They share a name, for one thing.
When evolutonary biologist-taxonomist Chris Hamilton, a former doctoral student at Auburn University, Alabama, and now on the University of Idaho faculty, led a research team near the site of California's Folsom State Prison to look for tarantulas, he discovered a new species, solid black in color.
He named it Aphonopelma johnnycashi after Johnny Cash, the legendary country singer known as "The Man in Black."
Fast forward to this week:
Hamilton, now assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology, will speak on tarantula diversity when he presents a virtual seminar at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, April 21 to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. His title: "Understanding Aphonopelma Diversity across the Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands Hotspot by Integrating Western Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)." Click on this link to access the seminar.
Hosting the seminar is Jason Bond, the Evert and MarionSchlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Hamilton's major professor at Auburn University. Hamilton received his doctorate in evolutionary biology from Auburn University in 2015, after earning his master's degree in biology in 2009 from the University of Texas at Arlington.
"Dr. Hamilton does great work on terrestrial arthropods with an emphasis on mygalomorph spiders (trapdoor spiders, tarantulas and their kin)," Bond commented.
Hamilton's abstract: "Within the world of theraphosid systematics, the genus Aphonopelma has received considerable attention in recent years. But despite these efforts, the group's diversity remains poorly understood in the Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands Hotspot located in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico--an ecoregion known for its exceptional biodiversity and endemicity. It has long been thought that Aphonopelma was a 'taxonomic and nomenclatural nightmare' because across their distributions, similarly sized species are often frustratingly similar morphologically. This is all too obvious when examining populations in the Madrean Sky Islands and Sierra Madre Occidental, as their shared evolutionary history and divergence in similar isolated habitats has produced very similar phenotypes. This work looks to employ an integrative approach for delimiting species that incorporates information from morphology (traditional and advanced techniques) and molecules (phylogenomics), as well as data on ecology (niche, distribution, and behavior) and how Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of the Apache and Tohono O'odham peoples may help piece the puzzle together. As we continue to investigate some of the more remote and hard-to-access mountain ranges, we have discovered that most independent ranges harbor their own divergent and distinct lineages that may represent new species."
Hamilton received his doctorate in entomology from Auburn University; his master's degree from the University of Texas at Arlington; and his bachelor's degree from Western Kentucky University.
Hamilton's naming of the new tarantula species drew widespread interest. Lindsay Miles of Auburn University's Office of Communications and Marketing wrote a 2016 news release: "The species, Aphonopelma johnnycashi, was found in California near the site of Folsom State Prison, which Cash made famous in his song Folsom Prison Blues. The mature male Aphonopelma johnnycashi measures up to 6 inches across and is generally solid black in color, much like Cash's distinctive style of dress from which his nickname, 'The Man in Black,' was coined."
"Along with the Aphonopelma johnnycashi, Hamilton's study determined there are only 29 species of tarantula in the United States, 14 of which are new to science. Researchers had previously identified 55 species. The new descriptions nearly double the number of species known from the American Southwest, a region described as a biodiversity hotspot featuring frigid mountains and scorching deserts."
The team, Miles wrote, "spent more than a decade searching for tarantulas throughout the American Southwest and studied almost 3,000 specimens, undertaking the most comprehensive taxonomic study ever preformed on a group of tarantulas." The study was part of Hamilton's dissertation, which was funded by two National Science Foundation grants made to Auburn University.
In the news story, Bond, then chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, praised Hamilton as "an accomplished field biologist and taxonomist (who) is also doing cutting-edge genomics research."
Miles pointed out that "Although this is the first time Johnny Cash has been honored by an Auburn researcher, Auburn University professors have garnered national attention in the past for naming celebrities, characters and even President Obama, with a species name. Bond has named species of trapdoor spiders after U2's Bono, actress Angelina Jolie and talk show host Stephen Colbert, to name a few. Jonathan Armbruster, also of the Department of Biological Sciences, made headlines last year when he named a newly discovered catfish species after the Star Wars fan favorite, Greedo."
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger is coordinating the spring seminars and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for any technical questions.
Ah, Saturday, April 17. It's the 107th Annual UC Davis Picnic Day! What's a picnic without bugs?
This year's event, all virtual, is themed "Discovering Silver Linings," and you can do just that by watching the pre-recorded videos and by participating in the Zoom sessions. Check out the Picnic Day schedule of events which include entomological exhibits and talks from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Bohart Museum of Entomology and the UC Davis Graduate Student Association.
New additions to the line-up (featured on the Bohart Museum of Entomology website), involve what you could call "The good, the bad and the bugly." Blue orchard bees, tsetse flies and mosquitoes are spotlighted in UC Davis research-based videos created by KQED's Deep Look series and presented by PBS Digital Studios. Each runs about four minutes.
Here are the KQED productions:
- Watch this Bee Build Her Bee-Jeweled Nest, featuring blue orchard bees, the project of UC Davis doctoral student Clara Stuligross.
- A Tsetse Fly Births One Enormous Milk-Fed Baby, showcasing the work of medical entomologist Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
- This Dangerous Mosquito Lays Her Armored Eggs--in Your House, involving the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that the Attardo lab studies.
Clara Stuligross, Doctoral Student
They exposed the bees to the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid, widely used in agriculture, and found that the combined threats—imidacloprid exposure and the loss of flowering plants—reduced the bee's reproduction by 57 percent, resulting in fewer female offspring.
Other scientists have conducted similar research on honey bees, but this is the first comparable research on wild bees in field or semi-field conditions. The blue orchard bee, nicknamed BOB, is a dark metallic mason bee, smaller than a honey bee. It is prized for pollinating almond, apple, plum, pear, and peach trees. California almond growers often set up bee boxes or "bee condos" for blue orchard bees to aid in honey bee pollination. In the wild, the bees nest in reeds or natural holes.
Update? "We are currently working on a follow-up study to investigate potential carryover effects of past insecticide exposure on the same bee population, as well as how repeated pesticide exposure over multiple years impacts bee population growth," Stuligross said today.
Geoffrey Attardo, Medical Entomologist-Geneticist
What many people do not know: "Female tsetse flies carry their young in an adapted uterus for the entirety of their immature development and provide their complete nutritional requirements via the synthesis and secretion of a milk like substance," Attardo says.
Attardo led landmark research published Sept. 2, 2019 in the journal Genome Biology that provides new insight into the genomics of the tsetse fly. The researchers compared and analyzed the genomes of six species of tsetse flies. Their research could lead to better insights into disease prevention and control.
The Deep Look episode on mosquitoes, "This Dangerous Mosquito Lays Her Armored Eggs-- in Your House," deals with the ability of Aedes aegypti eggs to survive out of water. Wrote the producers: "The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can transmit dengue fever and Zika, makes a meal of us around our homes. And her eggs are hardy. They can dry out, but remain alive for months, waiting for a little water so they can hatch into squiggly larvae."
If so, then when the 107th annual UC Davis Picnic Day, themed "Discovering Silver Linings," takes place virtually on Saturday, April 17, better wear your sunglasses with all that silver blasting at you.
A silver lining is a sign of hope in a negative situation, like the COVID-19 pandemic. So positivity blocks such negativity as "every rose has its thorn" or "there's a fly in every ointment" or "all that glitters is not gold."
All that glitters is silver now.
On April 17, you can discover scores of silver linings at this "all virtual" family-oriented event, which promises to be informative, educational and entertaining.
Picnic Day officials have released the schedule of events and they include entomological exhibits and talks. Think UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Bohart Museum of Entomology and the UC Davis Graduate Student Association. (See yesterday's Bug Squad blog)
Don't miss the pre-recorded talk on the Gulf Fritillary butterfly, Agraulis vanillae, by Greg Kareofelas, Bohart Museum associate and naturalist. These orange-reddish butterflies, with their silver-spangled underwings, are glorious. (See what UC Davis butterfly guru Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, says about them on his website.) Kareofelas will showcase them and show you how to rear them, which is what he did last year during the pandemic.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, the volunteer curator of the Lepidoptera collection at the Bohart, will present a live Zoom event from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday on mimicry in Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies). "I will briefly mention camouflage," Smith says, "and spend most of the time on mimicry for defense--mimics of toxic or distasteful species, mimicry using odors or sounds, mimics of snakes or spiders, and mimics of non-food materials such as bird feces."
To connect, access https://ucdavis.zoom.us/j/92841203978?pwd=ay91SUpFZnl5MEdnVmlzOUxmMFFZQT09
Zoom Meeting ID: 928 4120 3978
Zoom Passcode: 160485
"People who want to submit their questions to Jeff or request to see certain species from the collection can email their requests to email@example.com with Picnic Day in the subject," says Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. "We won't have the time or capacity to access the collection during the event for any requests. Instead, we will pull the items that are requested or relevant to the talk and have those prepared to show. Of course we may not be able to honor everyone's request, but we will do our best."
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane (the museum is closed now due to the pandemic), is directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology. It houses nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a year-around gift shop and a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas.
The popular cockroach races, hosted by the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA), will take place during the 107th annual UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 17, but you'll see them only on your computer screen--not in person.
That's because the 2021 Picnic Day is going virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic precautions.
EGSA Picnic Day coordinator Erin "Taylor" Kelly, a graduate student in the laboratory of medical entomologist-geneticist Geoffrey Attardo lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, says the American cockroaches are housed in the basement of Briggs Hall and ready to go.
No personal trainers for them. "They will be pushed down the track by small pumps of air," she says.
Enthusiasts can cheer for their favorite racers and order stickers and roach race t-shirts from the EGSA website, which helps fund EGSA activities.
Where can you access the EGSA events on Saturday? On the UC Davis Picnic Day website at https://picnicday.ucdavis.edu
Here are the EGSA's 14 stations on tap. The links will all appear on the UC Davis Picnic Day website on or before April 17.
This is a live Zoom session from 12 noon to 3 p.m., with questions and answers. Folks can ask questions about insects and spiders.
EGSA T-Shirt Sales
Livestream on Zoom, 11 a.m. to 12 noon
Viewers can join a Zoom room and watch the American cockroaches race to victory.
Live Zoom session with questions and answers, from 10 to 11 a.m. with Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. A downloadable worksheet will be available.
Apre-recorded video by Professor Richard Karban, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, an expert on plant communication. The video is at https://youtu.be/xOXSqy05EO0
A pre-recorded video on "The Wonderful World of Nematodes" by nematologist Steve Nadler, professor and chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Apre-recorded video by ant lab of Professor Phil Ward, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Graduate students in the Ward lab will talk about their ant research. A downloadable coloring sheet will be available.
This will include links to all of the department-based KQED videos and a downloadable cooring sheet.
Professor Sharon Lawler, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will offer a pre-recorded video, adapted from her live lil' swimmers exhibit. She will display water striders, dragonflies and damselflies and discuss their biology.
A downloadable PDF from the lab of Professor Neal Williams, pollination ecologist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. This involves whether bumble bees can take the heat: "Will the increase in extreme heat in California affect these cool-weather loving pollinators and their ability to persist?" This UC Davis research group is trying to figure this out. Folks can help them conduct this work by submitting observations of bumble bee nests in the Davis/Sacramento area so that monitoring efforts can begin gathering critical data.
A pre-recorded video. Learn about the Davis Fly Fishers Club.
A downloadable worksheet will be offered.
This will be pre-recorded/reposted video from the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito Control District. Folks can learn about local vector control.
"For my presentation on mimicry within Lepidoptera, it will briefly mention camouflage and spend most of the time on mimicry for defense--mimics of toxic or distasteful species, mimicry using odors or sounds, mimics of snakes or spiders, and mimics of non-food materials such as bird feces," Smith said.
The Bohart Museum, temporarily closed, is directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology.
That's 127 years of working with the bees.
Master Beekeeper Jason Miller of Miller Honey Farms, Inc. of Newcastle, Calif., one of America's pioneering and foremost beekeeping operations, will speak on "Beekeeping through the Generations" when the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center hosts its online symposium on Honey Adulteration on Thursday, April 22.
Said Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, located in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on Old Davis Road: "Jason is following in the footsteps of his great-great-grandfather over 100 years ago. Through this lens, he will discuss the most important issues historically and in beekeeping today." A question-and-answer session will follow.
Jason Miller traces his beekeeping roots back to Nephi Ephraim Miller of Providence, Utah, who started his honey business in 1894. "With the help of his pioneer father, Nephi exchanged five bags of oats for seven colonies of bees. This was the beginning of Miller's Honey," according to the website. Miller's Honey Farms established its Idaho office 1917, when "Nephi Miller sent his son Earl into Southeast Idaho to seek additional bee pasture. In 1954, Earl's son, Neil took over the Idaho branch. Neil operated the Blackfoot, ID outfit until 1996. In 1996, he sold the outfit to his son John Miller."'
Miller Honey Farms opened a new branch in Gackle, N.D. in 1970 and it is now considered "one of the largest beekeeping outfits in North America. John Miller has managed or owned this operation since 1980. The Gackle operation annually harvests over a million pounds of high quality honey for markets throughout the United States."
In conjunction with California's growing almond industry, Miller Honey Farms opened the Newcastle branch in 1974. John Miller has managed or owned this operation since 1980. (See John Miller interview on bees)
Jason Miller is just one of the speakers for the symposium, titled Honey Adulteration: Understanding the Issues of Honey, Beekeeping and the Safety of our Food Supply, and set from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Keynote speaker is Professor Michael Roberts of the UCLA Resnick Center for Law and Food Policy. Registration, $30 per person, is under way here.
"With a focus on keeping our food system healthy, presenters will address issues of pollination, economic adulteration, and how beekeeping, a mainstay for this system, is being threatened," Harris says. A panel of specialty food retailers will discuss how they source and select products and educate and inspire their customers. Professionals in the field will address steps being taken to mitigate the adulteration of honey in the United States.
9 a.m.: Welcome and Introductions
Amina Harris, director, UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science
9:10 a.m.: Keynote Address
Michael Roberts, Professor, UCLA Resnick Center for Law and Food Policy
9:30 a.m.: Retailer Roundtable
Retailers will discuss how they educate their clientele, earning respect and allegiance while guiding their food choices. A question and answer session will follow.
- Moderator: Jessica Zischke, Good Food Foundation, San Francisco
- John Antonelli, Antonelli's Cheese, Austin, Texas
- Ari Weinzweig, Zingerman's, Ann Arbor, Mich.
- Danielle Vogel, Glen's Garden Market, Washington, D.C.
- Raph Mogannam, BiRite Family of Businesses, San Francisco
- Amelia Rappaport, Woodstock Farmers' Market, Woodstock, VT
10 a.m. Beekeeping through the Generations
Jason Miller works in one of America's older beekeeping operations, Miller Honey Farms, following in the footsteps of his great-great-grandfather more than 100 years ago. Through this lens, he will discuss the most important issues historically and in beekeeping today. A question-and-answer session will follow.
10:30 a.m.: Testing Development at the USDA
Roger Simonds, USDA researcher, will explain some of the new techniques being developed to help deter adulteration in the United States, today. A question-and-answer session will follow.
10:50 a.m.: What IS the Government Doing?
In response to repeated demands from the industry, U.S .Customs has now implemented a program of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance to scan every honey entering the U.S. from abroad. What does this mean for our national honey supply? Chris Hiatt, vice president of the American Honey Producers Association and owner of Hiatt Honey, Madera, Calif., a third-generation beekeeping operation, will discuss the situation.
11:15 a.m.: What Can we Do?
Attendees will be assigned to chatrooms to discuss action items and idea that could be promoted and pursued by the American Honey Producers, the Honey and Pollination Center and other honey and beekeeping related groups. Ideas will be presented in the wrap up session.
11:30 a.m: Wrap Up and Closing
Follow-up on selected action items to be conducted by the Honey and Pollination Center