If you've ever been to Bodega Head in Sonoma County, you may have marveled at the waves crashing and the whales surfacing.
But have you ever seen the digger bees, Anthophora bomboides stanfordiana, aka bumble bee mimics, that nest in the sandstone cliffs?
They're there. They're foraging on flowers, excavating their nests, and rearing young.
These digger bees are not easy to photograph. On our May 9th trip, we got lucky: our 200mm macro lens picked up a digger bee warming its flight muscles.
"The species name indicates that it is a bumble bee mimic," the late Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), a global authority on bumble bees and a UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology. "These bees need a source of fresh water nearby. Females suck up water, regurgitate it on the sandstone bank surface, then dig away at the soft mud. They use some of the mud to build entrance turrets, presumably to help them locate their nests within the aggregation of nests."
"The female," Thorp said, "sucks up fresh water from nearby, stores it in her crop (like honey bees store nectar) for transport to the nest. She regurgitates it on the sandstone, and excavates the moistened soil. She carries out the mud and makes the entrance turret with it."
Thorp, a 30-year member of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, studied these bees. (See his presentation at the Proceedings of the Symposium on Biodiversity of Northwestern California, Santa Rosa, delivered in October 1991.)
Today, community ecologist and associate professor Rachel Vannette from the same department, is among scientists engaged in the research of these fascinating bees.
You're in luck.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, will host four public events from May 28 through July 16. All are free and open to the public. Parking is also free.
Saturday, May 28, 1 to 4 p,m.
Open house, "Bugs in Ag: What Is Eating Our Crops and What Is Eating Them?"
Cooperative Extension specialist and agricultural entomologist Ian Grettenberger of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty will explore the relationships between insects and agriculture. His areas of expertise include field crops; vegetable crops; insects, mites and other arthropods affecting plants; biological control of pests affecting plants; and beneficial insects. Grettenberger, who joined the UC Davis faculty in January 2019, targets a wide variety of pests, including western spotted and striped cucumber, beetles, armyworms, bagrada bugs, alfalfa weevils, aphids, and thrips.
Saturday June 25, 1 to 4 p.m.
Open house, "Eight-Legged Encounters"
This event is all about arachnids featuring scientists from across the country. It is in collaboration with the American Arachnological Society's 2022 meeting, scheduled June 26-30 on the UC Davis campus. The annual meeting will be hosted by two UC Davis arachnologists: Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and associate dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and Joel Ledford, assistant professor of teaching, Department of Plant Biology, College of Biological Sciences.
Public event to be held in California Hall for arachnid novices and experts alike. This is in collaboration with the American Arachnological Society's meeting at UC Davis.
Saturday, July 16, 1 to 4 p.m.
"Celebrating 50 Years of the Dogface Butterfly:California's State Insect"
Scientists and the public will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the California State Legislature' designation of the dogface butterfly as the state insect.
Folsom Lake College professor and Bohart scientist Fran Keller, and Bohart associate Greg Karofelas, a volunteer docent for the Placer Land Trust's dogface butterfly tours, will on hand to discuss the butterfly. The California dogface butterfly, Zerene eurydice, is found only in California. It thrives in the 40-acre Shutamul Bear River Preserve near Auburn, Placer County. The preserve, part of the Placer Land Trust, is closed to the public except for specially arranged tours.
Keller is the author of 35-page children's book, The Story of the Dogface Butterfly, with photos by Keller and Kareofelas, and illustrations by former UC Davis student Laine Bauer. Kareofelas' images include the life cycle of the dogface butterfly that he reared. Keller holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, where she studied with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology.
Kareofelas and Keller also teamed to create a dogface butterfly poster of the male and female. Both the book and the poster are available online from the the Bohart Museum of Entomology gift shop.
California legislators adopted the dogface butterfly as the official state insect on July 28, 1972. But as early as 1929, entomologists had already singled it out as their choice for state insect. Their suggestion appears in the California Blue Book, published by the State Legislature in 1929. (Read more on how the butterfly became the state insect under the Ronald Reagan administration.)
The dogface butterfly is so named because the wings of the male appear to be a silhouette of a poodle. It is also known as "the flying pansy."
Bohart Museum. The Bohart Museum is the home of a worldwide collection of eight million insect specimens, plus a gift shop and a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas.
Bohart Museum Contact information:
What's better than seeing a yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, foraging on an neon pink ice plant at Bodega Bay?
Seeing two bumble bees on the same flower.
That's what we observed on a recent trip to Doran Regional Park, Bodega Bay, Sonoma County. It was bumble bee heaven. While conservationists are removing ice plant in one area of the park, bumble bees are foraging on the flowers in another area.
B. vosnesenskii is a native. The ice plant, Carpobrotus edulis, is not. It's from South Africa. Conservationists are removing the invasive ice plant "to allow native, endangered plants to repopulate the area and wildlife to thrive."
But meanwhile, this Bombus keeps buzzing and foraging. (Bombus is derived from a Latin word meaning "buzzing.")
Bumble bees are important pollinators (think "buzz pollination" on tomatoes) but we haven't seen them much around Solano and Yolo counties this year.
Sonoma County, yes! Bodega Bay seems to be an oasis.
And speaking of bumble bees, the Bohart Museum of Entomology sponsors an annual Robbin Thorp Memorial First-Bumble-Bee-of-the-Year Contest to see who can find the first bumble bee of the year in the two-county area of Yolo and Solano.The first to photograph one and email to the Bohart Museum wins. This year UC Davis doctoral candidate Maureen Page of the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, photographed B. melanopygus with her cell phone camera, and horticulturist Ellen Zagory, retired director of public horticulture for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, photographed B. vosnesenskii with her Sony camera.
Coincidentally, they each took their photos at exactly 2:30 p.m., Jan. 1 in the 100-acre UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden as the bees foraged on manzanita.
They represented "a double," too--a double win.
Today she's an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania and has found her calling.
She'll be speaking on "The Conflict Beneath Your Feet: Indirect Effects in Plant-Symbiont Interactions" at the Wednesday, May 18th virtual seminar hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Her seminar begins at 4:10 p.m. The Zoom link: https://ucdavis.zoom.us/j/99515291076
"My lab studies the ecology and evolution of host-symbiont interactions," Wood says. "We're especially interested in the causes and consequences of conflicts that arise as hosts navigate interactions with multiple partners. I will talk about three recent projects in my lab that explore how antagonists affect host-symbiont interactions in the model mutualism between legumes and nitrogen-fixing bacteria."
As an evolutionary biologist, Wood says she is interested in the evolutionary ecology and evolutionary genetics of species interactions. Her research interests include ecology and biodiversity, plant biology, evolution and genetics, epigenetics and genomics.
Wood holds a bachelor of arts degree in English literature (2008) from Swarthmore (Penn.) College. She received her doctorate in biology from the University of Virginia in 2015. Her dissertation: "The Consequences of Environmental Heterogeneity for Fitness, Selection, and Inheritance." Wood served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto from 2015 to 2018 before accepting a faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh.
She joined the University of Pennsylvania faculty in July 2020, right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her new faculty profile, Wood writes: "Our research is driven by two big questions: When do these cascading effects constrain adaptation in species interactions, and how do they influence the assembly of host-associated communities? We use plants (mostly the legumes genus Medicago) and their microscopic root mutualists and parasites to tackle these questions, drawing on approaches ranging from quantitative genetics to population genomics to field ecology in wild plant populations." Medicago is commonly known as medick or burclover.
What books should an evolutionary biologist read? "I loved The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner," she relates in the profile. "It's essentially a chronicle of Rosemary and Peter Grant's beautiful work on Darwin's finches, interwoven with the history and fundamentals of evolution by natural selection. I read it when I was a junior in college and was hooked: at the time, I was an English major, but the next semester I registered for my first upper-level biology class. That book is part of the reason I'm an evolutionary biologist today."
Access her talk on Wednesday, May 18 to learn more about her and her research.
Nematologist Shahid Siddique coordinates the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminars. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with any technical issues involving Zoom.
"Weeping Rocks" will showcase the 50-year research of butterfly guru Art Shapiro, a UC Davis distinguished professor with the Department of Evolution and Ecology, College of Biological Sciences.
The full-length documentary will be produced by 2010 UC Davis alumna Jackii Chun.
As you may know, Shapiro has been studying the butterfly populations at 10 sites in Central California since 1972 and is drawing global attention. He maintains a research website, Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site, aka Art's Butterfly World, where you'll find his work on scores of butterflies, from those majestic monarchs, Danaus plexippus, to those not-so-majestic cabbage white butterflies, Pieris rapae, (larvae of the cabbage whites are pests of cucurbits).
Anderson relates that Weeping Rocks is in production and funds are being raised on Kickstarter. It could be released as soon as 2023.
"The documentary looks at climate change through scientific research of those who study insects," Anderson writes, adding that he "has been counting butterflies for 50 years. His long-term data points to disturbing decreases in butterfly abundance across California. The name of the film comes from a site in Nevada County that drips water constantly, producing a lush, tropical effect — and attracting butterflies."
The film's director, Karlis Bergs (his previous film, Threshold, focused on bees) told Anderson: "We use his research as the backbone of the story about insects and people who work with them. His story is [interspersed] with shorter segments on other researchers. It creates a bigger picture.”
Bergs, who met Shapiro in 2019 when he was a student at the California Institute of the Arts, remembers reading an article about him, got in touch with him, and began filming him on his sites. “He's an amazing man who is eager to share his knowledge with anyone who asks,” Bergs told Anderson.
That he is. We remember following Shapiro, huffing and puffing at times, up Gates Canyon in Vacaville on Jan. 25, 2014. It's one of his fixed routes at ten sites that range from the Sacramento River delta, through the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains, and to the high desert of the western Great Basin. "The sites," Shapiro says, "represent the great biological, geological, and climatological diversity of central California."
The North American Butterfly Monitoring Network (NABA) website praises his work: "Art Shapiro began monitoring 10 transects in 1972 and has been conducting bi-weekly monitoring of those sites ever since. He also monitors an additional site as part of NABA's Seasonal Count Program! Art's program is the longest continually running butterfly monitoring project in the world, predating even the British Butterfly Monitoring Scheme."
Coming soon....Weeping Rocks, "revealing the urgency to save insect species through long-term scientific research."
It can't happen soon enough.