Seen any gray hairstreaks, lately?
No, not on someone's head.
This is the butterfly, Strymon melinus, from the Lycaenidae family, known as the gossamer-winged butterflies.
It's an ashy gray butterfly with a white border. You'll also see orange spots on the ends of its hindwings and one on its head, in between the eyes.
One's been hanging around our fava beans, and what a welcome sight.
UC Davis distinguished professor Art Shapiro of the Department of Evolution and Ecology says on his website:
"This is one of the most polyphagous butterflies known, recorded on host plants in many families. Its most frequent hosts in our area are mallows, including the weedy species of Malva; legumes, including Spanish Lotus (Lotus purshianus), Bird's-Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), White Clover (Trifolium repens) in lawns, Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and many others;and Turkey Mullein (Eremocarpus or Croton setigerus, Euphorbiaceae)."
"Early spring specimens," he says, "are small and very dark with reduced red markings; 'albinos,' with the red replaced by pale yellow, occur mostly in the spring brood. There is much minor variation. Adults visit an immense variety of flowers, both wild and cultivated. They are particularly addicted to Heliotrope and white-flowered Apiaceae."
Sadly, Shapiro, who has been monitoring the butterfly populations of central California since 1972, has been seeing very few butterflies this spring in his transects. Let's hope the butterflies get back on track and give us a winning streak.
Meanwhile, check out his newly renovated website, Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site.
If you missed entomologist Robert Peterson's outstanding virtual seminar on "Tigers in Yellowstone National Park: Adaptations of Insects to Extreme Environments," presented March 31 to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, not to worry.
It's on YouTube at https://youtu.be/z85B0NlmizU.
The "tigers" in Yellowstone National Park are tiger beetles, Cicindela haemorrhagica, that live, feed and breed in the thermal pools.
UC Davis distinguished professor James R. Carey introduced him as "a star in entomology"; a professor of entomology at Montana State University; and a past president (2019) of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) .
"We have seen these beetles for 20 minutes or more walking around on the surface (of thermal pools) at 50 degrees centigrade," said Peterson, who researches and photographs the insects.
He pointed out that 50 degrees centigrade is 122 degree Fahrenheit. "That's not normal for any insect," he said.
"How are they alive?" he asked. "How do they live in these extreme conditions in Yellowstone National Park?" Be sure to watch the video at https://youtu.be/z85B0NlmizU and see his spectacular images.
A native of Perry, Iowa, Peterson received his bachelor's degree in entomology from Iowa State University, Ames, and his master's degree and doctorate in entomology from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He joined the MSU faculty in 2002 after serving as a research biologist for Dow AgroSciences, Omaha from 1995 to 2001. He has published 123 peer-reviewed journal articles, 15 book chapters, and two books.
Peterson manages the website, Insects of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, an online photographic celebration of the ecosystem's biodiversity. He has categorized the site into butterflies and moths; beetles; flies; true bugs; stoneflies; mayflies; net-winged insects; bees, wasps ants and sawflies; grasshoppers, crickets and katydids; and insect relatives. Peterson also hosts a comparable Facebook page, Insects of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger coordinates the weekly seminars, held on Wednesdays at 4:10 p.m. For more information, contact him at email@example.com.
Of the more than 30 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States, 547,000 people have died. They are not numbers: they represent family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances who have succumbed to this tragic disease.
And today Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns of another surge. Our nation, she says, shows a seven-day average of about 57,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, a 7 percent increase over the last week.
A burning question: Why do some COVID-19 patients recover and some don't?
The laboratory of UC Davis distinguished professor Bruce Hammock, who holds joint appointments with the Department of Entomology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, may have just pinpointed why.
The team of eight UC researchers, primarily from the Hammock lab, found that four compounds in the blood of COVID-19 patients are highly associated with the disease. Their paper, “Plasma Linoleate Diols Are Potential Biomarkers for Severe COVID-19 Infections,” is published as open access in the current edition of Frontiers in Physiology.
ARDS, characterized by fluid build-up in the lungs, is the second leading cause of death in COVID-19 patients, next to viral pneumonia, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
“Different outcomes from COVID-19 infections are both terrifying from a human health perspective and fascinating from a research perspective,” said UC Davis lead author and doctoral candidate Cindy McReynolds of the Hammock lab. “Our data provide an important clue to help determine what impacts the severity of COVID-19 outcomes. Initially, we focused on the immune response and cytokine profile as important drivers in severity, but considering what we now know from our study and others in the field, lipid mediators may be the missing link to answering questions such as why some people are asymptomatic while others die, or why some disease resolves quickly while others suffer from long-haul COVID.”
“The hypothesis advanced in this paper is that because the leukotoxins have been associated with serious illness and death in humans and dogs and the symptoms are those of adult respiratory distress syndrome, these compounds are biomarkers of pulmonary involvement in COVID-19,” Hammock said. “We also think that it is the conversion of leukotoxin to the toxic leukotoxin diol that causes pulmonary and perivascular edema and this could be leading to the respiratory complications.”
“So the leukotoxins and leukotoxin diols,” Hammock said, “are indicators of respiratory problems in COVID-19 patients as plasma biomarkers. They also present a pathway for reducing ARDS in COVID-19 if we could inhibit the soluble epoxide hydrolase, a key regulatory enzyme involved in the metabolism of immune resolving fatty acids.”
The UC Davis scientists used clinical data collected from six patients with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and admitted to the UC Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, and 44 healthy samples carefully chosen from the healthy control arm of a recently completed clinical study.
The Hammock lab's 50-year research on soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) and its inhibitors led the professor to found and direct EicOsis Human Health, a Davis-based company that is developing a potent soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitor for pain relief. Epoxy fatty acids control blood pressure, fibrosis, immunity, tissue growth, depression, pain, inflammation and other processes.
But more recently, the Hammock lab has turned its attention to using sEH as a means to resolve inflammation associated with COVID-19 and the fibrosis that can follow.
The paper is the work of Hammock, McReynolds and Jun Yang (corresponding author) of the Department of Entomology and Nematology and EicOsis Human Health; Irene Cortes-Puch of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, EicOsis Human Health, and the Department of Internal Medicine's Division of Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Medicine; Resmi Ravindran and Imran Khan of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Bruce G. Hammock of UC Davis Department of Veterinary Medicine, Aquatic Health; and Pei-an Betty Shih of the UC San Diego Department of Psychiatry.
See the news story on the Department of Entomology and Nematology website at https://bit.ly/3lSWbwf
There's still time to register for the online Honey Adulteration Symposium, hosted by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and featuring keynote speaker Michael T. Roberts of the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law.
The 2.5-hour symposium will take place Thursday, April 22 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. The last day to register at https://bit.ly/3d2paJS is April 18. Tickets are $30 per person.
Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, said the symposium is an opportunity "to learn how honey adulteration affects our food system and an opportunity to take action. Honey is the world's third most adulterated food, right after milk and olive oil."
The symposium is geared toward "educating specialty food retailers who actively educate their consumers," she said. Presenters will address issues of pollination, economic adulteration and threats to beekeeping. A panel of specialty food retailers will discuss how they source and select products and educate and inspire their customers.
Roberts will focus on "understanding how honey adulteration affects beekeepers, honey production and, in the largest sense, our food system," Harris noted. Roberts, founding executive director of the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, is described as a "thought leader in a broad range of legal and policy issues from farm to fork in local, national, and global food supply systems." He has presented papers to the United Nations, the U.S. Government, and researched extensively on food fraud, including honey adulteration. Roberts taught the first food law and policy course in the United States in 2004 and was a leading force in the development in 2005 of the Journal of Food Law and Policy, a publication devoted exclusively to the field.
The Resnick Center performs cutting-edge legal research and scholarship in food law and policy to improve health and quality of life for humans and the planet, according to its website.
Also, at the UC Davis symposium, five retailers will discuss the ways they educate their customers. The speakers are:
- Amelia Rappaport, Woodstock Farmers' Market, Woodstock, Vermont
- Danielle Vogel, Glen's Garden Market, Washington, DC
- Grace Singleton, Zingerman's Deli, Ann Harbor, Mich.
- Kendall Antonelli, Antonelli Cheese Shop, Austin, Texas
- Ralph Mogannam, Bi-Rite Family of Businesses, San Francisco
Among the other speakers will be Chris Hiatt, vice president, American Honey Producers Association, and a third-generation beekeeper at Hiatt Honey, Madera, Calif., who will share his insights.
The Honey and Pollination Center, affiliated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is located in the Robert Mondavi Institute on Old Davis Road, UC Davis campus.
Every time we see honey bees pollinating fava bean blossoms, we think of actor Anthony Hopkins.
Remember that malevolent scene in the "Silence of the Lambs" film (1991) when serial killer Hannibal Lecter (portrayed magnificently by Hopkins (says: "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."
Film historians say most folks missed the significance "...Dr Lecter's choice of sides weren't based on his taste predilections, he was making a medical joke. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) could have been used to treat him, and what are the three things you're not allowed to eat while taking them? Liver, beans and wine."
Fact is, some folks cannot eat fava beans because they have a disease called favism, a condition characterized by hemolytic anemia (breakup of red blood cells). It's linked to a metabolic disorder known as G6PDD (or Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency). Indeed, some get an adverse reaction just by inhaling the pollen of the fava bean plant.
In the culinary world, the fava bean is commonly called the broad bean (Vicia faba) and is eaten raw or cooked. In the agricultural world, it's cultivated for human consumption and is also used for a cover crop to add nitrogen to the soil. Horses eat a variety called field bean.
But honey bees? They just can't get enough of them.