Boys' Night Out!
Have you ever seen a cluster of longhorned male bees sleeping overnight on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia)?
Every day around sunset, the longhorned bees (tribe Eucerini) call it a day and head for their favorite flower (bedroom), which happens to be Tithonia in our pollinator garden in Vacaville. If you grow flowers for the native bees, and you wake up early in the morning before they do, you may see them, too.
The late native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), distinguished emeritus professor at the University of California, Davis, used to call this behavior "Boys' Night Out."
"Most frequently, the boy bee overnight clusters are single-species clusters," said Thorp, co-author of California Bees and Blooms, a Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, with UC-affiliated authors Gordon Frankie, Rollin E. Coville, and Barbara Ertter. He previously identified some of ours as Melissodes agilis.
In a previous Bug Squad blog, Thorp responded to a reader's inquiry about "stings" from the clustering bees. "Boy bees cannot sting," he pointed out. "They lack a stinger which is a modified ovipositor in their wasp ancestors. Occasionally a girl bee may spend the night out if she is caught by sudden drop in temperature. Usually she will not be part of a group sleep over. So don't attempt to handle unless you are confident you can tell boy bees from girl bees or they are too sleepy to defend themselves."
The reader also asked: "Typically how close to the girls' nest(s) do the boys' slumber? I want to try and make sure I don't touch it when planting at end of summer."
"Boy sleeping aggregations are based on a suitable perch and not related to where females are nesting, but probably no more than 100 yards from the nearest female nest," Thorp answered. "Females nest in the ground and have rather distinctive round holes about the diameter of a pencil or slightly smaller, sometimes with small piles of dirt around them looking like mini-volcanos. The holes may be widely separated or clustered together depending on the species, but each female digs her own burrow."
The reader also wondered: "When watching the boys tonight, about ten of them started waking up and kicking each other. They finally settled down and started to nestle back in for the 'night'--it was only 6 p.m.--but I wasn't sure if my presence was getting them riled or they tend to act like kids sharing a bed?"
Said Thorp: "The boys usually settle in as the light dims in the evening. Cool, and drizzly conditions may modify bed time. Each establishes his own spot, so there may be some jostling for position initially."
Longhorned bees are among the more than 1600 species of undomesticated bees that reside in California. The co-authors of California Bees and Blooms focus on 22 of the most common genera and the flowers they frequent.
A few minutes before the 16th annual Bruce Hammock Lab Water Balloon Battle began on the Briggs Hall lawn at the University of California, Davis, water warrior Jasmine Morriseau, 10, noticed "something" on the head of her twin brother, Cedric.
Could it be? It was. An immature praying mantis.
Specifically, a male Stagmomantis limbata, as identified by praying mantis expert Lohitashwa “Lohit” Garikipati. “I'd guess 5th instar by the size of the wingpads,” said Garikipati, a Bohart Museum of Entomology associate who just recently received his bachelor's degree in entomology.
It's not every day—or every year—that a praying mantis joins an entomologically based water balloon battle
The twins showed the insect, also known as a bordered mantis, to their older sister Evelyne, 15, and to their father Christophe Morisseau, a research scientist in the Hammock lab who coordinates the annual water balloon battles.
And then Jasmine gingerly placed the praying mantis on a nearby bush, out of the line of fire and out of the 96-degree heat.
The annual battle, aka “Bruce's Big Balloon Battle at Briggs,” is the brainchild of Bruce Hammock, a distinguished professor who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. It's a way of showing camaraderie and engaging in a little fun. They fill and toss 2000 water balloons, and then empty tubs of water on unsuspecting lab mates.
It's an international soakfest: the Hammock lab includes 30 researchers from eight countries: United States, China, France, Ukraine, Lebanon, Japan and Korea. United Stares, China, France, Ukraine, Lebanon, Japan, Korea and Viet Nam.
Sometimes other labs join in the fun, as did the scientists this year and last year in the Aldrin Gomes lab, UC Davis Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior.
The water warriors are so skilled that the battle usually lasts about 15 minutes—15 minutes of aim. Then they remove all the balloon remnants from the lawn, pose for their annual group photo, and head back to work.
Morisseau says that water balloon battles “provide team building efforts, stress relief and healthy exercise.” He created and displayed a poster, “Health Benefits of Water Balloon Fights,” last year at the Hammock Lab Alumni Reunion. “We recommend that any workplace establish water balloon fights on a yearly or twice yearly basis,” Morisseau concluded.
“We work hard and play hard,” said Hammock, a member of the UC Davis faculty since 1980 and the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)-UC Davis Superfund Research Program. Trained in chemistry, toxicology, biochemistry and entomology, he now targets chronic pain in humans and companion animals. For the past 20 years, the Hammock lab has been researching an inhibitor to an enzyme, epoxide hydrolase, which regulates epoxy fatty acids. “My research led to the discovery that many regulatory molecules are controlled as much by degradation and biosynthesis," Hammock said. "The epoxy fatty acids control blood pressure, fibrosis, immunity, tissue growth, depression, pain and inflammation to name a few processes.”
Hammock co-founded EicOsis LLC, a Davis-based company that recently received a $5 million investment from Open Philanthropy to move original research developed in the Hammock lab into human clinical trials. (See news story.) Nationally recognized for his scientific achievements, he is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society.
The Hammock lab also knows how to translate science into watery fun on a hot summer day.
The California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is hosting two short courses: one on “Planning Ahead for Your First Hives” on Saturday, Aug. 3 and the other, “Working Your Colonies” on Sunday, Aug. 4 at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Program.
Each will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the facility, which is located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. The deadline to register is Thursday, Aug. 1.
“These courses are foundational to beekeeping husbandry excellence,” said Wendy Mather, program manager. “They are great for folks who are thinking about getting bees next season, as well as those who currently have bees and want to ensure they're doing whatever they can to ensure the success of their hives.”
The classes are not required to become a California Master Beekeeper, but are highly recommended, as “they will help folks prepare to become a science-based beekeeping ambassador,” Mather said. Instructors are Elina Niño and CAMPB educational supervisor Bernardo Niño, a staff research assistant in the Niño lab.
Planning Ahead for Your First Hives
“Planning Ahead for Your First Hives” will take place Saturday, Aug. 3 and will include both lectures and hands-on activities. Participants will learn what's necessary to get the colony started and keep it healthy and thriving. They will learn about bee biology, beekeeping equipment, how to install honey bee packages, how to monitor their colonies (that includes inspecting and monitoring for varroa mites) and other challenges with maintaining a healthy colony.
The course is limited to 25 participants. The $105 registration fee covers the cost of course materials (including a hive tool), lunch and refreshments. Participants can bring their bee suit or veil if they have one, or protective gear can be provided. For more information or to register, see https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/572.
Working Your Colonies
“Working Your Colonies” will take place Sunday, Aug. 4 and will include both lectures and hands-on activities. Participants will learn what is necessary to maintain a healthy colony. Lectures will cover advanced honey bee biology, honey bee integrated pest management, and products of the hive. Participants also will learn about queen wrangling, honey extraction, splitting/combined colonies, and monitoring for varroa mites.
The course is limited to 25 participants per session. The $175 registration fee covers the cost of course materials, lunch and refreshments. For more information or to register, see https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/559.
Participants can bring their bee suit or veil if they have one, or protective gear can be provided. All participants are to wear closed-toed and closed-heel shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
The California Master Beekeeping Program uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping. For more information, contact Mather at email@example.com.
Two doctoral students from the Jason Bond laboratory, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won first- and second-place awards in the student research competitions at the recent meeting of the American Arachnological Society, held at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va.
Rebecca Godwin won first in the poster competition for her research on trapdoor spiders and Lacie Newton won second for her oral presentation on species delimitation.
Congratulations to these dedicated doctoral students!
Godwin titled her work, “Revision of New World Ummidia (Mygalomorphae, Halonoproctidae)”: Her abstract: “Ummidia is a historically taxonomically difficult group of spiders belonging to the infraorder Mygalomorphae, one of the three main lineages recognized within spiders. Mygalomorph life history and their incredibly cryptic appearance make them difficult to identify, as a result they are frequently overlooked by spider systematists. Ummidia Thorell 1875 is a wide-ranging genus of trapdoor spider found both in the Mediterranean region of the Old World and in the New World from the eastern United States south to Brazil. Taxonomic work on New World Ummidia is sparse outside of original descriptions, the most recent of which are over half a century old."
Lacie titled her work, “Species Delimitation of the Antrodiaetus Unicolor Species Complex Using a 3RAD Approach.” Her abstract: “Although species delimitation can be highly contentious, the development of reliable methods to accurately ascertain species boundaries is a fundamental and necessary step in cataloguing and describing Earth's quickly disappearing biodiversity. Species delimitation in spider taxa has historically been based on morphological characters; however, certain mygalomorphs are morphologically indistinguishable from each other yet have considerable molecular divergence."
"Previous research by Hendrixson and Bond (2005) described a new sympatric species Antrodiaetus microunicolor in the A. unicolor species complex using morphological criteria (i.e. size and setal character differences) and behavioral criteria (non-overlapping mating seasons). Subsequently, they used two molecular markers COI and 28S and discovered that A. unicolor is paraphyletic with respect to A. microunicolor. To further delineate this species complex, we implement the cohesion species concept and employ multiple lines of evidence for testing genetic exchangeability and ecological interchangeability. Our integrative approach includes extensively sampling homologous loci across the genome using a version of RADseq called 3RAD, assessing population structure across their geographic range, and evaluating ecological similarity by niche-based distribution modeling. Based on our analyses, we conclude that this species complex has two or three species in addition to A. microunicolor.”
Godwin holds two degrees from Auburn University: her bachelor's degree in zoology in 2004, and her master's degree in wetland biology in 2011. She began her doctoral studies at Auburn University in 2014, and transferred to UC Davis when Bond accepted the UC Davis position in 2018.
Godwin won the Auburn University's Department of Biological Science's Outstanding Service Award in 2016. She is the lead author of research published in 2018 in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution on “Phylogeny of a Cosmopolitan Family of Morphologically Conserved Trapdoor spiders (Mygalomorphae, Ctenizidae) Using Anchored Hybrid Enrichment, with a Description of the Family, Halonoproctidae Pocock 1901.” She currently serves as a graduate teaching assistant in the course, "Biology 2C," at UC Davis.
Godwin's research interests include taxonomy, systematics, and phylogreography of trapdoor spiders, as well as effective science communication and increasing general science literacy.
Newton received her bachelor of science degree from Millsaps College, Jackson, Miss., in 2016, and then joined the Auburn University doctoral program. Like Godwin, she transferred to UC Davis with her major professor in 2018. Newton served as an undergraduate teaching assistant at Millsaps College for “Introduction to Cell Biology” and “General Zoology,” and as a graduate teaching assistant in “Introduction to Biology” at Auburn University.
Newton now serves as a graduate teaching assistant at UC Davis for “Introduction to Biology: Biodiversity and the Tree of Life.” She won the 2019-2020 George H. Vansell Scholarship, UC Davis. Her research interests include systematics, species delimitation, and phylogeography of spiders; phylogenetics; comparative transcriptomics of troglophilic and troglobitic spiders; cave biology and conservation.
Both Godwin and Newton volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's programs on spiders and at the campuswide UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day.
Bond joined the UC Davis faculty after a seven-year academic career at Auburn University, Ala. He served as professor of biology and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences from January 2016 to July 2018, and as curator of arachnids and myriapods (centipedes, millipedes, and related animals) at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, from August 2011 to July 2018.
- "Insect Gut--Pathogen Molecular Interactions" by Bryony C. Bonning, University of Florida
- "A New Assay to Screen for the Inhibitory Capacity of Air Pollutant Components on Antioxidant Enzyme Activities" by Norbert Stainer, Arthur Cho and Ralph Delfino, UC Irvine and UCLA
- "From Steriod to Non-Steroid: Discovery of Nonsteroidal Brassinolide-Like Compound" by Yoshiaki Nakagawa, Kyoto University, Japan
And then there was this poster: "Health Benefits of Water Balloon Fights."
Yes, you read that right: "Health Benefits of Water Balloon Battles." It was the brainchild of researcher Christophe Morisseau of the Hammock lab, who added humor to the weekend-long reunion that drew 100 laboratory alumni from 10 countries: former graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, collaborators, colleagues and other researchers. They gathered to honor their mentor and reminiscence. They know Bruce Hammock as a UC Davis distinguished professor who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the Comprehensive Cancer Center, and who directs the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)-UC Davis Superfund Research Program. They know him as "a genius" with 50-year expertise in chemistry, toxicology, biochemistry and entomology who seeks to alleviate pain in human and companion animals. (See news story). They also know him as a fellow who likes to have fun.
Fun? Hammock and Morisseau, aka "The Splash Brothers," launched the annual Bruce Hammock Water Balloon Battle, aka "Bruce's Big Balloon Battle at Briggs" and "Fifteen Minutes of Aim," 16 years ago. This year's event takes place at 3 p.m., Friday, July 12 on the northwest lawn of Briggs Hall on Kleiber Hall Drive. First (starting at 1 p.m.), the water warriors fill 2000 balloons. Then, at Morisseau's signal, the "15 Minutes of Aim" begins. When they diminish and deplete the water balloon supply, they empty tubs of water on unsuspecting lab mates. Other labs join in the fun, as do bystanders.
But back to the creative water balloon poster.
Morisseau, tongue in cheek (and probably balloon in hand and prospective target in eyesight), extolled the virtues of Water Balloon Fights, aka WBF, on his poster:
Hypothesis: Work is very stressful, and stress is known to affect health and happiness, thus leading to a short and sad life. We hypothesize that a little fun at work can bring a lot of goodness to the lab microcosm.
Methods: Get some people, as shown on the made-up graph at right: more people more fun, but optimal in the 30-50 ranges.
Fill the balloons. This is a group activity for team-building purpose.
Divide the people into fair and equal groups: the bosses against the rest of the crew.
Devise advance tactical and strategical battle plan: Let's get everybody wet.
Results: A lab without WBF yields infightings and conflicts, as well as sick-looking dudes. A lab with WBF yields to harmony at the workplace with healthy food practices and buffed guys.
Conclusions: Water balloon fights provide team building efforts, stress relief and healthy exercise. We recommend that any workplace establish water balloon fights on a yearly or twice yearly basis.
Morisseau illustrated his poster with contrived before-and-after photos of Hammock: before: a scrawny scientist and after, a buffed-up athlete. The poster now hangs outside their offices in Briggs Hall.
Disclaimer: Professor Hammock is known for his athleticism--from hiking mountains to kayaking. And the Hammock lab is known for its strong camaraderie. Indeed, not many scientists can draw 100 of their lab alumni from all over the world to a reunion!