If you're thinking of apiculture, you might be thinking of drones (male bees).
But if you're thinking of agriculture--more specifically sustainable agriculture practices in the 21st century--you ought to be thinking of the importance of unmanned aerial robots.
These drones promise to have a huge impact on 21st century sustainable agriculture.
Indeed, a newly published review paper, “Drones: Innovative Technology for Use in Precision Pest Management,” appearing in the Journal of Economic Entomology, should be required reading. The work of a four-member international team of scientists, including UC Davis entomologist Elvira de Lange, it's one of the first of its kind to summarize scientific literature on the use of agricultural drones for pest management.
De Lange, who assembled the team of authors, says that sustainable agricultural practices in the 21st century should increasingly depend on drones and other innovative technologies.
In advocating the need for more research, the authors say that drones are becoming an important part of precision pest management, from detecting pests to controlling them.
In their review, they emphasize "how sustainable pest management in 21st-century agriculture will depend heavily on novel technologies, and how this trend will lead to a growing need for multi-disciplinary research collaborations between agronomists, ecologists, software programmers, and engineers."
“We propose extensive communication and collaboration between scientists from various disciplines, extension agents, industry professionals, and commercial growers to reach drones' optimal potential to help with pest management and control,” said De Lange, the corresponding author and a postdoctoral fellow in the Christian Nansen lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The paper covers the use of drones with remote sensing equipment, to detect pest problems from the air. It calls for the increased use of actuation drones, to provide solutions such as spraying pesticides and releasing biocontrol organisms. “Most literature concerns remote sensing,” said de Lange.
Filho just completed his master's degree on drones and remote sensing in Brazil and is currently a doctoral student. Co-authors, in addition to De Lange, are engineer and drone communication expert Zhaodan Kong, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; and remote sensing expert Wieke Heldens of the German Aerospace Center, Earth Observation Center, Germany.
“Early outbreak detection and treatment application are inherent to effective pest management, allowing management decisions to be implemented before pests are well-established and crop losses accrue,” the authors wrote in their abstract. “Pest monitoring is time-consuming and may be hampered by lack of reliable or cost-effective sampling techniques. Thus, we argue that an important research challenge associated with enhanced sustainability of pest management in modern agriculture is developing and promoting improved crop monitoring procedures.”
Drones can target pest outbreaks or hot spots in field crops and orchards, such as Colorado potato beetle in potato fields or sugarcane aphid in sorghum, the scientists pointed out. “Pests are unpredictable and not uniformly distributed. Precision agricultural technologies, like the use of drones, can offer important opportunities for integrated pest management (IPM).”
De Lange, noting that drones are increasingly used in agriculture for various purposes, commented: “They are often equipped with remote sensing technology, for yield predictions, evaluation of crop phenology, or characterization of soil properties.”
“There are myriad possibilities for use of drones in pest management,” she said. “Sensing drones, equipped with remote sensing technology, could help detect pest hotspots. Pests are often small and hard to find, so indirect detection, through changes in how plants reflect light, has the potential to find the pest earlier, treat earlier, and keep damage in check.”
“Furthermore, actuation drones, equipped with precision spray rigs or dispensers of biocontrol organisms, could apply localized solutions. Pesticide sprays exactly where needed would reduce the needs to spray an entire field. More efficient distribution of biocontrol organisms would make them a more competitive alternative to pesticides.”
“Remote sensing equipment,” De Lange added, “can also be placed on manned aircraft and satellites. However, drones fly lower, increasing images' spatial resolution, and making clouds less of an issue. They are generally cheaper and can be flown more frequently. Compared to ground-based devices, drones can cover much more ground in a shorter period of time.”
The authors said that drones could also be used to distribute sterile insects and mating disruption, and contribute to pest outbreak prevention, rather than provide only solutions to existing problems.
De Lange, who holds a doctorate in chemical ecology from the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, joined the Nansen lab in 2016. Her research interests include plant-insect interactions, integrated pest management, chemical ecology and precision agriculture. She does much of her research on California strawberries.
It was a great day to get acquainted with insects and arachnids and learn how to raise them.
And the nearly 300 visitors did just that at the recent UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, "Arthropod Husbandry: Raising Insects for Research and Fun." The guests held the critters, photographed them, and asked questions of the scientists.
At first they didn't see the praying mantids reared by entomologist and UC Davis alumnus Lohit Garikipati. They were there, all right, but camouflaged amid the leaves and branches.
The five species of mantids Garikipati displayed included a tropical shield praying mantis, Choeradodis stalii, also known as a hooded mantis or leaf mantis, and a spiny flower praying mantis, Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii.
UC Davis entomology student Andrew Goffinet, a former UC Davis Bio Boot Camper, discussed rearing butterflies and moths. He showed the visitors a display of Gulf Fritillaries, caterpillars and a chrysalis.
Entomology alumnus Nicole Tam, showed her beetle-mimicking roaches and talked about rearing insects in the Geoffrey Attardo lab. Doctoral student and Bohart associate Ziad Khouri explained how to rear tarantulas and millipedes. Entomology student Ben Maples kept the crowd interested with the "hissers"--Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepidoptera section, and naturalist Greg Kareofelas, opened the drawers of butterflies and moths. Entomology student Ian Clark staffed the family crafts activity, assisting youngsters in making decorated finger puppets from Seker-donated silkworm cocoons.
Entomologist Ann Kao, a 2019 UC Davis graduate and newly employed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, crafted and displayed her insect jewelry.
Tabatha Yang, educational and outreach coordinator, coordinated the open house. The Bohart crew also included Bohart associates Emma Cluff, James Heydon, Brennen Dyer and Xiaofan Yang.
Special guests included 40 students from the Samuel Jackson Middle School and the James Rutter Middle School, Elk Grove Unified School District, in a program offering special educational opportunities and mentoring. The youths wore t-shirts lettered with "The Power of Us" on the front, and "Resilient, Authentic, Passionate" on the back.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, 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. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum.
In addition to the specimens, the Bohart Museum maintains a live "petting zoo," featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks or stick insects and tarantulas. The museum's gift shop, open year around, is stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
Silkworm moth expert İsmail Şeker, a Turkish medical doctor and author of a book showcasing his hobby, displayed the eggs, larvae, pupae, adults, as well as silk fabric, and fielded questions from the audience.
Seker showed his newly produced 13-minute video detailing the history of the silkworm moth and its life cycle. The crowd marveled at his macro photography and exquisite videography. Assisting him at the presentation were his grandson, Emre, 7, and granddaughter, Ruya, 4. Their father, Erkin Seker, is an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The silkmoth, Bombyx mori, domesticated in China more than 5,000 years ago, belongs to the family Bombycidae, The life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Their food: mulberry leaves.
The caterpillars are celebrated for spinning silk; each cocoon is comprised of a single strand of raw silk from 1000 to 3000 feet long. It takes about 2000 to 3000 cocoons to make a pound of silk. Worldwide, silkworms produce some 70 million pounds of raw silk, requiring nearly 10 billion cocoons.
The adults cannot fly, and neither eat nor drink. They mate, lay eggs, and the cycle continues.
Seker donated cocoons for the Bohart Museum's family craft activity and watched visitors gleefully turn the cocoons into decorated finger puppets.
Among the visitors: 40 students from the Samuel Jackson Middle School and the James Rutter Middle School, Elk Grove Unified School District, in a program offering special educational opportunities and mentoring. The youths wore t-shirts lettered with "The Power of Us" on the front, and "Resilient, Authentic, Passionate" on the back. Academic mentor Keishawn Turner said the group toured the campus, had lunch, and ended the day by attending a UC Davis football game.
(More photos of the open house pending in the next Bug Squad)
The Bohart Museum is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. It 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. The Bohart Museum maintains a live "petting zoo," featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks or stick insects, tarantulas, and praying mantids. The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
Director of the museum is Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis. The staff includes Steve Heydon, senior museum scientist; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) section.
Some people are born good-looking. Some have the gift of gab. And some are lucky enough to be born smarter than the rest of us. Whether we like it or not, Mother Nature does not dole these characteristics out evenly.--Simon Sinek
That applies to butterflies, too. Nobody said Mother Nature is perfect.
If you're rearing butterflies, such as Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), expect to see some defects, deformities and death. That chrysalis you've been watching? A butterfly may never eclose. In the cycle of life, the transformation from egg to larva to pupa to adult may never occur.
Nobody said Mother Nature is perfect.
The chrysalis is a withered grayish-brown, perfectly camouflaged on the butterfly's host plant, the passionflower vine (Passiflora). Sometimes you see a burst of reddish-orange wings and sliver spangled underwings, the remains of a butterfly that struggled to eclose.
Then you wait for one that will, one that will eclose.
The next one will take your breath away. Mother Nature is like that.
- Walter Leal, distinguished professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former chair of the Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology
- Cristina Davis, the Warren and Leta Geidt Endowed Professor and Chair, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
NIA honors and encourages academic inventions that benefit society. Between the two UC Davis faculty members, they hold 42 patents: Davis with 12; and Leal with 28 Japanese and 2 U.S. patents.
Davis is a world leader in trace chemical sensing, while Leal is a leading global scientist in the field of insect olfaction and communication, investigating how insects detect odors, how they detect host and nonhost plant matter, and how they communicate within their species.
Leal's research, spanning three decades, focuses on insects that carry mosquito-borne diseases as well as agricultural pests, such as the Asian citrus psyllid and the orange navelworm. He and his lab drew international attention with their discovery of the mode of action of DEET, the gold standard of insect repellents.
We remember when Leal and a group of 18 students hosted a Zika Public Awareness Symposium in 2016 on the UC Davis campus. It was an amazing symposium that drew attention to Aedes aeqytpi, which transmits the disease. Soon thereafter, Brazilian-born Leal and his colleagues in Brazil, detected the Zika virus in wild-caught Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes in Recife, the epicenter of the Zika epidemic.
We also remember when Leal identified the sex pheromones of the navel orangeworm (Amyelois transitella), a pest of almonds, figs, pomegranates and walnuts, the major hosts. This led to practical applications of pest management techniques in the fields.
Those are just several examples of the work he does. And still, he found time to co-chair the 2016 International Congress of Entomology meeting, "Entomology Without Borders," in Orlando, Fla., that drew the largest delegation of scientists and experts in the history of the discipline: 6682 attendees from 102 countries.
We're not sure how Leal can find the time to do all this (see news story on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology). We figure he must have a clone! Make that multiple clones!
At any rate, Leal is the second faculty member affiliated with the entomology department to be selected an NIA fellow. The other scientist: Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Hammock is the co-founder and chief executive officer of EicOsis LLC, a Davis-based company that is developing a non-opiate drug to relieve inflammatory pain in companion animals and target chronic neuropathic pain in humans and horses.
As Hammock said: “When Walter Leal reached UC Davis (in 2000), he came with the reputation of being a 'one man army in research.' This reputation was well deserved. I know of no one at UC Davis who matches Walter in taking his remarkable fundamental advances in science and translating them to increase the safety and magnitude of world food production.”