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.
Congratulations to UC Davis entomology professor Diane Ullman who has just a received Fulbright to research plant virus-insect interactions in France. She will be studying plant viruses and the insects that transmit them.
Her sabbatical, to begin in November, will take her to Montpellier, France, to work with renowned vector biologists Stéphane Blanc and Marilyne Uzest at the National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA) on the Campus International de Baillarguet near Montpellier. The Biologie et Génetique des Interactions Plante-Parasite (UMR-BGPI, CIRAD-INRA-SupAgro) focuses on plant pathogens and their interactions with arthropod vector in agroecosystems.
She will be studying plant viruses in the genus Orthotospovirus (family Tospoviridae). This family holds the only plant infecting members in the order Bunyaviriales. The other viruses in this order infect animals and humans and are transmitted primarily by mosquitoes and ticks.
Ullman, an international authority on orthotospoviruses, said that "new evidence suggests the bunyavirus, Rift valley fever virus (an animal infecting member of the Bunyavirales), uses a multicomponent system in which individual virions do not co-package all segments and infection requires virion populations, a possibility with profound implications for virus evolution and antiviral target discovery...I will test the hypothesis that orthotospoviruses use multicomponent genome organization and segment copy regulation occurs in their hosts.”
The UC Davis professor has researched insect-transmitted plant pathogens for 37 years, targeting numerous insect vector species--from thrips, whiteflies, and leafhoppers to mealybugs--and the plant pathogens they transmit, including viruses, phytoplasma and bacteria.
“Sustainable management of insect-transmitted pathogens is a key concern for food production in France and the United States,” Ullman wrote in her Fulbright application. “Both countries grow many of the same crops and growers face similar challenges from insect-transmitted plant viruses. Current management strategies rely heavily on pesticides that may cause significant health and environmental concerns, including damage to bees and other pollinators, as shown with neonicotinoid pesticides. Clearly, better knowledge about these insect-transmitted viral systems…has potential to reduce pesticide use by providing novel and innovative technologies to manage tospoviruses and thrips in France and the United States.”
Ullman, former chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology and a former associate dean with the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, expects the project will build strong research relationships between UC Davis and Montpellier that will lead to grant applications for international research and scholarly exchange opportunities for scientists, students and post-doctoral scholars.