It's a gathering of folks from both the almond and bee industries and beyond. See the agenda overview.
The late UC Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (1944-2022), based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, was heavily involved in honey bee health issues in the almond industry even after he retired as emeritus in 2014. He shared his expertise with the almond industry, spoke at their conferences and always looked forward to almond pollination season, which usually begins around Feb. 14.
ABC is a self-described "leader in the honey bee health conversation, partnering with more than 20 organizations to support bee health including universities, government agencies, nonprofits and beekeeping groups." That includes the University of California, Davis.
It's not just bees--or the lack of bees--that ABC worries about. Pests such as leaffooted bugs and brown marmorated stink bugs draw their ire. UC Cooperative Extension specialist Jhalendra Rijal and two colleagues, writing in a 2021 edition of the Journal of Integrated Pest Management, wrote about the "Biology, Ecology and Management of Hemipteran Pests in Almond Orchards in the United States."
Scores of university scientists work with ABC on various pests, including UC Davis distinguished professor and researcher Frank Zalom of the Department of Entomology and Nematology. He's an Honorary Member of the Entomological Association of America, (the highest ESA honor), and a past president of the 7000-member organization.
Regarding honey bees, ABC engages with universities, government agencies, nonprofits, and others "to ensure that honey bees are happy, healthy, and safe while they visit almond orchards," according to its website. The organization posted this in 2018: "Since honey bee health was made a strategic research priority of Almond Board of California (ABC) in 1995, the California Almond community has committed $2.6 million through 113 research projects to address the five major factors impacting honey bee health--varroa mites, pest and disease management, genetic diversity, pesticide exposure, and access to forage and nutrition. The California Almond community has funded more honey bee health research than any other crop group, and in 2017, six new bee research studies were funded, with a commitment of nearly $300,000 to improving honey bee health."
ABC established Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) for California Almonds to "provide key recommendations to everyone involved in the pollination process, from the beekeeper to the almond farmer and everyone in between, to make the orchard a safe and welcoming place for honey bees, while balancing the need to protect the developing crop."
"The Bee BMPs have garnered praise from leading bee health experts such as University of California, Davis Apiculturist Emeritus Dr. Eric Mussen and been held up as an example for other crops to follow."
In 2014, Mussen received a plaque, with an engraved clock, from ABC for 38 years of service. In presenting him with the coveted award, Robert "Bob" Curtis, then associate director of Agricultural Affairs, ABC, said: "Eric, we honor your service as a Cooperative Extension Apicultural Specialist. Your leadership has been invaluable to both the almond and beekeeping communities as the authoritative and trusted source for guidance on research, technical, and practical problem solving and issues facing both industries. Even now in your retirement you have been instrumental in the development of Honey Bee Best Management Practices for Almonds and extending this information to all pollination stakeholders."
During his years as a Extension apiculturist, Mussen served as a university liaison, Scientific Advisory Board member, reviewer of research proposals and a designated speaker (representative).
A Celebration of Life is planned for 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28 in the Putah Creek Lodge, UC Davis campus. The registration has closed, but a live webinar will be produced by UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a former chair of the Department of Entomology. Registration is underway here at https://bit.ly/3czl5Am. It also will be on YouTube.
Family and friends suggest memorial contributions be made to the California State 4-H Beekeeping Program, with a note, "Eric Mussen Memorial Fund." Mary Ciriceillo, director of development for the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, said checks may be made out to the California 4-H Foundation and mailed to:
Western spotted cucumber beetles know how to hit the spot.
Make that "multiple spots."
These beetles, Diabrotica undecimpunctata, are agricultural pests that feed on roots, seedlings, flowers and foliage. And they can transmit diseases.
But have you ever seen feed on flower petals when you're wandering around in your garden?
"Cucumber, flea, and leaf beetles are pests of many flowers, including dahlia, lily, and sunflower," according to the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Program. "Adult cucumber beetles are shiny with black heads, long antennae, and about 0.25 inch long. Larvae are whitish and slender with three pairs of short legs; the head and tip of the abdomen are darker. Adults may be striped or spotted, depending upon species. Flea beetles are small, shiny beetles with black legs enlarged for jumping. Other leaf beetle adults are long, oval, blunt, and have threadlike antennae. The blue milkweed beetle adult is metallic green-blue."
"Adult beetles chew holes in leaves; some species also consume shoots and blossoms. Larvae of cucumber beetles and flea beetles chew roots, which can stunt crops. Seedlings can be destroyed within a few days. Older plants can tolerate relatively large numbers."
In our pollinator garden, spotted cucumber beetles are extraordinarily fond of our Mexican sunflowers, Tithonia rotundifola. We've seen them chew multiple holes in the petals.
Caught in the act!
During the 11th annual National Moth Week, one thing's for sure:
Beekeepers won't be celebrating the beauty, life cycle, or habitat of the Greater Wax Moth (Galleria mellonella), also known as "the honeycomb moth." It's a major pest of bee colonies that aren't maintained well.
During the night, when we are sleeping, these female wax moths slip into bee hives and lay their eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae which consume honeycomb, leaving a destructive mess. The Greater Wax Moth is the most destructive comb pest, while the Lesser Wax Moth (smaller) is less serious.
In his book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: the Care and Keeping of Honey Bees, UC Davis emeritus entomology professor Norm Gary, explains that that the females wax moth "lays eggs at night in the cracks and cervices outside and inside the hive. Tiny tax-moth larvae tunnel through the combs--eating as they go--and lining the tunnels with silk that affords some protection from the bees, which would cast them from the colony. As the moth larvae grow larger, they are more exposed and vulnerable and are cast out of the hive by housecleaning bees."
Beekeepers remove the frames and freeze them, killing the larvae and any other pests that that might be in there--such as small hive beetles (Aethina tumida).
In its fact sheet on wax moths, the Mid-Atlantic Apicultural Research and Extension Consortium (MAAREC), says that "Beekeepers will never completely win the battle against wax moth. It is an insect well adapted for surviving around bee colonies."
MAAREC, however, describes the larvae as "a mixed blessing." The larvae are "raised for use as fish bait, animal feed, and scientific research and they are a good representative insect to use in Biology and Entomology classes. Beekeepers see the wax moth as a pest."
Meanwhile, it's National Moth Week, and a good time to head over to the Bohart Museum of Entomology Moth Night open house on Saturday, July 30 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building at 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus.
Indoors you'll see the Bohart Museum's global collection of moths, and outside, within a short walking distance, you'll see moths and other insects hanging on a white sheet in theblacklighting display. They are drawn there by an ultraviolet (UV) light. Yes, you'll see wax moth specimens.
"Yes, we have plenty of Greater Wax Moths as well as Lesser Wax Moths and a few other Pyralids that were reared from bumble bee nests," said entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepidoptera collection. (See Bug Squad blog about what Jeff Smith says about the collection)
The open house is free, family friendly and open to the public. Folks are invited to bring photos or moth specimens from their house, yard or neighborhood that they would like help in identifying, said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. There also will be a craft activity, cookies, and "hot cocoa for anyone who needs help staying up past their bedtime," Yang quipped.
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 and directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, houses a worldwide collection of eight million insects. It also houses a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and a insect-themed gift shop.
Leal, a leading global scientist and inventor in the field of insect olfaction and communication and known for his impact in the fields of molecular, cellular biology and enotmology, received his medal at a June ceremony in Phoenix.
NIA selected him an NAI Fellow in 2019. However, the COVID pandemic cancelled the 2019 ceremony in Phoenix. Then in 2020, travel restrictions interfered with his plans to attend the Tampa, Fla., ceremony. Elected Fellows are required to attend the induction ceremony within two years of election in order to receive their award.
Leal attended the ceremony with his wife, Beatriz; daughter Helena; and son Gabriel. Both have co-authored papers in the Leal lab, "so they represent all visiting scholars, collaborators, postdocs, project scientists, graduate students, and undergraduate students in my lab," he commented. (See video of the awarding of the medals)
NAI singles out outstanding inventors for their “highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development, and welfare of society.” Election to NAI Fellow is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors. The NAI Fellow program has 1,403 Fellows worldwide representing more than 250 prestigious universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes.
Leal is the second faculty member affiliated with the Department of Entomology and Nematology to be selected an NAI fellow. Distinguished professor Bruce Hammock, who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, received the honor in 2014.
Leal, an expert in insect communication investigates how insects detect odors, connect and communicate within their species; and detect host and non-host plant matter. His research, spanning three decades, targets insects that carry mosquito-borne diseases as well as agricultural pests that damage and destroy crops. He and his lab drew international attention with their discovery of the mode of action of DEET, the gold standard of insect repellents.
He and his collaborators, including Nobel Laureate Kurth Wuthrich (Chemistry 2002), unravel how pheromones are carried by pheromone-binding proteins, precisely delivered to odorant receptors, and finally activated by pheromone-degrading enzymes.
That led to Leal's identification of the sex pheromones of the navel orangeworm (Amyelois transitella), a pest of almonds, figs, pomegranates and walnuts, the major hosts. This has led to practical applications of pest management techniques in the fields.
At the time of his election to NAI Fellow, Joe Rominiecki, communications manager of Entomological Society of America (ESA), said Leal has “greatly advanced scientific understanding of insect olfaction. He has identified and synthesized several insect pheromones, and his collaborative efforts led to the first structure of an insect pheromone-binding protein."
ICE Council. Leal was recently elected chair of the International Congress of Entomology Council, which selects a country to host the congress every four years and which supports the continuity of the international congresses of entomology. Leal succeeds prominent entomologist May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, editor-in-chief of the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and a 2014 recipient of the National Medal of Science.
“I have big shoes to fill,” he said.
Leal's name is currently on the ESA ballot to become an Honorary Member, the highest ESA honor. The Royal Entomological Society named him an Honorary Fellow in 2015.
A native of Brazil, educated in Brazil and Japan, and fluent in Portuguese, Japanese and English, Leal received his master's degree and doctorate in Japan: his master's degree at Mie University in 1987, and his doctorate in applied biochemistry at Tsukuba University in 1990. Leal then conducted research for 10 years at Japan's National Institute of Sericultural and Entomological Science and the Japan Science and Technology Agency before joining the faculty of the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 2000. He chaired the department from July 2006 to February 2008.
Leal co-chaired 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.
Among his many other honors, Leal is a Fellow of ESA, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and the California Academy of Sciences. He is a past president of the International Society of Chemical Ecology and corresponding member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. In 2019, ESA selected him to present its annual Founders' Memorial Lecture, the first UC Davis scientist selected to do so.
This year Leal received the UC Davis Academic Senate's Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award for his series of four global webinars educating the public about COVID-19. The online symposiums drew more than 6000 viewers from 35 countries. Hammock, who nominated Leal for the award, praised his “extraordinary spirit of public service and selflessness in creating, organizing, and moderating a series of four COVID-19 symposiums at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. He spearheaded public awareness, helped educate the public, eased concerns, and translated the scientific data into lay language. His symposiums drew global attention and brought prestige to UC Davis. It was a crucial time in our history.”
In addition to research and public service, teaching is another of Leal's passions. The UC Davis Academic Senate selected him for its 2020 Distinguished Teaching Award for Undergraduate Teaching, and the College of Biological Sciences singled him out for its 2022 Faculty Teaching Award.
"I don't teach because I have to," Leal recently said. "I teach because it is a joy to light the way and to spark the fire of knowledge."
No assassinations today! But an "assassination attempt."
There it was, a leafhopper assassin bug, Zelus renardii, waiting for prey atop a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola in a Vacaville pollinator garden. Yes, it's native to North America.
The assassin bugs, family Reduviidae, are ambush predators. When they ambush a predator, they stab it with their rostrum, inject venom, and suck out the juices. Or as UC Berkeley entomologists Jerry Powell and Charles Hogue write in their book, California Insects, "The victims, which include all kinds of insects, are snatched by quick movements of the forelegs, and immediately subdued by a powerful venom injected through the beak."
UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) says that "Assassin bug adults and nymphs (immatures) have an elongate head and body and long legs. The narrow head has rounded, beady eyes and long, hinged, needlelike mouthparts. Adults and nymphs can walk rapidly when disturbed or capturing prey. Adults tend not to fly."
"Assassin bugs can occur on almost any terrestrial plant including row and tree crops and gardens and landscapes. All species are predators of invertebrates or true parasites of vertebrates," UC IPM relates. "Most assassin bugs feed on insects including caterpillars, larvae of leaf beetles and sawflies, and adults and nymphs of other true bugs. Nymphs and adults ambush or stalk prey, impale them with their tubular mouthparts, inject venom, and suck the body contents. Zelus renardii produces a sticky material that helps it adhere to plant surfaces and ensnare prey."
Some 7000 species of assassin bugs reside throughout the world. When they feed on such agricultural pests as fleahoppers, lygus bugs, aphids, caterpillar eggs and larvae, they are considered biological control agents.
However, "assassin bugs are not considered to be important in the biological control of pests, unlike predatory groups such as bigeyed bugs and minute pirate bugs," UC IPM says. "Assassin bugs are general predators and also feed on bees, lacewings, lady beetles, and other beneficial species. Certain species feed on the blood of birds, mammals, or reptiles, including conenose bugs and kissing bugs (Reduviidae: Triatominae)."
The one we saw today?
A long-horned bee, Melissodes agilis, stopped for a sip of nectar, spotted the assassin bug, and buzzed off, leaving only its shadow behind.