Mosquito researcher Maria Onyango, a postdoctoral associate at the New York State Department of Health, Albany, N.Y., will speak on "The Impact of Zika Virus Infection on the Metabolites and Microbiome of Aedes albopictus" from 4:10 to 5 p.m. The Zoom seminar is open to all interested persons; click here for the form to register and obtain the Zoom link.
Aedes albopictus, known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is a close relative of Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito. Both invasive species are moving through California. (See California report of the two species, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's estimate potential range of the two species in the United States.)
Medical entomologist-geneticist Geoffrey Attardo of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who collaborates with Onyango, will host the seminar.
"Dr. Maria Onyango works on the biology underlying interactions between arboviruses (Zika virus), vector mosquitoes and the associated microbiome," Attardo said.
Aedes aegypti Detected in Yolo County
The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District recently announced the detection of Aedes aegypti in Yolo County: an adult female found Sept. 15 in a trap near East and Main streets, Winters, and an adult female found in in a trap at Pioneer Park near El Macero, Davis, on Sept. 30.
Aedes aegypti, a day-biting mosquito originating from the forests of Uganda, can transmit the Zika virus, yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya. However, California has no documented cases of this species transmitting the Zika virus, dengue or chikungunya.
Attardo related that the first detection of Aedes aegypti in California occurred in 2013 and was described in these papers:
- Metzger, M.E.; Hardstone Yoshimizu, M.; Padgett, K.A.; Hu, R.; Kramer, V.L. Detection and Establishment of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) Mosquitoes in California, 2011-2015. J. Med. Entomol. 2017, 54, 533–543, doi:10.1093/jme/tjw237.
- Gloria-Soria, A.; Brown, J.E.; Kramer, V.; Hardstone Yoshimizu, M.; Powell, J.R. Origin of the dengue fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, in California. PLoS Negl. Trop. Dis. 2014, 8, e3029, doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0003029.
"Since then it has been determined that there have likely been at least two separate introductions of Aedes into California--possibly three but that requires additional study," Attardo says. "The result of this is that there are two genetically distinct populations of Aedes in California. One is based in Southern California in the Greater Los Angeles area as well as areas to the East, like Riverside and Coachella valleys. The second population is distributed throughout the Central Valley. These two populations are genetically distinct and we have developed a genetic assay to differentiate the two populations. We have been working with local abatement agencies (Winters, Sacramento/Yolo and Shasta counties) to test their collected mosquitoes to determine which population they resemble at the genetic level. Each year has shown Aedes aegypti spreading farther into parts of California where it has never been seen before."
- Pless, E.; Gloria-Soria, A.; Evans, B.R.; Kramer, V.; Bolling, B.G.; Tabachnick, W.J.; Powell, J.R. Multiple introductions of the dengue vector, Aedes aegypti, into California. PLoS Negl. Trop. Dis. 2017, 11, e0005718, doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0005718.
- Lee, Y.; Schmidt, H.; Collier, T.C.; Conner, W.R.; Hanemaaijer, M.J.; Slatkin, M.; Marshall, J.M.; Chiu, J.C.; Smartt, C.T.; Lanzaro, G.C.; et al. Genome-wide divergence among invasive populations of Aedes aegypti in California. BMC Genomics 2019, 20, 204, doi:10.1186/s12864-019-5586-4.
"We recently ran our genetic test on mosquitoes that we collected from two different sites in Citrus Heights (divided by Route 80) and actually found that the two groups appear to represent both the Greater Los Angeles and the Central Valley populations, with each group specific to one side or the other of Route 80," Attardo said. "This is unpublished data and we are continuing to process additional samples of collected Aedes to reinforce these findings and understand the dynamics of how these mosquitoes are spreading."
The data suggests "that both populations are moving throughout California and are possibly being facilitated by human activities," Attardo said. "Aedes aegypti which was originally a mosquito that developed in tree holes has evolved to be a very human centric mosquito that has learned to thrive in man-made breeding sites. This may be the key to their success and their ability to move so quickly throughout the state."
Attardo emphasized that "these mosquitoes do not naturally carry these viruses and must acquire them by blood feeding on an infected person, successfully developing an infection and then biting another person. So far there have been no outbreaks of these diseases, but now that Aedes aegypti is here, the potential for an outbreak of dengue, Zika, chikungunya or yellow fever is a possibility. Infected people coming from countries where these viruses are endemic could serve to seed the viruses into Californian populations of Aedes which would obviously be a bad thing. The ongoing environmental changes resulting from climate change will likely allow these mosquitoes and others to move into previously uninhabitable areas and it is going to significantly change how we assess risk and management of mosquito-borne disease risks in the United States and around the world. California is just one example of this issue."
Aedes albopictus in California
Along with seven other scientists, Attardo and Onyango co-authored a research article in the Oct. 2nd edition of Frontiers in Microbiology on "Zika Virus Infection Results in Biochemical Changes Associated With RNA Editing, Inflammatory and Antiviral Responses in Aedes albopictus."
Aedes albopictus, also a day-biting mosquito, can transmit Zika and other infectious diseases. "The Zika virus infected more than 1 million people during an epidemic that began in 2015 in Brazil," according to this report, Invasive Mosquito Species Plunge Deeper Into California. The virus also can spread during sex.
Onyango holds two degrees from the University of Nairobi, Kenya: a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry and zoology and a master's degree in applied parasitology. She received her doctorate in veterinary entomology from Deakin University and Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and then completed postdoctoral training at the Yale School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases.
Cooperative Extension specialist and assistant professor Ian Grettenberger coordinates the fall seminars. For any technical issues regarding the seminar, contact Grettenberger at email@example.com
Flies seem to be in the news a lot lately.
But have you ever looking closely at a common green bottle fly Lucilia sericata, also known as a blowfly?
Ever admired their brilliant metallic blue-green coloration? Ever thought about them as pollinators (they are sometimes!) but of course, that's not what they're known for.
They're known for their forensic, veterinary and medical importance. They are nature's recyclers when the females deposit their eggs in carrion.
But they're also beautiful.
We captured these photos of a green bottle fly on a tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, in our garden. The red and yellow blossoms contrasted nicely with the stunning fly coloration. Nature's art.
Indeed, flies are an integral part of the annual UC Davis Picnic Day (cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and precautions). What's a picnic without flies?
Forensic entomologist Robert "Bob" Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology always staffs a booth at Briggs Hall where he holds forth as "Dr. Death" with his microscope and specimens as he encourages--and fields--questions from the thousands of picnickers. (See Bugs at Briggs)
Also at Briggs Hall during the UC Davis Picnic Day, "Maggot Art," is extremely popular. The artists, mostly children and teens, dip a maggot into water-based, non-toxic paint and drop it onto a white piece of paper and let it crawl. The finished product often finds its way onto a refrigerator, inside a frame, or as as an unexpected gift to grandparents. Certainly it's a conversation piece.
Meanwhile, mark your calendar for April 17, 2021, the scheduled date of the next UC Davis Picnic Day.
Dr. Bob, the flies, and the maggots will be waiting.
What are witchetty grubs?
Briefly, they're large, white, wood-eating larvae of the cossid moth Endoxyla leucomochla, which feeds on the roots of the witchetty bush (after which the grubs are named). "The term may also apply to larvae of other cossid moths, ghost moths (Hepialidae), and longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae)," Wikipedia tells us. "The raw witchetty grub tastes similar to almonds, and when cooked, the skin becomes crisp like roast chicken, while the inside becomes light yellow, like a fried egg."
Like a Pacifier
Turpin's abstract: "Edible insect larvae constitute a large part of the traditional Australian Aboriginal diet. Perhaps the most widely known example is the ‘Witchetty grub' (Endoxyla spp.). These played a role similar to that of a pacifier for infants being weaned. The term ‘witchetty' is the common name of the tree whose roots this popular grub dwells in (Acacia kempeana). The naming of specific larvae based on their host tree is a common naming strategy in the Aboriginal language Kaytetye, for which there are some 25 ethnospecies. This paper draws on Kaytetye people's knowledge, uses and naming of ethnospecies within the 'edible insect larvae' food class, which is one of five Kaytetye food classes."
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberg, an agricultural entomologist and assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, coordinates the department's weekly (virtual) seminars, held every Wednesday, except during holidays.
Turpin's hosts are evolutionary ecologists and biologists Scott Carroll and Jenella Loye of the Institute for Contemporary Evolution who engage in Carroll-Loye Biological Research. The scientists are affiliated with the Sharon Lawler lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"I've visited her pioneering entomophagy studies among the remnant, so-called 'remote' central Australian peoples," said Carroll. "Academic entomologists know almost nothing about the biology of these insects. I learned that Giant Moth witchetty grubs are the most delicious, energy-packed animals I have ever eaten. Myfany will tell us about these and many more that have been central to the diets of Australians. I am looking forward to this exciting interdisciplinary seminar."
Carroll describes Turpin as being "at the nexus of entomology, linguistics, and the indigenous human diet."
Important Source of Food
In an article on "Edible Insect Larvae in Kaytetye: Their Nomenclature and Significance," published in March 2017 in the Journal of Ethnobiology, she wrote: "Insects have traditionally constituted an important source of food in many cultures, but changes in dietary practices and other lifestyle traits are threatening the transmission of insect-related knowledge and vocabulary to younger generations of Indigenous Australians. This paper describes the rich cultural and culinary traditions surrounding an important insect group, namely a class of edible insect larvae consumed by a desert community in central Australia. Twenty-nine different edible insect larvae are named in the Kaytetye language, with the names encoding the identity of the host plant on which the larvae are found. We describe the complexities involved in the naming system, paying special attention to cultural and linguistic factors. The difficulties in the scientific identification of these ethnotaxa are discussed, as are the significance of our data to (1) questions of universal patterns in ethnoclassification and nomenclature and (2) the purported lack of binomially-labeled folk species in the languages of hunter-gatherer societies."
Turpin, with the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, has been working on Australian Aboriginal songs and languages since 1996, according to her website. "Her research interests include the relationship between language and music, especially of lesser-known cultures; and identifying ways to support the continuation of endangered languages and performance arts. More specifically, her work examines Aboriginal song-poetry and its relationship to spoken languages. She is also involved in linguistic documentation of the Aboriginal language Kaytetye as well as Indigenous ecological knowledge and the lexicon in Arandic languages."
Link to form for Zoom link and instructions: https://forms.
UC Davis alumnus and bee expert Elizabeth Frost, a technical specialist for bees with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, sadly knows the fire scene well.
Frost, a 13-year beekeeper, recently authored "24 Million Acres: Reports from Australia's Massive Fire Scar," published in the quarterly magazine, 2 Million Blossoms. The informative piece tackles the subject of Australian bushfires and it provides insight into the kind of scorched path lying ahead for California beekeepers.
"Bees don't abscond but stay with the hives as far as I can tell from beekeeper anecdotal evidence," Frost told us this week. "Where a 'cool' burn runs quickly through the bee yard, hives generally suffer from radiant heat. Post-fire, they should should be fed supplementally if there are no natural food sources where they can be moved to, and requeened. Otherwise, ongoing queen/productivity issues result."
At UC Davis, Frost worked with bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey (now at Washington State University) at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. The two colleagues are closely following the California wildfire disaster. "This is devastating--it will take years to recover," Cobey said.
An integral part of what's occurring both here and Australia, the colleagues said, is climate change. "Prolonged and potentially extreme bushfire seasons in Australia due to climate change is our present reality, not our future," wrote Frost in 2 Million Blossoms.
Meanwhile, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council is keying on rebuilding the bushfire-devastated honey bee and pollination industry.
Frost described the 2019-20 bush fires in 2 Million Blossoms: "24 million acres were burnt in Australia's 2019-2020 bushfire season. In Australia's biggest beekeeping state, New South Wales (NSW), the 2019-20 bush-fires burnt through 13 million acres, 7% of the state's area, including 37% of NSW National Parks and 50% of State forests. NSW Apiarists' Association President Stephen Targett noted, “NSW Bushfires have burnt over 9,809 hives and wiped out the field of over 88,094 hives and burnt just over 5 million hectares of forests. With minimal autumn prospects, a small percentage of these affected hives will be suitable for almond pollination. While the mature almond orchards in Australia don't cover anywhere near as much land as in the United States, they still require around 220,000 hives in August, when mass bloom occurs in the Southern Hemisphere."
"This bushfire disaster was unprecedented in its impact on the Australian beekeeping industry which relies on native tall timber forests of nectar and pollen yielding trees to produce 30,000 tons of honey in a good year," Frost wrote. "Most of these species flower once every 3 to 4 years, unless soil moisture is below average for extended periods in which case some trees may not flower for up to 10 years. Australia's unique flora and dispersed bloom times means beekeepers must pay keen attention to botanical detail in order to effectively migrate to nectar flows that are not annual or even biannual. Australia lost vast swathes of vital natural sources of nutrition, species that provide car- bohydrates, proteins, amino and fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. The bushfires destroyed prime habitat that functioned as a safe haven far from the threat of pesticides to honey bees and native pollinators alike."
Frost called attention to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), a leading Australian federal government scientific agency, that has been conducting bushfire research for almost 70 years. "Bushfires are a natural part of the Australian landscape, necessary for the regeneration of many endemic plant species that evolved with the harsh climatic conditions of the world's lowest, flattest and (apart from Antarctica) driest continents," Frost pointed out. CSIRO reports that “bushfires are the result of a combination of weather and vegetation (which acts as a fuel for the fire), together with a way for the fire to begin – most commonly due to a lightning strike and sometimes human-influences (mostly accidental such as the use of machinery which produces a spark).”
The impact of climate change has led to longer, more intense fire seasons, Frost related, and an increase in the average number of elevated fire weather days, as measured by the Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI). Last year saw the highest annual accumulated FFDI on record.
"Climate change doesn't cause fires directly, but has caused an increase in the occurrence of extreme fire weather and in the length of the fire season across large parts of Australia since the 1950s," Frost wrote. "In addition to 2019 being the driest year since records began in 1900, it was Australia's warmest year. In 2019 the annual mean temperature was 1.52 °C above average.”
Frost asked: "In the short term, how will the beekeeping industry evolve to cope with millions of acres of its floral resource burnt and unproductive, providing no bee forage for at least the next few years? Supplemental feeding, previously practiced sparingly in Australia, will have to become the norm for the country if beekeepers hope to bring colonies up to required colony strength as agreed in their almond pollination contracts."
Sadly, it's a long singed recovery as well for the California beekeepers victimized by the wildfires. (To offer financial support for Caroline Yelle, owner of Pope Canyon Queens, access the Gofundme account.)
No, the bees do not abscond with their queen and relocate, says Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
Gary, known as "The Bee Man," has kept bees for more than seven decades. He's a bee scientist lauded for his research, his writings (his latest book is The Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees), his professional bee wrangling, and his work with Hollywood movie producers, documentaries, and talk shows. He's also a musician known for donning a full-length "bee suit" while playing the B-flat clarinet. (See more information on his career)
We asked "The Bee Man" to comment on what bee colonies do during a fire. He broke it down like this:
"Bees react to smoke by fanning, motion, flight, and immediately ingesting nectar and honey," he says. "Smoke disrupts their defensive behavior. That is why beekeepers smoke bees when manipulating and inspecting bee colonies. Some have speculated that feeding behavior, gorging on honey and nectar in response to smoke, would enable colonies to take honey during migrating from the fire area. I have smoked thousands of hives during my career. There was never any indication that bees left the hive area in response to smoke. Migration of the colony away from the fire and smoke would be impossible because the queen is full of eggs and much too heavy to fly. Consequently a colony that migrated from a fire could not survive without the queen. Wild colonies that nest inside of large tree trunks high above ground level may initially survive the fire. But they may eventually starve if all of the vegetation with their flight range has been destroyed."
However, the Aug. 19th fire occurred at night. All of the bees, including the foragers, were inside. "That did not leave any chance for the colonies," Yelle said.
"Everything burned to the ground with no signs of life or even wood left when the fire reached a pallet (4 hives). I have been finding only cleats and nails in a pile of ash. That gives you an idea on how strong was that fire."
"I did have one pallet of hives that the boxes didn't burn all down, but the bees died and brood is dying," she said.
Surviving Bees in Jeopardy
In the few surviving hives, the blazing heat killed the capped brood but some adult bees are still alive. "The colonies are low on population, and the queen has just started laying again. It will be a challenge for all beekeepers with surviving hives to restock the resources and rebuild the brood, meaning the bees are still in jeopardy."
Yelle credits a Bodega firefighter with saving her hives at another location--in Pope Valley. "He's a real hero and his name is Boone Vale, a volunteer fire captain with the Bodega Bay Fire Department and a bulldozer operator," she said. "We did lose about 60 hives," she said, but Vale saved 70 when he "pushed the hives away from the burning ones. He was on his way home after who knows how many hours of battling the fire and still stopped to save the hives."
"Bee Man" Norm Gary called the fire "an absolute disaster."
"This was an absolute disaster," said Gary. "Rick provided packaged bees for almost all of my TV shows and movies during the past 30 plus years," he said. "Rick has always been close to UC Davis beekeeping activities. He was the only commercial beekeeper who frequently attended our Bee Biology Group meetings at the Bee Biology Facility. His sister worked for me one summer. He is a fine gentlemen as well as an outstanding professional beekeeper!"
"I hope they can find some support from the industry or some other source, such as a Go Fund Me project," Gary said. "My daughter recently bought a country home west of Winters near Rick's property. The night that fire burned Rick's home, my daughter and husband were celebrating their first night at their new home. But they were evacuated in the middle of the night! Their property was saved only because another local fire a few weeks earlier had burned enough in a nearby area to provide a partial fire break!"
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/popecanyonqueens
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Go Fund Me Account (shared by Pope Valley Queens and Rick Schubert): https://gf.me/u/ys2vtw
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/popecanyonqueens/?hl=en