As environmental artists, bees are "responsible for the brilliantly colored flowers in our landscapes," and as environmental engineers, they engineer “the niches of multitudes of plants, animals and microbes.”
Page, with UC Davis roots and Arizona State University wings, has just authored a 256-page book, “The Art of the Bee: Shaping the Environment from Landscapes to Societies” (Oxford University Press), to be published Aug. 6.
“It's a long time in the making,” said Page, who received his doctorate in entomology at UC Davis and served as a professor and chair of the Department of Entomology (now Entomology and Nematology) before heading to Arizona State University (ASU), where he advanced to school director, college dean and university provost.
“Twenty-five years ago, my friend and mentor Harry Laidlaw (for whom the UC Davis bee facility is named) wanted to write a honey bee biology textbook,” Page recalled. When they finished the outline, “it looked very much like the excellent book by Mark Winston The Biology of the Honey Bee, published in 1987 by Harvard University Press. I decided we didn't need another one, and we still don't.”
The book differs in that it's a collection of “sparkling essays” that “read like mystery stories,” said Rudiger Wehner, professor and director emeritus of the Institute of Zoology, University of Zürich. “With these lucidly written stories, Page takes us on a delightful journey through the many biological traits that on the whole constitute the honeybees' social contract.”
“But don't be fooled by the amiable and personal style—the book is comprehensive—from colony collapse disorder to colony-level evolution—and chock full of the latest results, presented with clarity and depth, leavened with razor-sharp insights into social evolution,” noted Gene Robinson, director, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology and Department of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Page said his book is geared toward “the person who has a basic knowledge of biology and a fascination with bees, perhaps an educated hobby beekeeper--there are a lot of them--or an undergraduate or graduate student with an interest.”
In addition to chapters on environmental artists and environmental engineering, Page includes chapters on social contracts, superorganisms, reproductive competitions, and concludes with “The song of the queen.”
In the epilogue, Page ponders the complexity of individual bees and their colonies, comparing them to humans. “Members of complex societies live close together in closed nests, shared home sites, villages, etc., or in closely connected nomadic tribes. As groups, they typically have a set of tacit rules by which they live that involves working for the good of the group, systems of group and resource defense, internal mechanisms of policing cheaters that don't cooperate and live by the rules, a division of labor often associated with group defense and gathering and sharing resources, and usually asymmetries and rules associated with reproduction. These same general characteristics seem to apply broadly across eusocial insects (aphids, termites, bees, ants, and wasps), eusocial rodents (naked mole rats), higher apes, and humans. Why? The similarities are inescapable due to the nature of social contracts; they must have specific elements to protect the power and will of individuals, whether citizens of the United States of America or workers in a honey bee colony. The contract binds individuals to a society, but the specific social organization evolves by reverse engineering. Natural selection acts on the whole colony; social structure evolves to fit the needs of the group within a given environment. “
Page points out that “Anthropocentric thinking can obscure the way we view nature and lead to false conclusions. Look at Aristotle and honey bee division of labor: For more than 2,000 years it was thought that the bees that work in the nest were postpubescent old men because they're hairy! In fact, the older bees forage and aren't hairy because the hairs break off as they age. I now see my work in a new light; we aren't so different, bees and humans. The elements of our social structures, and how they come about, have many similarities.”
Page is known for his research on honey bee behavior and population genetics, particularly the evolution of complex social behavior. One of his most salient contributions to science was to construct the first genomic map of the honey bee, which sparked a variety of pioneering contributions not only to insect biology but to genetics at large.
At UC Davis, he maintained a honey bee-breeding program for 24 years, from 1989 to 2015, managed by bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. They discovered a link between social behavior and maternal traits in bees.
UC Davis named him the 2019 distinguished emeritus professor. Nominator Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, praised Page as “a pioneer researcher in the field of behavioral genetics, an internationally recognized scholar, a highly respected author, a talented and innovative administrator, and a skilled teacher responsible for mentoring many of today's top bee scientists…he is arguably the most influential honey bee biologist of the past 30 years.”
Page has authored more than 250 research papers, including five books. Among them “The Spirit of the Hive: The Mechanisms of Social Evolution” (Harvard University Press, 2013) and “Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding,” with Harry H. Laidlaw (Wicwas Press, 1997). He is a highly cited author on such topics as Africanized bees, genetics and evolution of social organization, sex determination, and division of labor in insect societies.
Page, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1980, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1989 and left as emeritus chair of the Department of Entomology in 2004 when ASU recruited him for what would become a series of top-level administrative roles. He advanced from director of the School of Life Sciences to dean of Life Sciences; vice provost and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and university provost. Today he holds the titles of provost emeritus of ASU and Regents professor emeritus, as well as UC Davis department chair emeritus, professor emeritus, and UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor.
Page is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Brazilian Academy of Science, Leopoldina (the German National Academic of Science), and the California Academy of Science. He is a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award (Humboldt Prize, 1995), the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Fellowship (2013), James W. Creasman Award of Excellence at ASU (2018).
But if you're Jasmin Ramirez Bonilla, a UC Davis graduate student in entomology, you're seeking to control these agricultural pests through more effective integrated pest management (IPM) strategies.
Jasmin, who plans to complete her master's degree in the spring of 2022, recently presented her thesis proposal, “Advancing Integrated Pest Management Strategies for Cucumber Beetles in California,” to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology at a Zoom session.
“The beetle of focus for my thesis is the Western striped cucumber beetle, Acalymma trivittatum,” said Jasmin, who studies with major professor and agricultural entomologist Ian Grettenberger, a Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “A second species, the Western spotted cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata undecimpunctata--a milder pest but still a pest of melons-- is also part of my project but not the primary subject of my studies.”
Her thesis project consists of three objectives:
- Characterize the non-crop and overwintering habitat
- Clarify short-distance dispersal dynamics after harvest
- Evaluate the utility of the aggregation pheromone, vittatalactone
Both species feed on muskmelons, Cucumis melo. “These include honeydew melon, cantaloupe, crenshaw, and cassava,” she said. “However, Acalymma is the specialist.” Cucumber beetles are pests of plants in the Cucurbitaceae family,which includes melons, gourds, cucumbers, squash and pumpkin.
Of key concern is “the lack of effective IPM tools for the management of cucumber beetles, especially the western striped cucumber beetle,” she said. “There is a critical need to visit this system and revisit the ecology to have a clearer understanding of the non-crop habitat uses and dispersal dynamics to improve and optimize the scouting and monitoring strategies. In addition, one way to monitor and manage insect pests is using semiochemicals such as aggregation pheromones and kairomones—for example, cucurbit blossom volatiles--which are of interest to be combined and studied their efficacy attraction.”
Preliminary data for one of her experiments indicates that the synthetic aggregation pheromone, vittatalactone, attracts the western striped cucumber beetle and the spotted cucumber beetle. “This pheromone was mimicked from airborne volatiles produced by male beetles, Acalymma vittatum, the cousin of the western striped cucumber beetle,” Bonila related. “This pheromone is a potential monitoring tool for managing these beetles and minimize the intensive applications of insecticides on the field.”
What sparked her interest in entomology? When she worked as a field research assistant for six months in 2017 with the UC Cooperative Extension in Woodland and sampled Lygus damage in sunflower fields.
“After this field assistant position, I worked as a junior specialist on an alfalfa weevil project to improve management in alfalfa,” Jasmin related. This was a research grant of the late Larry Godfrey (1956-2017), an Extension entomologist based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Godfrey, the principal investigator of the grant, worked with co-principal investigator Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Long until his death in April.
Long invited Jasmin to apply for the position. “That increased my interest in bugs,” Jasmin said. “There were so many different species and I was constantly collecting plethora of insects in each sample!”
A native of Guatemala, Jasmin moved to the United States at age 15 with her family. “Even though I wasn't born here, I still consider myself Guatemalan,” she related. “My family lives in Los Angeles and I attended Reseda High School in the San Fernando Valley.”
Jasmin, who received her bachelor's degree in earth system science at UC Merced in 2016, worked as a vegetation and ecological restoration intern with the National Park Service before enrolled in the UC Davis graduate program.
But it's the insects—particularly cucumber beetles—that fascinate her.
UC Davis biology lab manager Ivana Li, who received her bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis in 2013, is the recipient of a major UC Davis Staff Assembly award for her contributions to the campus community.
Li won the Staff Assembly's Citation for Excellence Individual Award, Service Category. She will receive a cash award of $1500 for the “efforts and positivity” she brings to the community, said spokesperson Darolyn Striley.
The Staff Assembly traditionally hosts an awards ceremony in the fall, but this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic precautions, it is likely to be postponed, Striley said.
A trio nominated Li for the honor: Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, Bohart Museum of Entomology; supervisor Pat Randolph, academic coordinator, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Also contributing to the nomination were Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology; and forensic entomologist/faculty member Robert Kimsey, who advises the UC Davis Entomology Club. Li is a past president of the club.
The award is confidential, with names, gender and identification removed from the nomination form.
"Our nominee is exemplary as a scientist, artist and chef, going above and beyond the job description,” the nominators wrote. “As a teaching lab coordinator of the largest biology course at UC Davis, (Li) coordinates up to 1300 students and meets the unexpected challenges in ingenious, ‘can-do' and innovative ways. For example, when the lab desperately needed a large mosquito culture, (Li) contacted area vector control agencies, collected the mosquitoes, and delivered them to the lab."
“Without her tenacity in locating materials, that lab would have been a failure for that quarter,” supervisor Pat Randolph, said.
The trio wrote that Li "exemplifies the kind of leader and community organizer that UC Davis seeks to produce. As one professor (forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey) said: (Li) “is the ideal person for teaching and teaching support, intensely curious, very independent, and highly imaginative. (Li) is thus highly motivated and original in problem-solving. (Li) is the ideal collaborator, very cooperative, consistently cheerful, dependable, stable and delightful to work with.”
As a scientist and artist, Li is always willing to share her time and talents to fulfill the UC Davis mission of public service, the trio noted. For some 20 years, she has eagerly volunteered at the annual UC Picnic Day, both as an undergraduate student and as an employee. She coordinates department exhibits and displays. She also "interacts enthusiastically" with the public, even engaging in creative face-painting.
Li “organized the Invertebrate Collection and display for the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, an annual science-based day formed nine years ago that draws 4000 people to our campus. This involved wrangling faculty to participate, developing a kid-friendly shell identification game to give them an idea how scientists go about identifying animals.” She “passionately draws people into science and serves as a role model with a welcoming, 'I'm-glad-to-be-here' smile and a genuine 'let's talk-science' friendly approach.”
This year Ivana Li designed the t-shirt that the volunteers wore. It featured a double-decker bus with the “passengers” as organisms showcased in the 13 museums or collection.
On the nomination form, Lynn Kimsey and Tabatha Yang noted that Li creates “amazing dioramas in the hallway of the Lab Sciences Building” and created the “incredible dioramas in the hallway of Briggs Hall.” She developed and created exhibits, t-shirts, and other informational materials for the Bohart Museum.
In addition, Li has served as an instructor at a summer bio boot camp for youngsters and agreed to be the chef for a professor's summer boot camp for graduate and undergraduate students. She also cooks for a scientific society at its annual meeting.
As a senior majoring in entomology in 2013, Li won the "UC Davis Outstanding Senior in Entomology" from the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, and the department's “Outstanding Senior Award.”
In conclusion, Li "continues to exhibit a strong sense of community and humanity,” her nominators wrote, and her “high productivity, engagement, inclusion, generosity and kind personality make for a combination that makes us all proud.”
Li grew up in Monterey Park, near east Los Angeles where she learned to love insects. Professor Sharon Lawler of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who nominated her for the outstanding senior award, related that “Ivana Li exemplifies the kind of leader, community organizer and entomology that our department seeks to produce. "She has especially excelled in her entomology courses and in leadership. Ivana Li is a true entomology and UC Davis success story.”
Winfree's webinar, “Do We Need Biodiversity for Ecosystem Services?” begins at 4:10 p.m. on Zoom at https://ucdavis.zoom.us/j/
All those interested can tune in--just click on the link, said Williams. "To access the talk, you do not need an account, but you will need to install zoom ahead of time. Use the link to join the meeting."
"Out of respect for the speaker, during the talk please keep your microphone muted, video off, and avoid using the chat feature," he added. "We will invite questions at the end."
Winfree says the goal of her research program is to understand the role of biodiversity in ecosystem services in the real world--that is, in large-scale and unmanipulated systems. We are developing a framework for thinking about this question that bridges the gap between smaller-scale experiments and the associated theory, which ecologists understand well, to the more complicated reality of nature. What is the most meaningful way to measure biodiversity in nature, and is the answer scale-dependent? Do we need to preserve biodiversity in order to maintain ecosystem services, or are only a few dominant species sufficient? What is the role of rare species in ecosystem services? Can we extend biodiversity-ecosystem function research to mutualist networks? These are some of our current questions."
As collaborators, Winfree and Williams recently published “Species Turnover Promotes the Importance of Bee Diversity for Crop Pollination at Regional Scales,” in the journal Science. They set out to answer the question: "How many wild bee species do we need to pollinate our crops?"
The answer, briefly: "Not nearly enough bees are available for crop pollination."
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminars, coordinated by community ecologist and assistant professor Rachael Vannette, are all virtual. Some have been cancelled and others postponed. See schedule.
Wargin, to receive her bachelor's degree in entomology in June (she is minoring in ecology and comparative literature), holds a near straight-A grade point average. Plans to present the awards are pending due to coronavirus pandemic precautions.
Wargin is a member of the highly competitive Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB), founded and co-directed by faculty members Jay Rosenheim, Joanna Chiu and Louie Yang of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. As part of RSPIB, Wargin joined the lab of Stacey Combes, associate professor, Department of Neurology, Physiology, and Behavior, to research the biomechanics and behavioral ecology of flying insects.
Combes described her as “one of the most promising undergraduates I have ever worked with in terms of her potential for research and a career in academia.”
Academic advisor Sharon Lawler, professor of entomology, praised Wargin's academic record, zeal and communication skills. “She is an extraordinarily talented and hard-working scholar. Her achievements and clear research focus promise early and extended success.”
For the past year, Wargin has been working on an experiment investigating the effects of changing barometric pressure on bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) foraging behavior. She presented the preliminary results at the 2020 annual meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology in January.
As part of her research, Wargin built a device to “experimentally control pressure using a plexiglass box, which could hold an entire hive of bees and a nectar source, a solenoid valve system connected to an air source and vacuum, and a variety of cameras to record behavior.”
“I subjected the hive inside the box to two pressure regimes in my preliminary trial: increasing pressure and decreasing pressure,” Wargin said. “With the cameras, I captured images of individually tagged worker bees leaving and returning to the hive during foraging, as well as videos of the inside of the nest to observe overall activity.”
“Currently, I have completed a preliminary trial of this experiment,” the UC Davis senior said. “I am now refining the methodology and working out a few issues I had with data collection in order to streamline future trials and improve the scope of the data I collect. While I don't have enough data for publishable results, I have discovered from my preliminary trial that pressure does appear to have some effect on bumble bee foraging behavior. Specifically, when the pressure is decreasing, the bees tend to be more active; they go on more foraging trips and are slightly busier inside the nest. When the pandemic has calmed down a bit and I am able to return to lab, I hope to complete a few more trials and publish the results.”
“Last spring, Annaliese and I began discussing ideas for an independent research project for her to conduct during her senior year,” Combes said. “She became excited about the idea of experimentally testing the effects of barometric pressure changes (which often precede storms and other changes in weather) on bumble bee foraging and nest care behavior. Anecdotal accounts of the effects of pressure changes on bees and other animals abound, but experiments have rarely been performed on this topic in a controlled setting – partly because it's not entirely straightforward how to design a system that allows one to control and alter barometric pressure. “
“However, Annaliese dove right into this challenge and set about designing a custom-built, air-tight enclosure to house a colony of bees and their foraging chamber,” Combes said. “She spent several months constructing this system--researching and ordering proportional solenoid valves to precisely control inflow and outflow from the chamber (to alter pressure) and designing camera systems to automatically capture videos of in-hive behavior as well as motion-activated photographs of individual foragers that she marked with QR-code tags. Annaliese succeeded in producing a system to test her questions and conducted a preliminary experiment over several weeks on one hive this summer. The results are very promising, and we plan to follow up with several more experiments on additional hives this year.
Said Combes: “Annaliese's creativity in research questions and approaches, her determination in designing and trouble-shooting a very difficult technical set-up, and her diligence in collecting rigorous data for hours on end have resulted in what I think will be some novel and very important findings about how a ubiquitous environmental variable affects the behavior of key pollinators. I anticipate this research resulting in a high-impact publication over the next year, with Annaliese as the lead author.”
In addition, she has “devoted herself to outreach and to sharing her extraordinary passion for insects with the general public, and especially with girls and women,” Combes said. “She has always loved insects and was initially mystified when many of her classmates (especially girls) seemed scared of these creatures.”
A native of Rancho Palos Verdes, a suburb in Los Angeles County, Annaliese developed her interest in insects in early childhood. “I spent the early years of my life in Chicago, where I had a few encounters with insects like cicadas, mantises and bees,” she related. “These experiences sparked my interest and inspired me to pursue a career that was closely connected to the natural world. I went through a few different phases when I was a teenager when it came to what I wanted to do in college, but all of them were related to the biological sciences, and I eventually decided to do what I always did--spend a lot of time looking at and learning about insects. That initial fascination with insects has since developed into a broad interest in the fields of insect behavior and insect ecology.”
As a teen-ager, Annaliese won the prestigious Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest Girl Scout honor, for her 80-hour self-led service project focused on insect outreach. She delivered several presentations to children in her community about insects and their importance to the natural world. The award honors the “dreamers and the doers who take ‘make the world a better place' to the next level, according to the Girl Scout Association.
An active member of the Entomology Club, Wargin worked with advisor Bob Kimsey and fellow members in 2018 to collect data on Alcatraz Island for the National Park Service. They surveyed old buildings for beetle damage and set up experimental trials for future data collection. In addition, Wargin served as a student researcher in the Department of Evolution and Ecology in 2019, and worked on a native pollinator project in the summer of 2017 at the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy.
Wargin's seven academic scholarships include the UC Davis McBeth Memorial Scholarship, given to entomology students who plan to further their education in the field.
Her future plans? “I plan to attend graduate school and earn a PhD in insect ecology,” Wargin said. “I feel drawn to research and am excited about what I'll study in the future. “