- "A Study of Landing Behaviour by the Walnut Twig Beetle, Pityophthorus juglandis, Among Host and Nonhost Hardwood Trees in a Northern California Riparian Forest" (https://doi.org/10.1111/afe.12385).
- "Walnut Twig Beetle Landing Rates Differ Between Host and Nonhost Hardwood Trees under the Influence of Aggregation Pheromone in a Northern California Riparian Forest" (https://doi.org/10.1111/afe.12410)
The walnut twig beetle, in association with the fungus, Geosmithia morbida, causes the insect-pathogen complex known as "thousand cankers disease," which wreaks havoc on walnut trees. The insect, measuring about 1.5 millimeters long, is smaller than a grain of rice.
"The first study is one of few bark beetle host selection studies conducted without the use of semiochemical lures," Audley said. "Together, both studies provide strong evidence for directed flight host searching and in-flight, host discrimination behaviors by Pityophthorus juglandis. These papers highlight sources of and provide an ecological context for potential non-host, volatile compounds that may be of use in semiochemical repellents to protect walnut trees from attack by P. juglandis."
Lead author and doctoral student Clara Stuligross teamed with her major professor, pollination ecologist Neal Williams of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, to publish Pesticide and Resource Stressors Additively Impair Wild Bee Reproduction, in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
They exposed the bees to the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid, widely used in agriculture, and found that the combined threats—imidacloprid exposure and the loss of flowering plants—reduced the bee's reproduction by 57 percent, resulting in fewer female offspring.
Of the two stressors—food scarcity and pesticide exposure—pesticide exposure showed the great impact on nesting activity and the number of offspring produced, they said.
Other scientists have conducted similar research on honey bees, but this is the first comparable research on wild bees in field or semi-field conditions.
The blue orchard bee, nicknamed BOB, is a dark metallic mason bee, smaller than a honey bee. It is prized for pollinating almond, apple, plum, pear, and peach trees. California almond growers often set up bee boxes or "bee condos" for blue orchard bees to aid in honey bee pollination. In the wild, the bees nest in reeds or natural holes.
“Bees and other beneficial insects experience multiple stressors within agricultural landscapes that act together to impact their health and diminish their ability to deliver the ecosystem services on which human food supplies depend,” Stuligross and Williams wrote in their abstract. “Disentangling the effects of coupled stressors is a primary challenge for understanding how to promote their populations and ensure robust pollination and other ecosystem services.”
To study the survival, nesting and reproduction of the blue orchard bee, they set up nesting females in large flight cages, some with high densities of wildflowers and others with low densities that were treated “with or without the common insecticide, imidacloprid.” Bees are commonly exposed to insecticides when they forage on treated flowers.
“Pesticides and resource limitation acted additively to dramatically reduce reproduction in free-flying bees,” they wrote in their abstract. “Our results emphasize the importance of considering multiple drivers to inform population persistence, management, and risk assessment for the long-term sustainability of food production and natural ecosystems.”
Key factors in affecting bee reproduction are the probability that females will nest and the total number of offspring they have. The UC Davis research found that pesticide-exposed and resource-deprived female bees delayed the onset of nesting by 3.6 days and spent five fewer days nesting than unexposed bees.
They found that only 62 percent of pesticide-exposed bees produced at least one daughter compared to 92 percent of bees not exposed to pesticides.
The research, accomplished in the spring of 2018 on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Facility west of the campus, drew support from a UC Davis Jastro Research Award, a UC Davis Ecology Graduate Research Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and the UC Davis bee biology facility
The blue orchard bee bee is one of the few native pollinators that is managed in agriculture. North America has 140 species of Osmia, according to a Pollinator Partnership (PP) article in a U. S. Forest Service publication, authored by entomologist and PP member Beatriz Moisset and PP director Vicki Wojcik. “Mason bees use clay to make partitions and to seal the entrance,” they wrote. “This unique mud-building behavior leads to their common designation as mason bees. Honey bees are very important to commercial agriculture, but native bees like the blue orchard bees are better and more efficient pollinators of native crops.”
Imidacloprid, a systemic insecticide that acts as an insect neurotoxin, is used to control sucking insects, termites, some soil insects and fleas on pets, according to National Pesticide Information Center. It mimics nicotine, toxic to insects, which is naturally found in many plants, including tobacco. More than 400 products for sale in the United States contain imidacloprid.
The paper, “Two Centuries of Monarch Butterfly Collections Reveal Contrasting Effects of Range Expansion and Migration Loss on Wing Traits,” appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
- Lead author Micah Freedman, a former UC Davis doctoral candidate in population biology and now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago.
- Emeritus professor Hugh Dingle of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, a noted authority on migrant animal behavior
- Sharon Strauss, professor, Center for Population Biology and the Department of Evolution and Ecology
- Santiago Ramirez, associate professor, Center for Population Biology and the Department of Evolution and Ecology
What they did:
"We measured the wings of 6,000 museum specimens of monarch butterflies collected from 1856 to the present, as well as contemporary wild-caught monarchs from around the world,” Freedman said. "The major implications of the research,” Freedman said, “are that it shows (1) loss of migration can affect the evolution of monarch butterflies over contemporary time scales--dozens to hundreds of years; and (2) monarchs with large forewings are better-suited for long distance movement, and this likely contributed to their global expansion over the past 200 years.”
Their research documents how migration-associated traits may be favored during range expansion but disfavored when species cease seasonal migration. “Furthermore, it highlights the value of museum collections by combining historical specimens with experimental rearing to demonstrate contemporary evolution of migration-associated traits in natural monarch populations,” Freedman said.
Freedman worked closely with Dingle, a UC Davis entomology professor from 1982 to 2002 who achieved emeritus status in 2003. Dingle authored two editions of Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move (Oxford University Press), is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a past president of the Animal Behavior Society. His research has taken him throughout the world, from the United States to the UK, Kenya, Thailand, Panama, Germany and Australia. National Geographic featured him in its cover story on “Great Migrations” in November 2010. LiveScience interviewed him for its November 2010 piece on“Why Do Animals Migrate?”
The researchers analyzed monarch specimen collections from nearly two dozen museums, including the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, houses a global collection of nearly 8 million insect specimens. Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology and a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, the Bohart is geared toward "Understanding, documenting and communicating terrestrial arthropod diversity," which appears on its logo; see website. (Note that the Bohart Museum is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic precautions.)
Said Dingle: “At a time when museum collections are under pressure from a scarcity of funding, the results also show just how valuable such collections can be to evolutionary research and to the understanding of ongoing biological processes in the face of anthropogenic change.”
His comments bear repeating:
That bears repeating: “At a time when museum collections are under pressure from a scarcity of funding, the results also show just how valuable such collections can be to evolutionary research and to the understanding of ongoing biological processes in the face of anthropogenic change.”
Should we now worry about those Asian giant hornets becoming residents of our Golden State?
Kimsey, a global authority on wasps, bees and other insects, is a two-term past president of the International Society of Hymenopterists. She recently co-authored “The Diversity of Hornets in the Genus Vespa (Hymenoptera: Vespidae; Vespinae); Their Importance and Interceptions in the United States” in the journal Insect Systematics and Diversity with two other entomologists: lead author Allan Smith-Pardo, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); and James Carpenter of the American Museum of Natural History's Division of Invertebrate Zoology.
The latest news: the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced Oct. 24 that a nest was discovered and destroyed in a tree cavity near Blaine, Wash. This marked Washington's first known nest of Vespa mandarinia. North America's first detected colony of the giant hornets was destroyed in September 2019 on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. A single V. mandarinia was found dead in Blaine, Wash., in December 2019.
But to worry. The hornet won't like California's hot, dry summers and lack of rainfall.
As Kimsey told reporter Kellie Hwang of the San Francisco Chronicle: "It is exceedingly unlikely that these hornets can establish in California. If you look at where they're found in their native range in southern Asia, this region has summer rain. I think California is too dry, except perhaps along the far northern coast.”
Washington State University (WSU) entomologists and their colleagues agree. They recently "examined more than 200 records from the hornet's native range in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, then used a set of ecological models incorporating climate data to predict likely global habitat across six continents," according to a WSU news release.
They found that "Asian giant hornets are most likely to thrive in places with warm summers, mild winters, and high rainfall. Extreme heat is lethal, so their most suitable habitats are in regions with a maximum temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Based on those factors, suitable habitat for the giant hornet exists along much of the U.S. west and east coasts, adjacent parts of Canada, much of Europe, northwestern and southeastern South America, central Africa, eastern Australia, and most parts of New Zealand."
"Much of the interior of the U.S. is inhospitable to the hornet due to extremes of heat, cold, and low rainfall," the news release related. "This includes the eastern parts of Washington state and British Columbia, as well as California's Central Valley, all of which have major fruit and nut crops that rely on honey bee pollination."
Scientists dislike the sensationalized name "murder hornets" (so named because insects can quickly destroy a honey bee colony). The insects defend their colony when it is threatened, but generally will not attack people or pets, according to WSDA. The fear is there, though. "Their stinger is longer than that of a honeybee and their venom is more toxic," WSDA says. "They can also sting repeatedly."
But "murder hornets?"
Maybe we should just call them "giant hornets," you think?
Chemical ecologist Anjel Helms of Texas A&M University will share information on that topic from 4:10 to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 28, in a virtual seminar hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Access this site for the Zoom link.
Host and the fall seminar coordinator is Cooperative Extension specialist and agricultural entomologist Ian Grettenberger, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"The research in our lab focuses on understanding how chemical compounds mediate interactions among microbes, plants, herbivores, and herbivore natural enemies," Helms says. "We combine analytical chemistry and behavioral ecology in laboratory and field-based research to investigate how organisms use chemistry to navigate, communicate, and defend themselves. This seminar will discuss some of our ongoing projects examining how plants and insect herbivores use chemical information from their environment to assess their risk of attack and how herbivore natural enemies use such information to find potential prey."
The insects Helms researches include the striped cucumber beetle (Acalymma vittatum) and squash bug (Anasa tristis).
Helms, an assistant professor, holds two degrees from Pepperdine University, Malibu, Calif., both awarded in 2009: a bachelor of science degree in biology and a bachelor of arts degree in biochemistry. She received her doctorate in ecology in 2015 from The Pennsylvania State University, State College, Penn. While in the John Tooker lab, Helms studied the chemical ecology of plant-insect interactions, especially how plants defend themselves against insect herbivores. She investigated how plants use olfactory cues to predict impeding herbivore attacks and the molecular mechanisms involved.
In addition to the general field of chemical ecology, Helms' research interests include plant-insect interactions, tritrophic interactions, belowground chemical ecology, chemical communication, and plant defense.
Her most recent publications:
Helms, A.M., Ray, S., Matulis, N.L.*, Kuzemchak, M.C.*, Grisales, W.*, Tooker, J.F., Ali, J.G. Chemical cues linked to risk: Cues from belowground natural enemies enhance plant defences and influence herbivore behaviour and performance. Functional Ecology. 33, 798-808 (2019). DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.13297
Acevedo, F.E., Smith, P., Peiffer, M., Helms, A.M., Tooker, J.T., Felton, G.W. Phytohormones in fall armyworm saliva modulate defense responses in plants. Journal of Chemical Ecology. (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10886-019-01079-z
Yip, E.C., Sowers, R.P.*, Helms, A.M., Mescher, M.C., De Moraes, C.M., Tooker, J.F. Tradeoffs between defenses against herbivores in goldenrod (Solidago altissima). Arthropod-Plant Interactions. 13, 279-287 (2019). DOI: 10.1007/s11829-019-09674-3
For any technical issues regarding the seminar, contact Grettenberger at firstname.lastname@example.org.