It promises to attract a large crowd.
The UC Davis Center for Population Biology is planning a Darwin Day on Monday, Feb. 23.
If it sounds like a belated birthday party, it is and it isn't.
Darwin Day, billed as "a global celebration of science and reason," is held on or around Feb. 12, the birthday anniversary of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin, according to a specially set up Web site dedicated to him and his work.
The Davis celebration, free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m., in the Varsity Theatre, 616 Second St., Davis.
The one-hour event will include two public lectures, a birthday cake, and insect and fossil exhibits.
The event is sponsored by the Center for Population Biology and also involves the Department of Entomology, the Department of Geology, the Bohart Museum of Entomology and the
“This is a great synergy between the Center for Population Biology, the Department of Entomology, the Department of Geology, the Bohart Museum of Entomology and the
Presenting the public lectures will be evolutionary ecologist Maureen Stanton, chair and professor, Department of Evolution and Ecology, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan Eisen, who maintains a lab in the the UC Davis Genome Center and holds appointments in the Departments of Medical Microbiology and Evolution and Ecology. He also writes a blog, The Tree of Life.
Eisen’s topic is “Evolutionary Biology is a Valuable and Practical Tool.” He elaborates: "Evolution is frequently interpreted as a science of the past. However, an evolutionary perspective is a powerful and irreplaceable tool in studying and understanding the world around us. I will give examples of how information on evolution plays critical roles in subjects ranging from drug and vaccine development, forensics, conservation biology, and human medicine.”
Graduate students in the Center for Population Biology graduate students organized the free lectures.
UC Davis entomology graduate students Andrea Lucky, Sara Diamond and James Harwood will show live insects from the Bohart Museum of Entomology. The museum houses seven million insect specimens, but also includes live ones, such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks.
The Darwin Day event is one of more than 700 celebrations occurring globally--on or around Feb. 12.
Claire Preston isn't a beekeeper but she's written an informative book titled Bee.
Published in 2006 by Reaktion Books,
Her 10 chapters tantalize us with such headings as "The Reason for Bees," "Biological Bee," "Kept Bee," "Political Bee," "Pious/Corrupt Bee," "Utile Bee," Aesthetic Bee," "Folkloric Bee," "Playful Bee," "Bee Movie" and the last, "Retired Bee."
But back to Bee.
Preston traces the history of bees (Apis mellifera) to southern Asia: bees probably originated in Afghanistan, she says. They were imported to South America in the 1530s and to what is now the United States (Virginia) in 1621. Native Americans called them "The Englishman's fly."
Preston calls the bee "Nature's workaholic" and borrowing a comment from Sue Monk Kidd's superb novel, The Secret Life of Bees, remarks: "You could not stop a bee from working if you tried."
"The most talented specialists (in the bee colony) are the workers," Preston writes. "They are the builders, brood-nurses, honey-makers, pollen-stampers, guards, porters, and foragers, and those tasks are related to their developmental age."
"All worker bees, in other words, take up these functions in succession as they mature, with the newest workers undertaking nursing, cleaning, building and repair in the nest, somewhat older workers making honey and standing guard, and the oldest bees foraging for pollen and nectar."
Frankly, bees are social insects in a highly social organization. They don't waver from their duties. The queen's job is to mate and then lay eggs for the rest of her life. The drone's job is to mate and then die. If the drones make it to autumn, the worker bees drive them from the hives "to die of starvation," Preston writes. "This exclusion of some hundreds of drones each autumn is one of the most remarkable sights in the animal kingdom. The workers are pitiless: drones do no work in the maintenance of the colony and cannot even feed themselves, so they cannot be allowed to overwinter and consume precious resources."
It's a sad time, to be sure. Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, tells us she feels sorry for the drones. "They're cold and hungry and get pushed out of the hive."
And, as UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen says: "First the workers quit feeding them (drones) so they're light enough to push out."
But as winter ebbs away and spring beckons, soon each hive will be teeming with some 50,000 to 60,000 bees. And all those worker bees--which Preston calls "agricultural workers"--will be turning into Nature's workaholics.
They'll never be promoted to CEO, though.
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The rain and wind took turns destroying the flowers in our garden last Sunday in a siege not unlike a scene from The Wrestler.
The rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora) took a beating, but like Mickey Rourke, it will return.
Last year the blossoms drew honey bees, native bees and hover flies--and, one spotted cucumber beetle.
The blossoms were simply gorgeous. With the warmth of the morning sun, the magenta petals peeked open and then unfolded to the tune of Vivaldi's Spring. Or maybe it just seemed like it.
This is a perennial that welcomes all visitors. "When you're here, you're family." Roll out the magenta carpet. No guest list. No engraved invitation. No RSVP.
And no gift for the hostess.
The visitors ARE the gift.
Have you seen it?
Internationally renowned artist Eduardo Kac, who uses biotechnology and genetics to create provocative works, created the runtime animation, "Insect.Desperto" back in 1995.
(By the way, "Desperto” means “awaken” in Portuguese.)
Kac, a native of Brazil who lives and works in Chicago, describes his runtime animation as "visual and sound tracks that function independently and complementarily in two languages (English and Portuguese), one not being the translation of the other."
The art project starts with a slide or frame of "insects, helpless, dark" and then the words and sound jump together like so many pogo sticks.
Check out the individual frames first. Then see it in Flash (Flash plug required).
Eduardo Kac, however, is best known for Alba, the green-fluoresent bunny. A laboratory implanted a gene from jellyfish into the bunny. Under special lights, the bunny glows green.
You can learn more about him and his art when he speaks on "Telepresence and Bio Art" from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday, March 5 at the Consilience of Art and Science colloquium, sponsored by the Art/Science Fusion Program at the
Kac will introduce his pioneering telepresence work, give examples and discuss his current transgenic art from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Veterans' Memorial Center Theatre, 203 E. 14th St., Davis. The theatre is located between Davis High School and the Davis Public Library. The lecture is free and open to the public.
Following his lecture, Kac will autograph copies of his new book, Telepresence and Bio Art -- Networking Humans, Rabbits and Robots.
“Eduardo brings contemporary art into the center of the public discourse on issues that range from the poetics of online experience to the cultural impact of biotechnology to the creation of life and evolution,” said UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program co-director Diane Ullman, associate dean of Undergraduate Academic Programs,
Kac's talk at
“One of the goals of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program,” said Ullman, herself an artist and a scientist, “is to explore the connection between art and science through undergraduate programs, intellectual exchanges and visual and performing arts.”
See more information about Eduardo Kac and his work on his Web site.
Kac's talk at
Lots of them, but what are they?
Vacaville residents Mark and Julie Vasquez began finding little flies in Birds Landing, near Rio Vista, in late January 2009.
Their numbers are increasing rapidly.
“They’re everywhere,” said Mark. “They’re in our storage shed and inside Julie’s parents’ home and grandmother’s home. They were under my rubber boots in the storage shed.”
“They come every year and get into everything,” Julie told Mark.
Everything—including Mark’s parked pickup truck. Last weekend the flies slipped through the vents and inside the cab. With no "thumbs up," they hitched a ride from Birds Landing to Vacaville.
"Some are still flying around in the cab," Mark said.
What are they?
The picture-winged fly (Ceroxys latiusculus). Order: Diptera. Family: Ulidiidae.
The insect is about the size of a house fly, but doesn’t move as fast, as Mark can attest. He captured a dozen in a jar.
Little is known about the biology of this common fly, but it's often confused with the walnut husk fly.
Entomologist Whitney Cranshaw of Colorado State University says this about the picture-winged fly "It's a moderate sized fly (9-12 mm) about the size of a house fly. Its general coloration is grayish-brown but the most notable physical features are the the wings which have dark patterned markings."
Cranshaw says the picture-winged fly is commonly found indoors from early fall through spring. It is most often noticed around windows.
Meanwhile, several of the little buggers are still flying around in the cab of Mark's truck.