Entomologists at the University of California, Davis, will share their love of insects with fairgoers at the 144th annual Dixon May Fair, which opened today (Thursday, May 9) and continues through Sunday, May 12.
Have a question about insects?
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepitopdera (butterfly and moth) section at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, and Alex Dedmon, a forensic entomologist and doctoral student at UC Davis, will be showing bee, butterfly, dragonfly and other specimens, and live insects from the "petting zoo," including walking sticks and Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Fairgoers are encouraged to hold them, photograph them and ask questions.
Smith and Dedmon will be at the fair on Saturday, May 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Floriculture Building. Smith was honored in 2015 as a "Friend of the College," a coveted award presented by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He saved the museum some $160,000 over a 27-year period through his volunteer service (See news story.)
Dedmon studies with forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, an adjunct professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Neamtology.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, is the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a year-around gift shop and a petting zoo. The gift shop is stocked with books, jewelry, t-shirts, insect-collecting equipment, insect-themed candy, and stuffed animals.
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 by UC Davis entomologist Richard “Doc” Bohart (1913-2007), is open to the general public Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., plus occasional, weekend open houses. Admission is free. The next weekend event will be "Moth Night" on Saturday, Aug. 3 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Further information is available on the Bohart Museum website or contact (530) 753-0493 or email@example.com.
Bee health is a challenge, and this hot topic tied in with ESA President Frank Zalom's theme "Grand Challenges Beyond the Horizons." Zalom, who just completed his presidential term and is now serving as past president, is a distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and an integrated pest management specialist.
Debate topics are always lively and this one was no exception. The teams are given eight months to practice for the 45-minute debate. The end result: their work is published in the ESA journal, American Entomologist.
From all accounts, it was a fantastic debate, with both sides making key points. The UC Davis team, captained by Mohammad-Amir Aghaee, successfully argued that a ban on the insecticides in agriculture “will not improve pollinator health or restore populations, based on current science. Neonicotinoids are important for control of many significant agricultural and veterinary pests. Part of the solution is to develop better regulations that will protect the health of pollinators and retain the use of an important IPM tool.”
UC Davis won the debate, and then went on to win the overall ESA student debate championship for the second consecutive year.
“Neonicotinoids are important for control of many significant agricultural and veterinary pests,” Aghaee said at the onset. “Part of the solution is to develop better regulations that will protect the health of pollinators and retain the use of an important IPM (integrated pest management) tool.” The team also argued successfully that neonicotinoids (also known as neonics) are not all “created equal.” The insecticide, chemically similar to nicotine, is implicated in the mass die-off of pollinators. The European Union recently adopted a proposal to restrict the use of three pesticides belonging to the nenicotinoid family (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for a period of two years. In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that by January 2016, it will ban the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides and the use of crops improved through biotechnology throughout the 150 million acres managed by the National Wildlife Refuge System.
In addition to Aghaee, the UC Davis team included graduate students Margaret "Rei" Scampavia, Ralph Washington Jr., and Daniel Klittich. Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, served as their advisor. The Auburn team, captained by Olufemi Ajayi, included Adekunle Adesanya, Julian Golec, Matt Burrows, Scott Clem and alternate Zi Ye. Associate professor David Held served as their advisor.
The protocol included a seven-minute statement by each team; cross-examinations; rebuttals; and questions from the judges and audience.
The UC Davis team cited three main points:
- Pesticides are IMPORTANT tools used in modern agriculture
- Neonicotinoids were registered as reduced risk pesticide to replace the organophosphates, carbamates, and pyrethroids
- Banning neonicotinoids would increase of use of pesticides that have known non-target effects
The UC Davis entomologists agreed that acute and chronic studies "have shown that neonics are toxic to honey bees and bumble bees (Blacquiere et al. 2012)" but argued that “all neonics are not created equal (Brown et al. 2014)." They cited “inconsistent results with field-realistic doses (Cresswell et al. 2012)" and noted that “many other factors have been documented as contributing to pollinator decline (Epstein et al. 2012).”
It's not just insecticides that are killing bees, the UC Davis team pointed out. They listed the varroa mite (Varroa destructor), vectored pathogens, and the acaricides, antibiotics and fungicides that are directly added to the colony. They also mentioned American foulbrood and Nosema bombi; inadequate honey bee nutrition; insufficient food substitute; habitat fragmentation; land-use changes; and the increasing demand for pollination changes.
The UC Davis entomologists recommended that regulatory agencies need more thorough registration guidelines that incorporate bee toxicity data for all pesticides (Hopwood et al. 2012). This would encompass chronic toxicity, sublethal effects and synergistic effects. Another recommendation: mandate better management practices that follow IPM principles that protect bees on crops (Epstein et al. 2012). This would include banning certain application strategies, using less toxic neonicotinoids, and encompass the essential education and communication.
The UC Davis team summarized its argument with “There is NO definitive scientific evidence that neonicotinoids are the primary cause of pollinator declines. Neonicotinoids are important reduced risk pesticides for management of some of our most damaging pests. Neonicotinoids should be better regulated, not banned." They concluded: “Given the current state of knowledge, banning neonicotinoids is a premature and disproportionate response to a complex issue. This requires holistic scientific inquiry and interpretation, and cooperation among stakeholders. Any changes must be based on science rather than opinion, current trends, or fear.”
The Auburn team argued that neonicotinoids are causing the death of bees essential for pollinating our food crops, and that the use of neonicotinoids should end. They outlined six key points:
- Critical time for pollinators in the United States
- Lethal and sub-lethal effects
- Prevalence and exposure
- Effects on other pollinators
- Food Quality and Protection Act (FQPA) as a precedent
Expanding on the fact that this is “a critical time for pollinators in the United States,” the Auburn team pointed out that honey bees pollinate $15-20 billion worth of crops in the U.S., and $200 billion worldwide; that approximately $3 billion worth of crop pollination services are provided by native bees; and that CCD likely has many contributing factors but many of those are enhanced by neonicotinoids. They said that the honey bee population is declining. In 1947, the United States had 6 million bee colonies and today, it's down to 2.5 million.
The Auburn team keyed in on lethal and sublethal effects of neonics: synergistic interactions with other pesticides, including DMI (demethylation inhibitor) fungicides; increased susceptibility to pathogens (Nosema spp.); decrease in foraging success; decrease in overwintering queen survival; learning impairment consequences; and reproductive inhibition. They also called attention to prevalence and exposure to neonicotinoids. They discussed the neonicotinoid residues found on bee-pollinated crops and plants by various means of exposure: seed coating; foliar spray, soil drench, trunk injections; length of residue (soil vs. foliage and length of bee exposure); and single exposures resulting in season-long impacts. They also said the multiple means of exposure due to application can lead to multiple routes of exposure within bees: via pollen, nectar, guttation fluid and extrafloral nectaries.
In their concluding statement, the Auburn team said that current tools for risk assessment may not be adequate; and that limiting neonicotinoid use will not harm agriculture--"it will open the door for more sustainable agriculture and new insecticides." They emphasized that we must save our pollinators, especially in the United States. "The United States is a special case--globally there is an increase in bee colonies; however, the United States is at a critical point at which bee pollination services are being threatened irreversibly."
One of the several swaying arguments that led to UC Davis winning the debate was that not all neonics are created equal, and thus, they should not all be lumped together as "an equal" and all be banned.
The UC Davis team received a $500 cash award, a plaque and a perpetual trophy engraved with UC Davis. ESA president Frank Zalom presented the awards.
Next year's ESA meeting takes place Nov. 15-18 in Minneapolis. Its theme, chosen by ESA President Phil Mulder, professor and head of the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Oklahoma State University, is "Synergy in Science: Partnering for Solutions." He says that the theme "represents a collaborative effort with the other societies, but genuinely keeps us focused on our three strategic principles; 1) our social responsibility to develop ALL members, 2) exploring global partnerships and relationships within our science, and 3) expanding our influence around the world to maximize the impact that entomology has on improving the human condition and our knowledge of the world around us."
We're glad to see that three noted entomologists at the University of California, Davis, received distinguished awards in their fields at the 94th annual meeting of the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) on April 13 in Boise, Idaho.
Michael Parrella (top photo), professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, won the Distinguished Achievement Award in Horticultural Entomology. Frank Zalom (middle photo) professor of entomology, won the Excellence in Integrated Pest Management Award. Larry Godfrey, (bottom photo) Cooperative Extension specialist in entomology, received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension.
As regional award winners, Parrella, Zalom and Godfrey will now advance to the national ESA awards competition. The national meeting is set Dec. 12-15 in San Diego.You'll often see Michael Parrella working on administrative duties, making presentations or conducting research; you'll see Larry Godfrey chasing pests in the rice and cotton fields; and you'll see Frank Zalom working on scores of integrated pest management projects, from local to global. All three work closely with their graduate students, the next generation of entomologists.
Indeed, their accomplishments could fill multiple books.
You can read more about their accomplishments on the UC Davis Department of Entomology Web site.
Just a few of the comments they received:
“In his 30-year career, Dr. Parrella has developed an internationally recognized program focused on advancing integrated pest management and biological control for the floriculture and nursery industry,” said James Carey, professor of entomology at UC Davis and chair of the department’s awards committee.
“This industry, once dominated by chemical control strategies, now regularly uses the tenets of IPM, and many growers routinely use biological control,” said Carey, who nominated Parrella for the award. “His training of graduate students and postdoctoral scientists and the extraordinary effort to translate research into practice puts Dr. Parrella in a class by himself. He has accomplished this while shouldering an enormous administrative load.”
He focuses his program on the IPM of insect and mite pests of field crops and vegetable crops, particularly pests of cotton and rice. His work extends globally. “Given the diversity of agriculture in California, this is a vast undertaking and Dr. Godfrey has made significant contributions in approximately 15 different crops during his 19-year tenure in this position,” said Parrella, who nominated him for the award. “This incredible diversity of effort and accomplishment puts Dr. Godfrey in a class by himself..."
Godfrey works closely with the county-based UC Cooperative Extension advisors and pest control advisors, industry representatives, and growers. His expertise includes sucking insects (cotton aphids and silverleaf whiteflies) on San Joaquin Valley cotton and pests of rice, including the rice water weevil.Frank Zalom
IPM specialist Zalom is not only a professor of entomology but an Extension agronomist and an entomologist in the Agricultural Experiment Station. He's "one of the most influential scientists in the development and implementation of IPM policy and practices in the United States and the world, through his numerous and continuing contributions as a leader, director, and organizer,” said colleague Jocelyn Millar, an entomology professor at UC Riverside who nominated him for the award.
Zalom, who directed the statewide UC IPM Program for 16 years (among other responsibilities) is known for his “truly extraordinary record of achievement and service to IPM extending over several decades,” Millar said.
A tip of the insect net--or a three-insect net salute--to Michael Parrella, Frank Zalom and Larry Godfrey.