Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will be one of three guests on the National Public Radio program, Science Friday, on Friday, May 24. The program will air live at noon.
“I will be talking a bit about my research and extension program and will be there to answer questions from the public about bees,” said Niño, who will be interviewed tomorrow (Friday) at a studio on the UC Davis campus.
The program, hosted by Ira Flatow, features two other guests: Professor Tom Seeley, bee scientist, researcher and author, of Cornell University, Ithaca; and New York city police officer and beekeeper Darren Mays, who keeps hives on the roof of the 104th precinct.
Senior producer Christopher Intagliata said plans call for introducing Seeley at the top of the hour, and then bringing in Niño around 12:30. Officer Mays will be introduced at 12:40.
Elina Lastro Niño
Niño, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2014 from Pennsylvania State University, researches honey bee biology, health, reproduction, pollination biology, insect ecology, evolution, genomics and chemical ecology, and genomics. She directs the California Master Beekeeper Program and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road.
Born and reared in Bosnia in Eastern Europe, Elina moved to the United States with plans to become a veterinarian. She obtained her bachelor's degree in animal science at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., but while there, enrolled in an entomology class on the recommendation of her adviser. “I was hooked,” she recalled.
Following her graduation from Cornell in 2003, she received her master's degree in entomology from North Carolina State University and her doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University. She then served as a postdoctoral fellow in the honey bee lab of Christina Grozinger, who studies the genomics of chemical communication.
Seeley, a frequent speaker at UC Davis, keynoted the 2018 UC Davis Bee Symposium. He is the Horace White Professor in Biology, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University. He joined the faculty of Cornell in 1986 and holds a doctorate in biology from Harvard.
Seeley says that is scientific work primarily focuses on "understanding the phenomenon of swarm intelligence (SI): the solving of cognitive problems by a group of individuals who pool their knowledge and process it through social interactions. It has long been recognized that a group of animals, relative to a solitary individual, can do such things as capture large prey more easily and counter predators more effectively. More recently it has been realized that a group of animals, with the right organization, can also solve cognitive problems with an ability that far exceeds the cognitive ability of any single animal. Thus SI is a means whereby a group can overcome some of the cognitive limitations of its members. SI is a rapidly developing topic that has been investigated mainly in social insects (ants, termites, social wasps, and social bees) but has relevance to other animals, including humans. Wherever there is collective decision-making—for example, in democratic elections, committee meetings, and prediction markets—there is a potential for SI."
Seeley is the author of numerous books, including Honeybee Ecology: A Study of Adaptation in Social Life, Princeton University Press; The Wisdom of the Hive: The Social Physiology of Honeybee Colonies. Harvard University Press; Honeybee Democracy. Princeton University Press, Following the Wild Bees: The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting. Princeton University Press; and The Lives of the Bees: The Untold Story of Honey Bees in the Wild, Princeton University Press.
Mays is a well-known rooftop beekeeper. According to a 2018 article in the Business Insider, he "gained temporary fame this summer when he vacuumed up a migrating swarm of bees that perched atop a hot dog cart umbrella in Times Square." At night, he patrols the streets of Queens, and by day, he keeps the bees.
"Mays and another officer, Michael Lauriano, are responsible for responding to any issue a New Yorker calls in with that involves a 'stinging insect.' He said he responds to about a dozen calls during a typical summer, as people request help with bee swarms, wasps nests, and more. Before Mays and Lauriano, an officer named Anthony 'Tony Bees' Planakis served as the NYPD's first bee 911 responder."
The article, “Status and Impact of Walnut Twig Beetle in Urban Forest, Orchard and Native Forest Ecosystems,” published in the Journal of Forestry, updates the spread of the disease, and chronicles the role of the bark beetle, Pityophthorus juglandis, and the canker-producing fungus, Geosmithia morbida, in killing walnut trees, especially black walnuts.
Native to southwestern United States and northern Mexico, the bark beetle, about half the size of a grain of rice, “has invaded urban, orchard and native forest habitats throughout the United States, as well as Italy,” said lead author and forest entomologist Steven Seybold of the Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Davis, and a lecturer and researcher with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Walnut twig beetles (WTB) tunnel into branches and trunks of walnut (Juglans) where they create galleries for mating and reproduction. They carry spores of the fungus into their galleries, and the resulting fungal infection causes formation of cankers, which coalesce and girdle branches and stems.
Between 2005 and 2016, the disease killed nearly 60 percent of the 210 specimens of southern California black walnut mature trees in the USDA Agricultural Research Service's National Clonal Germplasm Repository Juglans Collection near Winters, Seybold said. “This is only an estimate and the true proportion of the mortality is likely much higher, as only six of the 210 trees were rated as having healthy crowns in August 2016."
Seybold estimated that the E Street tree is about 150 years old, "maybe older." It measures almost 65 inches or just over five feet.
“The walnut twig beetle is also significant because it is the consummate invasive species; it is small enough to travel under the bark of modest-sized pieces of barked wood and it can withstand relatively dry conditions that it might encounter during transit,” Seybold said. “We believe that it has moved from isolated Arizona black walnut trees along creeks and rivers in the desert Southwest to nearly the entire western USA wherever walnut trees of any species have been planted or grew naturally. It has also been transported to Europe and established significant populations in Italy.”
Seybold noted that the disease is “unique because of its multifaceted negative impact on walnut trees involved in landscaping, food production, and forestry. Walnut trees are valuable ecologically and for food and timber, so the walnut twig beetle is a good model in which to study the impact of a bark beetle on forest and agro-ecosystem services.”
Other co-authors are Professor William Klingeman III of the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee, and forest entomologist Tom Coleman with the USDA Forest Service's Southern Region, Asheville, N.C..
UC Davis doctoral student Jackson Audley of the Seybold lab, who is researching an ensemble of behavioral chemicals that repel the walnut twig beetle from landing on English walnut trees, contributed photos of dead and dying walnut trees in the Davis area. Audley conducts his research in a commercial orchard near Winters. UC Davis doctoral student Corwin Parker and Hishinuma also provided images of deteriorating walnut trees.
“WTB is one of a few invasive bark beetles in North America where expanding distribution and impact have been pronounced enough to affect other species, communities, and ecosystems to the extent that services provided by urban forests, agroecosystems, and wildland areas have been altered,” the co-authors concluded in their paper. “We envision that ecological impacts of WTB will continue to unfold across a wider geographic area to affect various types of key services, i.e., provisioning (e.g., timber and nontimber products); regulating (e.g., air and water quality/quantity, climate regulation); and cultural (e.g., recreation, aesthetics, shade) services.”
Scientists first collected the beetle in North America in 1896 in New Mexico, 1907 in Arizona, 1959 in California, and 1960 in Mexico, but never considered it a major pest of walnut trees until black walnuts began deteriorating and dying in New Mexico in the early 2000s. Walnut tree mortality that occurred in the early 1990s in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah and in the Willamette Valley of Oregon is now attributed to TCD.
“Currently, good cultural practices and sanitation of infested materials are the primary strategies for disease management within orchards and also for prevention of spread of the disease and vector to regions with low rates of infection,” according to the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM)>
UC IPM recommends that trees with less than 50 percent live crown be removed to reduce the buildup of walnut twig beetles and inoculum in the trunk and larger scaffold branches. "Chemical control with either fungicides or insecticides is not recommended for management of thousand cankers disease," UC IPM says.
The live narrated video-seminar, hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology as part of its weekly spring seminars, is based on video and pictorial content that he and his wife, Patty, recorded during vacations or on weekend trips during his annual teaching stints on the African continent over the last seven years.
“Although I include some entomological context, the main purpose of my talk is to enlighten everyone who attends about the remarkable—and moderately priced—travel opportunities in eastern and southern Africa,” Carey said.
"We drove over 12,000 miles in Sub-Sahara Africa, mostly self drive, including visits to or safaris in 25 national parks and 11 Unesco World Heritage sites in Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Ethiopia, South Africa, Namibia, Congo, Swaziland, Lesotho and Tanzania," Carey said.
Carey will first set the stage with a brief overview of the African continent and follow with three parts:
Part 2: Natural wonders and sightseeing, centering on Table Mountain, Victoria Falls, Capes of Good Hope and Agulhas, Zanzibar, genocide and apartheid museums, livestock markets and a sudden flash flood.
Part 3: Indigenous cultures, covering singing fishermen of Lake Kivu, tribal peoples including Batwa pygmy, Hadza bushmen, Himba, Mursi and Dasenich tribes, and township tours of Langa and Soweto slums.
In his first African Odyssey presentation (standing-room only) to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in April of 2015, Carey covered “African Odyssey: A Natural History and Cultural Journey Through Uganda, Namibia and Kenya.” Attendees praised it as “entertaining, innovative and fast moving.” (Watch presentation on YouTube.)
Carey received the 2015 Distinguished Teaching Award from the Entomological Society of America for his technological innovations, creativity and excellence in the UC system and beyond. He has taught video instruction methods for the 9-university Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa, including Nairobi and Uganda for seven years.
Carey, a senior scholar in the Center for the Economics and Demography of Aging at UC Berkeley, focuses his research on insect demography, mortality dynamics, health span and aging. Considered a pioneer researcher in biodemography, he served as the lead author of a seminal paper showing that mortality slows at advanced ages in fruit flies. He co-discovered “Carey's Equality” (life lived equals life left in stationary populations). Carey and population biologist Deborah Roach of the University of Virginia are authors of a soon-to-be-published book Biodemography: An Introduction to Concepts and Methods (Princeton).
Carey, who joined the UC Davis faculty in 1980 after receiving his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley, directed the federally funded program, “Evolutionary Ecology of Lifespan,” from 2003 to 2012, with projects ranging from the evolutionary of aging and the biodemography of nematodes and fruit flies to the longevity of red deer and soay sheep in Scotland and the health span in the Tsimani people of Bolivia.
Long will receive the award at a presentation at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 28 in the Alpha Gamma Rho Hall (AGR) room of the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center. A reception begins at 4.
The award, established in 2008, honors individuals who exhibit the leadership, work ethic and integrity epitomized by the late Eric Bradford, a livestock geneticist who served UC Davis for 50 years, and the late Charlie Rominger, a fifth-generation Yolo County farmer and land preservationist.
The award presentation prefaces the Agricultural Sustainability Institute's Distinguished Speakers' Seminar, “Building a Better World, the Opportunity to Achieve Climate Drawdown and a Safe Future" by environmental scientist Jonathan Foley, executive director of Drawdown. Foley, ranked by Thomas Reuters as among the top 1 percent of the most cited global scientists, will address the crowd from 5 to 6 p.m.
Rachael Long, a native of Berkeley, received her master's degree in entomology from UC Davis in 1987, studying with major professor James R. Carey. She also holds a bachelor's degree in biology from UC Berkeley, where her father was a biology professor.
Long accepted a position as a pest management, low input systems UCCE advisor for Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties in 1992. This was one of the first sustainable agricultural adviser positions within UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), with a focus on developing programs to manage pests in field crops with minimal impacts to the environment.
When she started her projects 27 years ago, her ideas were considered “way outside the box and on the fringe,” she recalled. Now her work is mainstream with the UC Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) guidelines incorporating the value of habitat planting for enhancing natural enemies and pollinators on farms for better pollination and biocontrol of crop pests.
The farm adviser is known for her research and advocacy of hedgerows, her leadership in teaching others about agriculture, and her drive to mesh farming, food production, and wildlife conservation. As a result of her work, the California Healthy Soils Initiative and Natural Resource Conservation Service established cost share-funding for hedgerow establishment on farms, for pest management and carbon sequestration.
Long's research focuses on enhancing natural enemies for better biocontrol of crop pests. "Hedgerows are important for enhancing beneficial insects, including bees and natural enemies, for better biocontrol and crop pollination in adjacent field crops, with measurable economic benefits," she says. "Hedgerows can pay off after 16 years for pest control and seven ears if pollination benefits are added in for bees. Bats and birds associated with habitat likewise have economic benefits for helping to control key codling moth pests in walnut orchards."
Long, who worked closely with Charlie Rominger, commented: “I think Charlie would have been excited by this work. When I first started my job, we spent time in the field looking at field edge habitat and all the birds and beneficial insect activity and wondered about their benefits to crop production. Now we know! Lots of positive ecosystem services associated with habitat! Eric Bradford would have likewise been impressed with work that involved 20 plus years of meticulous research work by strong teams committed to data collection, to document the benefits of field edge habitat to agriculture.”
She and her colleagues have published 14 peer-reviewed papers on hedgerow research. Her work, with colleagues Kelly Garbach of Point Blue Conservation Science, and Lora Morandin of the Pollinator Partnership, can be summarized in their research article, "Hedgerow Benefits Align with Food Production and Sustainability Goals," published in September 2017 in California Agriculture. Her most recent paper appeared in UC ANR's special global food initiative edition of California Agriculture.
In addition to her research, Long has delivered hundreds of presentations about the importance of hedgerows on farms; conducted and published surveys on how to better reach out to the grower community to enhance the adoption of hedgerow plantings, as well as the importance of bats, birds, and raptors on farms; and has mentored many undergraduate and graduate students.
Long brings teams of researchers together to work on projects focusing on agriculture and ecosystem services, which lead to enhanced conservation on farms. In 2013, she and her colleagues received the California Department of Pesticide Regulation IPM Innovator Award for work on hedgerows and pest management. She was also a pioneer in developing practices for protecting water quality from non-point source pollution from agricultural runoff in the early 2000s.
For reservations to the May 28 event, access this website.
Insects, such as darkling beetles and black soldier flies, can and should be bred to convert organic agricultural waste into usable products--like animal feed, pharmaceutical products, and biofuel, say UC Davis agricultural entomologist Christian Nansen, an associate professor in the Department of Entomology and Nematology and doctoral student Trevor M Fowles of the Nansen lab.
Fowles was recently awarded a grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to develop lines of insects for bioconversion of agricultural waste.
“In the 21st Century, we will be breeding insects for their ability to effectively convert agricultural organic waste, and researchers at UC Davis are leading the effort,” Nansen says.
Nansen will be among those speaking at a two-day workshop on “Aligning the Food System for Food Safety in Food Waste Systems,” set May 15-16 in the UC Davis Conference Center and the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center. Nansen will be part of a panel discussion from 1:30 to 3:35 p.m., Thursday in the Alumni Center on “Composing and Anaerobic Digestion for Nutrient Recycling.” He joins fellow panelists Jenny Stephenson, environmental protection specialist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Steve Zacari, director of engineering and research and development, California State Soil; and Robert Horowitz, supervisor, Organic Materials and Construction and Demolition Unit, CalRecycle.
Fowles and Nansen compare insect breeding to livestock breeding. “We are used to thinking of livestock breeding as producing dairy cows with higher milk production or chickens producing more and bigger eggs.”
As part of his PhD project, Fowles applies the concepts of livestock breeding to insects “so that specially adapted lines of insects can be developed and commercialized to manage economically important agricultural organic wastes, such as, skins and stems from wine production and from tomato processing. As the human population continues to grow, so, too, do the concerns regarding the sustainability of waste management from our food production systems. In the U.S. alone, we generate 145-602 gigatons of organic waste annually-- or about nine pounds per day per person! Disposal of these wastes in compost and landfilling operations generates greenhouse gases and other environmental pollutants.”
The Nansen lab research, funded by CDFA and the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, emphasizes economic feasibility, community engagement, and environmental stewardship.
Fowles and Nansen recently co-authored a paper, "Artificial Selection of Insects to Bioconvert Pre-Consumer Organic Wastes. A Review" in the journal, Agronomy for Sustainable Development (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13593-019-0577-z).
“The potential for using insects to consume organic waste materials and convert them into feed for animal, biofuels, and other valuable secondary products is gaining momentum as both a research discipline and as a business opportunity,” they wrote in their abstract. They described insects as the ideal bioconverters, as “insects uniquely equipped to convert wastes into biomass and other valuable secondary products, and we present the current knowledge and existing research gaps towards the development of such organisms. We conclude that (1) targeted breeding of insects and their gut microbes can produce tailored insect lineages for bioconversion of specific waste streams; (2) research is needed to take full advantage of the existing insect diversity to identify new candidate species for bioconversion; and (3) further research into insect-gut microbial complexes will likely provide important insight into ways insects can be used as sustainable bioconverters of highly specialized waste streams.”
Currently, only a few insect species are used for bioconversion of organic wastes. They include crickets, locusts, black soldier flies, green bottle flies an several species of mealworms.
In addition to funding from CDFA, Fowles has also secured an EPA grant for his research, “Beetle Larvae as Biodegraders of Styrofoam and Organic Waste,” involving darkling beetles, Tenebrio molitor. In the wild, darkling beetles and larvae are general decomposers, eating decaying leaves, sticks, grasses, and carcasses, but the larvae are also known to eat polystyrene or plastic foam, commonly known as Styrofoam. They can decompose as much as three-fourths of a pound of Styrofoam within a three-week period, Fowles says. After biodegrading the Styrofoam, the beetles can be pelletized for animal feed, and the excrement or frass can be used as “high-value amendment to compost mixtures.”
(News media: you're invited to contact the Nansen lab to see the mass rearing processes and breeding. E-mail Christian Nansen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the lab at (530)-752-2954.)