But thrips do pack a powerful punch.
A major pest of many agricultural crops, including lettuce, they damage plants by (1) sucking their juices and (2) transmitting viruses.
If you've been following the thrips damage in the lettuce production in the Salinas Valley, or want to know more about thrips, the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's virtual seminar on Wednesday, Jan. 20 should interest you.
Research entomologist Daniel Hasegawa of the Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture, will speak on "Landscape and Molecular Approaches for Managing Thrips and Thrips-Transmitted Viruses in the Salinas Valley" at the department's first seminar of the winter quarter.
The hour-long virtual seminar, via Zoom, begins at 4:10 p.m., announced agricultural Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger, seminar coordinator. To access the seminar, fill out this Google form link at https://bit.ly/3oWYjnt. (Contact Grettenberger at email@example.com.)
"In 2019-2020, lettuce production in the Salinas Valley of California was devastated by thrips-transmitted impatiens necrotic spot virus (INSV)," Hasegawa says in his abstract. "Due to the inherent challenges in managing thrips using conventional chemical tactics, and no direct means for managing the virus, there is a strong need for new management strategies."
This seminar, he says, will provide an overview of
- The challenges in managing thrips and INSV in lettuce production
- What we've learned about the epidemiology of thrips and INSV, and
- Opportunities to improve cultural practices and develop biotechnology tools, such as RNAi for managing thrips and INSV in the Salinas Valley.
Hasegawa joined the Salinas USDA-ARS team in May 2019 after serving as a postdoctoral research associate (molecular biology) for three years with the USDA-ARS in Charleston, S. C. He specializes in vector entomology, molecular biology and biotechnlogy. "My lab uses a variety of techniques to understand insect vector-virus relationships that impact plant health and agriculture," he says on Linked In. "We use molecular, genetic, and epidemiological concepts to understand drivers of vector-borne transmission of pathogens and utilize genetic technologies (e.g. RNAi and CRISPR), to improve agriculture productivity and sustainability."
Hasegawa received his bachelor of science degree in biochemistry in 2007 from UC Riverside and his doctorate in biology from Clemson University in 2013.
The mission of the Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit is to improve germplasm of lettuce, spinach and melon, determine basic biology of viral, fungal and bacterial diseases affecting these crops, develop alternatives to methyl bromide as a soil fumigant for control of soilborne pests in strawberry and vegetables, reduce postharvest losses of lettuce, develop scientifically based organic crop production practices, and develop methods for control of weeds. (See more on the Pacific West Area website.)
"More than 90 percent of the lettuce sold in the United States is grown in California, and the majority of production from April through October occurs in the Salinas Valley, while production form November through March occurs in California's Imperial Valley," according to keepcaliforniafarming.org.
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) says this about thrips: "Thrips, order Thysanoptera, are tiny, slender insects with fringed wings. They feed by puncturing the epidermal (outer) layer of host tissue and sucking out the cell contents, which results in stippling, discolored flecking, or silvering of the leaf surface. Thrips feeding is usually accompanied by black varnishlike flecks of frass (excrement). Pest species are plant feeders that discolor and scar leaf, flower, and fruit surfaces, and distort plant parts or vector plant pathogens. Many species of thrips feed on fungal spores and pollen and are often innocuous. However, pollen feeding on plants such as orchids and African violets can leave unsightly pollen deposits and may reduce flower longevity. Certain thrips are beneficial predators that feed on other insects and mites."
"Thrips can readily move long distances floating with the wind or transported on infested plants, and exotic species are periodically introduced," UC IPM notes./span>
Learning more about insects ought to be one of your New Year's resolutions.
Here's a good place to start: read the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology's Insect Information Sheets.
Terry Erwin of the Smithsonian Institution's Department of Entomology estimates the number of living species of insects at 30 million. "Insects also probably have the largest biomass of the terrestrial animals," according to the Smithsonian website. "At any time, it is estimated that there are some 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive."
Some other points from the Smithsonian scientists:
- "In the United States, the number of described species is approximately 91,000. The undescribed species of insects in the United States, however, is estimated at some 73,000. The largest numbers of described species in the U.S. fall into four insect Orders: Coleoptera (beetles) at 23,700, Diptera (flies) at 19,600, Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps) at 17,500, and Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) at 11,500."
- "Certain social insects have large numbers in their nests. An ant nest in Jamaica was calculated to include 630,000 individuals. A South American termite nest was found to have 3 million individuals. Locust swarms are said to hold up to one billion individuals."
- "Insects have remarkable fertility and reproductive abilities, which have usually led to the vast numbers of individuals in nature. East African termite queens have been recorded to lay an egg every two seconds, amounting to 43,000 eggs each day. To appreciate the population potentials of insects the example of the housefly is sometimes used, stating that the descendants of one pair of this insect, provided that they all survived during a five month season, would total 190 quintillion individuals."
"Recent figures indicate that there are more than 200 million insects for each human on the planet! A recent article in The New York Times claimed that the world holds 300 pounds of insects for every pound of human."
So, if you weighed all the bugs of the world, they would weigh much more than all the people in the world. (See fivethirtyeight.com)
The Bohart Museum information sheets will inform you about ants, beetles, wasps, bees, mites, ticks, flies, butterflies, moths, true bugs, praying mantids, Jerusalem crickets (aka potato bugs), earwigs, booklice, and additional home pests (no, not the permanent occupants of your home).
The fact sheets also cover such non-insects as spiders (arachnids), house centipedes, springtails, sowbugs, scorpions, lawn shrimp, and earthworms and the like (if you don't like them, you can at least appreciate them).
One of the bees featured is the European wool carder bee, Anthidium manicatum. It's a "species of European megachilid bee that has successfully colonized North America," Kimsey writes. "However, North America isn't the only place these bees have invaded. They are now found in north Africa, South America, Asia the Canary Islands and even New Zealand."
The bee, introduced into the United States from Europe in the early 1960s, was first detected in New York state "but has rapidly spread throughout North America since then," Kimsey points out. "The first California collection was in the early 2000's and the bee had reached Davis by 2007."
"Wool carder females are particularly fond of lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) and as a result this is often where males are found. Females use their jaws to scrape, or card the hairy leaves to collect fibers. They can be pretty entertaining if they decide that wool socks are good sources of fibers, too" (as what happened to Bohart associate Tom Zavortink.)
Male wool carder bees are aggressively territorial. They'll attack other bees, including honey bees and carpenter bees, "and even small birds, like hummingbirds," Kimsey says.
Photographer Allan Jones of Davis calls the male wool carder bees "bonker bees," because they bonk or bop off would-be competitors from floral resources--or they try to.
The wonderful world of insects...
He succumbed to a heart attack at a restaurant in his hometown of Winters. "He collapsed at the restaurant as he was arranging to buy meals for donation to needy families every week," Linda Delgado, his former executive assistant at USDA, told AgriPulse. “With great humility, humor and brilliance, he set the example of how to live a life of grace, generosity, kindness, and deep respect and care for fellow humans, food, agriculture and the planet."
In 2016, Rominger and his wife, Evelyne Rowe Rominger, both alumni of the University of California, Davis, received the UC Davis Medal, the university's highest honor. "Rich and Evelyne Rominger have given generously to UC Davis of their time, talents and resources,” said then acting chancellor Ralph Hexter. “Their loyalty and passion for seeing students flourish and their alma mater grow and prosper is an inspiration for all of us in the Aggie family.” The UC Davis Medal, first presented in 2002, singles out individuals for their extraordinary contributions to the university.
We remember when the couple visited the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis campus, on Picnic Day, April 17, 2015. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, greeted them and showed them around.
Kimsey recalls Rominger as "a big donor to the campus, super supportive and involved." He served as a Regent for the University of California, and was a member of both the UC Davis Foundation Board and the University of California President's Advisory Committee on Agriculture and the Environment.
We also remember seeing Rominger, circled by friends, at the 2015 California Agriculture Day at the State Capitol. His presence illuminated the event.
Accolades are pouring in. Ria de Grassi, former director of federal policy for the California Farm Bureau Federation, remembers him well, especially as "a friend of the pollinators," including honey bees. Rominger received both the California Farm Bureau Foundation's Distinguished Service Award and the California State Fair's Agriculturalist of the Year Award. "Rich was not one for a fire and brimstone approach to leading the way," de Grassi told us. "He was a deliberative thinker who lent his name and reputation carefully to causes and innovations in agriculture. He wasn't hasty, but was quickly decisive with the intel he gleaned. And when Rich spoke, he punctuated his actions for others to take note. This is perhaps most evident in the fact Rominger Brothers Farms in the last 20 years installed several miles of native plants in field-border hedgerows to benefit pollinators and to enhance the riparian corridor."
Cong. John Garamendi, D-CA, a close friend of Rominger, posted a fitting tribute on his Facebook page on Dec. 21. "I called Rich's cell phone this morning. He did not answer. I've called that number hundreds of times seeking advice and counsel, and I have always come away from the conversation with a gem of wisdom, a better solution to a problem, encouragement, and a precious gift of friendship. Not this time. My call was answered by his son confirming Richard Rominger's death. I'll keep Rich's number. He won't answer, but just calling will encourage me to stay true to the lessons he taught me. I know that Rich treated everyone with the same respect and desire to help. Perhaps they will keep that number, too."
When Rominger served as Deputy Secretary of the U.S.Department of Agriculture, "he was always the bulwark of support for the American family farmer," Garamendi wrote. "He knew the challenges facing farm families and he knew how to use government to improve their lot. During the Clinton years the Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior, where I was also Deputy, teamed up to produce seminal studies on the effects of Climate Change, create the first Tahoe Summit, address droughts, support land conservation efforts nationwide, attack invasive species, and protect America's great forest."
"Governor Jerry Brown recognized Richard's potential as a problem solver when he appointed Richard to serve as the Secretary of the California Department of Agriculture," Garamendi noted. "A problem-solver was necessary with Medflies, drought, water wars, and agricultural labor problems in abundance. Undaunted by these challenges, Rominger steered a wise course that yielded a bumper crop of solutions."
"He had an indelible positive impact on our state and nation, and he will be deeply missed," Garamendi wrote.
And as Linda Delgado, his former executive assistant at USDA, said: "With great humility, humor and brilliance, he set the example of how to live a life of grace, generosity, kindness, and deep respect and care for fellow humans, food, agriculture and the planet."
An agricultural icon...
If you engage in social media, you've probably seen a "what-is-this" query about a spider that some unsuspecting person discovered quite unexpectedly in a garden, bedroom, bathroom or garage. Triple exclamation points usually accompany "Yecch!!!" (Expletives usually require quadruple exclamation points.)
For a good general view of spiders, check out the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program's newly revised "Spiders" Pest Note.
"Many people fear or dislike spiders," according to the site, but "for the most part, spiders are beneficial because of their role as predators of insects and other arthropods, and most cannot harm people. Spiders that might injure people—for example, black widows—generally spend most of their time hidden outside homes in woodpiles or in clutter in the garage. The spiders commonly seen out in the open during the day are unlikely to bite people."
Spiders, which are arachnids, differ from insects in that they have eight legs (not six) and have no wings or antennae.
UC IPM offers information on black widow spiders, yellow sac spiders and recluse spiders (which, contrary to popular opinion, are NOT found in California). The website also touches on jumping spiders, hobo spiders, common house spiders, and tarantulas. A table, illustrated with photos, lists the common spider families in North America, including:
- Agelenidae, funnel weavers or grass spiders
- Araneidae, orb weavers or garden spiders
- Clubionidae (including Corinnidae), sac spiders or twoclawed hunting spiders
- Linyphiidae (=Microphantidae), dwarf spiders
- Lycosidae, wolf spiders
- Oxyopidae, lynx spiders
- Salticidae, jumping spiders
- Theridiidae, cobweb, cobweb weaver, or combfooted spiders
- Thomisidae, crab spiders or flower spiders
What about spider bites? "Unlike mosquitoes, spiders do not seek people in order to bite them," UC IPM says, tongue in cheek. "Generally, a spider doesn't try to bite a person unless it has been squeezed, lain on, or similarly provoked to defend itself. Moreover, the jaws of most spiders are so small that the fangs cannot penetrate the skin of an adult person. Sometimes when a spider is disturbed in its web, it may bite instinctively because it mistakenly senses that an insect has been caught."
If you've got a hankering to see a live tarantula (who doesn't?), you can do so when the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis opens its doors again to the public. The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, a gift shop (now online), and a live "petting zoo" (think Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and taranatulas) is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. UC Davis spider expert Professor Jason Bond and his lab usually present a program there at least once a year or engage with folks at the open houses. Bond serves as the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (See his lab website)
As an aside, Professor Bond "bonds" with spiders. Yes, he does. And he's never met a spider he didn't like.
Suds for a bug! What could be better than that?
It's all part of Shapiro's scientific research to determine the bug's first flight of the year. The good professor, who launched the contest in 1972, maintains a research website at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu/.
It's a little too early to start thinking about cabbage white butterflies, but it wasn't too early for a jumping spider.
For several weeks, we've been admiring a jumping spider hanging out on our Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). Monarchs, Western tiger swallowtails, buckeyes, gray hairstreaks, cabbage whites and assorted other butterflies nectar on it. Our jumping spider (we've named him Herman to distinguish him from the other jumping spiders in our pollinator garden, and besides jumping spiders ought to have a name), nails his share of prey.
So here we are, enjoying a sun spurt on Oct. 30 when a cabbage white butterfly tumbles off the flower as if it were on a bungee cord. A closer look: The butterfly was not alone.
Can jumping spiders win the Beer-for-a-Butterfly Contest?
It's not that Herman was just a little bit too early, and the butterfly was just a little bit too slow. Nope.
To claim the prize, you have to deliver the specimen to the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology office at 2320 Storer Hall. Herman neither knows where that is, nor does he care. Plus, the specimen has to be alive, and Herman made sure it wasn't.