- (Focus Area) Natural Resources
Love is like a butterfly
A rare and gentle thing
--Love Is Like a Butterfly, Dolly Parton
When Dolly Parton penned her song, "Love Is Like a Butterfly," she probably wasn't thinking of passion butterflies, Gulf Fritillaries.
And when she sings that popular song, neither she nor her audience are thinking of Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), getting together on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifolia.
But Lepidopterists, entomologists, horticulturists and insect photographers are.
It's autumn, approaching Halloween, and the Gulf Fritillaries are doing what comes naturally on their host plant, the passionflower vine. But sometimes you'll find them on the fence line, on the ground, or on a neighboring flower.
Then you make a beeline for your camera. It's insect wedding photography. The bride and the groom and the photographer. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the flowers are producing nectar, the bees are buzzing, the crickets are chirping, and all's right with the world.
Love is indeed like a butterfly, "a rare and gentle thing."
Now you can!
Those enrolling in the “Wax Working, Honey and Hive Products,” a first-of-its-kind class offered by the Elina Niño lab at the University of California, Davis, will learn how wax is made, how to collect it, how to process it, and how to make their own wax products such as candles and wax reusable food wraps.
The class, set from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7 in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Center on Bee Biology Road, will be taught by Extension apicuturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty and director of the California Master Beekeeper Program, and lab assistants Robin Lowery and Nissa Svetlana Coit.
“Robin and Nissa will be leading us through the practical part of the wax working day,” announced Wendy Mather, program manager of the California Master Beekeepers Program. “This class is perfect for the hobby and sideline beekeeper and for other individuals interested in learning the basics of working with wax.”
The instructors said the class "will be a creative and science-based class learning the what, why and how of beeswax, making candles, lotion bars, beeswax food wraps, lip balm and dipped flowers to take home.” The products are wonderful for holiday gifting, they said.
As a bonus, the instructors will provide an overview of the honey extraction process, and learn bottling, labeling rules and regulations, and how to perform a honey tasting.
Class participants will have an opportunity to make candles with wicks, use molds, pour wax into jars or cans, dip flowers in wax, and make hand lotion, chapsticks, and wax reusable food wraps.
The two lab assistants are daily exposed to bees, beekeeping, and all things related to honey bee husbandry, said Mather. Lowery, a two-year beekeeper, assists with managing the apiary and the research at the E. L. Nino lab. "She has been making gifts for special occasions for over 15 years and looks forward to modeling how to dip and roll candles, make sealing wax, lotion and lip balm, and wax food wrappers," Mather said.
Beeswax is a natural wax produced by worker honey bees, which have eight wax-producing glands in the abdominal segments. Hive workers collect the wax and use it to form cells for honey storage and for larval and pupal protection. When beekeepers extract the honey, they remove the wax caps from the honeycomb frame with an uncapping knife or machine.
Beewax has long been used for making candles (they are cleaner, brighter and burn longer than other candles) and for cosmetics and encaustic paintings. Wax food wrappers, used to wrap sandwiches and cover bowls of food, are environmentally friendly, sustainable, economical, and a reusable alternative to plastic bags. Statistics show that globally, people use an estimated one trillion single-use bags every year, or nearly 2 million a minute. While beeswax is a natural wax, plastic bags and plastic bags contain chemicals, and there is concern that chemicals can leach into the food.
The $235 registration fee covers a continental breakfast, snacks, lunch and refreshments, and materials. Participants make and take two of each item. The registration deadline is Nov. 23, said Mather, who may be reached at email@example.com for more information. To register, access https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/589.
And UC Davis plant nematologist Shahid Siddique, formerly with the University of Bonn, is at the heart of it.
He led a 10-member international team in discovering the role of a plant's endodermal barrier system in defending against plant-parasitic nematodes.The Plant Journal published the research, Root Endodermal Barrier System Contributes to Defence against Plant‐Parasitic Cyst and Root-Knot Nematodes, in its July 19th edition.
Fast forward to October.
Research Highlight Editor Lysa Maron chose the work as the "research highlight" in her Oct. 14th article, “Breaking or Sneaking into the Fortress: the Root Endodermis is a Defence Wall Against Nematode Infection.” The journal also showcased the team's nematode image on the cover.
What's the significance of the research?
“We discovered that the integrity of the endodermis—a specialized cell layer that surrounds the vascular system and helps regulate the flow of water, ions and minerals--is important to restrict nematode infection,” said Siddique, an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Nematology who joined the faculty in March after serving several years at the University of Bonn.
“We found that having defects in endodermis make it easier for parasites to reach the vascular cylinder and establish their feeding site. Although, this finding is a result of basic research, it opens new avenues to for breeding resistance against cyst nematodes in crops.”
Maron noted that “Roots are a truly amazing plant structure: they conquer the underground, form complex structures that anchor the plant, let water and nutrients in, but must not dry out. Roots store energy, send signals to the aboveground parts of the plant and to neighbors, and defend the plant against soil-borne pathogens. Within the root, the endodermis is the barrier that separates the inner vasculature from the outer cortex. If the root is a fortress, the endodermis is the gated wall. Cell wall reinforcements such as the casparian strip (CS), lignin deposition, and suberin seal the apoplast of the endodermis throughout different parts of the root. These reinforcements allow the diffusion of water and nutrients to and from the vascular tissue while blocking its penetration by pathogens such as bacteria and fungi (Enstone et al., 2002).”
“But roots also face pathogens of a different kind: root-infecting, sedentary endoparasites such as cyst nematodes (CNs) and root-knot nematodes (RKNs),” Maron wrote. “These pathogens infect a variety of important crops and cause significant yield losses (Savary et al., 2019).”
Maron quoted Siddique: “According to Siddique, investigating root traits that affect plant-nematode interactions is important for finding new strategies for plant protection. Screening for natural variation in suberin- and lignin-related traits might help identify and develop stronger fortresses, i.e., plants with enhanced resilience against pathogens, drought, and nutrient deficiency.”
Siddique collaborated with scientists from Germany, Switzerland and Poland: Julia Holbein, Rochus Franke, Lukas Schreiber and Florian M. W. Grundler of the University of Bonn; Peter Marhavy, Satosha Fujita, and Niko Geldner of the University of Lasuanne, Switzerland; and Miroslawa Górecka and Miroslaw Sobeczak of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Poland.
“Plant-parasitic nematodes are among the most destructive plant pathogens, causing agricultural losses amounting to $80 billion annually in the United States,” said Siddique in an earlier news story. “They invade the roots of almond, tomato, beets, potato or soybeans and migrate through different tissues to reach the central part—the vascular cylinder--of the root where they induce permanent feeding sites.”
“These feeding sites are full of sugars and amino acids and provide the parasite all the nutrients they need,” Siddique explained. “A specialized cell layer called the endodermis surrounds the vascular system and helps regulates the flow of water, ions and minerals into and out of it. However, the role of endodermis in protecting the vascular system against invaders such as nematodes had remained unknown.
The German Research Foundation funded the research.
So here are all these milkweed bugs clustered on a showy milkweed leaf, Asclepias speciosa. It's early morning and the red bugs are a real eye opener.
They're seed eaters, but as Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology says: "They are opportunistic and generalists." They not only eat seeds, but monarch eggs and larvae, as well as the oleander aphids that infest the milkweed.
But wait, one of these is not like the other.
A lady beetle, aka ladybug, photobombs the scene. It sleeps with them and eats (aphids) with them. They are sharing the same food source: oleander aphids.
Wait, there's more! "Not So Heartless: Functional Integration of the Immune and Circulatory Systems of Mosquitoes."
This may not be the proverbial heart-stopping seminar, but it promises to be an eye opener by a medical entomologist and captivating speaker.
Julián Hillyer, associate professor of biological sciences, Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation, Nashville, Tenn., will deliver that seminar at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 23, in 122 Briggs Hall, as part of the weekly UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminars.
"Mosquitoes--like all other animals--live under constant threat of infection," Hillyer says in his abstract. "Viral, bacterial, fungal, protozoan and metazoan pathogens infect mosquitoes through breaches in their exoskeleton and following ingestion. Because these pathogens pose a threat to their survival, mosquitoes have evolved a powerful immune system."
In his seminar, Hillyer will present his laboratory's work characterizing the circulatory and immune systems of the African malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. "Specifically," he says. "the talk will describe the structural mechanism of hemolymph (insect blood), circulation in different mosquito life stages, and the role that immune cells, called hemocytes play in the killing of pathogens by phagocytosis, melanization and lysis. Then I will describe the functional integration of the circulatory and immune systems a process that is manifested differently in larvae and adults. Specifically, the infection of an adult mosquito induces the aggregation of hemocytes at the abdominal ostia (valves) of the heart--where they sequester and kill pathogens in areas of high hemolymph flow--whereas the hemocytes of larvae aggregate instead on respiratory structures that flank the posterior in current openings of the heart."
"This research," Hillyer explains, "informs on the physiological interaction between two major organ systems and uncovers parallels between how the organ systems of invertebrate and vertebrate animals interact during the course of an infection."
What does the mosquito heart look like? Check out former Vanderbilt graduate student Jonas King's prize-winning image--a fluorescent image of the heart of a mosquito. It won first place in Nikon's "Small World'" photomicrography competition in 2010. King's image shows a section of the tube-like mosquito heart magnified 100 times. At the time he was a member of Hillyer's research group and is now an assistant professor at Mississippi State University.
In a piece by David Salisbury of Vanderbilt News, Hillyer related that "Surprisingly little is known about the mosquito's circulatory system despite the key role that it plays in spreading the malaria parasite. Because of the importance of this system, we expect better understanding of its biology will contribute to the development of novel pest- and disease-control strategies.”
"The mosquito's heart and circulatory system is dramatically different from that of mammals and humans," wrote Salisbury in the Oct. 15, 2010 piece. "A long tube extends from the insect's head to tail and is hung just under the cuticle shell that forms the mosquito's back. The heart makes up the rear two-thirds of the tube and consists of a series of valves within the tube and helical coils of muscle that surround the tube. These muscles cause the tube to expand and contract, producing a worm-like peristaltic pumping action. Most of the time, the heart pumps the mosquito's blood—a clear liquid called hemolymph—toward the mosquito's head, but occasionally it reverses direction. The mosquito doesn't have arteries and veins like mammals. Instead, the blood flows from the heart into the abdominal cavity and eventually cycles back through the heart."
“The mosquito's heart works something like the pump in a garden fountain,” Hillyer told Salisbury.
Hillyer was a Vanderbilt Chancellor Faculty Fellow (2016-2018) and was awarded the 2015 Henry Baldwin Ward Medal by the America Society of Parasitologists. He was elected to the Council of the American Society of Parasitologists, serving from 2012-2016. Other recent awards: the 2011 Jeffrey Nordhous Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the 2012 Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology from the Southeastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
Hillyer received his master's degree and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the mentorship of Ralph Albrecht and Bruce Christensen, respectively. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Kenneth Vernick at the University of Minnesota, now with Institut Pasteur. In 2007, Hillyer moved to Nashville, Tenn. to establish Vanderbilt University's mosquito immunology and physiology laboratory. (See more.)
The Hillyer Lab is interested in basic aspects of mosquito immunology and physiology, focusing on the mechanical and molecular bases of hemolymph (blood) propulsion, and the immunological interaction between mosquitoes and pathogens in the hemocoel (body cavity)," according to his website. "Given that chemical and biological insecticides function in the mosquito hemocoel, and that disease-causing pathogens traverse this compartment prior to being transmitted, we expect that our research will contribute to the development of novel pest and disease control strategies."
Host is Olivia Winokur, doctoral student in the Chris Barker lab. Community ecologist Rachel Vannette, assistant professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology, coordinates the weekly seminars. (See list of seminars)