July 27, 2010
DAVIS--Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp of the University of California, Davis, hopes that the critically imperiled Franklin’s bumble bee will soon be listed as an “endangered species” under the Endangered Species Act. “It may already be extinct, but I am hopeful that it is still out there ‘under the radar,’” said Thorp, a noted bumble bee authority and an emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. “I haven’t seen a Franklin’s bumble bee since August 2006 and that was a single, solitary worker at Mt. Ashland.”
In 1998 Thorp began intensive annual monitoring of Franklin’s bumble bee in its narrow distribution range of southern Oregon and northern California. That first year he counted 100.
Then the population began declining precipitously, which Thorp hypothesizes may be due to an exotic disease spread from commercial bumble bee colonies to wild bumble bee populations. His scientific surveys, conducted three to five times a year, several days each time, showed only three Franklin’s bumble bees in 2003, one in 2006, and none since then.
“The decline of Franklin’s bumble bee is a signal that something is wrong in its environment,” said Thorp, a member of the California Academy of Sciences since 1986. “This is the canary-in-the-coal-mine measure.”
The bumble bee, mostly black, has distinctive yellow markings on the front of its thorax and top of its head. It has a solid black abdomen with just a touch of white at the tip, and an inverted U-shaped design between its wing bases.
“Franklin’s bumble bee has the smallest range of distribution of any of our 60 species of North American bumble bees, and perhaps of the 250 bumble bees in the world,” Thorp said. Its range covers about 190 miles north-south and 70 miles east-west. The known distribution includes Siskiyou and Trinity counties in California; and Jackson, Douglas and Josephine counties in Oregon.
This bumble bee is partly at risk because of its very small range of distribution,” he said. “Adverse effects within this narrow range can have a much greater effect on it than on more widespread bumble bees.”
On June 23, Thorp and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, headquartered in Portland, Ore., petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect Franklin’s bumble bee (Bombus franklini) by listing it in the Endangered Species Act. Enacted in 1973, the Endangered Species Act seeks to protect critically imperiled plant and animal life from extinction. Secondly, it aims to recover and maintain those populations by removing or lessening threats to their survival. A species may decline due to habitat destruction or modification; disease or predation; or other reasons.
A decision on Franklin’s bumble bee is expected within 90 days.
If it’s given protective status, this could “stimulate research into the probable causes of its decline,” said Thorp, an active member of The Xerces Society. “This may not only lead to its recovery, but also help us better understand environmental threats to pollinators and how to prevent them in future. This petition also serves as a wake-up call to the importance of pollinators and the need to provide protections from the various threats to the health of their populations.”
Since the petition announcement, reaction from the public has ranged from strong approval to outright negativity: “Why do we need more bumble bees—we already have a lot of bumble bees.”
“ Yes, I am getting quite a few responses, some with photos--carpenter bees, yellow-faced bumble bees--but none of B. franklini yet,” he said. Some contacts blame the decline on “chemical gases and dust, cell phone towers and nuclear war testing,” he said.
How valuable is Franklin's bumble bee? "...in the grand scheme of our planet and its environmental values, I would say it is priceless.”--Robbin Thorp
Said Thorp: “People often ask the value of Franklin’s bumble bee. In terms of a direct contribution to the grand scale of human economies, perhaps not much, but no one has measured its contribution in those terms. However, in the grand scheme of our planet and its environmental values, I would say it is priceless.”
“Loss of a species, especially a pollinator, diminishes our global environment,” he said. “Bumble bees provide an important ecological service--pollination. This service is critical to reproduction of a huge diversity of plants that in turn provide shelter, food (seeds, fruits) to diverse wildlife. The potential cascade of effects from the removal of even one localized pollinator may affect us directly and indirectly.”
Some wonder if it’s too late to provide protection for a species that may already be extinct.
“Other species, especially plants and insects, thought to be extinct have reappeared after years of not being seen,” the UC Davis scientist said. “When populations of species are in decline, they may reach such low levels that they are not detected for several years in a row, despite intensive surveys, flying under the radar so to speak. It is my hope that this is the case with Franklin’s bumble bee.”
“One positive sign,” Thorp said, “comes from increasing finds the past two years of a related species, the Western bumble bee, which exhibited similar declines at the same time and places. If these recent sightings are a sign of recovery for the Western bumble bee, I am
hopeful that similar recovery will be found with Franklin’s bumble bee.’
Loss of habitat and the increased use of pesticides are partly to blame for the bumble bee population decline, Thorp said, but he suspects that a fungus, Nosema bombi, may be the main culprit. Other bumble bee populations in peril are the Western bumble bee and the rusty-patched bumble bee in the west, and the yellow-banded bumble bee in the northeast.
As part of a collaborative USDA grant to research his hypothesis, Thorp just returned July 5 from a two-week research trip to southern France. He and colleague Sydney Cameron of the University of Illinois and Cameron’s post-doctoral researcher, Jeff Lozier, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley, collected Bombus terrestris for pathogen studies. They also traveled with professor Pierre Rasmont, University of Mons, Belgium, a noted authority on bumble bees of the western Palaearctic. “He showed us the collection sites for the original commercial stocks of Bombus terrestris in southern France,” Thorp said.
Known for his expertise on bumble bees, Thorp served as one of the keynote speakers at a public symposium on “The Plight of the Bumble Bee” in June 2009 at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. His topic: “Western Bumble Bees in Peril.”
Earlier this year, The Xerces Society petitioned the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHS) to protect wild bumble bees from the threat of diseases brought in by commercial bumble bees. Xerces seeks to “prohibit the shipment of commercial bumble bees outside of their native ranges and to regulate the interstate transport of commercial bumble bees within their native ranges by requiring permits that show that bumble bees are certified as disease-free prior to movement,” according to a recent press release. .
Like Thorp, Xerces Society officials are adamant that Franklin’s bumble bee be saved.
“It is vital that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service act quickly to protect this bumble bee,” said Sarina Jepsen, The Xerces Society’s endangered species program director who holds a master’s degree in entomology from UC Davis. “We hope that an Endangered Species Act listing will encourage the USDA-APHIS to protect wild bumble bees from future threats posed by nonnative commercial bumble bees.”
Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of The Xerces Society, said the decline of Franklin’s bumble bee should serve as an alarm “that we are starting to lose important pollinators. We hope that Franklin’s bumble bee will remind us to prevent pollinators across the United States from sliding toward extinction.”
The Xerces Society plans to issue more petitions to protect native bumble bees.
More About Franklin’s Bumble Bee
Franklin's bumble bee was named in 1921 for Henry J. Franklin, who monographed the bumble bees of North and South America in 1912-13.
During its flight season, from mid-May through September, Franklin’s bumble bee frequents California poppies, lupines, vetch, wild roses, blackberries, clover, sweet pea, horsemint and mountain penny royal. It collects pollen primarily from lupines and poppies, and gathers nectar mainly from mints.
Look for its known distribution: Siskiyou and Trinity counties in California; and Jackson, Douglas and Josephine counties in Oregon.
Statistics show that bumble bees pollinate about 15 percent of the U.S. field crops in an industry valued at $3 billion, according to noted bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Wildlife, including birds, elk, deer and bears depend on the pollination of fruits, nut and berries for their survival. Commercial bumble bees are reared to pollinate greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and strawberries.
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology
July 29, 2010
Tara Thiemann, a doctoral candidate studying with major professor William Reisen, received $2100 for her statewide research on bloodfeeding patterns of Culex mosquitoes. She studies both urban and rural populations of mosquitoes and their host meals.
Jenny Carlson, an incoming doctoral student who will be studying with major professor Anthony 'Anton' Cornel, received $2000 for her research on avian malaria parasites, which will involve studies in West Africa.
Thiemann's project involves analyzing the blood meals of Culex mosquitoes to identify specific host species--research important toward understanding both the maintenance and epidemic transmission of the West Nile virus.
Earlier she developed a new molecular method for bloodmeal identification based on the Luminex platform that can identify 18 of the most fed-upon host species in California. Thiemann used this method, in conjunction with DNA sequencing, to identify more than 3000 Culex blood meals.
For example, her research showed that in Los Angeles County, Culex pipiens complex feeds predominantly on house sparrows and house finches, but in Sutter County, it feeds on a larger variety of hosts, including American crows, American robins and yellow-billed magpies.
A member of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Program since 2004, Thiemann received her bachelor's and master's degrees in biology from Truman State University, Kirksville, Mo.
Her major professor, William Reisen, is a research entomologist with the Center for Vectorborne Diseases and a professor in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine. Closely linked with the UC Davis Department of Entomology, he is a faculty entomology affiliate and an entomology graduate student advisor.
Carlson’s research will take her to West Africa where she will collect mosquito vector and avian blood samples to study the mechanisms of malaria parasite transmission. She hypothesizes that the diversity of mosquito and avian parasites will be lower in deforested areas than forested areas.
The rationale behind her research? “Once we ascertain the co-phylogeographic structure of the host-vector-parasite system, we shall gain a better understanding of how specialization can affect disease transmission during a time where deforestation and climate change continue to alter the population structures of vectors and hosts.”
Her major professor, Anton Cornel, is a malaria researcher and an associate professor of entomology at UC Davis. His lab is based at the Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier.
Carlson received her bachelor of science degree in zoology from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, and her master’s degree biology from San Francisco State University.
The annual Hazeltine awards single out student research that is of a practical nature and is designed to help solve problems in the area of mosquito and vector control. The intent is to encourage students to prepare for and become contributors in the field of applied public health entomology.
The award memorializes William “Bill” Hazeltine (1926-1994), who managed the Lake County Mosquito Abatement District from 1961-64 and the Butte County Mosquito Abatement District from 1966-1992. He was an ardent supporter of the judicious use of public health pesticides to protect public health. He continued work on related projects until his death in 1994.
Hazeltine studied entomology in the UC Berkeley graduate program from 1950-53, and received his doctorate in entomology from Purdue University in 1962.
He maintained close ties with UC Davis entomologists. UC Davis medical entomologist Bruce Eldridge eulogized him at the 2005 American Mosquito Control Association conference. His talk was later published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association. (See PDF)
Hazeltine's three sons assist with the memorial fellowship awards. They are Craig of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Lee of Woodland, Calif.; and Jeff of Los Angeles.
Prior Recipients of Hazeltine Awards::
2009: Kelly Liebman and Wei Xu (See story)
2008: Ashley Horton and Tara Thiemann (See story)
2007: Lisa Reimer and Jacklyn Wong (See story)
2006: Christopher Barker and Tania Morgan (See story)
2005: Nicole Mans
2004: Sharon Minnick
2003: Hannah Burrack
2002: Holly Ganz and Andradi Villalobos
2001: Laura Goddard and Linda Styer
June 9, 2011
DAVIS-- National Public Radio is featuring the Thomas Scott lab and its research on dengue in the Amazon forest city of Iquitos, Peru.
NPR reporter Dan Charles traveled to Iquitos to interview Amy Morrison, field director from the Scott lab, on the troubling mosquito-borne disease transmitted by Aedes aegypti.
The first of two parts, "In Heart of Amazon: A Natural Lab to Study Diseases," aired June 9. The second part, to air Friday, June 10, will focus on recent cases of dengue fever in Florida.
Thomas Scott Mosquito Research Lab
On the trail of dengue with Thomas Scott (July 2, 2008)
Groundbreaking research: Daily temperature fluctuations, not just high temperatures, play a significant role in the transmission of dengue (April 18, 2011)
Thomas Scott Featured in Discover Blog, Podcast (Nov. 1, 2010)
Thomas Scott Inducted as Fellow of Entomological Society of America (July 28, 2010)
Research: Human Movement Plays Critical Role in Transmission (Jan. 21, 2009)
Research: Use of Mosquitoes to Kill Mosquitoes (July 2, 2009)
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology
July 28, 2010
Each year the ESA Governing Board selects up to 10 Fellows from the 6000-member society for the prestigious honor, which acknowledges outstanding contributions in one or more of the following: research, teaching, extension, or administration. They will be inducted as Fellows at the ESA’s annual meeting, to be held Dec. 12-15 in San Diego.
Hammock, a distinguished professor of entomology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1980 and holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Cancer Research Center. He received his bachelor of science degree from Louisiana State University and his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, in entomology. He trained with John Casida at Berkeley and Larry Gilbert at Northwestern and worked from 1978-80 at the UC Riverside Department of Entomology before accepting a position at UC Davis.
As an insect developmental biologist, Hammock manipulated the juvenile hormone by inhibiting its degradation, generating giant larval insects. He found that feeding could be terminated by inserting genes for insect enzymes into baculovirus vectors, resulting in tiny insects. His laboratory pioneered the use of transition state theory to inhibit enzymes with small molecules and recombinant viruses as green pesticides.
In environmental chemistry, he pioneered the use of immunochemistry for pesticide analysis. His laboratory currently uses nanobodies and phage display technologies to improve reagents for the design of biosensors.
From his time as a graduate student, Hammock and his laboratory have focused on xenobiotic metabolism and largely on esterases and epoxide hydrolases. Current projects involve examining the role of esterases in insecticide resistance and human metabolism of pyrethroids. His laboratory is exploiting inhibitors of epoxide hydrolases as drugs to treat diabetes, inflammation, ischemia, and cardiovascular disease. Compounds from the UC Davis laboratory are in human trials.
Hammock received the UC Davis Faculty Research Lecture Award in 2001 and the Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching in 2008. Hammock directs the UC Davis Superfund Research Program, which earlier this year received a $13.2 million, five-year competitive renewal grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). He also directs the National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program and the NIEHS Combined Analytical Laboratory.
Hammock's peer-reviewed publications total 763.
Thomas Scott joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology Department in 1996 and is the director of the UC Davis Mosquito Research Laboratory. He earned his doctorate in ecology from Pennsylvania State University and was a postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at the Yale School of Medicine. He held his first faculty position in the Department of Entomology, University of Maryland. He co-founded the Center for Vector-Borne Research and served as director of the Davis Arbovirus Research Unit, and as vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. A member of ESA since 1983, he is a former chair of Section D. He has published more than 175 research articles, reviews, and book chapters.
A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Scott was a National Research Council Associate and is a past president of the Society for Vector Ecology. He chairs the Mosquito Modeling Group in the program on Research and Policy in Infectious Disease Dynamics, and is a subject editor for the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Scott’s research focuses on mosquito ecology, evolution of mosquito-virus interactions, epidemiology of mosquito-borne disease, and evaluation of novel products and strategies for mosquito control and disease prevention.
Scott aims to generate the detailed, difficult-to-obtain data necessary for assessing current recommendations for disease prevention, rigorously testing fundamental assumptions in public health policy, and developing innovative, cost- and operationally-effective strategic concepts for prevention of some of the most important infectious diseases of humans.
UC Davis Department of Entomology: 13 Fellows Since 1947
With the election of Hammock and Scott, ESA has now selected 13 members of the UC Davis Department of Entomology as Fellows. The first was Richard M. Bohart (1917-2007), for whom the Bohart Museum of Entomology is named. He received the honor in 1947.
Twelve others followed: Donald McLean, elected in 1990; Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003), 1991; John Edman, 1994; Robert Washino, 1996; Bruce Eldridge, 2001; William Reisen, 2003; Harry Kaya, 2007; Michael Parrella and Frank Zalom, 2008; Walter Leal, 2009; and Bruce Hammock and Thomas Scott, 2010.
One other University of California entomologist is on the 2010 Fellows list: Thomas Miller of UC Riverside. The entire list of the Fellows and their accomplishments is on the ESA website.
More about Thomas Scott and his dengue research
More about Bruce Hammock and his bench-to-bedside research
More about Thomas Miller of UC Riverside
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
DAVIS—Honey bees aren't the only bees frequenting the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the half-acre bee friendly garden planted last fall at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, who has been monitoring the garden for the past two years, from open field to planted garden, has identified more than 50 different species of bees in the haven and nearby Campus Buzzway, a quarter-acre field of wildflowers.
Representing five families, 21 genera, and 36 species, the bees include bumble bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees, carpenter bees, cuckoo bees and sunflower bees.