The funds will benefit sustainable pollination research, target colony collapse disorder, and support a postdoctoral researcher, said Walter Leal, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
“Honey bees are in trouble,” Leal said. “One-third of our nation's food supply depends on bee pollination, but bees are vanishing in massive numbers. This gift will help us to rebuild and revitalize our honey bee program.” Retirements and budget cuts decimated the program during the 1990s.
Häagen-Dazs officials will launch a national campaign on Tuesday, Feb. 19 to create awareness for the plight of the honey bee. Nearly 40 percent of Häagen-Dazs brand ice cream flavors are linked to fruits and nuts pollinated by bees.
As part of the “Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees” campaign, the company created a new flavor of ice cream, Vanilla Honey Bee, available starting Feb. 19; committed a total of $250,000 for bee research to UC Davis and Pennsylvania State University; formed a seven-member scientific advisory board; and launched a Web site, www.helpthehoneybees.com to offer more information on the “unstung heroes.”
Leal said that half of the gift will be used to hire a Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Research Fellow in honey bee biology. “We will immediately conduct a high-profile international search and the successful candidate will work at the Laidlaw facility for one year conducting problem-solving research in honey bee biology, health and pollination issues.”
Häagen-Dazs will fund the salary, while the UC Davis Department of Entomology will provide partial matching funds to support other expenses. Leal said the renewal will be contingent on research progress and availability of funds.
Häagen-Dazs brand manager Josh Gellert said that without honey bees, it would be “tough to source and produce” ice cream. By working with UC Davis and Penn State, “we hope to take steps toward finding ways to increase the honey bee population and educate consumers on how they can take part in helping save the honey bees.”
The Vanilla Honey Bee flavor will include a trademarked “Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees” icon, as will all other flavors linked to bee pollination. A portion of the sales will be used to help the honey bees through university research.
Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon characterized by bees unexpectedly abandoning their hives, said apiculturist and Cooperative Extension specialist Eric Mussen of the Laidlaw facility. “Of the 2.24 million colonies in the United States, beekeepers routinely lose 20 to 25 percent annually, but CCD has increased the numbers.”
Mussen said the Apiary Inspectors of America conducted a survey of the nation's registered beekeepers to determine how much of an impact CCD had on their bee colonies from the fall of 2006 to the summer of 2007. “Twenty-three percent of the respondents reported increased losses that appear to be CCD-related,” Mussen said. “Many beekeepers reported losing 30 percent of their colonies. A few lost 60, 80 and 100 percent of their colonies.”
The Harry Laidlaw Jr. Bee Biology Facility team is growing, Leal said. “We just finished conducting interviews Jan. 31 for a bee pollination biologist.” The new hire will join Mussen; bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, Laidlaw facility manager; and native pollinator researcher and emeritus professor Robbin Thorp. Cobey joined the team last May.
The Laidlaw teaching and research facility is considered one of the finest and oldest in the country. Active bee research began on the UC Davis campus in 1925. Today UC Davis serves as a key center of research, teaching, graduate training and extension activities in apiculture and bee biology in the UC system, Leal said. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranks the UC Davis Department of Entomology No. 1 in the nation.
The 8200-square-foot facility, located two miles west of the central campus, is named for UC Davis entomologist Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr. (1907–2003), recognized as the "father of honey bee genetics” for perfecting artificial bee insemination technology.
Honey bee geneticist Robert Page, former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and now the founding director of the School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, worked closely with Laidlaw. “All of us who have made our careers studying the genetics of honey bees stand on the shoulders of Harry Laidlaw,” he said. “Harry was totally dedicated to honey bee breeding and apiculture from the time he opened his first hive of bees when he was 5 years old, until he died at 96.”
The newly formed Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream Bee Board includes three UC Davis scientists: Mussen, Cobey and Michael Parrella, professor of entomology and associate dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The board will advise company officials on scientific issues; announce new research findings; and educate the public on ways to help save the honey bee.
Mussen noted that honey bees are responsible for pollinating more than 100 U. S. crops, including fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. California produces 99 percent of all the almonds grown in the United States. Growers need two hives per acre to pollinate the state's 700,000 acres of almonds, valued at more than $2 billion, Mussen said.
Said Parrella: “The Häagen-Dazs brand and UC Davis have a shared goal of preserving our local natural ingredients in a sustainable future, and their donation to the Laidlaw facility will help us reach our goals through advances in research and community awareness programs.”
California State Beekeepers' Association president Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, Shasta County, described the Häagen-Dazs gift as “just awesome.”
“We're so happy that industry is recognizing the issues that the bees and beekeepers face,” Park-Burris said. “Last month at our national beekeeping conference, we gave a standing ovation to Häagen-Dazs for stepping forward to help us. This is an example of what a business can do, and maybe more businesses will get involved.”
“It's exciting that the honey bee program at UC Davis is being rebuilt and revitalized,” Park-Burris said.
Dori Bailey, director of consumer communications for Häagen-Dazs, received the standing ovation at a UC Davis dinner on Jan. 10 when she outlined her company's support for honey bees to the American Honey Producers' Association, American Beekeeping Federation, American Association of Professional Apiculturists and the Apiary Inspectors of America.
“It was a great presentation,” said Park-Burris, who noted that the beekeepers were the first (outside the company) to sample the new Vanilla Honey Bee ice cream. “You could really taste the honey. It's excellent.”
Beekeepers say the general public can help save the honey bees by planting a bee friendly garden; educate others about the honey bee decline; buy U.S. honey; and support research to help preserve the nation's food supply.
Her enthusiasm for all things entomological, and her desire to share that knowledge with others has led to the highest graduate student teaching award at the University of California, Davis.
Keller, a teaching assistant for four years in an insect physiology class taught by Charles Judson, emeritus professor of entomology, Bruce Hammock and Walter Leal, professors of entomology, received a certificate at a recent ceremony in the Walter A. Buehler Alumni and Visitors' Center—and the congratulations of Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef and Jeffery Gibeling, dean of Graduate Studies.
Judson and Leal praised Keller for her knowledge of entomology, her creativity and responsiveness, and her ability to individualize the content.
“She is dedicated to assisting our students,” Judson said, adding that her “extensive field experience adds an additional dimension to the list of skills she is able to incorporate into her teaching activities.” Keller is also an accomplished artist, illustrator and nature photographer.
Shawn Purnell, one of Keller's students, described her as a “brilliant entomologist, a great teacher assistant, but most importantly to me, she is a friend.”.
“My perception and expectations of teacher assistants were forever raised when I met Fran,” wrote Purnell in a letter of support. He aspires to become a physician.
“Truthfully, the very first time I had lab, I thought Fran was a little crazy. I had never before seen anyone become so enthralled in explaining the differences between male and female flies, especially at 7:30 in the morning. I thought to myself, why would I ever be interested in this and how as this knowledge ever going to benefit me? To my surprise, by the very next lab I found myself blissfully explaining the conditions of Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium to my lab partner. Fran's passion toward her students and enthusiasm for not only zoology, but also all aspects of academia, created an irresistible learning environment.”
Describing Keller as “a very open and amiable person, so eager to share everything that she's learned” and as “an inspirational person,” Purnell wrote that it is “reassuring to know that out of a maze of 30,000 students and faculty at Davis that there are people like Fran who really care.”
Student Robyn Jimenez echoed the praise. “She was one the best TA's at Davis I have ever had….Fran really motivated me to learn the material not just for the exam, but for later use in upcoming classes... Fran was actively engaged with us, asking us if we needed help and always willing to annotate the lessons if we asked.”
Said Leal: “This class is the only undergrad class that requires a 30-minute final oral exam. Fran helps students prepare until 10 p.m. the night before the exam.”
In his nomination letter, Leal wrote that “Fran encourages, inspires, challenges and motivates.” Students find her very helpful and friendly, “which makes it easy to ask questions,” Leal added.
Keller said her teaching philosophy is to reach students in ways that appeal to their different learning styles. “Students learn more and better understand concepts when they know what their learning style is and how they can apply their learning style to the material presented,” said Keller, who describes her teaching method as more facilitator than lecturer.
“Not all students learn in the same way,” she said. “There are global, linear and kinesthetic learners. I believe that illuminating a student's learning style opens the door for thinking critically.”
Keller, who grew up in St. Charles, Mo., but has lived in Davis since 1989, said her “very best teachers would not accept less than what they knew I was capable of doing. They understood my potential and treated me as an individual in a sea of many.”
Scheduled to receive her doctorate in entomology in June 2009, Keller researches tenebrionids or darkling beetles. She studies under major advisor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and chair of the Department of Entomology.
"Fran is one of the most gifted students I've had,” said her major professor, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and chair of the Department of Entomology. “In addition to her skills as a teacher, she's pursuing a fascinating thesis project on a group of beetles, and has terrific business skills; a unique combination in a graduate student."
Based at the Bohart, Keller also designs museum posters, such as the Butterflies of Central California, Dragonflies of California, California State Insect (California Dogface Butterfly) and Pacific Invasive Ants.
Others receiving outstanding graduate student teaching awards at the ceremony were Cassandra Colleen Brown, anthropology; Benjamin V. Fell, civil and environmental engineering; Laurene Lemaire, French; Christopher Schaberg, Lisa Dawn Sperber and Eric O'Brien, English; Diana Tioleco Webb and Patrick Baxter Dragon, mathematics; Laura Marie Hall, Nutritional Biology Graduate Group; Vannarith Leang, chemical engineering and materials science; Brant Andrew Schumaker, epidemiology; Eva Strawbridge, Applied Mathematics Graduate Group; and Hongtao Xie, biomedical engineering.
The Graduate Council, Office of Graduate Studies and the Teaching Resources Center sponsored the awards.
Her appointment, announced last week by Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, was confirmed Monday, March 10 by Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. She will serve until July 2009.
Chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor of entomology, served as chair from July 2006 through February. The chair is a rotational position shared among faculty.
Kimsey, professor of entomology and an insect taxonomist specializing in bees and wasps and insect diversity, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1989. She received her doctorate in entomology in 1979. She has served as director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology since 1989.
Kimsey said she plans to follow the tradition of the late Richard Bohart by bringing her microscope to the chair's office. Bohart, who was Kimsey's major professor, chaired the department from 1956 to 1965 and retired in 1980 as an emeritus professor. During his career, Bohart identified more than one million mosquitoes and wasps, many now displayed at the Bohart Museum, a teaching, research and public service facility that he founded on campus in 1946. The museum collection totals more than seven million specimens, and focuses on terrestrial and fresh water invertebrates.
Kimsey's other office is in Academy Surge, where the Bohart Museum is housed.
As to future plans, “We're continuing to build up our bee biology program,” Kimsey said. “We'll be hiring a bee pollination biologist soon and are now accepting applications for the Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.” The premier ice cream company recently donated $100,000 to the Laidlaw facility to address the bee population decline.
“I can empathize with colony collapse disorder (CCD) because the hive we have in our backyard in Davis is the victim of CCD,” she said. “The bees vanished, leaving all the honey there.”
The faculty completed interviews for the bee pollination biologist in January. The new position will be housed at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus.
Kimsey's husband, Robert Kimsey, a forensic entomologist, is an adjunct professor in the department.
The Department of Entomology is ranked No. 1 in the country by the Chronicle of Higher Education, considered the top news and job-information source for college and university faculty members, administrators, and students.
At Shafter, Leigh focused his research on the biology, ecology, host plant resistance, control and management of insects and spider mites on cotton. He stood at the forefront of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of cotton pests, according to an article in the summer 1994 edition of American Entomologist. He taught courses on cotton IPM and host plant resistance.
“During his career, he advised many graduate students who went on to become renowned entomologists in cotton IPM around the world,” wrote Charles E. Jackson of Uniroyal Chemical, Clovis, Calif., and J. Hodge Black, UC Cooperative Extension, Bakersfield in the American Entomologist. For his achievements in teaching and research, Leigh received the James H. Meyer Recognition Award for Distinguished Achievement Service Award in 1988.
The Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America awarded him the C. F. Woodworth Award for outstanding service to entomology in 1991. Charles W. Woodworth (1865-1940) founded the Entomology Division of the University of California, Berkeley, and is considered the founder of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
'Leigh's caring, enthusiasm, intellect, expertise and professionalism were regarded highly by all who knew him.'
Leigh was born March 6, 1923 in Loma Linda. A 1942 graduate of Beaumont High School, he worked briefly on a farm and then served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
His work as an agricultural inspector with the Riverside County Agricultural Commissioner's Office from 1944-1945 sparked his interest in entomology. He received his bachelor of science degree in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1949, and his doctorate in entomology there in 1956. His thesis was on the influence of light, temperature and humidity on flight activity of the butterfly, Colias and involved both field and laboratory investigations.
Leigh served as an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas from 1954 to 1958, where he worked on the biology, ecology and control of pink bollworm and boll weevil, using chemicals and cultural means. He joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology, advancing from assistant entomologist to associate entomologist in 1963. In 1968, he was promoted to adjunct lecturer and entomologist.
Leigh served as president of the Pacific Branch of ESA in 1981. He also served on the ESA Governing Board and was a founding member and past president of the American Registry of Professional Entomologists (ARPE). In 1981 he received the ARPE Outstanding Entomologist Award. In 1993, Leigh was elected as a director to the Board Certified Entomologists' certification board.
In addition, Leigh was active in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was the founding president of the San Joaquin Entomology Association. He held membership in several other associations, including the Association of Applied Insect Ecologists, the Ecological Society of America, and the American Archeological Society. The UC Davis entomologist was a past president of the Shafter Rotary Club and also active in the Boy Scouts of America.
During his 37-year career, he authored more than 127 peer-reviewed publications.
“His many colleagues considered his research and teaching to be outstanding,” wrote authors Jackson and Black in the American Entomologist. “Leigh's caring, enthusiasm, intellect, expertise and professionalism were regarded highly by all who knew him.”
In his memory, his family and associates set up the Leigh Distinguished Alumni Seminar in Entomology Fund at the UC Davis Department of Entomology. The alumni seminar is now known as the Thomas and Nina Distinguished Alumni Seminar, memorializing Dr. Leigh and his wife, Nina Eremin Leigh (1929-2002). The family includes two sons, Michael and Nicholas.
Known as the “quintessential biological control researcher,” Ehler joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 1973 as the first biological control specialist on campus. He retired Jan. 3 as an emeritus professor. During his 34.5-year career at UC Davis, he developed innovative and environmentally friendly ways to manage pests. In his retirement, he will seek innovative ways to manage what's on the end of his fishing pole.
“Les began teaching biocontrol classes for our department in 1974, drawing hundreds of students,” said Walter Leal, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. “He was trained in the 1960s by the founders of integrated pest management (IPM) and he advocated biological control methods as an important IPM pest control strategy. His work led to a better understanding of how predators and parasites can control pests without pesticides.”
Ehler co-edited the 1990 book, “Critical Issues in Biological Control” and served four years as president and four years as past president of the International Organization for Biological Control. He also chaired the Entomological Society of America's Biological Control Section.
At UC Davis, Ehler battled pests such as obscure scale and aphids on oaks, stink bugs on tomato, aphids on sugar beet and white fir, and beet armyworm on alfalfa and sugar beet. His expertise ranges from the theory and practice of biological control to the ecology and management of insects and mites in natural, agricultural and urban environments.
“When biocontrol is successful, it's permanent,” Ehler said. “Pesticides are no longer needed. You can get complete success with biological control, but it must be very specific to the pest to eliminate unwanted environmental effects."
In the late 1990s, Ehler discovered that pill bugs, also known as roly-poly bugs, prey on the eggs of stink bugs. Up to then, most entomologists classified pill bugs as strictly vegetarians. Stink bugs, major agricultural pests, suck the juices from legume and brassica seeds and fruit of other crops.
In the early 1980's, Ehler led the Davis team that documented the environmental impact of malathion-bait sprays used to eradicate the Mediterranean fruit fly. The organophosphate was credited with killing the medfly, but also beneficial insects such as honey bees, and natural enemies of various insect pests.
In one study, Ehler assessed the non-target effects of malathion in the Bay Area. His studies in Woodside, a San Mateo County community on the San Francisco Peninsula, revealed that populations of a native gall midge exploded 90 times the normal level. Ehler compared the gall midge population in Woodside -- where planes sprayed up to 24 malathion applications -- to the untouched Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve near Stanford University. The gall midge is a gnatlike insect pest that lays its eggs in plants; the burrowing larvae form galls.
Entomologist Michael Parrella, associate dean of agricultural sciences in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, praised Ehler's “heart-and-soul” work.
“Les was the first faculty member hired in the Department of Entomology to teach and advance the science and practice of biological control,” he said. “Trained in classical biological control at UC Berkeley, he was the heart and soul of biological control at UC Davis, and worked in many biological systems from tomatoes to urban landscapes.”
“For many years, Les maintained his own USDA-certified quarantine laboratory which allowed him to work with biological control agents from all over the world,” Parrella said. “He was a meticulous researcher who maintained a ‘hands-on' approach with all the projects done in his laboratory and he trained many students who are now leaders in the field of biological control around the world.”
Ehler also helped organic farmers solve problems. Ehler designed a stink bug management program for Yolo County organic farmer Robert Ramming of Pacific Star Gardens after learning of the stink bug invasion in his tomato fields.
“The stink bugs were overwintering in his backyard and in the spring, emerging to dine on mustard and then tomatoes,” Ehler said. “Stink bugs don't seem to prefer tomatoes — they like mustard and wild radish — but when these hosts were plowed under and no longer available, the bugs went for the tomatoes.” Solution: Don't cut the mustard. Plow it under only when the stink bugs aren't a threat to the tomatoes — that is, before they develop wings and disperse.
“Les was most helpful,” said Ramming, who began Pacific Star Gardens 15 years ago and grows tomatoes, melons, strawberries, blackberries, apricots and other produce on his 40-acre farm. “Les determined what stink bugs prefer, their habitat and where they were overwintering,” he said. “We planted a five-foot strip of ‘trap' or ‘bribe' crops (mustard and wild radish) around the tomato fields and got rid of 90 percent of the stink bugs.”
Rachael Long, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Yolo, Solano, Sacramento Counties, praised Ehler for his expertise and assistance.
“I greatly admire Les for his contributions to IPM that have helped us better understand the biology of some of our major agricultural pests and how to manage them,” she said. “Les is one of those extraordinary field researchers with a broad knowledge of entomology that make him a great resource for information. In collaborating with Les on various projects I have a much better understanding on how landscapes impact IPM in cropping systems which I believe will help conservation efforts and improve pest control in our agricultural systems.”
Ehler, born in Lubbock County, Texas and reared on a family farm near the small town of Idalou, received his bachelor's degree in entomology from Texas Tech University, and his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley. He joined UC Davis in 1973 as an assistant professor, advancing in 1985 to professor of entomology and entomologist in the UC Davis Experiment Station.
Ehler's retirement plans include helping with a stink bug project directed by researchers at UC Berkeley. And fishing with fellow entomologists Larry Godfrey and Harry Kaya, farm advisors Gene Miyao and Mario Moratorio, and weed scientist Tom Lanini. An avid fisherman, Ehler plies the waters of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and Lake Berryessa in his 18-foot boat. His catches include a 44-pound salmon in the Sacramento River.
One net for another.