Fifty shades of orange—with a touch of silver.
The bridal couple on the pomegranate tree wore orange and silver to celebrate their honeymoon.
The bride may have blushed. I don't know. Did she? Don't all brides blush?
The groom, in true form, looked quite dapper and dashing.
So there they were. The two of them. The blushing bride and the quite dapper-and-dashing groom.
They didn't invite me to their wedding. I was an uninvited guest, the only guest. So I felt obliged to crash their wedding and capture some images.
Just happened to have a camera with a zoom macro lens slung on my shoulder.
Who can resist insect wedding photography? That's about the only wedding photography happening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This couple? Gulf Fritillaries: Agraulis vanillae. (See UC Davis distinguished professor Art Shapiro's website to learn more about them).
We usually see Gulf Frits on their host plant, the passionflower vine (Passiflora), where the females lay their eggs. and the cycle of eggs-to-caterpillars-to-chrysalids-to-adults continues.
But something startled this pair and off they fluttered from the passionflower vine to the nearby pomegranate tree.
Ever seen the amazing macro photography of Alex Wild, curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin? He holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, where he studied ant taxonomy and evolution with major professor Phil Ward. Wild also writes the incredible blog, Myrmecos: Little Things Matter, and teaches photography with colleagues at BugShot courses. He shoots Canon with an MPE-65mm lens.
On July 5, Alex Wild pinned this tweet:
"I'm pretty sure you didn't ask for this, but here's a gallery of insects having sex."
I'm pretty sure Alex Wild does not mince words.
Meanwhile, check out his "insect wedding photography" images!
Other beetles--cucumber beetles--ravage agricultural crops, drawing millions of foes.
Enter Jasmin Ramirez Bonilla, a UC Davis graduate student in entomology, who is seeking to control these pests on melons through more effective integrated pest management (IPM) strategies.
Jasmin, who plans to complete her master's degree in the spring of 2022, recently presented her thesis proposal, “Advancing Integrated Pest Management Strategies for Cucumber Beetles in California,” to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology at a Zoom session.
“The beetle of focus for my thesis is the Western striped cucumber beetle, Acalymma trivittatum,” said Jasmin, who studies with major professor and agricultural entomologist Ian Grettenberger, a Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.“ A second species, the Western spotted cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata undecimpunctata--a milder pest but still a pest of melons-- is also part of my project but not the primary subject of my studies.”
Her thesis project consists of three objectives:
- Characterize the non-crop and overwintering habitat
- Clarify short-distance dispersal dynamics after harvest
- Evaluate the utility of the aggregation pheromone, vittatalactone
Both species feed on muskmelons, Cucumis melo. “These include honeydew melon, cantaloupe, crenshaw, and cassava,” she said. “However, Acalymma is the specialist.” Cucumber beetles are pests of plants in the Cucurbitaceae family,which includes melons, gourds, cucumbers, squash and pumpkin.
Of key concern is “the lack of effective IPM tools for the management of cucumber beetles, especially the western striped cucumber beetle,” she said. “There is a critical need to visit this system and revisit the ecology to have a clearer understanding of the non-crop habitat uses and dispersal dynamics to improve and optimize the scouting and monitoring strategies. In addition, one way to monitor and manage insect pests is using semiochemicals such as aggregation pheromones and kairomones—for example, cucurbit blossom volatiles--which are of interest to be combined and studied their efficacy attraction.”
Preliminary data for one of her experiments indicates that the synthetic aggregation pheromone, vittatalactone, attracts the western striped cucumber beetle and the spotted cucumber beetle. “This pheromone was mimicked from airborne volatiles produced by male beetles, Acalymma vittatum, the cousin of the western striped cucumber beetle,” Bonila related. “This pheromone is a potential monitoring tool for managing these beetles and minimize the intensive applications of insecticides on the field.”
What sparked her interest in entomology? When she worked as a field research assistant for six months in 2017 with the UC Cooperative Extension in Woodland and sampled Lygus damage in sunflower fields.
“After this field assistant position, I worked as a junior specialist on an alfalfa weevil project to improve management in alfalfa,” Jasmin related. This was a research grant of the late Larry Godfrey (1956-2017), an Extension entomologist based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Godfrey, the principal investigator of the grant, worked with co-principal investigator Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Long until his death in April.
Long invited Jasmin to apply for the position. “That increased my interest in bugs,” Jasmin said. “There were so many different species and I was constantly collecting plethora of insects in each sample!”
A native of Guatemala, Jasmin moved to the United States at age 15 with her family. “Even though I wasn't born here, I still consider myself Guatemalan,” she related. “My family lives in Los Angeles and I attended Reseda High School in the San Fernando Valley.”
Jasmin, who received her bachelor's degree in earth system science at UC Merced in 2016, worked as a vegetation and ecological restoration intern with the National Park Service before enrolled in the UC Davis graduate program.
But it's the insects—particularly cucumber beetles—that fascinate her.
And rightfully so. It's a stand against racism and a step toward a more diverse and inclusive organization.
And frankly, it's a more appropriate name.
ESA, founded in 1889, launched the games in 1982, naming them for Swedish scientist-physician Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the father of taxonomy. He was a botanist and zoologist as well as a physician.
ESA describes The Games as a "fast-paced, college-bowl style contest in which students from various colleges and universities test their knowledge by answering questions on insect science. Students compete first at the regional branch level, and then the winning teams compete each year at the national level at ESA's Annual Meeting."
A petition on Research Gate drew some 1500 approvals for the name change. However, many members began seeking a name change several years ago.
Here's why: Linnaeus' classifications of the human race.
Linnaeus made "offensive, race-based classifications of humans that helped form a basis for racism in science," according to a Request for Change on Research Gate. "The recent police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and too many other Black Americans have put a national spotlight on racial injustice in our country. White supremacy and racism have existed in academic and scientific institutions since their advent, but these events have catalyzed heightened reflection and action around justice within academia."
Other points involving the name switch from Linnaean Games to Entomology Games:
- Linnaeus was not an entomologist
- The trivia questions deal mostly with insect science and entomologists, not taxonomy.
- Most people outside the world of entomology probably cannot relate to the meaning of the Linnaean Games, but they can to "Entomology Games"
As ESA president Alvin Simmons, a research entomologist at USDA-ARS, U.S. Vegetable Laboratory, Charleston, S.C., said in the ESA news release: “National events this year have brought issues of diversity and inclusion within our discipline and our Society to the forefront. Ultimately, the board believed that the loss of any student competitors who felt unwelcome because of the name of the Games went against ESA's commitment to diversity, inclusion, and students as the future of entomology. A name can be replaced, but each entomologist brings a unique and valuable contribution to our Society that is irreplaceable. The Entomology Games will continue ESA's traditions of fun, competition, and school pride.”
ESA published a statement on Why Black Lives Matter to Entomology on June 1, which said in part: "Historically, people of color have been less likely to choose careers in the life sciences, and even today black entomologists make up 2.7 percent of the ESA membership, up from 2 percent in 2012. Every time a person is kept from contributing to our understanding of entomology due to systemic inequities, our entire discipline is impoverished."
Meanwhile, due to the coronavirus pandemic, ESA will conduct its 2020 ESA meeting in a virtual format. From its website: "We are excited to embrace the virtual format and build an exceptional meeting that will truly embody the spirit of Entomology for All—a meeting where all insect scientists can participate and share their work, regardless of location, specialty area, or ability to travel. Entomology 2020 will feature multiple live-streams running simultaneously November 16-19. On-demand content will be available from November 11-25."
University of California teams have done well in the The Games. A UC Davis team won the national championship in 2015, and a UC Berkeley-UC Davis team won two national championships, one in 2016 and one in 2018. The 2016 Games were deemed international as it occurred during a joint meeting of ESA and the International Congress of Entomology (ICE) in Orlando, Fla. (Walter Leal, UC Davis distinguished professor and USDA-ARS research entomologist Alvin Simmons co-chaired the ICE meeting.)
The 2019 UC team made it to the finals but didn't place. It was captained by Ralph Washington Jr., a UC Berkeley public policy graduate student who received his bachelor's degree in entomology at UC Davis. He was joined by three UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology doctoral students: Brendon Boudinot, Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski, all of the Phil Ward lab, and alternates Miles Dakin of the Christian Nansen lab and Hanna Kahl of the Jay Rosenheim lab.
Washington captained all four recent teams, and Boudinot helped anchor all of them.
- 2018: UC won the national championship (this links to a UC Davis news story) in Vancouver, B.C., defeating Texas A&M Graduates, with Washington captaining the team and joined by UC Davis graduate students Boudinot, Oberski and Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab, and Emily Bick of the Christian Nansen lab. (No video of the championship round)
- 2017: The UC team did not compete. (Texas A&M won the national championship; see championship round on YouTube)
- 2016: UC won the national and international championships at the joint meeting of ESA and ICE in Orlanda, Fla., defeating the University of Georgia. (See championship round on YouTube)
- 2015: UC won the national championship at the games held in Minneapolis, Minn., defeating the University of Florida. (See championship round on YouTube)
The Bohart Museum will live-stream the free open house on Facebook. Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the 500,000 Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) collection, will show specimens and answer questions.
"We started holding a moth-themed open house near Mother's Day in May, because people who are enthusiasts for moths are called moth-ers,” said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum. “We then switched our programming to align with National Moth Week. This year's Moth Week is July 18-26. The annual event is celebrated throughout the world with private and public events.
Bohart Museum officials are preparing videos on black-lighting and how to spread and pin moths.
During the Facebook Live program, viewers can type in their questions on moths.
Smith is expected to answer questions such as:
- What is the largest moth?
- How do butterflies and moths differ?
- What is so unique about moths?
- Why should we be concerned with moth diversity?
LynnKimsey, director oftheBohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, nominated Smith for the award. “You could not ask for a better friend than Jeff Smith,” she said, noting that he has “brought us international acclaim and saved us $160,000 through donations of specimens and materials, identification skills and his professional woodworking skills. This does not include the thousands of hours he has donated in outreach programs that draw attention to the museum, the college and the university.”
Kimsey, who has directed the museum since 1989, remembers when Smith joined the museum. “When Jeff was working for Univar Environmental Services, a 35-year career until his retirement in 2013, he would spend some of his vacation days at the museum. Over the years Jeff took over more and more of the curation of the butterfly and moth collection. He took home literally thousands of field pinned specimens and spread their wings at home, bringing them back to the museum perfectly mounted. To date he has spread the wings on more than 200,000 butterflies and moths. This translates into something like 33,000 hours of work!” The numbers have since increased.
“About a decade ago, Jeff began helping us by assembling specimen drawers from kits that we purchased,” Kimsey related. “This substantially lowered our curatorial costs, from $50/drawer to $16/drawer. We use several hundred drawers a year to accommodate donated specimens, research vouchers and specimens resulting from research grants and inventories. More recently, he's been accumulating scrap lumber and making the drawers from scratch at no cost to us. Overall, he has made more than 2000 drawers. Additionally, he makes smaller specimen boxes with the leftover scrap wood, which are used by students taking various field courses in the department. We simply could not curate the collection without his contributions.”
Kimsey praised Smith for completely reorganizing the butterfly and moth collection. “It's no small feat to rearrange this many specimens, housed in roughly one thousand drawers,” she said. “Many thousands of the specimens needed to be identified, and the taxonomy required extensive updating and reorganization.”
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum.
The Bohart Museum is the home of a “live” petting zoo featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas, and a gift shop stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The honey bees love it.
So do the long-horned bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, European paper wasps, syrphid flies, butterflies, blister beetles, spotted cucumber beetles, crab spiders, praying mantids, and assorted other insects.
The Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) blooming in gardens around California and beyond is a delight to see.
A native of Mexico and Central America and an annual, it's a member of the sunflower family Asteraceae. In our yard in Vacaville, Calif, it blooms from May or early June through October and November--just in time for the migrating monarchs that pass through on their way to their overwintering sites along coastal California.
But for now, it belongs to the honey bees and the long-horned bees, such as Melissodes agilis.
We encountered this lone honey bee last week--a single bee in need of nectar but not in need of a dive-bombing by the male territorial Melissodes agilis.
The last image, of her in an upside-down stance and peering through the petals, indicates this bee is not about to let her guard down.
Want to learn about honey bees? Be sure to read Norman Gary's book, The Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees. Gary, a UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology, has kept bees for more than seven decades and has held or holds the titles of teacher, scientist, researcher, author, bee wrangler and musician. Check out his website.
Also read the UC book, California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, by Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley, (the late) Robbin Thorp of UC Davis, and Rollin Coville and Barbara Ertter, both affiliated with UC Berkeley.