It's a tough world out there for pollinators.
Take it from UC San Diego bee scientist James Nieh, who will be on the UC Davis campus next week to speak on "Animal Information Warfare: How Sophisticated Communications May Arise from the Race to Find an Advantage in a Deadly Game Between Honey Bees and Their Predators."
His seminar, part of the fall quarter seminar series hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will take place at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 25 in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive. Fellow bee scientist Brian Johnson, associate professor of entomology, is the host.
"In addition to the classical arm race that has evolved between predators and prey, information races also occur, which can lead to the evolution of sophisticated animal communication," says Nieh, a professor in the Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, Division of Biological Sciences. "Such information can shape the food web and contribute to the evolution of remarkable communication strategies, including eavesdropping, referential signaling and communication within and between species, including between predators and prey."
"I focus on the world of information exchange (acoustic, olfactory and visual) that has co-evolved between Asian honey bees (Apis cerana, A. florea, and A. dorsata) and their predators, the Asian hornets (Vespa velutina and V. mandarinia)," Nieh says in his abstract. "I will explore how and why such information races occur through the remarkable examples provided by these high social insects."
He presented a TED talk on "Bees and Us: an Ancient and Future Symbiosis" in July 2019.
A native of Taiwan, Nieh grew up in Southern California and received his bachelor's degree in organismic and evolutionary biology in 1991 from Harvard University, Cambridge, and his doctorate in neurobiology and behavior from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., in 1997. He subsequently received a NSF-NATO postdoctoral fellowship to study at the University of Würzburg in Germany. A Harvard junior fellowship followed.
Nieh joined the faculty of the Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution in 1997 as an assistant professor, advancing to associate professor in 2007 and professor in 2009. He served as vice chair of the section from 2009 to 2014, and as chair from 2014 to 2017.
His latest co-authored research, published in the journal Chemosphere in 2019, is titled Combined Nutritional Stress and a New Systemic Pesticide (flupyradifurone, Sivanto®) Reduce Bee Survival, Food Consumption, Flight Success, and Thermoregulation.
Assistant professor Rachel Vannette is coordinating the fall quarter seminars. Nieh's seminar is the first of the fall quarter. (See list of seminars.) Vannette may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That's the topic that Francis Ratnieks, professor of apiculture, University of Sussex, United Kingdom, will cover when he presents a seminar on Wednesday, Dec. 7 at the University of California, Davis.
He'll deliver the seminar, "How Can We Help Bees Via Research? The Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health and Well Being" from 4:10 to 5 p.m., in 122 Briggs Hall. He is a leading researcher on kin selection and social evolution. Ratnieks will be introduced by assistant professor Brian Johnson, who studies the behavior, evolution, and genetics of honey bees.
Ratnieks focuses his research on honey bees and social insects and addresses both basic and applied questions. One current area of research is aimed at helping bees by carrying out research with practical benefits to bees and beekeepers:
- The control of honey bee diseases, including natural disease resistance via hygienic behavior in honey bees and stingless bees and the setting up of a research spin-off business, LASI Queen Bees, to supply bees bred for high levels of hygienic behavior to beekeepers and
- How to improve foraging, including using the honey bee waggle dance to investigate foraging ecology and how to put the process of recommending bee friendly plants onto a stronger scientific basis.
The seminar, open to all interested persons, will be recorded for later viewing on UCTV. Here's where to access the Department of Entomology and Nematology's recorded seminars.
The event, open to the public, is set from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 7 in the UC Davis Conference Center on Alumni Lane. It will be hosted by the Honey and Pollination Center of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Keynoting the symposium will be Yves Le Conte, director, French National Bee Lab, Avignon, France; and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership.
Among the highlights:
9 a.m. Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, and Neal Williams, associate professor of the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the center's co-faculty director, will welcome the crowd and introduce the speakers.
9:15 a.m. Yves Le Conte will speak on "Honey Bees that Survive Varroa Mite in the World: What Can We Learn from the French Bees"
10:15: Rachel Vannette will discuss "How Microbial Communities in Floral Nectar Influence Pollinator Preference and Foraging"
11:15: Claire Kremen will cover "Rediversifying Intensive Agricultural Landscapes to Promote Native Pollinators."
1:30 p.m.: Dennis van Engelsdorp will speak on "Reducing Colony Losses: Does It Take a Village?"
2:15 p.m.: Lightning Round Talks: Six-minute presentations about many different programs in the world of beekeeping
3:30 p.m.: Brian Johnson will discuss "The Importance of Division of Labor for Understanding Colony Health."
4 p.m.: Quinn McFrederick will speak on "The Bee Microblome."
In addition, a graduate student poster display and competition will take place, with the winners announced at 4:30 p.m. First place is $1000; second, $750; third, $500, and fourth, $250. A closing reception follows at 4:45 in the Good Life Garden at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on Old Davis Road.
Harris promises a rewarding and educational symposium. Comments from last year's symposium included:
- "As a new beehive owner I thought the information presented was fascinating and presented in a very efficient manner. I loved every aspect of the presentations!"
- "Nice to get science, there is a lot of fuzzy thinking out there."
- "Thank you for a well-organized, thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking day."
The UC Davis Conference Center is located across from the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.
There's exciting news today out of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Califoirnia, Davis.
A team of researchers--two faculty members and a graduate student--just published a paper on bee immunity and toxin metabolism today (Nov. 9) in Scientific Reports, part of the Nature Publishing Group. The team: assistant professor Rachel Vannettte; and assistant professor Brian Johnson and his graduate student, Abbas Mohamed.
The journal article is titled Forager Bees (Apis mellifera) Highly Express Immune and Detoxification Genes in Tissues Associated with Nectar Processing.
When honey bees shift from nurse bees to foragers, or from caring for the brood to foraging for nectar and pollen, the bees “turn on” gene expression with products that protect against microorganisms and degrade toxins, they discovered,
“First, the results suggest that forager bees may use antimicrobial peptides—short sequences of amino acids with general activity-- to reduce microbial growth in stored food resources,” said Vannette, who joined the faculty in September as assistant professor after a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. “This would be a largely unrecognized way that bees protect honey and potentially other stored resources from microbial spoilage. Second, this work shows that forager bees produce toxin-degrading enzymes in nectar-processing tissues.”
“This may allow forager bees to degrade many different kinds of compounds in nectar, before it is stored,” Vannette said. “Bees also vary in their ability to do this—foragers have a greater ability to degrade a variety of compounds than nurses. This may have implications for hive health and management.”
The scientists found the change in nectar-processing tissues, but not in the gut. The scientists surmised that the exposure to bacteria or yeasts in the environment may trigger this change, but they did not examine it in the study. it in the study.
"Nice paper,” said Gene Robinson, director of the Institute for Genomic Biology and Swanlund Chair of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who was not involved in the research. “It had been well known that the division of labor in a honey bee colony is supported by extensive differences in brain gene expression between bees that perform different jobs. This new research shows nicely that this genomic differentiation extends beyond the brain; different complements of active genes in a variety of tissues make each bee better suited for the job it needs to perform."
The team plans to follow up with functional assays to examine the potential of these gene products to (1) reduce microbial growth and (2) degrade a variety of natural and synthetic compounds.
So, we're anxiously awaiting to hear more!
You don't hear those two words often, but you'll hear them often from Amy Toth, who's hoping that the hashtag, #wasplove, will draw attention to the wonderful world of wasps.
Toth, known for her work on bee and wasp behavior,genomics, and evolution, is an assistant professor--and outspoken wasp lover--from the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames.
She delivered a presentation on honey bees at the UC Davis Bee Symposium on May 9. Then on May 13, she discussed her research on wasps at a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar.
The Bee Symposium showcased a "lot of bee love," and she's hoping that the same love will apply to wasps.
Indeed, folks verbally attack these social insects daily on social media. "I hate them," they say. "What good are they?" To be honest, I've witnessed European paper wasps (Polistes dominula) attacking crippled Gulf Fritillary butterflies in our bee garden, and dismembering and carrying off bits of Gulf Frit caterpillars to feed their colony. Wasps are carnivores. Honey bees are vegetarians.
So, we asked Amy Toth to list what she loves about wasps.
She eagerly obliged!
1. They are pollinators
2. They contribute to biocontrol of lepidopteran pests in gardens and on decorative plants
3. They have been shown to carry yeasts to winemaking grapes that may be important contributors to the fermentation process and wonderful flavors in wine!
4. They are the only known insect (Polistes fuscatus) that can recognize each other as individuals by their faces.
5. They are devoted mothers that will dote on their young all day long for weeks, defending their families with fury.
6. Their social behavior, in my opinion, is the most human-like of any insect. They know each other as individuals, and are great cooperators overall, but there is an undercurrent of selfishness to their behavior, manifest in nearly constant passive-aggressive interactions between individuals.
7. They are artists. They make perfect hexagonal nest cells out of paper, which they make themselves out of tree bark + saliva.
8. They are extremely intelligent. They're predators, architects, good navigators, and great learners. Among insects, they have large brains, especially the mushroom bodies (learning/memory and cognition area of insect brain).
9. They are beautiful, complex, and fascinating creatures!
That's Amy Toth's amazing #wasplove list.
I'd like to add No. 10: They are extremely photogenic.
#wasplove! Think it will catch on?