Some people are born good-looking. Some have the gift of gab. And some are lucky enough to be born smarter than the rest of us. Whether we like it or not, Mother Nature does not dole these characteristics out evenly.--Simon Sinek
That applies to butterflies, too. Nobody said Mother Nature is perfect.
If you're rearing butterflies, such as Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), expect to see some defects, deformities and death. That chrysalis you've been watching? A butterfly may never eclose. In the cycle of life, the transformation from egg to larva to pupa to adult may never occur.
Nobody said Mother Nature is perfect.
The chrysalis is a withered grayish-brown, perfectly camouflaged on the butterfly's host plant, the passionflower vine (Passiflora). Sometimes you see a burst of reddish-orange wings and sliver spangled underwings, the remains of a butterfly that struggled to eclose.
Then you wait for one that will, one that will eclose.
The next one will take your breath away. Mother Nature is like that.
- Walter Leal, distinguished professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former chair of the Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology
- Cristina Davis, the Warren and Leta Geidt Endowed Professor and Chair, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
NIA honors and encourages academic inventions that benefit society. Between the two UC Davis faculty members, they hold 42 patents: Davis with 12; and Leal with 28 Japanese and 2 U.S. patents.
Davis is a world leader in trace chemical sensing, while Leal is a leading global scientist in the field of insect olfaction and communication, investigating how insects detect odors, how they detect host and nonhost plant matter, and how they communicate within their species.
Leal's research, spanning three decades, focuses on insects that carry mosquito-borne diseases as well as agricultural pests, such as the Asian citrus psyllid and the orange navelworm. He and his lab drew international attention with their discovery of the mode of action of DEET, the gold standard of insect repellents.
We remember when Leal and a group of 18 students hosted a Zika Public Awareness Symposium in 2016 on the UC Davis campus. It was an amazing symposium that drew attention to Aedes aeqytpi, which transmits the disease. Soon thereafter, Brazilian-born Leal and his colleagues in Brazil, detected the Zika virus in wild-caught Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes in Recife, the epicenter of the Zika epidemic.
We also remember when Leal identified the sex pheromones of the navel orangeworm (Amyelois transitella), a pest of almonds, figs, pomegranates and walnuts, the major hosts. This led to practical applications of pest management techniques in the fields.
Those are just several examples of the work he does. And still, he found time to co-chair the 2016 International Congress of Entomology meeting, "Entomology Without Borders," in Orlando, Fla., that drew the largest delegation of scientists and experts in the history of the discipline: 6682 attendees from 102 countries.
We're not sure how Leal can find the time to do all this (see news story on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology). We figure he must have a clone! Make that multiple clones!
At any rate, Leal is the second faculty member affiliated with the entomology department to be selected an NIA fellow. The other scientist: Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Hammock is the co-founder and chief executive officer of EicOsis LLC, a Davis-based company that is developing a non-opiate drug to relieve inflammatory pain in companion animals and target chronic neuropathic pain in humans and horses.
As Hammock said: “When Walter Leal reached UC Davis (in 2000), he came with the reputation of being a 'one man army in research.' This reputation was well deserved. I know of no one at UC Davis who matches Walter in taking his remarkable fundamental advances in science and translating them to increase the safety and magnitude of world food production.”
The beetle? The walnut twig beetle, Pityophthorus juglandis.
In association with the fungus, Geosmithia morbida,it causes the insect-pathogen complex known as "thousand cankers disease," which wreaks havoc on walnut trees.
Audley will share his research at his exit seminar, "Semiochemical Interruption of Host Selection Behavior of the Invasive Walnut Twig Beetle, Pityophthorus juglandis," set for 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 4 in 122 Briggs Hall, UC Davis campus. It's open to all interested persons.
Jackson, who joined the UC Davis doctoral program in September 2015, investigates behavioral chemicals that repel the walnut twig beetle from landing on English walnut trees. He conducts his research in a commercial orchard near Winters.
Audley says in his abstract: "The walnut twig beetle (WTB) is an invasive bark beetle pest of walnut trees in California and throughout much of its recently expanded range across the North American continent. Feeding by the beetle and canker development by the associated fungal pathogen, Geosmithia morbida, constitute the progressive and often fatal, thousand cankers disease. Management efforts to protect walnut trees are currently lacking. Here I present work related to understanding and manipulating WTB chemical ecology. First, we investigate the beetle's host-searching behavior in the context of a dense, native riparian forest habitat. The goal was to establish WTB's inflight sensitivity to host and non-host cues. Next, I present the results of flight-intercept behavioral assays of four potentially repellent volatile compounds: limonene, chalcogran, concophthorin and verbenone, first individually and then in compounds in reducing trap captures in the context of WTB aggregation phermone.
"Finally, we tested the most effective combination on whole walnut trees in a commercial, English walnut orchard. We compared beetle landing rates on treated and untreated trees as a correlate for WTB attacks. I report that we effectively reduced the number of WTB landing on treated trees; however, the repellent effect was spatially limited. Thus, further testing is required prior to recommending a management schedule. This work did provide proof of concept of semiochemical interruption in a hardwood attacking bark beetle system."
Audley, on a path to receive his doctorate in entomology this month, studied with Steve Seybold, who tragically died Nov. 15 of heart disease. Seybold was a lecturer and faculty affiliate with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and a forest entomologist and chemical ecologist with the Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Davis.
Louie Yang, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and Professor Richard “Rick” Bostock of the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology serve as mentors. The Bostock lab is heavily involved with the chemistry side of Audley's repellent research.
A native of Washington, D.C., Jackson spent most of his childhood in Atlanta, Ga. He was first introduced to forest entomology while studying at the University of Georgia, Athens, where he received his bachelor of science in wildlife biology and natural resource recreation and tourism in 2009. He went on to receive his master's degree in forestry in 2015 from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he focused his thesis on managing the walnut twig beetle in cut black walnut logs, live edged boards, and nursery stock.
He recently received the 2019 Western Forest Insect Work Conference Memorial Scholarship Award for his research on the chemical ecology of the walnut twig beetle.
His career plans? “I plan to devote my career to conducting chemical ecology-based research of bark and wood boring beetles that threaten trees in forest landscapes in the western U.S.,” Audley said. “In this capacity, I plan to continue adding to the scientific understanding of bark beetle ecology and management.”
Audley aims to engage with the scientific community and public alike in the arena of forest health issues and sound forest management practices. “Our western forests are in dire need of sound forest management to return them to a healthier state, and I plan to conduct and disseminate research to help achieve that goal.”
Community ecologist Rachel Vannette, assistant professor, is coordinating the weekly seminars. (See list of seminars)
Rome wasn't built in a day.
But learning how to make mead?
You can learn the process from "honey to the bottle all in one day" on Thursday, Jan. 23 at the University of California, Davis.
Mead, the world's oldest alcoholic beverage, is a fermented blend of pure honey and water. Meadmakers often add fruits and spices to produce a dry, semi-sweet, sweet or even a sparkling mead, according to Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.
Harris just announced that the popular Mead Making Bootcamp course on Jan. 23 will take place from 8 to 4:30 p.m. in the LEED Platinum Teaching and Research Winery, located near the Honey and Pollination Center on Old Davis Road.
Under the direction of Chik Brenneman, former winemaker for the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology along with meadmakers Lily Weichberger of the Oran Mor Meadery, and Dan Slort of Strad Meadery), students will learn how to make mead: "from honey to the bottle all in one day."
The hands-on course, limited to 40, will follow a basic mead recipe. The participants will be divided into small learning groups of 5 to 6 people, each with its own UC Davis leader. Finally, students will bottle the mead made in previous workshops.
As Harris earlier told us: "More and more people are becoming familiar with mead right now. Meaderies are opening at the rate of one every three days here in the United States. And there are quite a few new ones right here in California!"
Reservations for the bootcamp course are underway at https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/591. The fee is $225 per person. Continental breakfast and lunch are included.
While you're at it--registering for the bootcamp course--you can also enroll in two courses that follow:
For more information contact Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or events manager Liz Luu at email@example.com
The three "F's" win hands-down: family, friends and food.
But "insects" should definitely added to that list. They are among the tiniest of critters on this planet, but think of their importance in our lives and in our ecosystems.
As British entomologist-zoologist George McGavin, author, academician, explorer and television presenter wrote in an article published in 2004 in The Guardian: "They are the most successful multi-cellular life form on the planet...Insects have endured for hundreds of millions of years. They have survived the numerous global upheavals and catastrophes that spelled the end for much greater and grander creatures and they will continue to be a major part of the Earth's fauna for many more millennia."
McGavin, an honorary research associate at both the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Oxford Department of Zoology, points out that insects are "the food of the world."
"Most of the higher animal species on Earth eat insect--they are the food of the world," he writes in his piece on Why I Love Insects. "All of the blue tit chicks in the British Isles alone consume 35bn caterpillars before they become adult. A single pipistrelle bat, the smallest bat species in the UK, has to eat between 2,000 and 3,000 insects most nights to stay alive."
McGavin also emphasizes the importance of pollinators and recyclers, that "we depend on bees for perhaps as much as a third of the food we eat....As recyclers, flies and beetles devour carcasses and clear prodigious quantities of dung every day."
We met George McGavin in July 2012 at a sunflower field in Winters. He and his crew were there to film a documentary on ultimate swarms, featuring Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Gary, an author, scientist and now a retired professional bee wrangler, clued him in on bee behavior.
Like many scientists, McGavin loves to share his enthusiasm for insects, something we all need to appreciate more and to support as much as we can. For example, the Entomological Society of America launched a Chrysalis Fund to bring insect education into the classroom. According to the website, it's "supported by donors dedicated to the mission of enhancing insect education for K-12 students. Teachers and educators with creative ideas for insect-themed programs or projects are encouraged to apply for funding." (On a side note, UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal donated his $1000 honorarium from the recent ESA Founders' Memorial Award Lecture to the Chrysalis Fund. See YouTube video.)
So, what are we thankful for? Family, friends and food, for sure.
And the list also includes...insects.