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 Agriculture 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
Mrs. Montague worked with Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen in research and outreach programs, including the “Adopt a Scientist Program,” which linked university researchers with high school age students to encourage young people to pursue careers in science, particularly in the field of agriculture and natural resources.
She and Mussen co-authored “Adopt a Scientist—UC Davis,” published in 1997 in the Entomological Society of America's journal, The American Entomologist.
She also co-authored, with Mussen and other scientists, “The Effects of Chlortetracycline of Honey Bee Worker Larvae Reared in Vitro,” published in 1992 in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology in 1992.
Mrs. Montague received two degrees from UC Davis: her bachelor of science degree in horticulture in 1963 and her master's degree in 1969. She joined the UC Davis workforce in 1967, beginning her career as an arborist, and retiring in 2001 with 33 years and four months of service to the university.
At the UC Davis Department of Entomology, she worked in several laboratories, including the lab of the late Charles Judson, an insect physiologist. “MaryAnn was a cheerful enthusiastic person,” recalled Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor of entomology who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
A native of Deer Lodge, Mont., MaryAnn was born Jan. 9, 1941, one of three children born to Claus Wohlers and Mary Cleaveland Wohlers. Maryann spent her early years in Montana, and then moved to Berkeley in 1953 with her mother, Mary, and brother Norman.
A longtime Dixon resident and known as a talented artist, she taught art at the Davis and Dixon senior centers and participated in art exhibits throughout the area, her friends recalled. She exhibited her watercolors at numerous art shows. She joined the Baha'I Faith in 1965. Her other interests included researching her family history, and attending the Gorman Museum at UC Davis.
Married twice but with no children, she was preceded in death by most of her family members. She is survived by six nieces and nephews: the children of her late sister, Beth Tietjen of New Mexico; and three nieces and nephews, the children of her late brother, Norman Wohlers of Davis.
Services will be held at 10 a.m., Monday, July 16 at the Smith Funeral Home, located at 116 D St., Davis. Burial will follow in the Davis Cemetery on Pole Line Road.
(Editor's Note: See obituary on the Smith Funeral Home website.)
In groundbreaking research published in the journal Plant Methods, UC Davis agricultural entomologist Christian Nansen of the Department of Entomology and Nematology and his team of six colleagues from Brazil discovered that plant-plant communication causes physiological changes in plants and these subtle changes can be detected via analyses of leaf reflectance or hyperspectral imaging. The article is titled “Hyperspectral Imaging to Characterize Plant-Plant Communication in Response to Insect Herbivory."
The growing knowledge about plant-plant communication and about plants' ability to assess their environment has led to concepts like “plant neuro-biology” and “plant behavior,” said Nansen, an associate professor who centers his research on host plant-stress detection, host selection by arthropods, pesticide performance, and use of reflectance-based imaging in a wide range of research applications.
“We know that plants don't have a neural system or brain,” said Nansen, “but respected scientists are studying plants as if they did, as if plants are able to assess conditions in their environments, and they can adapt/respond to those conditions.”
“In studies of plant stress signaling, a major challenge is the lack of non-invasive methods to detect physiological plant responses and to characterize plant-plant communication over time and space.” Nansen pointed out. He described the research as “initial evidence of how hyperspectral imaging may be considered a powerful non-invasive method to increase our current understanding of both direct plant responses to biotic stressors but also to the multiple ways plant communities are able to communicate.”
The UC Davis entomologist and his team used leaf reflectance data to detect and characterize plant responses to stressors, knowing that induced stress interferes with photosynthesis, chemical composition and physical structure of the plant, thus affecting the absorption of light energy and altering the reflectance spectrum of the plants.
“For several decades, it has been known that plants communicate – both among individuals of the same species and across species,” Nansen related. “That is, volatiles emitted by one plant can be received by another plant and trigger different physiological responses. It is also well-documented that plants communicate via roots, and sometimes the roots from different plants are brought together in a network of communication and exchange of nutrients through symbioses with mychorriza (soil fungi).”
Nansen credited Professor Richard Karban of the Department of Entomology and Nematology with pioneering efforts in the field of plant-plant communication, and lauded his continuing research. Plants can eavesdrop, sense danger in the environment, and can distinguish friend from foe, says Karban, the author of the landmark book, “Plant Sensing and Communication” (University of Chicago Press). In addition, both Nansen and Karban contributed chapters to the recently published book, “The Language of Plants” (University of Minnesota Press).
Of the Nansen study, Karban said: "This study describes a technique that may provide a relatively quick and inexpensive way to evaluate levels of resistance in plants. If these results are repeatable by other workers in other systems, they will provide a very valuable tool for researchers and growers."
Nansen noted that within "the last decade or so, extremely cutting-edge research in the field of plant-plant communication has been done by people like Dr. Monica Gagliano of the University of Western Australia. "Gagliano has elegantly demonstrated that plants can respond not only to aerial volatile compounds and root secretions but also to sound."
For the research project, Nansen and his team decided to conduct “a very simple experiment with corn plants and stink bugs.” They planted corn plants in separate pots or two in one pot. They subjected some plants to herbivory by stink bugs, while other plants served as control plants.
The scientists collected two types of data: phytocompounds (stress hormones and pigments) and leaf reflectance data (proximal remote sensing data).
“Our research hypothesis was that insect herbivory causes changes in leaf phytocompound levels, and these physiological defense responses are associated with detectable changes in phytocompound levels and in certain spectral bands of leaf reflectance profiles,” Nansen pointed out. As a secondary hypothesis, the researchers predicted that plant-plant communication (from plant with herbivory to an adjacent control plant without herbivory) will elicit both a change in phytocompound composition of leaves and also cause a corresponding change in leaf reflectance.
The result: The first published study, in which comprehensive phytocompound data have been shown to correlate with leaf reflectance. In addition, it is the first published study of leaf reflectance in plant-plant communication.
Nansen and co-author Leandro do Prado Ribeiro of the Research Center for Family Agriculture, Research and Rural Extension Company of Santa Catarina, Brazil, conceived and designed the experiments. The Brazilian National Counsel of Technological and Scientific Development provided partial financial support. Co-author Marilia Almeida Trapp received financial support from a Capes-Humboldt Research Fellowship.
Water balloons, water guns, super sprayers, and buckets prevailed when dozens of scientists participated in the 15th annual Bruce Hammock Lab Water Balloon Battle on the Briggs Hall lawn at the University of California, Davis.
The July event, also known as "Bruce's Big Balloon Battle at Briggs," proved to be an international soakfest. That's because the 28 researchers in the Hammock lab hail from seven countries: the United Stares, China, France, Ukraine, Lebanon, Japan and Korea. They include postdoctoral scholars, researchers, graduate students, visiting scholars, visiting graduate students, visiting summer students, short-term visiting scholars and student interns.
The annual battle amounts to 15 minutes, or "15 Minutes of Aim." That's how long it takes for the some 40 water warriors to toss 2,000 water balloons. Joining in were scientists from the Aldrin Gomes lab, UC Davis Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior; Frank Zalom lab of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and the UC Davis Department of Mathematics, plus family and friends.
Hammock, a UC Davis distinguished professor who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, hosts the annual event in mid-July when triple-digit temperatures strike the campus. It's an opportunity for the lab members--who work hard throughout the year and play hard for 15 minutes--to engage in a little fun and camaraderie. The thirsty lawn benefits, too.
First the water warriors fill the balloons in an assemblyline procedure, and at exactly 3 p.m., the soakfest begins. As the H2O dwindles, they empty buckets at unsuspecting targets. The last part: picking up every single balloon remnant from the lawn.
Hammock, trained as a entomologist, chemist and toxicologist--and who now focuses his research on human health, is recognized for his work on using natural chemical mediators to control inflammation and intractable pain. He co-discovered the soluble epoxide hydrolase, and many of his more than 1100 publications and patents are on the P450 branch of the arachidonate cascade where the soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) degrades natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Hammock, an alumnus of UC Berkeley with a doctorate in entomology, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1980. He is the founding director (1987-present) of the UC Davis NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) Superfund Research Program and is a founding member (1990-present) of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. He has directed the UC Davis NIH/NIEHS Combined Analytical Laboratory for 25 years.
Highly honored by his peers, Hammock is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, and the recipient of the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. He is the first McGiff Memorial Awardee in Lipid Biochemistry. The Eicosanoid Research Foundation recently honored him for work on oxidized lipids.
But on one day in July--for 15 minutes--noted academician Bruce Hammock leaves his Briggs Hall office and transforms into an elite water warrior. He's practiced for 15 years, 15 minutes at a time.
"Bruce has a good aim," said Christophe Morisseau, a Hammock lab researcher who coordinates the annual battles.