A funny thing happened on the way from El Cerrito to UC Davis on Friday, Aug. 1.
And it wasn't even Friday the 13th.
At 7 a.m., a group of UC Davis employees approached their commuter van in an El Cerrito parking lot. But, after glancing at the passenger side, they weren't at all sure they wanted to board.
A huge swarm of bees bearded the entire passenger side of the vehicle and part of the windshield. Thousands of bees. Did I say thousands of bees? Thousands of bees.
What to do? Knowing about colony collapse disorder and the declining bee population, they didn't want to hurt them. So they climbed in the van via the driver's side and circled the block, hoping the bees would disperse. They didn't.
In an un-bee-lievable sight, the white van, accompanied by the bees and their queen, buzzed to the UC campus on a 60-mile freeway ride.
When the vehicle pulled into the Shields parking lot shortly before 8 a.m., so did a long line of bees hanging around the door frame.
“We lost most of them along the way,” said vanpool driver Keir Reavie, head of the Biological and Agriculture Sciences Department at Shields Library.
How did the survivors survive?
“Some bees must have slipped inside the door frame and held on to the others by linking legs,” said UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen. “The queen bee was probably inside the crack.”
Reavie had earlier emailed him, asking what to do.
Mussen recommended that they leave them alone or contact a beekeeper on campus or in
Meanwhile, the social insects spent the day on campus, periodically leaving the van for food and water, while others—the scouts—searched campus buildings for a new home. Some bees parked on the “Van Pool Parking Only” sign and the motorcycle permit parking sign.
At least one bee casualty occurred in the Shields parking lot: a bee flew into a nearby spider’s web. When Mussen arrived at the site, the spider was feasting on the web-wrapped bee. A taste of honey.
What happened to the bees? "I was not able to contact the person Eric suggested on Friday afternoon, so nobody came to take the bees," Reavie said. " When I returned to the van at 5 p.m., most of the bees had left, but there was still a large group on the passenger side rear view mirror. Some of these dispersed on the trip back to
As for the UC Davis commuter van, it’s now “the bee mobile."
Let's hear it for our "unstung heroes."
Meet Michelle Flenniken.
She’s an insect virus researcher in professor Raul Andino's lab, UC San Francisco Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and she's the newly selected Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis.
You know those nasty viruses that target our honey bees? With names like Kashmir bee virus, deformed wing virus, sacbrood virus, acute bee paralysis virus, chronic bee paralysis virus, black queen cell virus, and Israeli acute paralysis virus?
She’s targeting them.
“We’re hoping that Michelle Flenniken’s expertise in molecular virology will lead to understanding one of the factors contributing to colony collapse disorder and lead to strategies that increase honeybee survival,” said Lynn Kimsey, chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Flenniken, who received her doctorate in microbiology in 2006 from Montana State University, will continue working in the Andino lab and also with researchers at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
Skilled in multidisciplinary research (molecular biology, microbiology, chemistry and cell biology), Flenniken is focusing on the biology of honeybee viruses, specifically the role of RNA interference (RNAi) in the honeybee antiviral immune responses. RNAi is a mechanism that inhibits gene expression.
Lately she's has been identifying the viruses present in the hives of San Francisco Hobby Beekeepers and research collaborators.
Viruses are not difficult to find. “Most bees have viruses, particularly common is Kashmir bee virus,” said UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen. “In fact, we’d be surprised to find a bee not carrying some type of virus.”
We thank Häagen-Dazs for their concern. Like all of us, Häagen-Dazs loves honey bees. The company, which depends on bees to pollinate the fruits, nuts and berries used in its ice cream, announced in February it would donate a total of $250,000 to UC Davis and Penn State to address the bee population decline. Very welcome, indeed!
Häagen-Dazs’s Web site, www.helpthehoneybees.com/, offers an insight into how much we need the bees and what we can do to help. It links to a UC Davis Web site where folks can donate online to save the bees. (See "Save the Honey Bees" under "Quick Links" at http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/home.cfm)
Three of our UC Davis scientists--Mussen, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, and entomologist Michael Parrella, associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences--serve on the company's advisory board.
Did you catch the full-page Häagen-Dazs ad in the June 9th edition of Newsweek? The headline says it all: “Honey, please don’t go!”
When the California State Fair, Sacramento, opens Friday, Aug. 15 for an 18-day run, don't miss "California's Gold" and "Nature's Gallery" in the UC Davis Centennial Pavilion (Building 3).
The 6,000-square-foot pavilion will showcase what the university is all about, from its toddler stages to its teenage years to today. It's the university on parade, with one million visitors vying for curbside seats.
What are "California's Gold" and "Nature's Gallery?" Think insects. Think art. Think of a fusion of science and arts. In fact, both projects are part of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, directed by UC Davis entomologist Diane Ullman and artist Donna Billick. It's a program where students merge with faculty, staff and community members to create art.
"California's Gold" is a 3x5-foot ceramic mosaic of the state, depicting California's flora and fauna, including the California poppy, quail, trout and salmon, as well as some of our major agriculture crops--dairy cows, honey bees, almonds, grapes, garlic and olives.
"Nature's Gallery" is a spectacular mosaic mural depicting plants and insects on ceramic tiles. (Note that not all of the massive "Nature's Gallery" will be there; just a part of it.) The exhibit drew 300,000 visitors when it was displayed last summer at the U.S. Botanic Garden on the Capitol Mall, Washington, D.C. Eventually the work will be installed in the Ruth Storer Garden, UC Davis Arboretum.
"California's Gold" is going places, too. Following its display at the Aug. 15-Sept. 1 state fair, off it goes for temporary display in Cong. Mike Thompson's office in Washington, D.C.
Ullman and Billick said UC Davis students' creative energy and talents sparked both "California's Gold" and "Nature's Gallery," but we all know that Ullman and Billick are the driving forces. They are amazing innovators who fuse science with art and make their projects both fun and creative. They founded the Art/Science Fusion Program, which is housed in Science and Society, UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
So, it's not surprising that Ullman, an entomology professor and associate dean for undergradaute academic programs at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, received a top faculty award this year: the 2008 Chancellor's Achievement Award for Diversity and Community.
Ullman creates communities of learning, said Rahim Reed, associate executive vice chancellor for Campus Community Relations, and she encourages students "to learn in creative ways, discover new careers, and engage in their campus and community."
Very well said. Very well said, indeed.
See you at the fair!
I'm standing in line at the photo center, waiting to pay for the dozen 8x10 photos of noted entomologist Richard Bohart that I’d ordered for his UC Davis memorial.
“Doc,” as he was called, died Feb. 1, 2007 in
He was a giant of a man. He towered over his fellow linebackers on the UC Berkeley football team in the mid-1930s, and he towered over his entomology colleagues.
During his career, Doc identified more than a million mosquitoes and wasps, named more than 300 new species of insects, authored 230 separate publications and wrote six books on mosquitoes and wasps, including three editions of Mosquitoes of California. An entire family of insects bears his name: Bohartillidae (twisted wing parasites), genus Bohartilla.
Doc founded the Bohart Museum of Entomology in 1946, the same year he joined the UC Davis faculty. Today the museum, a tribute to much of his lifelong work, houses more than 7 million specimens.
So, here I am, standing in line, thinking of his accomplishments and the passion that drove him and the insects that possessed him.
The photo center line shortens and it’s my turn. I pay for the photos. “Thanks!" I say. "Nice job! These are of the life of Dr. Bohart, a world-renowned entomologist.”
The clerk, probably in her 30s, looks at me, puzzled. “What,” she asks, “is en-to-mol-ogy?”
She quickly apologizes, saying she ought to know that.
“Study of insects,” I say.
Her question is not unusual. Many folks have no idea what entomology is, which is probably why it should be called “insect science.”
Nancy Dullum, administrative assistant in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, says she’s often asked what entomology means and how it’s spelled. A UC Davis employee since 1977 (25 years in entomology, including 13 years with the UC Mosquito Research Program, and five years in the dean’s office in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), she’s even opened mail addressed to “Department of Antomology.”
Antomology! Now that’s creative!
I think “Doc” would have liked that.
I've always loved the wit and wisdom of insect-inspired poets.
God in His wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.
We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics.
- - Richard Vaughan
If you look at the world through a viewfinder--as I have a habit of doing--it’s a wonderful, exquisite place, especially if you capture critters in their natural habitat. They don’t complain when you make them look fat, skinny, nice or ferocious.
Blow flies, honey bees, carpenter bees, spotted cucumber bees, the ten-lined June beetle, and mosquitoes all appear in my viewfinder. Okay, I know. We’re not supposed to like some of these pests (such as the carpenter bees, spotted cucumber bees and the ten-lined June beetles), but hey, all of them are pretty enough to sing the national anthem at the Olympics.
Photography, or writing with light, is just that. Writing with light. Back before the digital technology age, we used to process film, make prints and then hang them out to dry. We "pho-togs" marinated ourselves in Dektol, DK-60 and Hypo.
Our "pheromone" wasn't always appreciated. But the images were.
But the images were.
Bees are black, with gilt surcingles,
Buccaneers of buzz.
- - Emily Dickinson
The mosquito is the state bird of
- - Andy Warhol