Nice to see you!
That's how we greeted our very last bumble bee of 2016.
The yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, apparently came out of hibernation and started nectaring on mallow Nov. 14 at the Natural Bridges State Park, Santa Cruz. We were at the park to see the overwintering monarch butterflies, but it was definitely delightful to see another insect species as well.
Ms. Bombus buzzed from one mallow to the other, keeping her distance from the two-legged park visitors. Once she nearly collided with an overwintering monarch heading for tropical milkweed blossoms.
B. vosnesenskii, native to the west coast of North America and found from British Columbia to Baja California, is an iconic pollinator and also an important pollinator for such crops as greenhouse tomatoes. It's among the bumble bees featured in the book, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University), the award-winning work of Paul H. Williams, Robbin W. Thorp, Leif L. Richardson and Sheila R. Colla.
When you click on the Princeton site, you'll hear the familiar buzz of bumble bees. It's just like encountering them in a wildflower meadow and listening to them take flight. It's a sound, unfortunately, that we're not hearing that much any more. The world's bumble bee population is declining, and some species are extinct or critically imperiled.
Speaking of bumble bees, did you see the paper, “Bumble Bees of Montana,” published this week by faculty and students in the Montana State University College of Agriculture in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America (AESA)? The scientists researched and compiled the state's first inventory of bumble bees known to live in Montana.
"The first time a bumble bee was recorded in Montana was in the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805," wrote Jenny Lavey of the MSU News Service.
Four scientists co-authored the paper:
- Michael Ivie, associate professor of entomology in the MSU Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology
- Kevin O'Neill, professor of entomology in the MSU Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences,
- Casey Delphia, MSU research scientist, and
- Amelia Dolan, former MSU entomology graduate student
"Because of Montana's size, landscape diversity and regional junction of eastern and western geographies, when it comes to bumble bees, Montana hosts a diverse, large and globally relevant community of species,” Ivie said in the news release. “Our research shows 28 different species of Bombus, with four more expected to make the list. That's the largest number of bumble bee species recorded for a state in the entire country."
Said Dolan: "It was amazing because we had people collecting specimens across the state, in varying elevations and diverse ecosystems – areas we alone wouldn't have had access to in the time that we had to complete the project. The number of species is representative of Montana's wild spaces and diverse landscapes that host these bees."
When was Bombus vosnesenskii first recorded in Montana? In 1923 (Frison).
If you want to hear more about bumble bees and other bees (some 1600 species of bees reside in California), be sure to attend a free two-hour presentation on "Bee Aware Bee Cause" at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 7 by Robbin Thorp at the Rush Ranch Nature Center, 3521 Grizzly Island Road, Suisun. A worldwide expert on bees, Thorp is a distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who continues his research, writings and bee identification work. (See information on the event on previous Bug Squad blog.)
Monarch butterflies are migrating now, but we're still finding a few caterpillars in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif.
We recently plucked off five caterpillars from our milkweed plants (our game plan is protect them from California scrub jays and other birds, tachinid flies, wasps and the protozoan parasite, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha or OE, for short).
These are the last 'cats of the season.
Ours is a small-scale conservation project. Our goal is to reach 50 by the end of the season. We're on track to do our small part for the declining monarch population. Plant milkweed (the host plant of monarchs), plant nectar-rich flowers such as Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), butterfly bush (Buddleia) and Lantana, and Danaus plexippus will come.
Weiford works inside the French Administration Building, named for former president C. Clement French. When I joined the Daily Evergreen news staff--way back when!--I used to interview Dr. French.
And it became even smaller when the WSU-tagged monarch (firstname.lastname@example.org), part of WSU entomologist David James' research program, stopped by for a visit. It was reared by citizen scientist Steve Johnson of Ashland, and tagged and released on Sunday, Aug. 28. "So, assuming it didn't travel much on the day you saw it, it flew 285 miles in 7 days or about 40.7 miles per day," James said. "Pretty amazing."
Yes, pretty amazing, indeed.
Now, with any luck--well, lots of luck--Steve Johnson's progeny has made its way to an overwintering colony in Santa Cruz or Pacific Grove.
And with any more luck, we'll be adding five more to the overwintering site.
Have you ever seen a pink praying mantis, Stagmomantis californica?
No? Now you have.
Adrienne Austin-Shapiro of Davis yesterday spotted this pink praying mantis (below) on the second-floor wooden planking above Blondie's Pizza, 4th and G streets, Davis. She rescued it and placed it in better habitat--shrubbery---where she photographed it with her iphone.
Her husband, Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, emailed this remarkable photo to us.
"I've never seen a pink one--only pink katydids--though there is, of course, the famous pink Malaysian orchid mantis," he noted. "I imagine that molecularly, it's probably a similar mutant to the pink one in katydids--which is, by the way, dominant to green--but heavily selected against by visual predators."
Stagmomantis californica, commonly known as the California mantis, is native to the Western United States. There are green, yellow and brown varieties.
From Wikipedia: "Like all mantids, the California mantis is carnivorous, consuming virtually any other insect it perceives as small enough to be eaten, including other members of its own species. Males and females come together to reproduce but otherwise the adults are strictly solitary. Nymphs hatch in the spring from hard egg cases laid the previous fall. Adults do not overwinter—lifespan is seldom more than one year and usually less than nine months, with females sometimes surviving longer into the winter season than males, presumably allowing the females more time to lay their oothecas on suitable vegetation or rocks before dying. Though fast runners, both sexes are also capable of using their wings for flight, and the males are especially good flyers: the wings of the male extend well beyond the end of the abdomen, whereas those of the female do not extend more than half this distance. Males are often attracted to bright lights at night and can sometimes be found swarming around them along with other insects, though as ambush hunters, they fly at night primarily for dispersal and not in search of food."
So, a pink katydid? Yes, see one on the mudfooted.com website. (Katydids are usually green and are well camouflaged in green vegetation.) But now, a pink praying mantis? Well, let's see, it could camouflage itself on such pink flowers as foxgloves, salvias, zinnias, dahlias, roses, clover, orchids, violas and candytufts.
A pink predator in the pink...
He went from researching pest insects to targeting chronic pain in humankind.
He went from discovering a compound that alleviates pain (tested successfully on rodents, cats, dogs and horses) to forming a company EicOsis (pronounced eye-co-sis) to alleviate neuropathic and inflammatory pain in humans and companion animals.
Meet Bruce Hammock, the founder and CEO of EicOsis.
Hammock is a distinguished professor of entomology in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
He is on a mission, and clinical trials are on the horizon.
EicOsis has just received a $4 million federal grant to advance Hammock's compound discovery through Phase 1 clinical trials. The grant, “Development of an Oral Analgesic for Neuropathic Pain," is funded by the Blueprint for Neuroscience Research. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The clinical trials, scheduled to begin in 2017, will target diabetic neuropathic pain, occurring in an estimated half of the world's 347 million diabetics, and 29 million Americans.
What exactly is the compound? It's "an inhibitor of the soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) enzyme,” said Hammock, whose fundamental research on the developmental biology of insects led to the discovery. “It is a key regulatory enzyme involved in the metabolism of fatty acids and treats pain by stabilizing natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory mediators.”
Many pain relievers are addictive, but not this one. Known as EC5026, the compound is “a potent, orally active and a non-narcotic analgesic that does not adversely affect the brain, gastrointestinal tract, or cardiovascular system,” said Alan Buckpitt, the company's vice president of pharmacology and emeritus professor of molecular biosciences at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
“The EicOsis technology may solve a great need in pain treatment in providing a powerful analgesic which avoids the side effects of opioids (narcotics) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),” said physician Scott Fishman, professor and chief of the Division of Pain Medicine, UC Davis Health System, who is not affiliated with the company. “The EicOsis compound holds great promise for controlling neuropathic pain in general and particularly for this difficult and common medical problem.”
A goal of the Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network is to discover, develop and generate novel compounds that will ultimately be commercialized and benefit humankind.
When you think of all the havoc that diabetes wreaks (we all have family and friends suffering from the disease and its complications--and some 86 million Americans alone are pre-diabetic), it's good to see this exciting "bench-to-bedside" research.
"It's hard to know where science leads," Hammock acknowledged, noting that his research into how caterpillars turn into butterflies led to this treatment for pain.
Hammock is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, and the recipient of the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. He directs the campuswide Superfund Research Program, National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Combined Analytical Laboratory.
A member of the UC Davis faculty since 1980, Hammock received his bachelor of science degree magna cum laude from Louisiana State University in entomology and chemistry, and his doctorate from UC Berkeley in entomology and toxicology, working in xenobiotic metabolism.
Meanwhile, we're all anticipating the clinical trials and what EC5026 can do.
(Note: see main news story on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website and links to his work.)
Priceless--if it's a mural of a realistic monarch butterfly, teasing you with a strip of masking tape, a chunk of a child's lined notebook paper, and a stack of rich, textured heritage bricks.
Every time we see artist Myron Stephens' mural at 238 G St. downtown, Davis, Calif., it reminds us of the dwindling population of the magnificent monarchs, captured in a painting that's literally off the wall.
Off the wall in a good way. This amazing mural makes you think. You stand on the curb, seeing the KetMoRee Thai Restaurant sign, but not really seeing it. You're too engrossed in the wall mural. You move closer, closer, closer. You're a photographer zooming in on a subject, and then the monarch is all you see. It captures your attention, just like the photographer captures an image of a butterfly in flight.
It's a mural with a message. You just have to figure out what the message is, which is what the artist wants you to do. He's toying with your memories, provoking your thoughts, gifting you with his art. Then you read the title, "Hidden Treasures."
A treasure, to be sure. Hidden, not so much.
Stephens describes himself on his website as "an artist who appreciates life and the gifts that he has been given. His work reveals this appreciation as an extension of himself, an unfolding of his experiences, and an opportunity to share his enjoyment of life with the viewer."
“The method of creating each painting is just as important, if not more, than the subject," he says, this time in first person. "My work is not conceived and then simply painted, but it is more of a process. It is a dialog of past, present, and future. Conversations with my wife and friends often show up in my work, along with nostalgic American iconography, and contemporary imagery often painted from photographs I've taken along the way.”
The mural is part of the Davis Transmedia Walk, described by its city officials as the first of its kind in the country. It's comprised of more than 40 public sculptures and murals throughout the downtown arts-and-entertainment district.
And all the art is within walking distance.
But when you get to 238 G St., you don't want to walk.
You want to fly--just like the butterfly.