This is the story of how two native bees from Vacaville, Calif., traveled 1872 miles to Oklahoma City.
But a photo I took in Vacaville of two Melissodes agilis bees zipping over a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola, happened to win a top prize at the 63rd North Central Insect Photographic Salon, co-sponsored by the North Central Branch of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and the Photographic Society of America.
Judges scored it "Best Image by an ESA Member." All 7000 ESA members are invited to contribute, as are non-members. I wasn't planning to enter--this was my first time--but Insect Salon coordinator/ESA member Tom Myers posted a note on Facebook seeking images to be showcased at the 2023 Joint North Central and Southwestern Branch meeting in Oklahoma City. The theme: "Branch Cross-Pollination: Seeking Hybrid Vigor in Science through Communication, Collaboration, and Societal Impact."
The North Central Branch covers Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, plus parts of Canada (Manitoba, Nunavut, Ontario) while the Southwestern Branch encompasses New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, and all of Mexico, except Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa and Sonora.
To be accepted for display, a photo must score 85 points or more. The image of the male and female bees, which I titled "Catch Me If You Can," scored 94 points, and two other Garvey images, one of a golden dung fly (Scathophaga stercoraria), "Checking You Out," and the other titled "I Do," of two Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), tallied 92 and 89 points, respectively. "Checking You Out" earlier won "Best Image by an ESA Member" in the 64th annual International Insect Salon competition.
The M. agilis species are fun to photograph, but set your shutter speed high. These bees are the Usain Bolts of the bee world. Catch me if you can!
I captured the image of "Catch Me If You Can" with a Nikon D500, mounted with a 200mm lens. Settings: shutter speed set at 1/8000 of second, f-stop 5, and ISO 800.
For "Checking You Out:" Nikon D500 with a 105mm lens, 1/320 of second, f-stop 9, and ISO 800.
For "I Do": Nikon D500 with a 70-180 lens (110 focal length), 1/640 of a second, f-stop at 10, and ISO of 800.
All were taken in our family's pollinator garden. (No tripod, no flash.) The added benefit of planting a pollinator garden includes capturing images of the residents and visitors.
Me? I'm just a guest in their habitat. I don't poke 'em, prod 'em or pin 'em. I just photograph them. When. They. Let. Me.
They did UC Davis proud at the annual Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting, which this year was a Joint Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia. It took place Nov. 13-16 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Doctoral candidates Danielle Rutkowski and Zachary Griebenow won the President's Prize or first-place honors for their individual research presentations. This was Rutkowski's second consecutive President's Prize.
Doctoral candidate Lindsey Mack and doctoral student Adelaine “Addie” Abrams scored runner-up or second-place for their research presentations in the highly competitive program.
Their topics ranged from bumble bees (Rutkowski) and ants (Griebenow) to mosquitoes (Mack) and thrips and aphids (Abrams).
At the ESA annual meetings, students are offered the opportunity to present their research and win prizes. They can compete in 10-minute papers (oral), posters, or infographics. The President's Prize winners receive a one-year paid membership in ESA, a $75 cash prize, and a certificate. Second-winners score a one-year free membership in ESA and a certificate.
Danielle Rutkowski, who studies with community ecologists Rachel Vannette, associate professor, and distinguished professor Richard “Rick” Karban, spoke on “The Mechanism Behind Beneficial Effects of Bee-Associated Fungi on Bumble Bee Health,” at her presentation in the category, Graduate School Plant-Insect Ecosytems: Pollinators.
Her abstract: "Bees often interact with fungi, including at flowers and within bee nests. We have previously found that supplementing bumble bee colonies with these bee-associated fungi improves bee survival and increases reproductive output, but the mechanisms behind these effects are unclear. This research aimed to determine the mechanisms underlying positive impacts of fungal supplementation in the bumble bee, Bombus impatiens. We tested two hypotheses regarding possible nutritional benefits provided by bee-associated fungi. These included the role of fungi as a direct food source to bees, and the production of nutritionally important metabolites by fungi. To test these mechanisms, we created microcolonies bumble bees and exposed each microcolony to one of four treatment groups. These four treatments were created based on the presence of fungal cells and the presence of fungal metabolites. We found that bee survival and reproduction were unaffected by treatment, with trends of decreased survival and reproduction when fungi were present. This contradicts previous results we've found using this bumble bee species, where fungi had a positive impact. It is possible that this disparity in results is due to differences in pathogen pressure between the two experiments, as bees in the first experiment were exposed to large amounts of pathogen through provided pollen, including Ascosphaera and Aspergillus. This pollen was sterilized for subsequent experiments, reducing pathogen load. Therefore, it is possible that bee-associated fungi benefit bees through pathogen inhibition, and future work exploring this hypothesis is necessary to fully understand the role of these fungi in bumble bee health."
Zach Griebenow, who studies with major professor and ant specialist Phil Ward, (Griebenow also captained the UC Davis Entomology Games Team in its national championship win at the Entomology Games or Bug Bowl) explained “Systematic Revision of the Obscure Ant Subfamily Leptanillinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), Reciprocally Informed by Phylogenomic Inference and Morphological Data.” His category: Graduate School Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity: Evolution 1.
His abstract: "Ants belonging to the subfamily Leptanillinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) are sister to nearly all other extant ants. Miniscule and subterranean, little is known of their behavior. Contrary to the collecting bias observed in most ants, male leptanilline specimens are acquired more easily than workers or queens. The sexes are almost never collected in association, and many subclades within the Leptanillinae are known from male specimens only. Our comprehension of evolutionary relationships among the Leptanillinae is further obstructed by oft-bizarre derivation in male phenotypes that are too disparate for phylogeny to be intuited from morphology alone. These restrictions plague our understanding of the Leptanillinae with probable taxonomic redundancy. My thesis aims at leptanilline taxonomy that reflects phylogeny, inferred from both genotype and phenotype, and integrates morphological data from both sexes. Here I present the results of (1) phylogenomic inference from ultra-conserved elements (UCEs), compensating for potential systematic biases in these data, representing 63 terminals; and (2) Bayesian total-evidence inferences from a handful of loci, jointly with discrete male morphological characters coded in binary non-additive or multistate fashion. Notably, these analyses identify worker specimens belonging to the genera Noonilla and Yavnella, which were heretofore known only from males. Given such discoveries across the Leptanillinae, the number of valid leptanilline genera is reduced from seven to three in order to create a genus-level classification that upholds monophyly along with diagnostic utility."
Mack, who studies with medical entomologist-geneticist Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor, covered “Three Dimensional Analysis of Vitellogenesis in Aedes aegypi Using Synchrotron X-Ray MicroCT” in the category, Graduate School Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology: Physiology.
Her abstract: "Traditional methods of viewing the internal anatomy of insects require some degree of tissue manipulation and/or destruction. Using synchrotron-based x-ray phase contrast microCT (pcMicroCT) avoids this issue and has the capability to produce high contrast, three dimensional images. Our lab is using this technique to study the morphological changes occurring in the mosquito Aedes aegypti during its reproductive cycle. Ae. aegypti is the primary global arbovirus vector, present on all continents except Antarctica. Their ability to spread these viruses is tightly linked with their ability to reproduce, as the production of eggs in this species is initiated by blood feeding. Amazingly, this species produces a full cohort of eggs (typically 50-100) in just 3 days' time following a blood meal. This rapid development represents dramatic shifts in physiological processes that result in massive volumetric changes to internal anatomy over time. To explore these changes thoroughly, a time course of microCT scans were completed over the vitellogenic period. This dataset provides a virtual representation of the volumetric, conformational, and positional changes occurring in tissues important for reproduction across the vitellogenic period. This dataset provides the field of vector biology with a detailed three-dimensional internal atlas of the processes of vitellogenesis in Ae. aegypti."
Abrams, who studies with Extension agricultural entomologist and assistant professor Ian Grettenberger (she is a member of the Horticulture and Agronomy Graduate Group), titled her research, “Hitting the Mark: Precision Pesticide Applications for the Control of Aphids in California Lettuce" in the category, Graduate School Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology: Integrated Pest Management.
Her abstract: "Commercial lettuce production in California's central coast represents 70 percent of the production in the United States. Recent discoveries of some chemistries in ground and surface water in the Salinas valley region have placed the insecticidal chemistries used by the industry at risk of increased regulation. Automated thinner-sprayers use plant-detection sensors to apply chemical sprays directly to individual lettuce plants, so that the same amount of product to plants as a standard broadcast sprayer while potentially reducing the amount of pesticide applied per acre by up to 90 percent. Field experiments testing this technology for the control of western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) and aphids, lettuce-currant aphid (Nasovonia ribisnigri) and others, were conducted to compare the efficacy of automated sprays to a conventional broadcast application system. Experiments were conducted in conventionally managed organic romaine lettuce fields using a complete randomized block design. Prior to and at regular intervals after treatment, heads were sampled from experimental and control plots to assess pest pressure. Results from this experiment validate the use of the automated sprayers to apply insecticides for the control of aphid and thrips pests in lettuce and will be discussed in the context of developing best-use-practices for this technology."
The 7000-member ESA, founded in 1889, is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. Its members, affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government, are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, pest management professionals, and hobbyists.
(See all of student competition winners on ESA site)
Know the answer? The UC Davis Entomology Games Team--competing in the Entomological Society of America's Entomology Games Nov. 15 in Vancouver, British Columbia--did, and they went on to win the national championship.
The answer: The Master Gardener program.
The UC Davis team members, all doctoral candidates in the Department of Entomology and Nematology, are Zachary Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab, captain; Jill Oberski of the Ward laboratory; Erin “Taylor” Kelly of the Geoffrey Attardo lab; and Madison “Madi” Hendrick of the Ian Grettenberger lab. They won the championship round by edging Alabama's Auburn University team, 75-70.
Congrats, UC Davis, on your fourth championship!
The highly anticipated event is a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams. The question categories are biological control, behavior and ecology, economic and applied entomology, medical, urban and veterinary entomology, morphology and physiology, biochemistry and toxicology, systematics and evolution integrated pest management and insect/plant interactions.
The student-quiz event, launched in 1982, was formerly known as the Linnaean Games. To get to the nationals, teams first have to win first or second at the branch level. UC Davis won the regional championship at the Pacific Branch meeting in April. UC Riverside placed second. The branch includes 11 Western states, part of Canada and Mexico, and several U.S. territories.
So, getting to the nationals is not easy.
"It was so exciting to see the high level of knowledge at the games--I'm not surprised, because the teams have worked hard to prepare, strategize, and qualify for the championships," said Gamesmaster Alix Whitener, an ESA board-certified entomologist who coordinated the Entomology Games and presided over the event. "It was exciting to have some close games, too!"
The ESA meeting, themed "Entomology as Inspiration: Insects Through Art, Science and Culture," opened Nov. 13 and continues through Nov. 16. It is a joint meeting with the Entomological Society of Canada and the Entomological Society of British Columbia.
The Entomology Games championship match will be posted soon on ESA's YouTube channel. The full bank of questions will be loaded on this site. The previous UC Davis championships:
- 2018: The University of California team (UC Davis/UC Berkeley) defeated Texas A&M. Members of the UC Team: captain Ralph Washington Jr., then a UC Berkeley graduate student with a bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis; doctoral students Brendon Boudinot, Jill Oberski and Zachary Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab, and doctoral student Emily Bick of the Christian Nansen lab.
- 2016: UC Davis defeated the University of Georgia. Members of the UC Davis team: captain Ralph Washington Jr., Brendon Boudinot and Emily Bick.
- 2015: UC Davis defeated the University of Florida. Members of the UC Davis team: captain Ralph Washington Jr., and members Brendon Boudinot, Jessica Gillung and Ziad Khouri
Ready to answer some more questions--questions that were asked at the 2022 Entomology Games?
- The principal blood sugar of insects is a disaccharide called what? Answer: Trehalose.
- All Neuroptera pupate within shelters spun from silk produced by what anatomical structure? Answer: Malpighian tubules
You got them both correct, of course?
Who takes images of flies? Raise your hand! No, not the hand with the flyswatter.
Well, almost anything is fair game for my camera.
That includes golden dung flies.
I am humbled to learn that my image of a golden dung fly won the Entomological Society of America (ESA) medal for "Best Image by an ESA Member" in the 64th annual International Insect Salon competition.
ESA showcased the winning images on Sunday, Nov. 13 at its joint meeting of the Entomological Society of Canada and the Entomological Society of British Columbia, which opened Nov. 13 and continues through Nov. 16 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
I captured the image of the fly, Scathophaga stercoraria, perched on a lavender stem in our family's pollinator garden in Vacaville and titled it “Checking You Out.” Scathophaga play an important role in the natural decomposition of dung.
The Peoria Camera Club, Illinois, sponsors the Insect Salon in conjunction with ESA and the Photographic Society of America. Coordinator Joe Virbickis of the Peoria Camera Club said the images are restricted to insects, spiders, and related arthropods (such as barnacles, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, centipedes, and millipedes.) Each photographer may submit up to four entries. "The range for acceptances is 33-35 percent of eligible images," he said.
This year's competition drew 254 entries. Judges gave acceptances to photographers from 17 countries: Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, England, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and United States. (See acceptances and awards at https://insectsalon.peoriacameraclub.com/results/2022/Html/sect_1.htm)
Two other images that I submitted also gained acceptances. One was of a crab spider nailing a katydid (Did or Didn't I?), and the other of a pollen-covered honey bee (Eureka! I Found It!).
Best of Show. Best of show medal went to Kenneth Gillies of West Lothian, Scotland, United Kingdom, for his “Peppermint Shrimps Inside a Sponge.”
Gillies was joined by the five other top winners:
- Medal for Most Unusual Image: Weihua Ma of Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province, China, for “Pretending to be a Branch.”
- Medal for Best Storytelling Image: Dre Van Mensel of Tielen, Antwerpen, Belgium, for “It's Mine.”
- Medal for Best Image by a ESA member: Kathy Keatley Garvey of UC Davis/Vacaville, Calif., for “Checking You Out.” (as earlier mentioned)
- Medal for Best Image by a non-ESA member, Tim Sanders of Bideford, Devon, England, for “At Work.”
- Medal for Best Peoria Camera Club member: Ladean Spring of Creve Coeur, lll., for “Hummingbird Moth.”
ESA member and noted insect photographer Tom Myers of Lexington, Ky., displayed the Insect Salon images at the ESA meeting. Virbickis assisted in preparing it. Myers is a frequent recipient of Insect Salon awards. His acceptances this year: "European Hornet Vespa Crabro" (honorable mention); "Chalcid Wasp 1"; and "Brood X Cicada Magicicada Sp."
The 7000-member ESA, founded in 1889 and located in Annapolis, Md., is the world's largest entomological organization. It is affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry and government. Members are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, pest management professionals, and hobbyists.
If you like to photograph and share images of bugs, this is for you.
Submissions are open for the 64th Annual International Insect Salon, hosted by the Peoria Camera Club of Illinois. It's affiliated with the Entomological Society of America (ESA), which will spotlight the winning photos and many of the accepted entries at its Nov. 13-16 joint meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia with the Entomological Society of Canada and Entomological Society of British Columbia. The theme: "Insects Through Art, Science, and Culture."
The last day to submit your images online is Saturday Oct. 29. Images may include insects, spiders, and related arthropods, such as barnacles, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, centipedes, and millipedes, says contest coordinator Joe Virbickis of Washington, Ill. Each photographer may submit up to four images.
The 2021 Insect Salon drew a total of 256 images from photographers residing in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, England, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Scotland, Taiwan, United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, as well as within the United States. You can see view the 2021 accepted images here.
The "Best of Show" medal went to Marcus Kam of Ipoh, state of Perak, Malaysia for "Bugs Love." Kam also won the medal for the "Best Image by a Non-ESA Member" for his "Sharing."
- "Medal, Most Unusual," won by Albertus Nugroho of Jakarta, Indonesia, for "Super Ant In Action."
- "Medal, Best Story Telling," Dre Van Mensel of Tielen, Antwerpen, Belgium for "Fall Over."
- "Medal, Best by ESA Member," Tom Myers of Lexington, Ky for "Syrphid Fly Feeding."
- "Medal, Best by Peoria Camera Club Member," Joe Virbickis of Washington, Ill., for "Monarch Laying Eggs."
Among the two California entries accepted was one by yours truly, Kathy Keatley Garvey. It depicts two passion butterflies, Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), "Keeping Busy." Garvey, a communication specialist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and a member of ESA, quips that it is "insect wedding photography." The other California entry accepted: an image of two bees, titled "Bee 4066" by Nan Carder of Lancaster, Ca., a retired registered nurse and active in the Photographic Society of America.
ESA, founded in 1889 and headquartered in Annapolis, Md., is the world's largest organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and others in related disciplines. Its 7000-members pursue occupations in educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government.