Back in 2010, two innovators with the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology) decided that "The 12 Days of Christmas" ought to be replaced with insects.
Remember that iconic song, "The 12 Days of Christmas?" Published in 1780, it begins with "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree?" Eleven more gifts follow: "2 turtle doves, 3 French hens, 4 calling birds, 5 gold rings, 6 geese-a-laying, 7 swans-a-swimming, 8 maids a'milking, 9 ladies dancing, 10 lords-a-leaping, and 11 pipers piping."
The two innovators--Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (with the department from 1976-2014 and now emeritus) and yours truly (with the department since 2005)--decided that "5 gold rings" ought to be "five golden bees." The duo also figured that varroa mites, and other pests of California agriculture, should be spotlighted. Don't know what happened to the varroa mites! Hey, Eric, where did you put the varroa mites?
They penned the lyrics for the department's holiday gathering. Then Mussen, who sings with a Davis-based doo wopp group, led the department in song.
That was supposed to be the end of it. Not so. It went viral when U.S. News picked it up.
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a psyllid in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 2 tortoises beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 9 mayflies dancing, 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 10 locusts leaping, 9 mayflies dancing, 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 11 queen bees piping, 10 locusts leaping, 9 mayflies dancing, 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 12 deathwatch beetles drumming, 11 queen bees piping, 10 locusts leaping, 9 mayflies dancing, 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
"On the 13th day of Christmas, Californians woke to see: 13 Kaphra beetles, 12 Diaprepes weevils, 11 citrus psyllids,
10 Tropilaelaps clareae, 9 melon fruit flies, 8 Aedes aegypti, 7 ash tree borers, 6 six spotted-wing Drosophila, 5 five gypsy moths, 4 Japanese beetles, 3 imported fire ants, 2 brown apple moths, and a medfly in a pear tree."
Mussen, although retired in 2014, keeps bee-sy. A co-founder of Western Apicultural Society (WAS), he completed his sixth term as president in 2017. WAS, which serves the educational needs of beekeepers from 13 states, plus parts of Canada, was founded in 1977-78 for “the benefit and enjoyment of all beekeepers in western North America."
Mussen also continues to answer bee questions from his office in Briggs Hall and recently updated the "13 Bugs of Christmas" lyrics with some more agricultural pests:
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a psyllid in a pear tree.
One the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two peach fruit flies
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three false codling moths
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four peach fruit flies
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five gypsy moths
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six white striped fruit flies
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven imported fire ants
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eight longhorn beetles
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine melon fruit flies
On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, ten brown apple moths
On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven citrus psyllids
On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, twelve guava fruit flies.
On the 13th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, thirteen Japanese beetles
Her research already has.
She just won the prize for best student presentation at the recent 9th International Congress of Dipterology in Windhoek, Namibia.
Gillung delivered her presentation on “Phylogenetic Relationships of Spider Flies (Acroceridae) – Discordance, Uncertainty and the Perils of Phylogenomics.” Acrocerid adults are floral visitors, and some are specialized pollinators, while the larvae are internal parasitoids of spiders.
Approximately 350 delegates attended the conference; the scientists focus on the Diptera order, which includes houseflies, mosquitoes, and gnats. Gillung was among 40 students presenting their research.
Gillung studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; mentor Shaun Winterton of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; and collaborator Phil Ward, UC Davis professor of entomology.
UC Davis doctoral students Charlotte Herbert Alberts and Socrates Letana, who both study with Kimsey, also presented their work; Alberts delivered an oral presentation on her research (she studies Asilidae (Assassin flies), and Letana displayed a poster on bot flies.
Presenting the award to Gillung was Professor Thomas Pape of the Natural History Museum of Denmark and chair of the Council for the International Congresses of Dipterology, which organizes the conferences. The next Congress takes place in 2022 in California.
In her abstract, Gillung described spider flies “as a monophyletic group of lower Brachycera currently classified into three subfamilies, 55 genera and ca 530 species.”
“The group has long been considered a rogue taxon and its placement within the Diptera tree of life remains uncertain,” she wrote. “Phylogenetic relationships among lineages of spider flies are by contrast relatively well established, with hypotheses proposed based on molecular data from both Sanger and high-throughput sequencing. Phylogenomic estimation of spider fly relationships yields different topologies, depending on whether data is coded and analyzed as nucleotides or as amino acids. The most significant difference among the two data types is in the monophyly of Panopinae; a morphologically and ecologically recognizable group, that is recovered as monophyletic only in the analyses of nucleotides. This study uses Acroceridae as a system to explore the effects of potential confounding factors in phylogenomic reconstruction. This research takes advantage of modern and powerful statistical approaches, including posterior predictive simulation, to understand the effects of conflict, uncertainty and systematic error in the estimation of evolutionary relationships using the standard phylogenomic toolkit.”
Fast forward to her exit seminar, which she will deliver at 2 p.m., Friday, Dec. 14 in 122 Briggs Hall, located off Kleiber Hall Drive. The title: “Evolution of Fossil and Living Spider Flies (Diptera, Acroceridae): A Tale of Conflict and Uncertainty."
"Parasitoid flies," Gillung wrote in her abstract for her Dec. 14 seminar, "are some of the most remarkable, yet poorly known groups of insects. Represented by over 10,000 species distributed in 21 families, dipteran parasitoids comprise over 100 independent lineages, offering an unparalleled system to understanding the origin, evolution and diversification of the parasitoid life history. My dissertation research unraveled the systematics, evolution and biology of a lineage of dipteran parasitoids specialized in spiders, Acroceridae, commonly known as spider flies. My research resulted in a monograph of fossil spider flies, and a robust hypothesis for the pattern and timing of spider fly evolution based on high throughput sequencing. Through the combination of DNA sequence data obtained via Sanger sequencing with morphological characters, I also estimated their relationships among spider fly genera using an extensive taxon sampling which culminated in a new taxonomic classification for the family.”
Gillung has accepted a postdoctoral position at Cornell University, Ithaca, beginning Jan. 2. She will be working with Bryan Danforth on Apoidea (stinging wasps and bees) phylogenomics, evolution and diversification.
She recently was named the recipient of the prestigious 2018 Student Leadership Award, presented by the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA), which represents 11 states, seven U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
A native of Brazil, Jessica holds a bachelor's degree in biology from the Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil and a master's degree in zoology from the University of São Paulo, Brazil. She speaks four languages fluently: Portuguese, Spanish, English and German.
Next July: a major occurrence in the world of pollinators:
UC Davis will host the seventh annual International Pollinator Conference, a four-day conference focusing on pollinator biology health and policy. It is set from Wednesday, July 17 through Saturday, July 20, in the UC Davis Conference Center.
The conference, themed “Multidimensional Solutions to Current and Future Threats to Pollinator Health,” will cover a wide range of topics in pollinator research: from genomics to ecology and their application to land use and management; to breeding of managed bees; and to monitoring of global pollinator populations. Topics discussed will include recent research advances in the biology and health of pollinators, and their policy implications.
Keynote speakers are Christina Grozinger, distinguished professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Pennsylvania State University, (the research center launched the annual pollinator conferences in 2012) and Lynn Dicks, Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, England.
Grozinger researches health and social behavior in bees and is developing comprehensive approaches to improving pollinator health and reduce declines. Dicks, an internationally respected scientist, studies bee ecology and conservation. She received the 2017 John Spedan Lewis Medal for contributions to insect conservation.
Other speakers include:
- Claudio Gratton, professor, Department of Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Quinn McFrederick, assistant professor, Department of Entomology, UC Riverside
- Scott McArt, assistant professor, Department of Entomology, Cornell University
- Maj Rundlöf, International Career Grant Fellow, Department of Biology, Lund University, Sweden
- Juliette Osborne, professor and chair, Applied Ecology, University of Exeter, England
- Maggie Douglas, assistant professor, Environmental Studies, Dickinson College
The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, directed by Amina Harris, is playing a major role in the international conference. The center's events manager, Elizabeth Luu, is serving as the conference coordinator. For more information on the conference, access the UC Davis Honey and Pollination website at https://honey.ucdavis.edu/pollinatorconference2019 and sign up for the newsletter for up-to-date information.
Williams, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and a 2015-2020 Chancellor's Fellow, is one of only 19 UC Davis researchers so honored and one of 10 from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Williams focuses his research on the ecology and evolution of bees and other pollinator insects and their interactions with flowering plants. His work is particularly timely given concern over the global decline in bees and other pollinators.
The company, based in Philadelphia, honors exceptional scientists and social scientists who have demonstrated significant influence by publishing multiple papers that rank in the top 1 percent by citations in a particular field and year, over a 10-year period. Clarivate Analytics' services focus largely on analytics, including scientific and academic research, patent analytics, regulatory standards, trademark protection, pharmaceutical and biotechnology intelligence, domain brand protection and intellectual property management. The services include Web of Science, and EndNote.
“This is a wonderful testament to the incredible breadth of expertise at UC Davis and the associated global impact,” said Prasant Mohapatra, UC Davis vice chancellor for research said in a UC Davis news story. “I would like to congratulate each of the named investigators and their teams on such an inspiring accomplishment.”
Williams joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now Department of Entomology and Nematology) in 2009 from the Bryn Mawr (Pa.) College. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a doctorate from the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
He was named a Chancellor's Fellow in 2015, a five-year program that granted him $25,000 to support his research, teaching and public service activities. The program, established in 2000 to honor the achievements of outstanding faculty members early in their careers, is funded in part by the Davis Chancellor's Club and the Annual Fund of UC Davis.
As Professor Williams, professor, researcher, educator and mentor, says on his website:
"Our research addresses basic questions about bee ecology, evolution, and behavior. We explore the intricacies of pollinator-floral interactions from animal and plant perspectives. We seek to understand the persistence of pollinator populations, pollinator and plant communities, and pollination in the context of global change."
Check out the UC Davis piece on "How to Weigh a Bumble Bee."
How that project began: Williams and postdoctoral researcher Rosemary Malfi set out to research how the short-term loss of floral resources affects bumble bees, specifically the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, a common bumble bee native to the West Coast of the United States. Its importance to agriculture, including the pollination of greenhouse tomatoes, cannot be overstated.
So, "the bee team," led by Williams, decided they needed to weigh the bees as part of their research. They engaged mechanical and electrical engineers on the UC Davis campus to see if they could come up with a "bee scale" to weigh individual foragers.
They could and they did. It's a great example of innovative and interdisciplinary research. (See post on Bug Squad blog)
Non-entomologists may not recall his name, but entomologists--especially those who study biological control--definitely do.
And whether you do or don't, you'll want to see the display featuring George Compere (1858-1928), at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis. The memorabilia, gifted to the Bohart Museum by a Compere relative, is cased in the hallway fronting the door of the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane.
In the display, titled "Life and Death of a Government Entomologist in the Last Century," Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, posted that "Compere was one of the premiere explorers in the history of biological control. He was stationed at what is now the University of California, Riverside."
Born in Davenport, Iowa, Compere worked for the Western Australia government "to collect parasites and investigate the potential for biological control of many insects," including the Mediterranean fruit fly, according to a Western Australian website. "By 1904, Compere was working for both the Californian and Western Australian governments, collecting parasites and predators from all over the world."
The Bohart Museum display includes an image of him, the typewriter he used, his badge, his pen, and a copy of the San Francisco Sunday Examiner magazine feature on him, "If A Fly Should Come to California," published on Feb. 8, 1903.
A non-dated news story, headlined "George Compeer (sic) Injured," noted that "George Compeer (sic), inspector at quarantine for the State Horticultural Commission, was seriously injured in the bay yesterday when he fell from the Jacob's ladder while attempting to disembark" from a freighter onto the tug of the U.S. Golden Gate. The exhibit also includes a letter of sympathy from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to his widow.
The Sunday Examiner magazine article called attention to "Why George Compete Has Started Around the World with a Magnifying Glass to Find a Bug and Why It is Vitally Important to the Fruit Industry that His Search Be Successful."
"BECAUSE a Fly, in advance of as terribly devastating an army of insects as ever set its plague hold upon a fertile land, came in an evil hour to Australia, George Compere of California has started around the world to find the insect that preys upon the destroyer.
"Every insect has its own particular enemy. Mr. Compere will continue to search until he finds the specimen for which he is sent. His success affords the only hope of salvation for Australia's fruit growers. He will carry the search, if necessary, into every portion of the globe where an insect can thrive. He has been employed by the Australian Government to perform this singular errand.
"En route, Mr. Compere stopped long enough in San Francisco to thoroughly acquaint the Board of Horticulture with the new danger which deserves their attention.
"If one of these flies should come to California," said Mr. Compere with simple earnestness--the simplicity of an expert knowing whereof he speaks and the earnestness of a man who has the interests of his home State lying near his heart--"If one of these flies were to come to California the consequences might be fatal to the fruit industry here for all time to come."
"These words were not idly spoken, for Mr. Compere is a careful, conservative man, who, realizing the power of the pest whose annihilation depends upon his endeavors, is gravely apprehensive for the safety of the State. With far-seeing eyes he beholds the picture of desolation that our fair land would present were the dreaded Fly to reach here before he finds its antagonist.
"For many miles around Queensland the farmers have been burning their beautiful trees and sadly setting themselves to the only task they may now venture upon without ruin to themselves. They are either converting their acres to pasture land, or plowing and planting to reap such products as wheat and barley in place of the fruits that were their pride and their means of maintenance until a Fly came to Queensland on a vessel from the Mediterranean.
"The glory of California lies in the vast yield of fruit which is sent to the ends of the earth, and in return comes golden tribute from almost every civilized country. The greater part of the valuation of real estate in California arises from the fact that fruit either is growing or can be grown upon its acres.
"Misfortune unspeakable would come upon us if, as in Queensland, the orchardists, weary and defeated in a fight against a creeping army of fruit destroyers, should give up in despair, make fuel of the trees and convert to wheat and cattle raising the orchards that have supported the great canneries, dryers and fruit shippers. Hence we shall follow the quest of George Compere with more interest than all the stories of battles between the nations. for somewhere under the sun is the parasite of the Queensland Fly, and in a glass case no bigger than is necessary to inclose one orange or peach tree can be bred enough of the soldiers of that tribe to defend all the orchards of California.
"There are those who will doubt that a few flies could ever increase to such appalling numbers as to make the great State of California fruitless, yet one gypsy moth escaping from a box in an Eastern State is now costing the local government there $100,000 a year to hold it in check. It eats, when in the caterpillar form, every green thing which is in its way. And hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of apples are destroyed in California by the codling moth yearly because a farmer sent East to his old home for a barrel of apples to exhibit at the State Fair. That was before there was any Board of Horticulture, and the judges, finding the apples wormy, were at a loss what to do with them Not assuming the authority to destroy them and not realizing their blunder, they allowed the farmer to take them back to the farm on his promise not to let the worms get away. But they did get away and now the codling moth eats half the apple crop of California."
George Compere's son, Harold, born in 1896, followed in his scientific footsteps, becoming an internationally known taxonomist, expert biologist and biological control historian.