That's what Katja Poveda, assistant professor of entomology, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., does.
Poveda is interested in "understanding these interactions at many different levels (from the plant to the landscape) to seek for more sustainable strategies to increase ecosystems services provided by insects such as pollination and natural enemies and to decrease dis-services mediated by herbivores to ultimately increase yield."
The Cornell entomologist will be at UC Davis on Wednesday, April 4 to discuss "Landscape Complexity Effects on Yield: The Importance of Arthropod-Mediated Ecosystem Services." She'll present a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, April 4. in 122 Briggs Hall, located off Kleiber Hall Drive.
"In my seminar, I will be talking about the Guatemalan tuber moth (Tecia solanivora); a variety of native pollinators that visit strawberry in upstate New York; and pests of cabbage such as flea beetles, the imported cabbageworm (Pieris rapae) and Trichoplusia ni," she says.
A Cornell Chronicle news release, spotlighting Poveda and colleagues, indicates that potato plants boost the chemical defenses in their leaves when the Guatemalan tuber moth larvae feed on their tubers. The potato's response protects against leaf-eating pests, ensuring the plant can maintain sugar production to continue growing tubers during the moth larvae infestation. The research, published in the journal Oecologia, may lead to reducing potato damage from insect pests and increase tuber yields.
The Guatelmalan tuber moth is not in the United States, but it is spreading and is difficult to control, the scientists noted.
Poveda has co-authored such publications as "Landscape Simplification Decreases Wild Bee Pollination Services to Strawberry" (Journal of Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment); "Predicting Bee Community Responses to Land-Use Changs: Effects of Geographic and Taxonomic Biases" (Scientific Reports); "Can Overcompensation Increase Crop Production” (Ecology), “Landscape Simplification Reduces Classical Biological Control and Crop Yield” (Ecological Applications); “Leaf Herbivory Imposes Fitness Costs Mediated by Hummingbied and Insect Pollinators” (PloS One) and “Costs and Tradeoffs of Resistance and Tolerance to Belowground Herbivory in Potato” (PloS One). See more on Google Scholar.
Poveda's seminar is the first in a series of departmental seminars for the spring quarter. Coordinators are assistant professor Rachel Vannette, and Ph.D candidate Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab.
Based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Mussen completed 38 years of service last June and is nationally and internationally known as "the honey bee guru."
"Most of us take pollinators for granted. That's a key reason why Gov. Jerry Brown has joined other governors throughout the country to celebrate June 15-21 as National Pollinator Week. It's a time to appreciate what bees, butterflies, beetles, bats and other pollinators do. Honey bees and native bees are especially important for the pollination of our agricultural crops. Without them, we'd be pretty much confined to a boring, unappealing and non-nutritious diet of wheat and rice."
"Many beekeepers can't keep their colonies alive, no thanks to pesticides, pests, parasites, diseases, stress and malnutrition. We humans negatively impact our bee populations by converting their natural habitat to an unnatural habit (for them): airports, highways, housing projects, shopping malls, and parking lots. Food sources and nesting habitat for pollinators continue to shrink. Use of herbicides reduces what little bee-food resources are left. In some cases, pesticides kill insect pollinators outright. In other cases, chronic exposure to sublethal doses of pesticide residues disrupts normal development of immature pollinators."
Mussen asks that we all "consider planting bee-attractive flowers that bloom well beyond late summer into fall. The colonies require good-sized populations of well-fed bees to survive through winter."
"Also, we should consider restricting the use of pesticides to those times that pollinators are not attracted to blooming flowers or weeds. This would prevent acute bee kills, contamination of stored pollens, and unnecessary use of bodily energy for detoxification of pesticide residues."
He adds: "It's good to see that the Almond Board of California--with the help of an advisory committee comprise of scientists, beekeepers and growers--generated a packet of materials: “Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds.” The impetus: a large number of colonies suffered serious pesticide damage during the 2014 almond pollination. The packets contain an 18-page pamphlet about honey bees, their management, and their protection. Included, as well, are two heavy-duty, laminated “Quick Guides” (in English and Spanish) to be taken into the fields as reminders of best management practices. You can request the free packets by contacting the Almond Board at (209) 549-8262 or downloading the document at http://www.almonds.com/growers/pollination. The information in the packets pertains equally well to most other crop situations."
"Our bees," Mussen says, "deserve the best."
That they do.
I ran into two members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Patrol this afternoon.
No, I wasn't at a border. I was merely walking the halls of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. The border patrol agents were there to meet with entomology department officials in Briggs Hall.
They handed me a pamphlet, "Don't Pack a Pest," urging vacationeers (who me? I didn't go anywhere on T-Day, honest, 'cept for an insect safari in my back yard) to bring back memories, not pests.
The pamphlet is a reprint of a news article written by Kate Campbell of the California Farm Bureau Federation and published in the May/June edition of California Country magazine.
The gist of the article: don't tuck food, seeds or plants in your luggage and try to smuggle them into California. "Although they (items) may seem harmless, discoveries like these illustrate that while California travelers are settling in after a long trip, so too are a host of damaging pests, plants and diseases that have hitchiked home with them," Campbell wrote.
At the San Francisco Airport, someone tried to sneak in a "whole shrink-wrapped piglet and a rice straw pillow from Mongolia, with potentially diseased grain still attached," Campbell wrote.
Then there are the seed smugglers, like the California executive who stuffed seeds into pouches tucked in his underwear.
Whoa! (The reason they nabbed him was because the border patrol had earlier flagged him as a high-risk seed smuggler.)
The pamphlet quoted California Food and Agriculture Secretary A. G. Kawamura: "The public has an important role to play in keeping pests out."
Here are some tips for travelers, courtesy of the pamphlet:
- When camping, check tents, tarps, ice chests and other gear for dirt and pests. Rinse and shake before stowing.
- Leave firewood behind, likewise kindling, sticks and leaves.
- Don't bring fresh fruit and vegetables back across the state boundaries, particularly from backyard or roadside trees and gardens
- Don't bring animal houses back--dog houses, poultry cages or rabbit hutches.
- Hose off bikes, motorcycles and boats.
- Check tubular equipment for dirt--hollow poles, pipes, folding chairs and rods.
- For boaters, never move live fish or other aquatic animals or plants from one body of water to antoher.
- Drain and dry all water and dry boats, equipment and gear and clean live-wells.
- Check waders and boots for caked-on dirt.
- Keep foodstuffs tightly closed to prevent bringing infestations home. If in doubt, throw it out.
- Don't dump aquarium plants and exotic fish into sewers, creeks or lakes.
- Know what you're planting in your garden by checking online at www.plantright.org. Most plants sold for use in gardens and landscaping do not invade or harm wildland areas, but a few vigorous species can--and do.
Want to report a suspective invasive plant or pest? Call the California Department of Food and Ag's Plant-Pest Hotline at (800) 491-1899.
Want to know what NOT to bring back to California? Go to www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/pe/ or call (916) 654-0312.
Aquatic invaders? Check the Department of Fish and Game's Web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/invasives.
And to report a smuggler of prohibited exotic fruits, vegetables or meat products across international borders and into the U.S. or California, call the anti-smuggling hotline at (800) 877-3835.
As Campbell said, bring back memories, not pests.
Protecting California from invasive species costs some $85 million a year, according to www.plantright.org.