The article, “Genome-Enabled Insights into the Biology of Thrips as Crop Pests,” is published in the journal BMC Biology. It is the work of 57 scientists on five continents.
“This project represents over eight years of work by at least 17 laboratories across the globe,” said Professor Ullman, a former chair of the entomology department and a fellow of the Entomological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Her laboratory worked closely with project leader and first author Dorith Rotenberg of North Carolina State University. Project scientist Sulley Ben-Mahmoud of the Ullman lab is the paper's third author.
The western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis, causes billions of dollars a year in damage worldwide. Native to Western North America and about the size of a pinhead, the insect feeds on a wide array of food, fiber, and ornamental crops and transmits plant viruses that cause significant economic damage.
“The western flower thrips and the viruses it transmits, including tomato spotted wilt virus, is important to California agriculture, causing serious problems for tomato growers, pepper growers and growers of leafy greens,” Ullman said. The tomato spotted wilt virus infects more than 1000 plant species, ranging from tomatoes, tobacco and peanuts to pansies and chrysanthemums.
“This system has been a central element of my research program for over 30 years," Ullman said, "and I am extremely excited to see this important resource made available as a tool to help us understand and control these important pests.”
In their abstract, the authors wrote that the publication should lead to “understanding the underlying genetic mechanisms of the processes governing thrips pest and vector biology, feeding behaviors, ecology, and insecticide resistance.”
This is the first genome sequence and analysis for a member of the Thysanoptera, an order that contains more than 7,000 species of small insects with fringed wings.
(See more information on the project on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website)
Step into your garden, walk over to a community park, or hike in the wilderness and see what's out there.
And take along the newly published, newly revised "The Field Guide to California Insects."
It includes more than 600 insect species. Not sure what species of butterfly that is? Want to know if that's a Valley carpenter bee? What's that species of praying mantis you just found? Take a look at the text and photos. Chances are you'll find them in this handy book.
It's a California Natural History Guide and published by the University of California Press. If you're into entomology, you'll probably recognize the names of the four authors:
- Kip Will, entomologist, insect systematist, and former director of the Essig Museum of Entomology at UC Berkeley
- Joyce Gross, noted insect photographer (she works as a computer programmer with the Berkeley Natural History Museums at UC Berkeley)
- Dan Rubinoff, who grew up chasing insects in California and is now a professor of entomology and director of the University of Hawaii Insect Museum
- Jerry Powell, emeritus professor, UC Berkeley, and former director of the Essig Museum of Entomology
We remember reading the first edition, California Insects, published in September 1980 and authored by Professor Powell and (the late) Charles Hogue.
So this revision is 40 years in the making.
It's billed as the only California-specific, statewide book devoted to all groups of insects:
"Engaging accounts focus on distinguishing features, remarkable aspects of biology, and geographical distribution in the state. An accessible and compact introduction to identifying, understanding, and appreciating these often unfamiliar and fascinating creatures, this guide covers insects that readers are likely to encounter in homes and natural areas, cities and suburbs, rural lands and wilderness. It also addresses exotic and invasive species and their impact on native plants and animals. Field Guide to California Insects remains the definitive portable reference and a captivating read for beginners as well as avid naturalists."
The authors point out that worldwide, there are only a million described insects, and that's "more than five times the number of all animals combined." They also note that "estimates of the number remaining to be described and named vary between three million to 30 million or more."
Thirty million! Can you imagine?
The authors define what makes an insect, expanding on growth and reproduction, breathing and circulation, feeding and stinging. They write about the distribution and diversity of the California insect fauna; how insects are classified, and even how to make an insect collection, something most high schoolers will be asked to do.
The book offers you information on dragonflies and damselflies, mantises, stick insects, beetles, fleas, flies, mosquitoes, earwigs, moths and butterflies, and booklice--and more.
It's a fantastic book--well-researched, well-written, well-illustrated, and an opportunity for you to become not a Big Game Hunter, but a Little Game Hunter.
By the end of the book, you may even decide to study entomology. (And there's plenty of opportunities in California, including at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology)
You may also want to become an insect photographer: plant a pollinator garden and they will come. Below are some of the backyard or household images you can capture.
Those passion flowers (Passiflora) are insect magnets.
One minute you'll see a praying mantis on a blossom. The next minute, a Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae. And the next morning, the blossom is an arthropod magnet--the beginnings of a spider web.
Passiflora is the host plant of the Gulf Fritillary, a spectacular orange butterfly with silver-spangled underwings. The Gulf Frit lays its eggs only on Passiflora.
The Gulf Frits know where the Passiflora is. Their predators know where the butterflies are.
The female mantis, Mantis religiosa (below), didn't snag the butterfly. But it did grab and munch on a few Gulf Frit caterpillars.
Ever critter eats in the garden.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, is hosting a virtual open house dealing with alfalfa and rice.
Cooperative Extension agricultural specialist Ian Grettenberger, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and his graduate student, Madison "Madi" Hendrick, will discuss the crops, the pests, and the natural enemies or beneficials at a virtual Facebook live session from 11 a.m. to noon, Thursday, Oct 22.
Yes, this applies to you. If you're a scientist or would-be scientist, you'll want to know more about these agricultural crops and the issues. If you're a consumer and like rice and ice cream (dairy cows eat alfalfa and milk comes from ice cream, you have a stake in this.
The event, "The Good and the Bad: Insects and Other Arthropods in Agriculture, with a Focus on California Rice and Alfalfa," will be live-streamed on the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology's Facebook page. (Link to Facebook live here). Grettenberger and Hendrick will present short talks and then field questions. No personal Facebook account is required to join the session, which is free and open to the public.
"I will be discussing some of the insect (or arthropod) problems faced by growers of rice in California and some of the challenges in managing them, Grettenberger said. "In rice, some of the key arthropod pests are tadpole shrimp, which can turn what would have been a lush stand if rice into a poor stand with a lot of floating seedlings. Meanwhile, later in the year, armyworm caterpillars, the larvae of a moth, can chew on rice leaves and destroy plants. I'll discuss some of the ongoing work to better understand and manage these pests."
Grettenberg's fields of expertise include field and vegetable crops; integrated pest management; applied insect ecology, and biological control of pests. (See Spotlight on Ian Grettenberger.) Among his current grants:
- Protection of rice from invertebrate pests
- Insecticide resistant alfalfa weevils in the western United States: Quantifying the scope of resistance and implementing a plan to manage the threat
- Management of key cotton arthropod pests with insecticides and acaricides, a proactive approach to prepare for the invasion of the tomato leafminer (Tuta absoluta) into California
- Detection, biology and control of the exotic Swede midge (Contarinia nasturtii) for California cole crops
- Management of the western spotted and striped cucumber beetle in melon production
- Biological control of the bagrada bug
- Insecticide resistance monitoring and evaluation of efficacy of current chemical tactics for managing aphids and thrips in lettuce
What sparked his interest in entomology? "I had biologist parents, and was drawn into entomology at a pretty young age," Grettenberger said. "I spent plenty of time looking in flowers and turning over logs looking for insects. Once I started thinking about going to graduate school for entomology, I decided to focus on the intersection of agricultural entomology and insect ecology. I wanted to work on applied issues in entomology."
Hendrick, a second-year graduate student in the Grettenberger lab, received her bachelor's degree in iInternational studies at North Carolina State University, and also spent a semester at Nagoya University in Japan (she minored in Japanese).
"I got my start in entomology completely by chance!," Hendrick related. "I needed a science credit and happened to pick a class called 'Insects and People.”' That class really helped me to reframe the way I thought about insects and appreciate what interesting little critters they are. Through that class, I was also able to get a job as an undergraduate assistant in an entomology lab. I worked in a specialty crops lab, where I developed interests in integrated pest management and invasive species. I now study insecticide resistance in the alfalfa weevil, and I'm excited to share what I've learned through this outreach event!"
Grettenberger, Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Freeman Long and Madi Hendrick recently wrote a piece in the UC Agricultural and Natural Resources (UC ANR) blog, Alfalfa and Forage News, "A (Virtual )Update on Worms, Weevils an Aphids in Alfalfa."
"This year, the Kearney Research and Extension Center Alfalfa and Forage Field Day went virtual," Grettenberger wrote. "Attendees did not get the chance to look out over lush fields of alfalfa or towering plantings of sorghum, but they get did an update on ongoing work in alfalfa and other forages. Our team put together a rapid-fire video to discuss what are typically the key insect pests in California alfalfa: summer worms, alfalfa weevils, and aphids."
The summer worms in alfalfa include the summer worms: Western yellowstriped armyworm, beet armyworm and alfalfa caterpillar. Another key pest is the alfalfa weevil. The trio also discussed aphids and their natural enemies, including lady beetles, aka ladybugs).
Pests of rice include armyworms, aster leafhoppers, crayfish, rice leafminers, rice seed midges, rice water weevils and tadpole shrimp.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, but is temporarily closed. The museum houses nearly eight million insect specimens; a live "petting zoo" of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and taranatulas; and a gift shop stocked with insect-themed T-shirts, books, posters, jewelry, candy and insect-collecting equipment. (Gift items can now be shipped during the closure.)
- Alfalfa and Forage News: A (Virtual) Update on Worms, Weevils and Aphids in Alfalfa (By Ian Grettenberger, Rachael Freeman Long and Madi Hendrick, Sept. 20, 2020) (See video on same page)
- Alfalfa and Forage News: Natural Enemies Are Important for Control of the Aphid Complex in Alfalfa--A Case Study (By Ian Grettenberger, Rachael Freeman Long, Daniel Putnam and Rob Wilson, April 7, 2020)
- UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: How to Manage Pests of Alfalfa
- UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: Insects and Other Pests of Rice
"Hey, Buckeye butterfly, you over there with chunks of a wing missing, yeah you, what happened?"
"Well, it was like this. I was just fluttering around, looking for some good nectar, and a predator grabbed me. I don't know what it was. Maybe it was a praying mantis. Maybe it was a bird or a spider. I don't know. It happened so fast. But anyhow, I lost a couple of eyespots. Yes, it got a piece of me. But it didn't get all of me. I'm still here!"
It's the eyespots--or the missing eyespots--you notice first about the Buckeye butterfly, Junonia coenia.
The eyespots are thought to offer some kind of protection from predators.
"Predators think the eyespot is an eye on the head of its prey," according to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida website. "If the predator attacks the eyespot, it might chew off part of the butterfly's wing, but the butterfly's vital organs escape damage."
Butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, who has studied the butterfly populations of the Central Valley since 1972, writes about the Buckeye on his website, Art's Butterfly World:
"The Buckeye breeds on plants containing bitter iridoid glycosides, including plantains (Plantago, especially P. lanceolata), various Scrophulariaceae (especially Fluellin, Kickxia), and Lippia (Lippia or Phyla nodiflora). The spiny, black-and-white caterpillar has a bright orange head. Its behavior suggests its diet makes it virtually immune to vertebrate predation, but the pupa and adult are quite edible.
"Male Buckeyes are territorial perchers, usually on bare ground. Both sexes visit a great variety of flowers, from Heliotrope and Lippia to California Buckeye and Rabbitbrush! They often swarm over Coyotebrush (Baccharis) in autumn, especially the male plants.
And always, always, the Buckeyes need to keep an eye out for their predators.