Gotta love those spiders.
We recently saw an adorable jumping spider (aren't all jumping spiders adorable?) huddled or cuddled (your preference) within a layer of yellow rose petals. It didn't look like a poster child for Halloween. It looked right at home.
It's still there.
In a March 2019 Bug Squad blog, we posted five good reasons to like spiders, compliments of Professor Jason Bond of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He's the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and a newly selected co-editor-in-chief of the journal Insect Systematics and Diversity (ISD), published by the Entomological Society of America (ESA).
“Spiders have been around for 400 million years and are cunning, skillful predators," Professor Bond says. They are "an incredibly diverse group with more than 50,000 species described with probably another 200,000 remaining to yet be discovered."
The five good reasons to like spiders?
- Spiders consume 400-800 million tons of prey, mostly insects, each year. Humans consume somewhere around 400 million tons of meat and fish each year.
- Spider silk is one of the strongest naturally occurring materials. Spider silk is stronger than steel, stronger and more stretchy than Kevlar; a pencil thick strand of spider silk could be used to stop a Boeing 747 in flight.
- Some spiders are incredibly fast – able to run up to 70 body lengths per second (10X faster than Usain Bolt).
- Although nearly all 47,000-plus spider species have venom used to kill their insect prey, very few actually have venom that is harmful to humans.
- Some spiders are really good parents –wolf spider moms carry their young on their backs until they are ready to strike out on their own; female trapdoor spiders keep their broods safe inside their burrows often longer than one year, and some female jumping spiders even nurse their spiderlings with a protein rich substance comparable to milk.
When Professor Bond spoke at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, “Eight-Legged Wonders,” on March 9, 2019, showcasing spiders, he drew scores of questions. Following his talk, the visitors participated in interactive activities, including “How to Eat Like a Spider,” “How to Assemble an Arachnid,” "How to Catch a Moth," "Create a Chelicerate" and others. So educational and entertaining and let's hope another one will be on the calendar in the near future! The Bohart Museum, currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 precautions, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It is the home of nearly 8 million insect specimens, and also a live "petting zoo" (think Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and an online insect-themed gift shop, stocked with t-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, posters, and collecting equipment.
Meanwhile, Herman or Hermanina, is basking in the sun, getting ready to substantiate Professor Bond's excellent description: "a cunning, skillful predator."
Hey, wait, take me with you!
No, leave me alone! Let me go!
Have you ever seen insects struggling to free themselves from the reproductive chamber of a milkweed blossom?
Instead of producing loose pollen grains, milkweeds produce pollinia, a waxy, sticky packet of golden pollen grains originating from a single anther. When bees and other insects forage for nectar in the "nectar troughs," where the pollinia are, they emerge with wishbone-shaped pollinia on their feet or other body parts. That is, if they emerge at all. Sometimes they die there; the reproductive chamber becomes a floral death trap.
What may seem like nature's appalling act of cruelty is actually a unique case of floral pollination, the transfer of pollina from one blossom to another.
"Milkweed flowers bloom in umbels which are clusters of individual flowers on stems that emerge from a common point," explains Eric Eldredge in an article published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. "Flowers of different species of milkweed differ in size, color, and fragrance, but all produce their pollen in waxy sacs called pollinia. The pollinia are located in two anther pouches adjacent to vertical stigmatic slits of the flowers. Pairs of adjacent pollinia are connected to each other by translator arms from a clamp located in the middle, called the corpusculum (Bookman, 1981). The complete structure is called a pollinarium."
"Insects that visit a flower to drink nectar struggle to grasp the slippery surfaces and may accidentally slip their leg, tarsus, mouthpart, or other appendage into the opening at the bottom of the stigmatic slit. This slit is formed by guide rails, which are lined with bristles that prevent the insect moving its appendage any direction but up. The top of the slit leads into the opening of the corpusculum, which has hard, sharp inside edges that taper together at the top. The corpusculum clamps firmly to the insect by pinching onto the insect's appendage. In its struggles to escape, if the insect is large enough, it can withdraw the paired pollinia from the anther pouches and fly away."
We've seen dead honey bees trapped in the milkweed blossoms while other bees forage around their carcasses. And then we've seen the frantic struggles (below). Fortunately this bee in the first three photos escaped. Another bee did not.
Internationally recognized scientist Hans Herren, president and CEO of the Millennium Institute, USA, and recipient of the 1995 World Food Prize, will deliver an in-person seminar hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology on Wednesday, Oct. 13 on “Why Is Transforming the Food System Along the Agroecology Principles an Imperative?”
Herren will speak at 4:10 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive, announced seminar coordinator Shahid Siddique, who will host the speaker. Many of the fall seminars are virtual, but this will be an in-person lecture. Plans are to record it for later viewing.
"It's an honor to have Hans speak in our seminar series," said Siddique, assistant professor of nematology. "Hans is well respected for conceiving and implementing a highly successful biological control program against mealybug and green mites that might have averted one of Africa‘s worst food crisises. He was awarded the World Food Prize for that achievement in 1995."
Herren, a native of Switzerland and an entomologist by training, describes himself as "active in international development, with an emphasis on policy design to meet the (United Nations) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
The Millennium Institute, headquartered in Washington, D.C., and founded in 1983, is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization "passionate about improving the welfare of individuals on every continent by working with stakeholders to meet the challenges of sustainable development."
Herren lived and worked in agriculture, health and environmental research and capacity development in Africa for 27 years, according to the World Future Council, which also says on its website: "As director of the Africa Biological Control Center of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria, he conceived and implemented the highly successful biological control program against the cassava mealybug (Phenacoccus manihoti) and the green mite that saved the cassava crop, the staple of 200 million Africans and averted Africa's worst-ever food crisis."
"For this achievement, he was the first Swiss to receive the World Food Prize in 1995. Hans advocates for holistic and multi-stakeholder approaches to development planning that take cognizance of the three dimensions of sustainability, and result from a shared vision of sustainability by all the key actors. Hans holds numerous awards that recognize his distinguished and continuing achievements in original research and advocacy. These include the Right Livelihood Award, Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, Brandenberger Preis, and the Kilby Award. Hans earned his PhD at the Federal Institute of Technology,Zurich, and completed post-doctoral research at University of California, Berkeley. He is also the founder of Biovision Foundation, Switzerland. He is a member of the World Future Council since 2018." (See his complete bioography on Wikipedia.)
The Millennium Institute, founded in 1983 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization described as "passionate about improving the welfare of individuals on every continent by working with stakeholders to meet the challenges of sustainable development."
"We help decision makers apply systems thinking to create a more sustainable, equitable, and peaceful global society," according to the organization's Linked In site. "Our unique approach maps integrated policy options across the sustainability framework for environmental, social and economic benefits to society. We have assisted more than 40 nations and regional groups through the process of identifying goals and strategies that offer all people access to food, water, health care, education, and equal opportunities for women and men. We have assisted more than 40 nations and regional groups through the process of identifying goals and strategies that offer all people access to food, water, health care, education, and equal opportunities for women and men."
In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Building on the principle of “leaving no one behind,” the new agenda emphasizes a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminars are held on Wednesdays at 4:10 p.m. All in-person seminars are held in 122 Briggs Hall, while the virtual seminars are broadcast on Zoom. For more information, contact Siddique at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UC Cooperative Extension specialist and agricultural entomologist Ian Grettenberger of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, assisted with the KQED Deep Look video, "Born Pregnant: Aphids Invade with an Onslaught of Clones," that won a nature award equivalent to an Oscar.
Grettenberger provided his expertise--and some aphids--working with digital video producer Josh Cassidy, senior video producer for KQED Science and the lead producer and cinematographer for Deep Look, a short-form nature series that illuminates fascinating stories in the natural world.
Cassidy's aphid video scored an international Jackson Wild Media Award, winning first place in the category, "Animal Behavior, Short Form video (17 minutes or less)."
In selecting it as the best film in its category, the judges related that it "most effectively explores animal behavior in an innovative and illuminating way."
The aphid video came about when Cassidy approached Grettenberger looking for researchers working on aphids. "I told him I wasn't working in the lab with aphids, but he could come check out my garden, which happened to be chock full of them," Grettenberger related.
"It was almost all shot at my house/garden," Grettenberger said. "With COVID being a thing, Josh got to sit in my garage and shoot aphid videos. I helped some to form the story, and the final shots of the developing larvae/parasitoid were some I took since Josh couldn't sit around waiting for the parasitoid larvae to develop." Grettenberger is pictured in one of the frames.
The video reveals that "female aphids are the matriarchs of a successful family operation--taking over your garden. But don't lose hope; these pests have some serious predators and creepy parasites looking to take them down."
Comments posted on YouTube include:
- "You guys are just nailing it with this production and sound effects. Amazing!!"
- "BRILLIANTLY DONE!! Makes you want to "love" aphids !!!"
- "One more amazing video from this amazing channel! You guys rock!"
- "Deep Look is a phenomenal YouTube channel. The videos are so beautiful. I can't believe how their team keeps making epic after epic biologically significant videos."
Cassidy, who holds a bachelor's degree in wildlife biology from Ohio University and pursued research on marine mammals, studied science and natural history filmmaking at San Francisco State University and Montana State University. A long-time member of the Deep Look team, he is known for his excellent work in creating innovative and fascinating videos. See some of his science videos here.
Grettenberger, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty in January, 2019, focuses his research on field and vegetable crops; integrated pest management; applied insect ecology, and biological control of pests. He holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Western Washington University and a doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University.
Grettenberger administers a YouTube channel on Pests and Natural Enemies. One of his most popular videos is his post on Lady Beetle Larvae and a Baby Aphid--Scoop, Scoop, Chomp Chomp: "A lady beetle larvae (Coccinella septempunctata--seven-spotted lady beetle) making short work of this baby aphid. You can see how they can eat *many* per day and help regulate aphid populations. (Predation part slowed down to 50%. They chow down more quickly). This is pea aphid, which can be a pest of alfalfa and other legume crops."
From KQED website: "KQED, a National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) affiliate in San Francisco, serves Northern California and beyond with a public-supported alternative to commercial TV, radio and web media. Funding for Deep Look is provided in part by PBS Digital Studios. Deep Look is a project of KQED Science, the largest science and environment reporting unit in California. KQED Science is supported by The National Science Foundation, the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, the Vadasz Family Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Campaign 21 and the members of KQED."
- Members-Only Online Plant Sales with Curbside Pick-Up. You shop at the online plant store Tuesday, Oct. 19 through Thursday, Oct. 21, starting at 10 a.m. and then schedule a pick-up at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery. Members of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden and the Davis Botanical Society gain early access to the online plant sales, get the best selections, and save 10 percent. This is for members only, but you can become a member anytime. Sign up here. Contact: email@example.com or (530)-752-4880. See more information here.
- Public Online Plant Sales with Curbside Pick-Up. You shop at the online plant store Friday, Oct. 22 through Monday, Oct. 25, starting at 10 a.m., and then schedule a pick-up at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery. To gain access to the online plant sale store, you need to subscribe to the Arboretum's online e-newsletter, The Leaflet. Sign up here. (A link to access the online store will be emailed to current subscribers the morning of Oct. 22.) See more information here.
Curbside pickup dates are Oct. 26 through Nov. 13, excluding Sundays, Mondays and Veterans' Day. As earlier mentioned, when you place youronline order, you will receive a confirmation with a link to schedule your pickup time. Check out more questions and answers here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVID-19 Pandemic Rules. To keep everybody safe, there are important COVID-19 pandemic rules posted on the Arboretum plant sales website:
- "Before you come to the Arboretum Teaching Nursery for curbside pickup appointment, please complete the UC Davis COVID-19 Daily Symptom Survey for visitors."
- "Our nursery staff will be wearing masks. We encourage you to do the same."
- "A staff member will take your name, ask that you stay in your vehicle and load your trunk with your order — please be sure there is enough room."
- "If you have any COVID-19 symptoms on the day of your appointment, you will be able to reschedule."
Meanwhile, here are a few photos of pollinators and past plant sales to help inspire you to "go green" and "think pollinators," while helping the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery.