Ann Sievers, owner, grower and miller of Il Fiorello Olive Oil Co., located at 2625 Mankas Corner Road, Fairfield, recently found and photographed this "lovely beast" on an outdoor patio wall.
Shapiro identified it as “Eumorpha achemon, the Achemon Sphinx. Fairly uncommon. The very large caterpillar, which has several color phases, eats both wild and cultivated grapes (leaves only) and is never common enough to be considered a pest. Lovely beast!”
Shapiro, known for his expertise on moths and butterflies, has been monitoring butterflies of Northern California since 1972 and maintains a research website on the butterflies that pass through his transects.
The larvae of the Achemon Sphinx moth, are sometimes called the "grape sphinx" for good reason: they feed on grape leaves. The caterpillars are huge (about three-and-a-half-inches long) and vary in color from light green to reddish orange, to brown.
Sievers' chickens that roam the Il Fiorello grounds in the daytime (they're “cooped up” at night to protect them from predators like coyotes) occasionally find and feast on caterpillars and other bugs. And grapevines grow by another pen of chickens. Chow time!
Naturalist and photographer Greg Kareofelas of Davis, an associate of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, says he finds the caterpillars on "the native grape (Vitus californica) growing in my yard."
"Because it did use the native grapes as a host, it is a 'resident native,' of the area," he observed.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building UC Davis campus, annuals hosts a Moth Night (see preview story from 2019) but the coronavirus pandemic precautions may turn this year's Moth Night into a virtual one.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Bohart Museum's Lepidoptera section, says "we probably have 2.5 drawers of the Grapevine Sphinx. It's found all across the U.S. but never particularly common in our region. Hindwings are a really attractive pink. This is one of 11 species in the genus Eumorpha, but the only species in California."
How do you keep ants off your hummingbird feeders?
That was a question a Bug Squad reader asked: "I was wondering if you had any tips on how to keep ants off and out of the hummingbird feeder? I've put Vaseline on the line it hangs from, and that helped for a long time. But now I have a different type of and, similar to a big red and who is not deterred, they just walk right over the Vaseline. I've even freshened it up. Any ideas?"
We asked "Ant Man" Brendon Boudinot, an authority on ants--and who just received his doctorate in entomology, studying with major professor Phil Ward of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Boudinot's response: "Teflon. In the ant research community, this is one of our favorite surface protectors against ants, as they cannot get a grip. Alternatively, Tanglefoot would work, but may also be dangerous for the birds if they come into contact with it. Teflon will need to be reapplied after there is evidence that its efficiency is being reduced, often due to exposure to water or extended humidity. The easiest thing to do will be to find the trail and give the surface a good wash, as the chemical trail will be removed. Ants are not able to remember the location of food sources without their trails. They will have to be lucky to rediscover the feeder."
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) offers information on ants in its Pest Notes section, "How to Manage Pests, Pests of Homes, Structures, People, and Pets."
"Ant management requires diligent efforts and the combined use of mechanical, cultural, sanitation, and often chemical control methods. It is unrealistic and impractical to attempt to totally eliminate ants from an outdoor area. Focus your management efforts on excluding ants from buildings or valuable plants and eliminating their food and water sources. Reducing outdoor sources of ants near buildings will reduce the likelihood of ants coming indoors."
"Remember that ants often play a beneficial role in the garden. Become aware of the seasonal cycle of ants in your area and be prepared for annual invasions by caulking and baiting before the influx. Different species of ants respond to management practices differently. For management information specific to a particular species, see the Key to Identifying Common Household Ants. See also the videos related to ant management in the home." (See more information on management of ants.)
On another note, we recently received a curious email about ants that began with: "I hope this mail finds you and your family well and healthy regarding the current pandemic situation. I am sending you this email regarding the OUTRAGEOUS ASSUMPTION THAT YOU IMPLY THAT ANTS MIGHT HAVE A REMOTE RESEMBLANCE TO FEELINGS."
Who me? I rarely write about ants or photograph them (they seem to avoid me and my camera). To my knowledge, I've never thought, written or implied that ants "have a remote resemblance to feelings."
"Ants may not be sentimental," Boudinot told us, "but they sure respond to noxious stimuli in ways which indicate that their little neural systems communicate something which would roughly correspond to the sensation of pain. Indeed, there may be some basic inherited molecular link between ant, human, and earthworm aversive feelings."
Meanwhile, I'm heading back out to the family pollinator garden to fill our empty hummingbird feeders. Neither a hummer nor ant in sight...and no remote resemblance to feelings, either....
It's a damsel, but not in distress.
It's a Familiar Bluett, but it's not all that familiar--unless you study Odonata.
Lately we've been seeing scores of damseflies zigzagging in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif. Seven showed up at one time on our soon-to-bloom Mexican sunflower (genus Tithonia). They found some prey and decided to stay...for awhile.
Greg Karofelas, an associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, identified the damselflies as the Familiar Bluett, (Enallagma civile), family Coenagrionidae. They are native to much of the United States and southern Canada.
"The name fits time of the year, and locality, males are light blue, females dark," Karofelas commented. "Enallagma is a genus with a bunch of very similar looking damselflies--they can be hard to identify, even under 10X magnification, in hand."
This species of damselfly belongs to the order Odonata (dragonflies and damselfies), suborder Zygoptera (damselflies), family Coenagrionidae (narrow-winged damselflies);genus Enallagma (American Bluets), and species
civile (Familiar Bluet).
Wikipedia describes damselflies as "an ancient group," insects that have existed since at least the lower Permian. "All damselflies are predatory; both nymphs and adults eat other insects. The nymphs are aquatic, with different species living in a variety of freshwater habitats including acid bogs, ponds, lakes and rivers."
Watch for them! They're the insect version of the flying needles, and their fabric is our landscapes./span>
You may have lost track of the hours, days, weeks and months due to the coronavirus pandemic, but how can you forget National Pollinator Week?
Especially if you've ventured out in your yard, garden or park and witnessed the pollinators doing what they do best.
National Pollinator Week, set June 22-28, is a "time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what you can do to protect them," according to the sponsor, Pollinator Partnership.
As they write on their website: "Thirteen years ago the U.S. Senate's unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as 'National Pollinator Week' marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles."
So, what can you do to observe Pollinator Week? The Pollinator Partnership says this year won't be a "typical Pollinator Week."
"We urge everyone to hold a socially distant, appropriate event. In an effort to lighten the load on state governments during this time, we are not pursuing formal state proclamations this year, but will continue to post proclamations that we do receive. Moreover, we encourage everyone to go outside and spend some time with the bees and butterflies that inspire hope in many."
And, when we think of Pollinator Week, we think of the honey bee totally dusted with pollen on a blanket flower, Gaillardia, in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif.
The bee just couldn't get enough of the pollen.
We just couldn't get enough photos. Bravo, Ms. Honey Bee!
Yes, that's UC Davis distinguished professor Bruce Hammock "resting" in a hammock on the UC Davis campus.
But as his family, friends, students and colleagues can testify, the indefatigable professor, inventor, researcher, scientist, author, CEO and athlete does not rest...much less rest in a hammock!
Cindy McReynolds of the Hammock lab, a UC Davis doctoral student in pharmacology/toxicology, coaxed him to pose for that image when some of the Hammock lab folks were heading across campus (before the coronavirus pandemic precautions).
And now we're delighted to see that Hammock, internationally recognized for his work in alleviating inflammatory and neuropathic pain in humans and companion animals--and known as the founder of the field of environmental immunoassays--is the recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in Innovation, part of the 2020 Chancellor's Innovation Awards.
An honor well-deserved!
The annual campuswide award honors researchers who have made a long-term positive impact on the lives of others and who inspire other innovators. It is one of several awards announced June 15 in a program managed by the Office of Research. (See recipients.)
“Research universities like UC Davis play a critical role in advancing innovative solutions for the global community that not only stimulate our economy but create a better quality of life,” said Chancellor Gary S. May in a news release. “The recipients of this year's awards demonstrate the impact of reaching beyond what is expected to deliver game-changing innovations that address some of the world's most critical issues.”
Hammock, who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, co-discovered a human enzyme termed Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase (sEH), a key regulatory enzyme involved in the metabolism of fatty acids. It regulates a new class of natural chemical mediators, which in turn regulates inflammation, blood pressure and pain. Hammock and his lab have been involved in enzyme research for more than 50 years.
UC Davis recently licensed certain patents exclusively to EicOsis that support the underlying technology.
Hammock traces the history of his enzyme research to 1969 to his graduate student days in the John Casida laboratory, UC Berkeley. Hammock was researching insect developmental biology and green insecticides when he and colleague Sarjeet Gill, now a distinguished professor at UC Riverside, discovered the target enzyme in mammals that regulates epoxy fatty acids.
“My research led to the discovery that many regulatory molecules are controlled as much by degradation and biosynthesis,” Hammock said. “The epoxy fatty acids control blood pressure, fibrosis, immunity, tissue growth, depression, pain and inflammation to name a few processes.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse awarded a $15 million HEAL grant (Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative) to EicOsis in 2019 to support human clinical trials of a novel compound that has been found effective for the treatment of pain in preclinical animal studies.
In 2019, Hammock received a $6 million “outstanding investigator” federal grant for his innovative and visionary environmental health research. His pioneering work on inflammation not only extends to alleviating chronic pain, but to targeting inflammation involved in cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other health issues.
EicOsis won the Sacramento Region Innovation Award in the Medical and Health category in 2019.
More recently, Hammock has turned his attention to using sEH as a means to control the deadly cytokine storm associated with COVID-19.
A member of the UC Davis faculty since 1980, Hammock has directed the UC Davis Superfund Research Program (funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) for nearly four decades, supporting scores of pre- and postdoctoral scholars in interdisciplinary research in 5 different colleges and graduate groups on campus. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the National Academy of Sciences, and the Entomological Society of America. He is the recipient of scores of awards, including the first McGiff Memorial Awardee in Lipid Biochemistry; and the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. At UC Davis he received the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Faculty Research Lectureship.
He has authored or co-authored more than 1,200 peer-reviewed publications and holds more than 95 patents in agriculture, environmental science and medicinal chemistry.
Hammock is known for his expertise in chemistry, toxicology, biochemistry and entomology. Earlier in his career, he founded the field of environmental immunoassay, using antibodies and biosensors to monitor food and environmental safety, and human exposure to pesticides. His groundbreaking research in insect physiology, toxicology led to his development of the first recombinant virus for insect control.
As director of the UC Davis Superfund Research Program, he pioneered trans-disciplinary research across campus, engaging faculty in multiple colleges and schools “to transform the way we treat diseases in multiple species.”
A native of Little Rock, Ark., Hammock received his bachelor's degree in entomology (with minors in zoology and chemistry) magna cum laude from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, in 1969. He received his doctorate in entomology-toxicology from UC Berkeley in 1973. Hammock served as a public health medical officer with the U.S. Army Academy of Health Science, San Antonio, and as a postdoctoral fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation, Department of Biology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.
In the Army, Hammock served as a medical officer at Fort Sam, Houston, and what he saw--severely burned people in terrible pain--made a lasting impression on him and steered him toward helping humankind.
The rest, as they say, is history: "his story" that is drawing worldwide attention.