How about wearing a pollinator on your heart?
It's National Pollinator Week.
The UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA) offers a wealth of t-shirts as part of its year-around fundraising efforts. It's for a good cause. The EGSA, comprised of UC Davis graduate students who study insect systems, is an organization that "works to connect students from across disciplines, inform students of and provide opportunities for academic success, and to serve as a bridge between the students and administration," according to EGSA president Brendon Boudinot, an ant specialist/doctoral student in the Phil Ward lab.
The t-shirts can be ordered online at https://mkt.com/UCDavisEntGrad/, according to medical entomologist and EGSA treasurer Olivia Winokur, a doctoral student in the Christopher Barker lab. She serves as the t-shirt sales coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com.
One of the favorite bee t-shirts depicts a honey bee emerging from its iconic hexagonal cells. It's the 2014 winner of then graduate student Danny Klittich, who recently received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis and now works as a California central coast agronomist.
Another "fave" bee shirt--this one showing a bee barbecuing--is by doctoral student and nematologist Corwin Parker, who studies with Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. It was one of the 2018 winners. (See the three winners on this site.)
Pollinators also include butterflies, birds and beetles.
"The Beetles" t-shirt is EGSA's all-time best seller. Instead of the English rock band John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star crossing Abbey Road in single file (that's the iconic image on the cover of their album, Abbey Road), think of The Beetles (four insects) crossing Abbey Road in single file. Beneath the images of the beetles are their family names: Phengogidae, Curculionidae, Cerambycidae and Scarabaeidae. Think glowworm, snout, long-horned, and scarab beetles.
One thing's for certain: Pollinators matter. Not just during National Pollinator Week but every day of the year.
Who wouldn't, when you get an opportunity to pet a rose-haired tarantula named Snuggles, guide walking sticks "strolling" on your arm, or cradle a Madagascar hissing cockroach? Or marvel at the display of Platypsyllus castoris, an ectoparasite of beavers?
That's what awaited the 2000 visitors at the Bohart Museum of Entomology during the 104th annual UC Davis Picnic Day last Saturday, April 18.
Although the theme of the campuswide Picnic Day spanned "Where the Sun Shines," Bohart Museum officials focused on "Where the Sun Doesn't Shine." They highlighted nocturnal insects, cave-dwelling insects, and parasites, including a beetle, Platypsyllus castoris, found on the south end of a beaver.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and professor of entomology at UC Davis, kept busy answering questions about the beaver display--a pelt, and a graphic of the beetle.
As Bohart Museum associate and undergraduate entomology student Wade Spencer said: "These beetles look like they are to fleas what halibut are to other fishes. Instead of the lateral compression fleas exhibit, Platyspyllus castoris are dorso-ventrally flattened, which only adds to their alien appearance. Their unique feeding and lodging preferences have given us so many good laughs, we wanted to make them the star of this year's picnic day event at the Bohart."
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the butterfly and moth collection at the Bohart, kept busy encouraging visitors to get acquainted with Snuggles. They held him, petted him and photographed him. Little Teddy Owens, 2 of Davis, held by his mother, Dina, high-fived Snuggles.
Another display featured scorpions: graduate student Charlotte Herbert shone a black light on them to illustrate how they glow in the dark. All scorpions fluoresce in ultraviolet light.
Visitors also learned about bees in a display featuring sweat bees, leaf-cutting bees, mason bees, bumble bees, honey bees, sunflower bees, and carpenter bees, as well as Andrena and Melissodes anthophora.
The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids and tarantulas. The museum's gift shop, open year around, offers T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. It is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or Tabatha Yang at email@example.com.
It's buggin' ya.
No worries. The UC Davis Entomology Graduate Students' Association (EGSA) to the rescue. Every year EGSA conducts a t-shirt contest and the faculty, staff and students pick the winner. The t-shirts--past, present, and most popular--are for sale, with proceeds going to support the many activities of EGSA.
EGSA treasurer and graduate student Cindy Preto of the Frank Zalom lab is coordinating the t-shirt sales. The themes include honey bees, beetles, a wasp, a moth, weevils (“See No Weevil, Hear No Weevil and Speak No Weevil") and “Entomology's Most Wanted” (malaria mosquito, red-imported fire ant, bed bug and house fly). One of the best sellers is “The Beetles,” mimicking The Beatles' album cover, “Abbey Road.”
EGSA, Preto said, is "run by and for graduate students who study insect systems. Our objectives are to connect students from across disciplines, inform students of and provide opportunities for academic success, and to serve as a bridge between the students and administration. We also plan social and academic events for students, faculty, and staff to enhance social and intellectual cohesion and to connect our department with the community at large."
A crab spider nailed a major pest, a lygus bug, Lygus hesperus. It's something you don't see very often. But you appreciate very much.
A lygus bug made the fatal mistake of feeding on a blanket flower (Gaillardia) where the cunning spider was lurking and waiting for prey...er...dinner.
A venomous bite and it was all over.
The lygus bug is easily distinguishable by its triangle or V shape on its back. The V does not stand for "Victory" when it's attacked and consumed by a crab spider.
Do not feel sorry for lygus bugs. Their piercing mouthparts suck the lifeblood (juices) right out of the plant tissues. You may have seen them feeding on berries, beets and beans. The females lay their eggs in the plant tissues. Their visible path of destruction ranges from discoloration and deformation to leaf-curling and lesions.
"Lygus bug adults are about 0.25 inch long and 0.1 inch (2.5 mm) wide, and flattened on the back," according to the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM). "They vary in color from pale green to yellowish brown with reddish brown to black markings, and have a conspicuous triangle in the center of the back. Nymphs resemble adults, but are uniformly pale green with red-tipped antennae; larger nymphs have five black spots on the upper body surface. Nymphs do not have wings." (Read UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines for more information and how to control them.)
The some 200 host plants of lygus bugs include Russian thistle, wild radish, London rocket, black mustard and goosefoot.
Their enemies are many. "A parasitic wasp, Anaphes iole, which attacks lygus eggs, is available commercially and can be used for inoculative releases," UC IPM says. "It can reduce lygus populations in strawberry fields; but because thresholds for this pest are very low and adults moving into the field from external sources are not controlled, economically acceptable results may not be achieved. Naturally occurring predators that feed on the nymphal stages of lygus bug include bigeyed bugs (Geocoris spp.), damsel bugs (Nabis spp.), minute pirate bugs (Orius tristicolor), and several species of spiders."
Spiders? Yes, indeed.
The UC Davis-trained entomologist, author of the newly published paperback book, The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives, "has been on the cutting edge of many areas of pollination biology," said Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who served as his major professor. Buchmann, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1978, is a researcher and adjunct professor in the departments of entomology and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
"Steve jumps onto new ideas with great enthusiasm and explores them in depth," Thorp said. "He has been a leader in areas like buzz pollination, the contribution of electrostatics in pollen harvesting by bees, and adaptations in bees that collect oils from specialized flowers. He raised important issues about the conservation of bees in co-authoring the benchmark book, The Forgotten Pollinators, a decade before colony collapse disorder (CCD) in honey bees captured the attention of the media and general public."
Thorp and Buchmann are among the instructors at The Bee Course, which attracts conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other attendees from all over the world. It's affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History.
So last year when Simon & Schuster published Buchmann's latest book, Reason for Flowers, it drew quite a splash. Bee scientists and bee enthusiasts, teachers and students, and lovers of flowers and just plain lovers, grabbed copies of the book, which, as of Feb. 9, is now in paperback. National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed him.
One word immediately grabbed everyone's attention: "sex."
"The reason for flowers is actually one word: sex," Buchmann told NPR's Arun Rath. "So, flowers are literally living scented billboards that are advertising for sexual favors, whether those are from bees, flies, beetles, butterflies or us, because quite frankly most of the flowers in the world have gotten us to do their bidding. But that's only the first stage because flowers, if they're lucky, turn into fruits, and those fruits and seeds feed the world."
A scientist who seemingly never sleeps, Buchmann has published more than 150 scientific articles and 11 popular nonfiction books, including The Forgotten Pollinators (a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist) with Gary Nabhan. His book, Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive, is a National Science Teachers' Association Outstanding Science Trade Book. He's also written a children's book The Bee Tree (with Diana Cohn), described as the true story of a family of honey hunters in peninsular Malaysia.
So, we asked Buchmann to provide "10 reasons for flowers." He provides greater detail in his book, but here are 10 reasons:
- Flowers Feed The World. Because pollinated and fertilized blossoms turn into nutritious fruits and seeds, these invaluable foodstuffs keep the world's 7.2 billion people from starvation. These resulting fruits also feed birds, bears and other wildlife.
- Tasty and Nutritious. Although the calories from starchy cereals and grain crops feed the world, we enjoy and need the “nutraceuticals” and antioxidants inside colorful cranberries, blueberries, oranges and apples. They keep us healthy and happy.
- Edible flowers. Some flowers (e.g. roses, some marigolds) are great as edible garnish and foods. Find out which ones can be eaten and what they taste like.
- Humans might never have evolved, or survived. Early hominids certainly recognized that flowers were the harbingers of tasty fruits. Without flowers, perhaps no people today.
- Flowers make us smile. Give someone a flower(s) and they flash a genuine Duchenne smile. Rutgers psychologist Dr. Jeanette Haviland-Jones has infused subliminal amounts of rose and gardenia vs. manmade scents into room air. Subjects use more enjoyment words and were more likely to approach or touch a stranger when the floral scents were present. Flowers may counteract the semiochemicals for fear, anger and anxiety that humans seem to constantly be emitting.
- 200 million red roses! Americans buy about 10 million cut blooms every day. On Valentine's Day that can jump to 200 million cut flowers, especially red roses. Most of these flowers are grown in Columbia and Ecuador then arrive in the bellies of jumbo jets arriving at the Miami airport.
- As costly as gold. Saffron is the world's costliest spice and the subject of countless fake imitations. The spice is the dried styles from crocus blooms. Hand-picking and the fact that this represents such a tiny fraction of the entire plant, make it so costly and precious.
- For inspiration and romance. Flowers have inspired generations of poets, writers and artists. Their myriad shapes, colors and scents enrich our lives with beauty. Their sexuality and alluring scents bring romance into our lives.
- Most ancient. The world's earliest known flower is the 8-inch tall fossil Achaefructus that grew in China 130-160 million years ago. Turns out that these and other early blooms were puny runts. They wouldn't win best of show ribbons in any flower show.
- Flowers in the service of science. Without Gregor Mendel's crossing experiments with the humble garden pea, we wouldn't have learned about the laws of inheritance when we did.
So, flowers feed the world, keep us healthy and make us smile. What could be better than that?