if, by the time I went to college and became an entomologist, everything we wanted to know about insects was known,” Mussen related.
Mussen turned down a football scholarship at Harvard to attend the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he obtained his bachelor's degree in entomology. This is also where he met Helen, his wife of 48 years. He holds a master's degree and doctorate in entomology from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. His doctoral research focused on the epidemiology of a viral disease of larval honey bees, sacbrood virus. "During those studies I also was involved in studies concerning sunflower pollination and control of a microsporidian parasite of honey bees, Nosema apis," Mussen recalled. "Now a new species of Nosema has displaced N. apis and is even more difficult to keep subdued."
William Hutchison, professor and head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota, commented in 2013 that Mussen tackled many new challenges--mites, diseases, and Africanized honey bees, to name a few--to enhance the pollination success of California's diverse agricultural cropping systems, with considerable emphasis on almonds. In brief, he is in demand, and he continues to be a primary source for objective information on honey bee health and pollination in California.”
Today, in between his family commitments (he and his wife have two sons and two grandchildren) Mussen engages in birding, singing doo-wop and reviewing grant proposals: he reviews funding proposals for Project Apis m., which makes funding decisions and handles the funds for the National Honey Board and other entities; and serves on the scientific review panel for the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) organization, which reviews funding requests of tech teams.
(Editor's Note: the new Extension apiculturist is Elina Lastro Niño, who holds a doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University.)
Visitors are encouraged to celebrate a "Day of Insect Art" by participating in the Bohart open house and viewing the Design Museum exhibition, It's Bugged: Insects' Role in Design, set from 2 to 4 p.m. in Room 124 of Cruess Hall, off California Avenue.
At the Bohart, UC Davis undergraduateentomology student and artist Karissa Merritt will be on-hand sketching insects for all to see how she does it, said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. Other activities/focal points at the open house:
- Art display from the collection of the late Mary Foley Bensen, a former Smithsonian Institution scientific illustrator who lived the last years of her life in Davis, and who worked for entomology faculty
- Art display from Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology, who illustrated under her maiden name Lynn Siri
- Art display by Charlotte Herbert, Ph.D. student; and UC Davis alumnus Ivana Li and Nicole Tam, who hold degrees in entomology from UC Davis
- Exhibit of "insect wedding photography" images by Bohart associates Greg Kareofelas and Kathy Keatley Garvey
Visitors are also invited to pick up a colored pencil and paper and sketch an insect, said Yang. For those not artistically inclined, images of dragonflies from a coloring book by dragonfly expert/author Kathy Claypole Biggsand illustrator Tim Manolis, will be available for people of all ages to color.
Open house attendees are invited to wear insect-themed attire, including dresses, ties, and jewelry. A contest will take place at 3 p.m. for the best insect-themed outfit, and for the best insect-themed tattoo (tattoo must be in a family friendly location).
At the Design Museum, among the work that visitors can view are the beetle gallery sculptures and hornet nest paper art of Ann Savageau, professor emeritus of the Department of Design; bee, butterfly and beetle specimens from the Bohart; and images by UC Davis alumnus and noted insect photographer Alex Wild, curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin. Wild received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 2005, studying with major professor Phil Ward.
The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity.
Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold some of the arthropods and photograph them. The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum holds special open houses throughout the academic year. Its regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
The grant, “Food Quality in Egypt: Screening for Contamination with Pesticides using Innovative VHH Antibody-Based Assays and Biosensors,” was one of 15 collaborative projects selected for funding by the U.S.-Egypt Science and Technology Joint Board. The grants foster research collaboration between Egyptian and U.S. scientists.
“Zagazig is one of the world's premier agricultural institutions,” said Hammock, a distinguished professor who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. “I am thrilled to have this support to expand our long collaboration with Zagazig. This is very practical work with potentially profound outcomes on reducing exposure of consumers and workers to pesticides. We are using a very sophisticated new antibody technology to allow on site monitoring of potentially dangerous pesticides.”
“Our postdoctoral scientist Natalia Vasylieva is the star on the project,” Hammock said, “but it encompasses our entire immunoassay group. We have a long-term collaboration with Zagazig University.”
The grants are funded by the National Academies of Sciences, and the Egyptian Science and Technology Development Fund. Reviewers evaluated the proposals' scientific and technical merit, relevance to program objectives, capabilities of partner institutions and individuals, nature of collaboration, and cost-effectiveness. The board funded less than 12 percent of the eligible proposals.
“Immunoassay (ELISA) is an alternative and complimentary analytical method to instrumental techniques like liquid or gas chromatography,” said Vasylieva, who leads the immunoassay group in the Hammock lab. A native of the Ukraine, she received her master's degree from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine, and her doctorate from National Institute of Applied Sciences in France. Joining the Hammock lab in May 2013, she focuses her research on development of nanobodies as neutralizing agents for small molecule poisoning, as well as use of nanobodies as therapeutics.
“ELISA is also considered cheaper method,” said Vasylieva. “Particularly, ELISA is economically interesting when relatively large set of samples have to be analyzed. This is usually the case in the environmental monitoring for contamination and human exposure studies.”
The Hammock lab, which has extensive experience in development of immunoassays, extends the field by developing new formats of the immunoassays by developing new reagents. “In particular, we develop new type of antibodies, called nanobodies or VHH (from variable heavy domain from heavy chain only antibodies) that naturally occur in camelids and sharks,” Vasylieva said. “These antibodies have all the affinity properties of conventional (polyclonal and monoclonal) antibodies, but also have unique properties, like small size (1/10th of the size of conventional antibodies), high thermal stability, resilience to organic solvents and high refolding capacity. These properties make them particularly suitable for use in portable devices for environmental and human exposure monitoring.”
A large amount of pesticide is used in Egypt,” she said. “So far, only limited amount of information is available about environmental contamination and human exposure to those pesticides. In these few publications available, levels of pesticide in the food appears to be over the allowed limits.”
In their abstract, the researchers explained that long-term application of pesticides has resulted in contamination of food in Egypt. “Continuous exposure to pesticides is usually associated with infertility, birth defects, endocrine disruption, neurological disorders and cancer in humans. Worldwide reliance on chemical pesticides in agriculture remains an essential component for high food production. According to the Egyptian Agricultural Pesticide Committee, the amount of pesticides imported and used for agricultural production has more than doubled from 2005 to 2012. However, only a few studies have been published on this subject over the past 10 years and they show high levels of pesticides in a variety of food products.”
“Food monitoring studies in Egypt have been primarily limited to analysis of organochlorides, organophosphates, and carbamate insecticides,” the researchers noted in their abstract. “Research and monitoring of other pesticide groups is a relatively new subject, and a knowledge gap still remains. With this study, we propose to assess the safety of food available on the Egyptian market and develop tools for fast and low-cost contamination screening. Our long-term goal is to contribute to a healthier Egypt by raising awareness about food chemical safety and to provide simple tools for researchers and stakeholders to screen the food products for compliance with regulatory policies. We hypothesize that human exposure to toxic chemicals through contaminated food (domestic and imported) has increased due to excessive application of pesticides in order to face nutrition needs.”
They defined three specific goals of the project:
- To screen Egyptian domestic and imported food samples for pyrethroid insecticide residues, a major group of insecticides used today, using immunoassays;
- To develop new reagents and immunoassays for detecting diamide insecticides, a group of pesticides whose use is rapidly growing, and
- To develop tools for fast and low-cost food contamination screening in the environment with minimal technical support.
Overall, the scientists aim to develop innovative immunoassays and biosensors empowering scientists and engaged Egyptian communities to collect analytical data to address environmental chemical concerns. “We will do this by adapting and refining technologies to improve assay performance, reliability and field portability,” they wrote. “The knowledge gained from this research will provide insight into human exposure to agricultural pesticides in Egypt and will raise the Egyptian population's awareness of food quality.”
Hammock, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors, directs two major UC Davis programs; the Superfund Program financed by the National Institute of Environmental Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH-NIEHS); and the NIH Biotechnology Training Program. Hammock, who holds a doctorate in entomology/toxicology from UC Berkeley, served as a public health medical officer at the U.S. Army Academy of Health Science in San Antonio, Texas; a postdoctorate fellow in entomology/toxicology at UC Berkeley; and a postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry with the Rockefeller Foundation, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., before joining the UC Davis faculty in 1980.
The seminars begin Jan. 10 and will continue through March 14. All will take place on Wednesdays from 4:10 to 5 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive.
The schedule (subject to change):
Jan. 10: Amy Morrison, UC Davis epidemiologist, project scientist and scientific director of the Naval Medical Research Unit No. 6 (NAMRU-6) Iquitos Laboratory. Topic: "Targeting Aedes Aegypti Adults for Dengue Control: Infection Experiments and Vector Control in Iquitos."
Jan. 17: Fiona Goggin, professor of entomology, University of Arkansas and a UC Davis alumnus. Topic: “Molecular and Phenomic Approaches to Study Plant Defenses against Insects and Nematodes."
Jan. 24: David Gonthier, postdoctoral fellow, Clare Kremen lab, UC Berkeley. Topic: to be announced. His primary research objective is to understand the importance of biodiversity across natural and managed ecosystems.
Jan. 31: Amanda Hodson, UC Davis postdoctoral fellow and assistant professional researcher with Louise Jackson's Soil Ecology Lab, UC Davis. Topic: "Molecular Detection and Integrated Management of Plant Parasitic Nematodes." Her research interests include soil ecology, integrated pest management and ecological intensification of agricultural systems.
Feb. 2: Marm Kilpatrick, assistant professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz. Topic: to be announced. He studies ecology of infectious diseases and population biology. His research "unites theory and empirical work to address basic and applied questions on the ecology of infectious diseases as well as population biology, evolution, climate, behavior, genetics, and conservation."
Feb. 21: Kerry Mauck, assistant professor of entomology, UC Riverside. Topic: to be announced. She studies insect vector behavior, plant-pathogen interactions, chemical ecology, and integrated disease management.
Feb. 28: Candidates for nematology position. (Pending)
March 3: John Tooker, associate professor of entomology and Extension specialist, Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State. Topic: to be announced. His areas of expertise include insect ecology, plant-insect interactions, conservation biological control, chemical ecology and gall insects.
March 7: Alvaro Acosta-Serrano, senior lecturer, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Topic: to be announced. His research focuses on fundamental aspects of the biology of kinetoplastid parasites and their vectors, and on developing molecular tools to control and prevent parasite transmission in disease-endemic areas.