Christmas in May?
When it's in full bloom, the aptly named "tower of jewels," Echium wildpretii, which can tower as high as 10 feet, looks very much like a Christmas tree. Think of the brilliant red blossoms as red bells.
Native to the island of Tenerife, it belongs to the family Boraginaceae. It's a biennial, meaning that it takes two growing seasons to complete its life cycle. In the Vacaville, Calif., area, it blooms in its second year, around mid-April and diminishes by mid-May.
Honey bees love its nectar and pollen. And the pollen? It's blue, which is always a surprise when beekeepers open their hives. "Where did that blue come from?"
Scilla sibirica (wood squill) and Epilobium angustifolium (fireweed) also yield blue pollen as does Gilia tricolor (bird's eye). Borage pollen is a bluish-gray.
"The importance of pollen to the health and vigor of the honey bee colony cannot be overstated," writes emeritus entomology professor Norman Gary of the University of California, Davis, in his best-selling book, "Honey Bee Hobbyist, The Care and Keeping of Bees."
"Honey satisfies the bees' carbohydrate requirements, while all of the other nutrients---minerals, proteins, vitamins and fatty substances--are derived from pollen. Nurse bees consume large amounts of pollen, converting it into nutritious secretions that are fed to developing larvae. During an entire year, a typical bee colony gathers and consumes about 77 pounds of pollen."
Gary adds: "Pollen in the plant world is the equivalent of sperm in the animal world. Fertilization and growth of seeds depends upon the transfer of pollen from the male flower parts (anthers) to the receptive female parts (stigmas)."
Honey bee experts at UC Davis and Oregon State University (OSU) will teach the comprehensive, asynchronous course, "Honey Bees and Beekeeping for Veterinarians." Registration is now underway at http://www.wifss.ucdavis.edu/beevets/. The course is intended for veterinarians, veterinary technicians, apiculture educators, apiary inspectors and beekeepers in California and Oregon. Participants are encouraged to register today; the course will be available only until June 30, 2020.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) addresses antibiotic resistance and antimicrobial use in the feed or water of food-producing animals. The VFD implementation aims to ensure the judicious use of antimicrobials, and to minimize the impact of their use in colonies.
This means that beekeepers now need to establish a veterinarian-client-patient relationship to obtain the antibiotics they need to manage foulbrood and other microbial diseases, according to the course instructors.
The training is being offered by the laboratory of Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, affiliated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources; the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; and OSU.
Course authors and developers are the Western Institute for Food and Security (WIFSS), UC Davis; Elina Niño and Bernardo Niño; Jonathan Dear, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and Ramesh Saglii, OSU's Honey Bee Laboratory.
Instructors said that participants, upon completion of the course, will be able to:
- Describe the importance of honey bees
- Explain the veterinarian's role in commercial beekeeping
- Recognize distinguished characteristics of honey bees
- Recognize specialized beekeeping equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Recognize the components of a hive inspection
- Describe honey bee immunity against pathogens, pests and diseases
- Describe common pests and diseases that may impact honey bees
- Describe how the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) governs the use of antimicrobial drugs in apiculture
Honey bees are responsible for pollinating one-third of the American diet. They pollinate such specialty crops as apples, melons, cranberries, pumpkins, squash, broccoli, and almonds. However, annual honey bee colony losses are high due to a variety of environmental and biological causes, including bacterial diseases. Historically, beekeepers have self-prescribed antibiotics to control these diseases.
Funding for the development of the “Honey Bees and Beekeeping for Veterinarians” course was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Multi-State Program through an agreement between the California Department of Food and Agriculture and The Regents of the University of California, Davis (agreement number 17-0727-001-SF).
That's a crucial question, especially with California's history and future of disastrous wildfires. Last year was the state's worst fire season ever: 9,639 fires burned 4.3 million acres or more than 4 percent of the state's roughly 100 million acres of land, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Enter bee biologist Lauren Ponisio, a native of California's Central Valley who is now an assistant professor at the University of Oregon, Eugene. She will address a webinar hosted from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Friday, May 28 by the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD).
Also billed are Anne-Marie Bentz of the California California Native Plant Society, who will present information on how to create fire-wise, pollinator-friendly gardens, and Don Hankins, professor of geography and planning at California State University, Chico, who will discuss traditional burning and pollinators. Hankins, UC Davis-educated, holds a bachelor's degree in wildlife, fish and conservation biology and a doctorate in geography from UC Davis.
"Fire has a major impact on the structure and function of many ecosystems globally," according to Ponisio and her colleagues in their 2016 published research, "Pyrodiversity Begets Plant-Pollinator Community Diversity in Global Change Biology.
"Pyrodiversity, the diversity of fires within a region (where diversity is based on fire characteristics such as extent, severity, and frequency), has been hypothesized to promote biodiversity, but changing climate and land management practices have eroded pyrodiversity," they wrote in their abstract. "To assess whether changes in pyrodiversity will have impacts on ecological communities, we must first understand the mechanisms that might enable pyrodiversity to sustain biodiversity, and how such changes might interact with other disturbances such as drought."
"Focusing on plant–pollinator communities in mixed-conifer forest with frequent fire in Yosemite National Park, California, we examine how pyrodiversity, combined with drought intensity, influences those communities. We find that pyrodiversity is positively related to the richness of the pollinators, flowering plants, and plant–pollinator interactions. On average, a 5% increase in pyrodiversity led to the gain of approximately one pollinator and one flowering plant species and nearly two interactions."
Ponisio holds two degrees from Stanford University: her bachelor's degree in biology with honors in ecology and evolution, 2010, and her master's in biology in 2011. She received her doctorate in 2016 from the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. Ponisio served as a Moore/Sloan Data Science Postdoctoral Fellow at the Berkeley Institute of Science from 2016 to 2017, before joining the UC Riverside Department of Entomology as an assistant professor in 2017. She accepted her current position with the University of Oregon's Department of Biology in 2020.
Ponisio was featured July 20, 2020 in People Behind the Science Podcast, Working to Preserrve and Restore Populations of Bees and Other Pollinators: "The United States is home to thousands of different species of native bees that are important for agriculture and natural ecosystems. Lauren's research revolves around preserving and restoring bee populations in agricultural areas and other natural habitats. She is interested in understanding the distribution and health of different populations of native bees."
The May 28 Zoom webinar connection: https://bit.ly/3y6th18.
Or One tap mobile:
+16699006833,,85014402893# US (San Jose)
+13462487799,,85014402893# US (Houston)
Webinar ID: 850 1440 2893
Scientists say that within several weeks, trillions of cicadas from Brood X will emerge in 15 eastern-central states of our nation, from Georgia to New York.
These periodical circadas have spent the last 17 years underground feeding and growing, and growing and feeding and soon they will tunnel out and emerge together in what some call a "synchronous emergence."
Scientists will be delighted. The cicadas will call for mates; the squeamish will recoil at the numbers and sounds; and predators will eat their fill.
"Nearly 3,400 species of cicadas exist worldwide," according to a May 10th article in Scientific American. "But periodical cicadas that emerge en masse once every 17 or 13 years are unique to the eastern U.S. The 17-year cicadas live in the North, and the 13-year cicadas are found in the South and the Mississippi Valley. The three species of 17-year cicadas—Magicicada septendecim, M. cassinii and M. septendecula—form mixed-species cohorts called broods whose members arise like clockwork on the same schedule. The broods are identified by Roman numerals. Brood X is the largest of the 12 broods of 17-year cicadas, which emerge in different years."
Nature photographer Allan Jones of Davis says he expects "to hear quite a bit about cicadas emerging back East soon."
"I do not see cicadas often around here, but one flew by me several years ago in the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden (UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden) and lit in the Ranger Sage." That was on June 7, 2011.
Community ecologist Louie Yang, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology (he goes by the name of "cicadachaser" on Twitter), commented: "I don't know the western cicadas well, but that appears to be Okanagana arboraria."
Yang recently (April 29) presented a seminar to Georgetown University's Biology Department on his research on cicada emergence as a resource pulse in local ecosystems.
California is home to some 65 species of cicadas. Worldwide, "there are more than 3,000 species of cicadas, which fall into roughly two categories: annual cicadas, which are spotted every year, and periodical cicadas, which spend most of their lives underground and only emerge once every decade or two, according to National Geographic.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis (temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic) has scores of cicada specimens, according to director Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology.
I have one. My mother, who grew up on a West Texas ranch, left one in her estate. She tucked it into a little box labeled "Texas bug." No one knows when or where she found it, but it measures two-and-a-half inches long and an inch wide.
What we do know is that the cicada is considered one of the world's loudest insects. "The chirping and clicking noises of the male cicada are actually a species-specific mating call that can be heard by females up to a mile (1.6 kilometers) away," according to LiveScience in its piece on "Why Do Cicacas Sing."
Wish we were there...
It's up for discussion. Take the painted lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui. In real life, it is spectacular but the average fan may never be able to photograph it well in the wild. In art, you can depict it as you see it, or how you think it should be depicted. Either way, these butterflies draw attention.
Artist Roberto Valdez finds them fascinating, too. His Dixon May Fair entry in oils and acrylics, adult fine arts, won a well-deserved "best of show" in the Professional Fine Arts category.
No thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dixon May Fair--which dates back to 1876 and is renowned as the oldest district fair and fairgrounds in the state of California--canceled its 2020 and 2021 fairs. This year, however, the fair accepted entries. Judges scored the entries on tables set up in Denverton Hall and images of the winning entries were posted online.
V. cardui has a colorful history. Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, writes on his research website that "apparently the entire North American population winters near the U.S.-Mexico border, breeding in the desert after the winter rains generate a crop of annual Malvaceous, Boraginaceous and Asteraceous hosts. The resulting butterflies migrate north. In good years (lots of desert rain) they may do so by billions, interfering with traffic and attracting the attention of the media."
Valdez' painting depicts 13 painted ladies fluttering by him or stopping to nectar. That's something you don't see often except during the height of a migration.
If you're an insect enthusiast, you'll enjoy seeing the online entries of insects depicted in paintings, photographs, drawings and jewelry. And you'll see bee condos or bee hotels (housing for leafcutter bees and blue orchard bees) crafted by youth.
At the judging tables in Denverton Hall, we also admired a drawing of a friendly blue dragonfly, the work of eight-year-old Logan Rush of Vacaville. He nailed it! Future entomologist? Maybe!
The Dixon May Fair, headed by chief executive officer Patricia Conklin, supports the communities of Dixon, Vacaville, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Elmira, all of Solano County, and Woodland and Davis, both of Yolo County. The 2021 Dixon May Fair normally would have taken place Thursday through Sunday, May 6-9, ending on Mother's Day. However, vendors offered a taste of the fair ("grab and go" food) for fans to enjoy.
Pre-COVID, the fair hosted community and agriculture-related activities throughout the year. The UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology plays a role in the annual four-day fair by providing exhibits. Next year!