That's a question that nematologists are frequently asked.
Well, just in time for the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Month (that would be our month of February!), nematologist Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, answers that very question in his 11-minute YouTube video, https://youtu.be/3fhv-P_O8I8. .
Nematodes are known as "round worms" and most are microscopic, he says in his family friendly, easy-to-understand video.
"The famous naturalist E. O. Wilson who studies ants notes that 80 of the individual animals living on the earth are nematodes," Nadler says. "They are clearly important to the earth's ecosystems, even if we don't fully understand all the things that they do, and as parasites they affect human health, the health of other animals, and reduce our food production so they're clearly important in that respect."
You'll want to watch the rest of it.
Nematodes are just one of the topics of videos posted on the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Month website. Others affiliated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology focus on butterflies, moths, arachnids, millipedes, and how to collect, preserve and identify insects.
Other videos posted on this site for free, public viewing include:
- "Virtual Tour of the Bohart's Lepidoptera Collection," a 13-minute Aggie Video by Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. She describes the natural history and ecology of several colorful and toxic species in the Bohart Museum of Entomology. See https://bit.ly/2LHYFzL
- "Insect Collection, Preservation and Identification," a 15-minute Aggie Video by Steve Heydon, senior museum scientist, Bohart Museum of Entomology. Heydon, the curator and collections manager of the Bohart Museum, gives an overview of how the museum collects, preserves and identifies some of its nearly 8 million specimens. See https://bit.ly/375eXdC
- "Common Millipedes of the Sacramento-San Francisco Region," a 23-minute YouTube video by Xavier Zahnle, a doctoral student in the lab of Professor Jason Bond lab, the Schlinger Chair in Systematics. Zahnle reviews the major groups of millipedes that are commonly found in the region, the diversity, and what makes them unique. See https://youtu.be/ZMAzm3A95VE
- "Demonstration of Insect Preparation: Butterflies and Moths," a 9-minute Aggie Video featuring Jeff Smith, curator of the Lepidoptera collection at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. He describes how to pin and spread moths and butterflies. This technique is the most common method that museums and researchers use to display adult Lepidopterans, allowing scientists to identify and study this diverse group of insects. See https://video.ucdavis.edu/media/0_9nymgt3c
- "All About Arachnids," a 24-minute YouTube video by Lacie Newton, a doctoral student in the lab of Professor Jason Bond lab, the Schlinger Chair in Systematics. She talks about the diversity of arachnids (spiders, scorpions, ticks, mites etc.) and their unique characteristics. https://youtu.be/FM_ANqARkI0
Other topics range from the Phaff Yeast Collection, California Raptor Center and the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology to the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden. More videos, including one on the diversity of bees by Chris Casey, manager of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, are being loaded throughout the month of February. To access all of the pre-recorded videos and activities, click here. To access the schedule of live talks and demonstrations, click here.
About the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Month
The 10th annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Month program is all virtual this year via webinars and pre-recorded presentations. All take place throughout the month of February. The science-based event traditionally occurs on only one day--the Saturday of Presidents' Weekend, when families and friends gather on campus to learn first-hand about the UC Davis museums and collections.
This year's biodiversity event focuses on 12 museums or collections:
- Anthropology Museum
- Arboretum and Public Garden
- Bohart Museum of Entomology
- Botanical Conservatory
- California Raptor Center
- Center for Plant Diversity
- Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven
- Nematode Collection
- Marine Invertebrate Collection
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology
- Paleontology Collection
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection
One of the activities listed in the pre-recorded talks and activities is a 10-page coloring book on plant-insect interactions. It's the work of Molly Barber, Fernanda Guizar, Collin Gross and Jasen Liu of the Santiago Ramirez lab, UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology. Ramirez is a global authority on orchid bees. Download the PDF of the coloring book here.
To help support the Biodiversity Museum event, contributions are being accepted through a month-long crowdfunding campaign program at https://crowdfund.ucdavis.edu/project/24310.
The article, “Genome-Enabled Insights into the Biology of Thrips as Crop Pests,” is published in the journal BMC Biology. It is the work of 57 scientists on five continents.
“This project represents over eight years of work by at least 17 laboratories across the globe,” said Professor Ullman, a former chair of the entomology department and a fellow of the Entomological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Her laboratory worked closely with project leader and first author Dorith Rotenberg of North Carolina State University. Project scientist Sulley Ben-Mahmoud of the Ullman lab is the paper's third author.
The western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis, causes billions of dollars a year in damage worldwide. Native to Western North America and about the size of a pinhead, the insect feeds on a wide array of food, fiber, and ornamental crops and transmits plant viruses that cause significant economic damage.
“The western flower thrips and the viruses it transmits, including tomato spotted wilt virus, is important to California agriculture, causing serious problems for tomato growers, pepper growers and growers of leafy greens,” Ullman said. The tomato spotted wilt virus infects more than 1000 plant species, ranging from tomatoes, tobacco and peanuts to pansies and chrysanthemums.
“This system has been a central element of my research program for over 30 years," Ullman said, "and I am extremely excited to see this important resource made available as a tool to help us understand and control these important pests.”
In their abstract, the authors wrote that the publication should lead to “understanding the underlying genetic mechanisms of the processes governing thrips pest and vector biology, feeding behaviors, ecology, and insecticide resistance.”
This is the first genome sequence and analysis for a member of the Thysanoptera, an order that contains more than 7,000 species of small insects with fringed wings.
(See more information on the project on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website)
We missed it, too. So did the ants and other insects.
The Department of Entomology and Nematology annually hosts dozens of popular Picnic Day events at Briggs Hall and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. But this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, “closed” was the word of the day.
"Closed." It's not a popular word when you're craving to show your audience the wonderful world of insects.
However, this year the campuswide Picnic Day Committee hosted a virtual tour of some of the planned events, and posted this link: https://picnicday.ucdavis.edu/virtual/
The spotlight paused on the Bohart Museum, which houses nearly eight million insect specimens; the seventh largest insect collection in North America; the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity; and a live “petting zoo” comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and the like. It also is the home of a gift shop, stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
Directed by UC Davis entomology professor Lynn Kimsey for 30 years, the museum is named for noted entomologist Richard Bohart (1913-2007). The Bohart team includes senior museum scientist Steve Heydon; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths section).
If you browse the Bohart Museum site, you'll find fact sheets about insects, written by Professor Kimsey.
But if you want to see the Bohart Museum's virtual tours, be sure to watch these videos:
- Director Lynn Kimsey giving a Bohart Museum introduction
- Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, presenting an arthropod virtual tour
- Diane Ullman, professor of entomology and former chair of the department, presenting a view of the Lepidodpera section.
Also on the UC Davis Virtual Picnic Day site, you'll learn “How to Make an Insect Collection," thanks to project coordinator James R. Carey, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and "Can Plants Talk to Each Other?" a TED-Ed Talk featuring the work of ecologist Rick Karban, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Other research work that draws widespread attention at the annual UC Davis Picnic Day is the work of UC Davis medical entomologist-geneticist Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor of entomology. A global authority on tsetse flies, he specializes in reproductive physiology and molecular biology, in addition to medical entomology and genetics.
"Female tsetse flies carry their young in an adapted uterus for the entirety of their immature development and provide their complete nutritional requirements via the synthesis and secretion of a milk like substance," he says. PBS featured his work in its Deep Look video, “A Tsetse Fly Births One Enormous Milk-Fed Baby,” released Jan. 28, 2020. (See its accompanying news story.)
PBS also collaborated with the Attardo lab and the Chris Barker lab, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, for a PBS Deep Look video on Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits dengue fever and Zika. The eggs are hardy; "they can dry out, but remain alive for months, waiting for a little water so they can hatch into squiggly larvae," according to the introduction. Watch the video, "This Dangerous Mosquito Lays Her Armored Eggs--in Your House."
In the meantime, the UC Davis Picnic Day leaders are gearing up for the 106th annual, set for April 17, 2021. What's a picnic without insects?
Titled "Miss Bee Haven," it anchors the half-acre bee garden, which was installed in the fall of 2009 and named for its primary donor.
The sculpture is the work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. She designed, fabricated and constructed Miss Bee Haven, using rebar, chicken wire, sand, cement, tile, bronze, steel, grout, fiberglass and handmade ceramic pieces. The project took her four months to complete.
Miss Bee Haven, appropriately placed beneath an almond tree in June, 2010, is no lightweight. Anchored with 200 pounds of cement and with six bronze legs drilled into the pedestal, this worker bee is destined to stay put—unlike the thousands of bees that forage from the hives at the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Billick used lost wax bronze casting to craft the six legs, which extend from the thorax to rest on a ceramic “purple dome” aster, fabricated by Davis artist Sarah Rizzo. The purple dome aster is among the flowers in the garden.
She created the double set of translucent wings with three sheets of fiberglass. The result: wings that are fragile-looking and true to life, but strong.
During this entire process, I developed a real in-depth relationship with honey bees,” Billick told us back in 2010. For inspiration and detail, she visited the Laidlaw facility apiary, read about the functions of bees, and held the thoughts close. “It was not about expressing anything other than the beeness. I have a lot of respect for bees. It was fun and satisfying to do. I learned a ton.”
Billick toyed with a scientific career before opting for a career that fuses art with science. She received her bachelor of science degree in genetics in 1973 and her master's degree in fine arts in 1977, studying art with such masters as Bob Arneson, Roy De Forest, Wayne Thiebaud and Manuel Neri.
Billick traces her interest in an art career to the mid-1970s when then Gov. Jerry Brown supported the arts and offered the necessary resources to encourage the growth of art. He reorganized the California Arts Council, boosting its funding by 1300 percent.
The mid-1990s is when Billick and Ullman began teaching classes that fused art with science; those classes led to the formation of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion.
The garden, maintained and operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño and managed by Christine Casey. It is open to the public from dawn to dusk. Admission is free.
Meanwhile, "Miss Bee Haven" is likely the most photographed bee in the garden. Visitors pull out their cell phones to take a selfie. Children love to touch it and help the younger ones climb to the ledge. Bee scientists marvel at the anatomical accuracy, right down to pollen baskets and stinger.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology operates and maintains the half-acre bee garden, located on Bee Biology Road next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus. It is open from dawn to dusk; admission is free.
The garden is directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, and managed by Christine Casey, academic program management officer.
While parents learned about bees and plants, youngsters engaged in a catch-a-bee-release-the-bee activity in the vegetation, using a bee vacuum. They scooped up the foragers, looked at them, and released them.
"Hey, I caught the queen bee," said one boy, unaware that the queen was in her hive, busily laying eggs. During the busy season, a queen bee can lay about 1000 eggs a day, and during the peak season, about 2000 eggs a day.
The garden, installed in the fall of 2009, was founded and "came to life" during the term of interim department chair, Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who coordinated the entire project.
A Sausalito team--landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki--won the design competition.
The half-acre bee garden is anchored by Miss Bee Haven, a six-foot long mosaic ceramic bee sculpture that is the work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. She and entomologist/artist Diane Ullman co-founded and co-directed the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. The art in the garden is the work of their students, ranging from those in Entomology 1 class to community residents. Eagle Scout Derek Tully planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the garden.
The garden is named for the primary donor, the premium ice cream brand, Haagen-Dazs. Other major donors include the California State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (under the leadership of then State Regent Debra Jamison of Fresno). Names of many of the donors--those who gave $1000 or more--are inscribed beneath the Miss Bee Haven sculpture.
Missy Borel Gable, now director of the statewide UC California Master Gardeners' Program, served as the founding manager of the garden. Under her leadership and the work of the 19 founding volunteers, the bee garden was listed as one of the Sacramento Bee's top 10 garden destinations. The 19 volunteers chalked up 5,229 hours of service between May 2010 and Feb. 15, 2013, when they opted for other opportunities. At the $10 minimum wage, that would have amounted to $52,290.
Native bee specialist Robbin Thorp (1933-2019) distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, identified more than 80 bee species in the garden.
Today diversity continues. An addition to the garden since its installation is a live bee colony.