The three-year grant, titled "Strengthening Honey Bee Health and Crop Pollination to Safeguard Food Availability and Affordability" and headed by principal investigator Boris Baer, a UC Riverside professor of entomology, also includes the San Diego and Merced campuses. “I'm very excited about so many different kinds of bee expertise joining forces through this project,” Baer said.
"Most excitingly, this funding will not only support research that will help improve pollinator health so crucial for California's agriculture, but it will provide opportunities for training of students and postdoctoral scholars,” said co-principal investigator, Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, which operates the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. “Work focused on improving honey bee stocks via novel tools aligns well with ongoing work in the Niño lab and will further cement collaborations with beekeepers and growers.”
Honey bees pollinate more than 80 agricultural crops, accounting for about a third of the American diet. Researchers attribute the widespread collapse of bee colonies over the past decade to several factors, including pesticide exposure, spread of parasites and pathogens, habitat destruction and environmental changes. Population declines have resulted in decreased pollination services and increased food prices. Worldwide declines continue despite substantial efforts of researchers, beekeepers, conservationists, and growers to identify the issues facing pollinator communities and develop innovative solutions.
The UC scientists plan a three-pronged approach to resolve the issue: develop better breeding programs, better medications and treatments, and better tools to monitor bee health in the hives. Small “listening and smelling” devices will be placed inside the hives to monitor bee health.
In the successful grant proposal, part of the Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives (MRPI), the researchers wrote:
"Safeguarding honey bees and their pollination services requires beekeepers to be better able to manage the health and survival of colonies, which requires research into the causal factors and interactions affecting pollinator health, and the development and implementation of novel tools in close collaboration with industry partners. To do this, we will form a California wide, cross disciplinary research network and
- experimentally study the ecological and molecular factors and their interactions that affect honey bee health and their interactions to identify biomarkers of their health
- use the knowledge gained to develop and deliver new, effective solutions for stakeholders, including remote sensing of bee health, a marker-assisted breeding program, and the development of novel medications,
- build a research industry nexus to conduct collaborative research. We will also develop and deploy new extension and outreach modules that will be offered through UC Cooperative Extension statewide. We will support California beekeepers to build and maintain a sustainable and profitable beekeeping industry, which has implications for food security on a national level."
Niño, who works closely with California beekeepers, launched and directs the California Master Beekeeper Program, which uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping.
The co-principal investigators also noted in their grant proposal that "The current coronavirus pandemic and impending recession is putting more pressure on agriculture to provide sufficient and affordable food. Honey bees are key to such efforts, and supporting a California based beekeeping industry also decreases the state's dependence on managed pollination from elsewhere, thereby creating new jobs and income."
Funding also will help provide research opportunities for undergraduates, including underrepresented students, with the goal of ensuring that the pipeline of students who enter research, academia, industry, and multiple other professions reflects the diversity of the communities in which they learn and work.
Co-principal investigator James Nieh of UC San Diego, said he and his students will be testing how nutritional supplements may help bees that have been exposed to pesticides and on how to harness the natural honey bee microbiome against a very common bee gut disease.
“We want to use what evolution has already given us to deal with bee disease because this should be a more natural and sustainable approach,” said Nieh, a professor in the Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, Division of Biological Sciences. “Researchers have also focused a great deal on the harms caused by pesticides and this has helped improve some aspects of regulation," he said in a UC San Diego news release. "But we need to develop treatments for bees that are exposed to these chemicals because we will not realistically be able to eliminate all pesticide use.”
Co-principal investigator Joshua Kohn of UC San Diego said research in his lab is aimed at understanding the complex genomes of feral honey bees in Southern California. These bees have genomes that are a complex mixture of genomes of honey bee varieties from Africa, Europe and the Middle East, Kohn said in a UC San Diego news release. He described the feral bees as "highly genetically diverse and ecologically successful." Their genomes, he pointed out, likely hold variation useful to breeding domesticated honey bees with increased levels of resistance to the common diseases that currently plague the honey bee industry.
“This network of bee researchers comprises a unique mixture of expertise that can apply highly multidisciplinary approaches to benefit the honey bee industry essential to the production of many of California's most economically important crops,” Kohn related.
Other co-principal investigators are Kerry Mauck, Tsotras Vassilis, and Kim Hyoseung, all of UC Riverside. Marilia Gaiarsa of UC Merced is a co-investigator.
In memory of native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, the Bohart Museum of Entomology is sponsoring the inaugural Robbin Thorp Memorial First-Bumble-Bee-of-the-Year Contest.
Professor Thorp, 85, who died June 7, 2019, was a global authority on bumble bees, and always looked forward to seeing the first bumble bee of the year. He launched an impromptu contest several years ago with a small group of bumble bee enthusiasts/photographers from Yolo and Solano counties.
Now the Bohart Museum, where Thorp spent much of his time identifying bees and helping others, is sponsoring the contest. Participants are to capture an image of a bumble bee in the wild in either Yolo or Solano counties and email the image to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the details of time, date and place. The image must be recognizable as a bumble bee. The winner receives bragging rights and a special gift from the Bohart Museum, said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and UC Davis professor of entomology. Plans call for a Bohart coffee mug with a bumble bee image.
The first bumble bee to emerge in this area is the black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus. Native to western North America and found from California to British Columbia and as far east as Idaho, it forages on manzanitas, wild lilacs, wild buckwheats, lupines, penstemons, clovers, and sages, among others.
Thorp, a 30-year member of the UC Davis entomology faculty, from 1964-1994, co-authored two books, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014). He achieved emeritus status in 1994 but continued to engage in research, teaching and public service until a few weeks before his death.
A tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, he was known for his expertise, dedication and passion in protecting native pollinators, especially bumble bees, and for his teaching, research and public service. He was an authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, native bees and crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.
Thorp co-taught The Bee Course from 2002 to 2019, an intensive nine-day workshop affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and held annually at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz.
Kimsey, who first met Thorp when she was a graduate student at UC Davis, said that although he wasn't her major professor, “my project was on bees and he was incredibly helpful and supportive. His enthusiasm about pollinators and bees in particular actually grew after he retired, and he continued helping students and researchers and was the backbone of so much research. His support and kindness was matched by his undemanding assistance and expertise. What a terrible loss to his family and to the research and conservation communities."
An authority on the critically imperiled Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini, Thorp began monitoring the bumble bee population in 1998 in its narrow distribution range of southern Oregon and northern California. He had not seen it since 2006 and was instrumental in placing Franklin's bumble bee on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Long active in the North America IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group, Thorp served as its regional co-chair, beginning in 2011.
In August of 2016 a documentary crew from CNN, headed by John Sutter, followed Thorp to a meadow where he last saw Franklin's bumble bee. Sutter wrote about Dr. Thorp, then 82, in a piece he titled "The Old Man and the Bee," aspinoff of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea." (See "Will Franklin's Bumble Bee Ever Be Seen Again?"on YouTube by EarthFixMedia.)
Highly honored by his peers, Thorp was named a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco in 1986; recipient of the Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship of UC Davis in 2010; and recipient of the UC Davis Distinguished Emeritus Award in 2015. Other honors included: member of the UC Davis Bee Team that won the Team Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) in 2013. In addition, he was a past president (2010-2011) of the Davis Botanical Society, and former chair (1992-2011) of the Advisory Committee for the Jepson Prairie Reserve, UC Davis/Natural Reserve System.
UC Davis professor and pollination ecologist Neal Williams, who organized a special symposium in Thorp's honor at the 2019 PBESA meeting in San Diego, praised his “tireless efforts in research, advocacy and education” and how he “inspired a new generation of bee researchers.”
Entomologist Vonny Martin Barlow of Blythe, formerly of the UC Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources (UC ANR) and the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM)--and who most recently served an entomology project consultant with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology--passed away unexpectedly Dec. 9 in a Palm Springs hospital. He was 55.
Dr. Barlow, known for his expertise in insect pest management, including pests of rice, cotton and alfalfa, was the third graduate student of the late Larry Godfrey (1956-2017), Cooperative Extension entomologist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
In an email to friends and colleagues, Sonia Rios, area subtropical horticulture advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, Riverside and San Diego counties, related that Dr. Barlow "passed away unexpectedly on Dec. 9 from a massive heart attack." Services (limited to five people due to the COVID-19 pandemic precautions) will take place Dec. 28 in Palm Springs.
Born May 18, 1965 in Mountain View, Calif., Vonny received a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences, with a special emphasis in entomology, from San Jose State University in 1993; a master's degree in plant protection and pest management from UC Davis in 1997; and a doctorate from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in 2006.
"From there, I went on to North Carolina State University where I gained extensive research and extension experience as a tree fruit post-doc," he related on Linked In. "I worked on evaluating the 'whole-farm' approach to mating disruption used in apple orchards to manage codling moth and oriental fruit moth. I then joined the Agriculture and Natural Resources Division of the University of California in 2009 as an entomology/IPM/crop production farm advisor for Riverside County until 2018. I worked in an area predominated by 75 percent alfalfa rotated with other crops like cotton, mixed melons, lettuce and broccoli."
Dr. Barlow left UC ANR in 2016 to become a pest management consultant, working both with industry and agricultural partners. He served as an affiliated IPM advisor from 2012 to 2017, and was a leader and author of the rice, cotton, and alfalfa Pest Management Guidelines. He did research on biological control and IPM of invasive insects and plants of field and forage agroecosystems.
At UC Davis, where he received his master's degree, he served as a graduate research assistant in the Godfrey lab. His master's thesis project "involved studying the impact of early spring weeds on Lygus bug population dynamics and their natural enemies in the alfalfa hay cropping system," he wrote on LinkedIn. "Alternative sources for feeding and reproduction (e.g., weedy plants) have shown to have a profound impact on Lygus bug populations. I was able to develop recommendations for management of weedy plants in alfalfa that had a two-fold benefit. The first is reduction of crop loss in susceptible crops (e.g., cotton) to Lygus bugs in adjacent fields. The second is reduction of the amount of pesticides used to control Lygus bug populations."
Dr. Barlow co-chaired the Godfrey celebration of life on June 7, 2017 at the Putah Creek Lodge, UC Davis, with distinguished professor and IPM specialist Frank Zalom of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
He is survived by his mother, Janice, and a brother, Cary, both of San Jose.
Jay Rosenheim was a third-year physics major at the University of California, Davis, in 1981 when—“on a lark”--he enrolled in Professor Harry Kaya's Entomology 100 course.
The professor inspired him, the class enthralled him, and insects captivated him.
In mid-term, Jay changed his major to entomology, and went on to earn two degrees in entomology (bachelor's degree from UC Davis in 1983, and doctorate from UC Berkeley in 1987); join the UC Davis faculty in 1990; and become a UC Davis distinguished professor in 2018.
The former UC Davis physics major is now a newly inducted Fellow of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA), a global honor accorded to only 10 persons annually.
Marshall Johnson, a 2006 ESA Fellow and an emeritus Cooperative Extension specialist and researcher at UC Riverside, nominated Rosenheim for the award. “Jay was my postdoc at the University of Hawaii,” Johnson said. “He did a great job and I have kept my eye on his career ever since.
ESA singled out Rosenheim at its virtual meeting for his contributions on the ecology of insect parasitoids and predators, insect reproductive behavior, and the application of big data, or "ecoinformatics," methods in agricultural entomology.
And it all began four decades ago in a UC Davis classroom. This is what occurred.
“About a month or so before the course was to be taught, I received a call from this physics student, Jay Rosenheim, who wanted to take Entomology 100,” recalled Kaya, now an emeritus professor and himself an ESA Fellow (2007) for his international contributions to insect pathology and nematology. “I asked a few questions on why he wanted to take the course. He said he always loved insects but he said he did not have the prerequisites for the class--no college biology-- but he was keenly interested in insects and really wanted to take the class.”
Kaya was actually teaching the class for Professor Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), a bee specialist on sabbatical. “At the time, I had a 25 percent teaching appointment in entomology and a 75 percent research appointment in nematology,” Kaya said. “When Martin Birch, the department chair, asked me to teach the course, I told him that I hoped he could find someone else, but he came back and said I would be the best to teach it.” Birch assigned two of Thorp's graduate students, Evan Sugden and John Skinner, as teaching assistants for the twice-a-week entomology lab.
“Jay also worked briefly in my lab as an undergraduate as well,” Kaya related. “I should add other superlatives as outstanding and world-renowned entomologist. In my view, it did not matter who taught the ENT 100 course. Jay is simply an outstanding individual and has contributed so much on his own merit. Plus, he has a great personality.”
A native of Yorktown, N.Y, young Jay developed an interest in biology while exploring the vernal pools behind his Hudson River Valley home.
His insect interests not only led to his being elected an ESA Fellow but a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; recipient of teaching awards from the Associated Students of UC Davis and the UC Davis Academic Senate; and the Distinguished Student Mentoring Award from ESA's Pacific Branch. He has authored more than 160 peer-reviewed publications, and mentored nearly 40 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, now in the private sector, conservation nonprofits, journalism, or academia.
And it all began when a physics major named Jay Rosenheim asked to enroll in Professor Harry Kaya's entomology class.
The virtual seminar is set for 4:10 to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 9 and will be hosted by Professor Richard "Rick" Karban of the Department of Entomology and Nematology. To attend, access this form for the direct link.
"As sessile organisms, plants have to adjust their metabolism to ever-changing environmental conditions in order to stay in place and successfully reproduce," Kessler says in his abstract. "Thereby plants orchestrate interactions with other organisms (e.g. other plants, herbivores, pathogens, predators etc.) by providing cues or signals to whoever can read them. The seemingly universal language used to manipulate those interactions is chemical. This presentation reviews some of the Kessler Lab research on the ecological functionality and environmental context-dependency of chemical information transfer in the charismatic Northeastern goldenrod plants, Solidago altissima."
As a chemical ecologist, his research focuses on the mechanisms, ecological consequences and the evolution of plant induced responses to herbivore damage.
"Moreover, we put a particular emphasis on studying the ecological functions and evolution of plant metabolic responses and chemical information transfer in the plants' native habitats. With more recent projects my group tries to apply some of the chemical ecology principles found in native systems to control insect pests in agricultural systems. My research includes a number of different study systems in New York, Utah, Peru, Costa Rica, Colombia and Kenya."
Professor Kessler received his master's degree from the University of Würzbug, Germany, where he studied ecology, genetics and geobotany. He earned his doctorate from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and University of Jena, Germany.
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberg, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is coordinating the seminars. For any technical issues, contact Grettenberger at email@example.com.
- Generations of Insect Attacks Drive Plants to 'Talk' Publicly (The Scientist, March 1, 2020)
- Plants Use a Common 'Language' for Emergency Alerts (Cornell Chronicle, Oct. 2, 2019)