Two communicators based at the University of California, Davis, and affiliated with the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, won a total of five awards for their writing and photography in a competition sponsored by the international Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences (ACE). The awards were presented at the ACE meeting, held June 13-16 in New Orleans.
Steve Elliott, communication coordinator for the Western Integrated Pest Management Center, received a gold award (first place) promotional writing for his story, "Safflower Makes an Areawide IPM Program Work. published in the newsletter, Western Front. Judges scored his work 100 out of a possible 100. They wrote: "You had me at Rodney Dangerfield. Very creative, the lead drew me right in wanting to read more. Excellent flow, packed with information in a narrative style. Congratulations on the terrific analytics for the newsletter."
He also received a bronze (third place) for his photo essay, "Loving the Land of Enchantment." Judges wrote: " Good variety of shot sizes which keeps it interesting. Diversity of stories along with photo content is engaging, and sticking to the IPM theme helps. There is so too much text info that it was difficult wade through. The words compliment the photos instead of the usual where the story supersedes the photos."
- A silver award (second place) for a photo series entitled the "Predator and the Pest: What's for Dinner?" on her Bug Squad post on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website on Oct. 3, 2016. Her series showed a praying mantis eating a cabbage white butterfly. Judges commented" "Definitely tell a story, interesting angles and good macro technique. Caught in the moment, but has a still life feel to it, like it's a diorama in a museum and we get to look at the scene from all sides. A unique look and good capture. "
- A bronze award (third place) for her feature photo, "Save the Monarchs," posted Aug. 8, 2016 on her Bug Squad blog. It showed a monarch clinging to a finger. Judges commented "The detail in this photo is incredible. The lighting on the hand against the black background is definitely striking. And it makes the white spots on the monarch pop! Beautiful!"
- ·A bronze award (third place) for blog writing on her Bug Squad blog posted Sept. 6 and entitled "A WSU-Tagged Monarch: What a Traveler!" Judges wrote: "Short and sweet and to the point. Perfect for web reading. The photo is so helpful to the reader. The call to action at the end is a plus and not something I've seen on other entries. Fabulous use of social media to extend the reach of the article, too. "
The Western Integrated Pest Management Center is funded by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture to promote the development, adoption and evaluation of integrated pest management, a safer way to manage pests. The Western IPM Center works to create a healthier West with fewer pests. It is located in the UC ANR Building in Davis.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, headquartered in Briggs Hall, is affiliated with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). The department is globally ranked No. 7 in the world.
A monarch—the most special monarch ever--fluttered over our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif. on Monday afternoon, Sept. 5 and touched down on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
As it sipped nectar, I glimpsed something white, round, and lettered, something I've never seen before in the wild. This one was tagged.
Shouldering my camera with a macro lens as long as a military tactical flashlight, I slowly edged around the garden, nearly hugging my new best friend, a cherry laurel hedge, as I tried not to look like a predator seeking prey.
Please, please, don't fly away. Stay still for a few minutes so I can read your tag. Please. Please. I want to know where you're from, how far you've traveled to get here.
As if on cue, Danaus plexippus stayed still and I shot away on the continuous mode setting with my camera, a Nikon D700 equipped with a 70-180 macro lens. It's a handy lens for fluttering monarchs and skittish insects that move in and out of your viewfinder.
But when I read the little round white tag, my eyes widened and I think I did a happy dance or a somersault or a pirouette. The tag, with a serial number, read “Monarch@wsu.edu A6093.” Oh, wow! This monarch is from my alma mater, Washington State University.
Where have you been, email@example.com? I've been looking all over for you since Oct. 17, 2014 when I also encouraged others to look for you.
The next time you see a monarch butterfly heading your way--or settled in at an overwintering site in coastal California or in central Mexico--check to see if it's tagged.
It may have flown hundreds of miles from the Pacific Northwest, and Washington State University entomologist David James is eager to know where you found it.
James, an associate professor at Washington State University, studies the migration routes and overwintering sites of the Pacific Northwest Monarch population, which are thought to overwinter primarily in coastal California but also in central Mexico. He spearheads a Monarch-tagging project in which volunteers--primarily inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary, Walla Walla--rear and release the butterflies.
And voila! There is firstname.lastname@example.org A6093.
To put it frankly, A6093 and I became quite close. True-blue friends. Well, he's orange and black, actually. Still, it was a five-hour friendship. I first saw him at 1 p.m., and he hung around our pollinator garden for five hours. How did I know the gender? When he spread his wings, I saw the familiar black dots.
A6093 was exciting to watch. He'd pause to sip some nectar from the Mexican sunflowers and butterfly bush, and then soar upward again, meeting and pursuing other butterflies. He was part of a swirl of orange butterflies, a symphony of orange butterflies, dancing in the sky to music only they could hear.
But here's what's really exciting. We emailed entomologist David James of WSU and learned that the monarch was tagged by Steven Johnson of Ashland, Ore. and released on Sunday, Aug. 28. “Information is slowly trickling in,” he wrote back today. “I think it likely that Steven reared it from an egg laid on his property."
"So, assuming it didn't travel much on the day you saw it, it flew 285 miles in 7 days or about 40.7 miles per day. Pretty amazing. So, I doubt he broke his journey for much more than the five hours you watched him--he could be 100 miles further south by now."
"Clearly this male is on his way to an overwintering colony and it's possible we may sight him again during the winter in Santa Cruz or Pacific Grove!”
Maybe we'll get more tagged monarchs? "You could well find another tag in your yard!" James said. "We believe they do take defined routes (valleys, rivers) so you may well be on a 'route.'"
So apparently our yard was a fueling stop or an "oasis," as James put it. "The tagged male--had you been able to look inside its body--would have been full of 'fat body' and a very reduced reproductive tract..so his interest in the opposite sex is currently minimal..and it'll stay that way until Feb 2017!"
(Editor's note: If you see a WSU-tagged monarch, take a photo and let WSU know. Contact email@example.com or the Facebook page. For more information about the project, see WSU's monarch butterfly news story about inmates' tagging project, and a news story on monarch decline.)
Washington State Prisoners Raise and Release Monarch Butterflies, Entomology Today, Entomological Society of America
Noted bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey not only has the best of both worlds, but the best of both springs.
Cobey, affiliated with the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, since 2007 and as a bee research collaborator at Washington State University since 2007, now has a dual appointment: UC Davis and WSU.
She is dividing her time 50-50 between the two universities.
Honey bee research is the winner.
Cobey will continue her work on enhancing domestic honey bee breeding stock and improving colony health. Her WSU appointment is based in western Washington at the Mt. Vernon Research Station.
“The overall goal is to improve colony health to supply the critical and demanding need for pollination of the nation’s agricultural crops,” she said.
“A major focus of my dual appointment is to expand the collaborative effort to enhance our domestic honey bee breeding stocks through the incorporation of germplasm collected from bees around the world,” Cobey said. “Genetic diversity is critical to maintain healthy honey bee populations.”
European colonists brought the honey bee (Apis mellifera) to what is now the United States in the 1600s. “Importation was banned in 1922 to avoid the tracheal mite,” Cobey related. “To avoid the introduction of tracheal mites, a small founder bee population was established before the importation ban in 1922. This small subset of a few subspecies from limited importations represents a genetic bottleneck. This is an increasing concern with the continuing high losses of colonies due to parasitic mites, the plague of new pathogens and the phenomena of colony collapse disorder.”
Cobey collaborates with apiculturist Steve Sheppard, professor and chair of the WSU Department of Entomology, in an ongoing honey bee stock improvement project between the two universities.
WSU holds the APHIS-USDA (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) quarantine in an ecological reserve isolated by a sea of wheat. “This is where we are introducing, observing and testing the colonies resulting from the semen importations,” Cobey said. “We have brought in Apis mellifera carnica stock from Germany, Apis mellifera ligustica from Italy, and most recently Apis mellifera caucasica from the Republic of Georgia.” Carniolans and Caucasians are dark races of bees. The Italian bee (Apis mellifera liguistica) is the most prevalent bee in the United States.
This effort also includes research into developing protocols for the safe importation of germplasm and the development of cryopreservation techniques for long term storage.
The dual appointment basically means two springs. "I can enjoy the early spring season in California and then head north to follow the season in Washington state," she said. "Queen rearing in California usually can be started in late February. By June, the summer heat and dearth make this more difficult, especially in maintaining a large pool of drones for mating. Spring in Washington kicks in by May, so this is prime queen-rearing season in the Pacific Northwest.”
Working in both California and the Pacific Northwest will allow the evaluation and selection of stocks in different climates. “This will also provide reservoirs of stock in different places to spread the risk of losing valuable lines.”
Her husband, Tim Lawrence, formerly of UC Davis, is the newly named director of WSU’s Island County Extension. The couple lives in Island County.