A first-generation college student, Rajarapu holds two biochemistry degrees from Osmania University, India: her bachelor's degree (2006) and her master's degree (2008). She obtained her doctorate in entomology in 2013 from The Ohio State University, working with Professors Daniel Herms and Larry Phelan. Her dissertation: "Integrated Omics on the Physiology of Emerald Ash Borer."
Spring Seminar Schedule
Here's the seminar line-up for the spring quarter. All are scheduled from 4:10 to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays.
University of Idaho, Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology
Title: "Understanding Aphonopelma Diversity Across the Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands Hotspot by Integrating Western Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)"
Host: Jason Bond
University of Wyoming, Department of Geology and Geophysics
Title: "Ancient Bug-Bitten Leaves Reveal the Impacts of Climate and Plant Nutrients on Insect Herbivores"
Host: Emily Meineke
Pennsylvania State University, Department of Entomology
Title: "Ecoevolutionary Consequences of Crop Domestication on Plant-Pollinator Interactions"
Host: Rachel Vannette
For any questions, email Ian Grettenberger (email@example.com).
And when the 107th annual UC Davis Picnic Day goes virtual on Saturday, April 17, the insects will go virtual, too.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the Bohart Museum of Entomology will be participating with virtual cockroach races and a series of talks. Among them: Bohart Museum associate and natural historian Greg Kareofelas will present a pre-recorded video on Gulf Fritillary butterflies and entomologist Jeff Smith, the Bohart's volunteer curator of the Lepidoptera collection, will deliver a live Zoom talk on butterfly and moth mimicry.
"For my presentation on mimicry within Lepidoptera, it will briefly mention camouflage and spend most of the time on mimicry for defense--mimics of toxic or distasteful species, mimicry using odors or sounds, mimics of snakes or spiders, and mimics of non-food materials such as bird feces," Smith said.
More events are pending.
The Bohart Museum, temporarily closed, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building. Directed by Professor Lynn Kimsey, the Bohart Museum includes nearly eight million insect specimens, a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and an online gift shop stocked with insect-themed t-shirts, jewlery, hoodies, books and posters.
The UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association is selling t-shirts on its website (including shirts featuring Roach Races), and soon will be offering face masks and stickers.
Discovering Silver Linings
This year's theme is “Discovering Silver Linings.” Despite all that has happened this year, the UC Davis community has continued to find silver linings everywhere, the Picnic Day officials reported on their website. "Our campus always strives to inspire hope and works towards a better and brighter tomorrow."
It all began, according to the UC Davis Picnic Day website, "when the University Farm invited the surrounding community to view their new dairy barn. Two thousand visitors attended, bringing picnics to complement the coffee, cream, and sugar provided by the University. Following the success of the 1909 picnic, the faculty of the University Farm continued to plan and sponsor the event until a student committee took over the task in 1912. Through the years of Picnic Day history, the event has only been canceled five times. In 1924, an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease among the cowherds caused the first cancellation. In 1938, delayed construction of the gymnasium, which was needed to accommodate the ever-increasing number of participants, led to a second cancellation. During World War II, the Army Signal Corps controlled the campus, and Picnic Day disappeared from 1943 to 1945. Since 1946, Picnic Day has been growing strong and now boasts an annual attendance of more than 70,000 people. This year, there will be more than 200 events on campus and an estimated 75,000 visitors attending this special event. Since 1959, the parade was extended to include downtown Davis to celebrate the fact that Davis became a separate UC campus and not just the Farm School for UC Berkeley."
This year's Picnic Day won't look like the traditional Picnic Day, but it will include insects!
"I saw the swarm when I looked out the window," said Vacaville resident Lynn Starner. She watched dozens of bees buzzing toward the cluster.
Flowering plum branches sheltered and shadowed the swarm's temporary home, while the intrepid bee scouts searched for a permanent one.
A moving swarm is as fascinating as it is remarkable. "The casual observer sees chaos, but in reality it's organized, moving in circles with scouts flying through the swarm, directing it while it travels at about 11 kilometers per hour," writes renowned honey bee geneticist Robert E. Page Jr. of UC Davis and Arizona State University in his 256-page book The Art of the Bee: Shaping the Environment from Landscapes to Societies.
"They don't go far," he writes. "A few bees land on a nearby branch, expose their scent glands located near the tip of the abdomen, fan their wings and blow air over the sponge-like gland spreading a chemical scent through the air. The chemical smells like citrus and attracts the other bees flying in the swarm to land on the branch. The queen alights, and soon the swarm is hanging, locked together foot to foot to body in a football-shaped mass, the swarm cluster. This is an intermediate rendezvous point, a place for a temporary bivouac from which the scouts can operate and find a new, permanent home. Some bees initiate foraging, bringing back supplies to feed the masses, while the scouts branch out and scout the landscape looking for the perfect nest site. The scouts are part hunter, part surveyor and part engineer."
Honey bees are both artists and engineers, Page writes in his book. As environmental artists, bees are "responsible for the brilliantly colored flowers in our landscapes," and as environmental engineers, they engineer “the niches of multitudes of plants, animals and microbes."
But back to the bee swarm at the Starner home.
Starner contacted a Vacaville beekeeping family, Craig and Shelly Hunt and daughters Alyssa, 13 and Emma, 8. They arrived in the early evening, around 6, to collect the bees. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Craig taught 4-H'ers (including Alyssa and Emma) the art of beekeeping.
"It was a huge swarm," Shelly said. "We filled two boxes."
The bees are now thriving in the Hunt family's apiary on Meridian Road.
It's bees-ness as usual for the Hunts.
And home, sweet home for the bees.
Well, how about "bees in the bell tower"?
The Epiphany Episcopal Church of Vacaville, Calif., has just that: bees in its bell tower. (See Bug Squad blog, Blessed Are the Bees.)
When consulted, veteran bee scientist, author and former professional bee wrangler Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, recommends "let them bee."
"Yes, it looks like an established colony in the bell tower," the Sacramento area resident wrote in an email. "At that location and height there should be no interaction between the bees and people. They are pollinating plants within at least a one-mile radius from the church so they should be regarded as being beneficial. There is a good chance they will not survive more than a year because they probably will succumb to mites, bee diseases, and parasites. Once they die, you have the option to enclose the peak of this spiral structure with screen to prevent the entry of a swarm next year. And if they survive more than a year, then there is no problem."
The bees inside the bell tower "are probably inside a wall structure," Gary says.
Meanwhile, congregation member Carlyn Crystal, the "junior warden" or "people's warden" of the church--she addresses issues with the facility and grounds--is monitoring the situation. The bees have been there for at least two years, maybe longer, she says.
Home sweet home. And they appear to be thriving.
Gary, known internationally as "The Bee Man," holds a doctorate in entomology (apiculture) from Cornell University and served on the UC Davis entomology faculty from 1962 to 1994.
A beekeeper for seven decades and the author of Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees, he has written more than 100 publications, including scientific papers, book chapters and popular articles in beekeeping trade journals. He drew widespread acclaim for wearing a head-to-toe suit of clustered bees while "Buzzin' with His Bee-Flat Clarinet." (As a professional musician, he performs in area bands, but sans the bees.)
"The Bee Man" holds the Guinness World record for keeping 109 bees inside his closed mouth for 10 seconds.
You may have seen him and/or the bees he trained in action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials. His credits over the last 35 years include 18 films, including Fried Green Tomatoes; more than 70 television shows, including the Johnny Carson and Jay Leno shows; six commercials; and hundreds of live Thriller Bee Shows in the Western states.
Gary, now 87, has been working on two research projects for the past four years. He reports he's "nearing the finish line." Both projects involve patent applications.
"The Bee Man"--aka scientist, author, musician and former professional bee wrangler--has never meet a bee he didn't like. He also maintains a keen sense of humor. "My age," he quips, "matches my IQ."
Are there tigers in Yellowstone National Park?
Yes, tiger beetles. They live in the thermal pools, are one of the fastest animals on earth and in size, can fit on your thumbnail.
Robert K. D. 'Bob' Peterson, professor of entomology at Montana State University (MSU), Bozeman, and the 2019 president of the Entomological Society of America (ESA), will speak on "Tigers in Yellowstone National Park: Insect Adaptations to Extreme Environments" at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's online seminar on Wednesday, March 31. His seminar, hosted by UC Davis distinguished professor James R. Carey, a fellow of ESA, begins at 4:10 p.m. Access this Google document to attend the Zoom event.
"Tiger beetles (Cicindela haemorrhagica) live, feed and breed in the hot, acidic, toxic channels of Yellowstone's thermal features," according to Yellowstone National Park officials. (See photo on Flickr.) "Researchers are investigating how their body structure, behavior, and unique heat shock proteins protect them from 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) heat, corrosive acid, and heavy metals. But once they die, they are quickly coated by the same mineral deposits that shape their habitat. Removal of these minerals in an ultrasonic cleaner reveals the white tiger beetle's stunning true colors."
Peterson manages the website, Insects of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, an online photographic celebration of the ecosystem's biodiversity. He describes it as a "celebration of the "incredible diversity and abundance of insects in the area." Peterson categorized the site into butterflies and moths; beetles; flies; true bugs; stoneflies; mayflies; net-winged insects; bees, wasps ants and sawflies; grasshoppers, crickets and katydids; and insect relatives. Peterson also hosts a comparable Facebook page, Insects of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Peterson, with MSU's Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, leads the research, teaching and outreach program in Agricultural and Biological Risk Assessment, a program centered on comparative risk assessment. His other areas of research include insect ecology, plant-stress ecophysiology, and integrated pest management. Peterson teaches undergraduate and graduate courses, including environmental risk assessment, insect ecology and various special-topics graduate courses. He also directs MSU's professional master's degree program in environmental sciences.
A native of Perry, Iowa, Peterson received his bachelor's degree in entomology from Iowa State University, Ames, and his master's degree and doctorate in entomology from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He joined the MSU faculty in 2002 after serving as a research biologist for Dow AgroSciences, Omaha from 1995 to 2001. He has published 123 peer-reviewed journal articles, 15 book chapters, and two books.
In addition to Insects of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Peterson is affiliated with two other websites, Insects, Disease and History, devoted to "understanding the impact that insects, especially insect-borne diseases, have had on world history"; and Ag Biosafety, designed to be a "definitive source of scientific, regulatory and educational materials relevant to crop biotechnology and the current debate on the genetic modification of food."
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger coordinates the spring seminars. For technology problems, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.