“Crafty Insects,” featuring sneaky or crafty insects and visitors' crafts, will set the theme for the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 22 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on the UC Davis campus. The event is free and family friendly.
“We are hoping to have two parallel exhibits--one where we show crafty insects and then one where we are asking people to bring insect-themed crafts from their home--a plate with a cicada on it, or mug shaped like a wasp or we have a bee-shaped stapler for example,” said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. “We'll have a place for them to display their crafts.”
“Crafty insects can be interpreted in two ways,” Yang commented. ‘Crafty' can be makers such as caddis fly larvae, case bearer moths, and potter wasps. The other crafty interpretation is sneaky, so our live orchid mantid, the dead leaf butterfly like Kallima inachus will be on display.” Activities are to include “spot the flower fly versus bee activity” and “spot the assassin fly versus bumblebee activity.”
For the family crafts, visitors will be painting rocks that can be hidden on campus or elsewhere. The Bohart Museum officials were inspired by Yolo Rocks and Solano Rocks, but a similar organization on campus, UC Davis Rocks, launched a similar activity last spring. It is the brainchild of Kim Pearson and Martha Garrison, who work in the arts administrative group in the College of Letters and Science.
Saturday, Sept. 22 is also move-in weekend for UC Davis students, so the Bohart Museum expects a lot of new people exploring the campus.
Bohart associates Jeff Smith, curator of the butterfly and moth exhibit and naturalist-photographer Greg Kareofelas will be on hand to shows the collection.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. In addition to the petting zoo, the museum features a year-around gift shop, which is stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
Her subject is Walter Reed (1851-1902), the U.S. Army physician who in 1901 led a team of researchers that linked the spread of yellow fever to mosquitoes. Luckhart will speak on "He Gave to Man Control Over That Dreadful Scourge, Yellow Fever” at the awards breakfast on Tuesday, Nov. 13.
The Entomological Society of America (ESA) established the award in 1958 to honor the memory of scientists who've made outstanding contributions to entomology.
Quite familiar with Reed's work, Luckhart served as a National Research Council postdoctoral scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, Md., after completing her Ph.D. at Rutgers University, New Jersey, in 1995. She went on to accept research and teaching roles at the Uniformed Service University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md. (1996-1998); Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va. (1998-2004); and at UC Davis (2004-2016).
"Shirley sees her work as being part of not only her department, school, and university but of the universe of science,” said Ronald Rosenberg, associate director for science at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, who directed the entomology division at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research when Luckhart held her postdoctoral position. “She is always interested in what other people do and seems to have innumerable collaborators. "We often spoke of what an extraordinary and brave scientist Reed was. I think Shirley Luckhart is a superb choice to honor his legacy while looking into the future."
Luckhart got her start in entomology more than 30 years ago, "and in that time her research on the biochemistry and molecular cell biology of Anopheles mosquitoes has continued the scientific progress sparked by Reed more than a century ago," related ESA in the news release. "Her work has been continuously funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health since 1997, focused broadly on understanding the transmission of the causative agent of malaria by Anopheles mosquitoes. Many of her findings have led to interventions that block both infection and transmission, and, as a result, she has several patents in process." (See ESA news release and a list of past Founders' Memorial Award recipients and honorees.)
While at UC Davis, Luckhart held a joint appointment as a professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, and the Department of Entomology and Nematology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. She joined the University of Idaho in 2017 as a professor in both the Department of Entomology, Nematology and Plant Pathology and the Department of Biological Sciences, and as the founding co-director of the university's Center for Health in the Human Ecosystem.
Luckhart was named a 2014 Fellow of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. In 2017, she received the Medical, Urban and Veterinary Award from ESA's Pacific Branch.
Entomology 2018, themed "Crossing Borders: Entomology in a Changing World" highlights the value of collaboration and cooperation across both geographic and interdisciplinary boundaries.
This year's ESA president is Michael Parrella, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Science at the University of Idaho, and former professor and chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The scenario begins when aggregations of beetle larvae of Meloe franciscanus emit chemical signals that mimic the sex pheromones of female bees luring male digger bees to make contact. The Meloe larvae then attach to males bees on contact, Habropoda pallida, from California's Mojave Desert and H. miserabilis from the coastal dunes of Oregon.
During subsequent copulations, the larvae transfer from males to females, hitching a ride on female bees to their nests, where the larvae feed on the provisions and the bee egg, and emerge as adults the following winter, said Saul-Gershenz. The research paper, “Deceptive Signals and Behaviors of a Cleptoparasitic Beetle Show Local Adaptation to Different Host bee Species,” appears in the current edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
In solving the puzzle, the scientists tested whether geographically isolated populations of M. franciscanus larvae--from Oregon's coast and California's Mojave Desert--use local adaptations to exploit their respective hosts, H. miserabilis and H. pallida.
“Interestingly, male H. miserabilis were attracted to conspecific females and to aggregations of local Meloe larvae, but not to male bees,” Saul-Gershenz said. “Importantly, male bees of both bee species were more attracted to local parasite larvae than larvae from the distant locale because the larvae tailored their pheromone-mimicking blends to the pheromones of their local hosts. Additionally, the larval aggregation adapted their perching height at each location to the patrolling height of local male bees.”
In their abstract, the scientists wrote: "Chemosensory signals play a key role in species recognition and mate location in both invertebrate and vertebrate species. Closely related species often produce similar but distinct signals by varying the ratios or components in pheromone blends to avoid interference in their communication channels and minimize cross- attraction among congeners. However, exploitation of reproductive signals by predators and parasites also may provide strong selective pressure on signal phenotypes. For example, bolas spiders mimic the pheromones of several moth species to attract their prey, and parasitic blister beetle larvae, known as triungulins, cooperatively produce an olfactory signal that mimics the sex pheromone of their female host bees to attract male bees, as the first step in being transported by their hosts to their nests.”
“In both cases, there is strong selection pressure on the host to discriminate real mates from aggressive mimics and, conversely, on the predator, parasite, or parasitoid to track and locally adapt to the evolving signals of its hosts,” the co-authors pointed out. “Here we show local adaptation of a beetle, Meloe franciscanus (Coleoptera: Meloidae), to the pheromone chemistry and mate location behavior of its hosts, two species of solitary bees in the genus Habropoda. We report that M. franciscanus' deceptive signal is locally host-adapted in its chemical composition and ratio of components, with host bees from each allopatric population preferring the deceptive signals of their sympatric parasite population. Furthermore, in different locales, the triungulin aggregations have adapted their perching height to the height at which local male bees typically patrol for females. "
Saul-Gershenz said that the study “provides strong evidence for two different but complementary types of local adaptation in geographically isolated populations of a parasitic insect.” Specifically, the beetles locally adapt their deceptive chemical signals to the differing pheromone blends of their local host species and “the local nest parasites are significantly more attractive to male bees than nonlocal parasites, using transplant experiments.” The scientists identified the attractant blends for the two host species and the compounds that the beetle larvae produce to attract their hosts. They also showed that the two parasite populations have evolved divergent host-matching behaviors.
“The blister beetle Meloe franciscanus has turned out to be an engaging research subject, commented Saul-Gershenz, who received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Neal Williams and Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. She is now an associate director of research, Wild Energy Initiative, John Muir Institute of the Environment, UC Davis. “The larvae cooperate with their siblings for a brief period; they mimic the pheromone of their hosts; they are locally adapted to different hosts both chemically and behaviorally; and their emergence times are plastic across their geographic range. It has been fantastic to unravel this species' puzzle.”
She credited the counsel of the “true native bee icons in my field"--Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology; research entomologist Jim Cane, Agricultural Research Service of U.S. Department of Agriculture; research entomologist Tom Zavortink, Bohart Museum of Entomology and former professor and chair of the University of Francisco Department of Biology; blister beetle (Meloidae) expert John Pinto, UC Riverside emeritus professor; and emeritus entomologist Rick Westcott, Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Future plans? Saul-Gershenz and Millar will continue exploring chemical communication signals as reproductive isolating mechanisms and the effect of eavesdropping parasites, parasitoids and predators on these signals. “I also plan to continue collaborating with Dr. Rebecca Hernandez and her lab members (UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, and the Wild Energy Initiative of the John Muir Institute of the Environment) on the intersection of utility-scale solar energy development and our wildlife resources,” Saul-Gershenz said. In addition, she will continue her research on the impact on native bee diversity and pollination services from utility-scale solar development in the western deserts.
The research drew funding from Sean and Anne Duffey and Hugh and Geraldine Dingle Research Fellowship, the Community Foundation's Desert Legacy Fund, California Desert Research, Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, and UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology fellowships.
Or you may have seen her volunteering at the annual California Honey Bee Festival in Woodland, an all-day program co-sponsored by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.
Or you may have seen her volunteering at the UC Davis Pollinator Education Program at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
But if you enroll in the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP) at UC Davis, you definitely will see her—and know her as Wendy Mather, the program manager.
CAMBP, based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, educates stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping.
Members of the program serve as knowledgeable ambassadors who disseminate science-based information about the importance of honey bees, preserving bee health, and responsible beekeeping, Niño said.
Mather succeeds founding CAMBP manager Bernardo Niño, who now heads bee research and development at UBEES Inc. He continues to works with CAMBP as its educational advisor.
“CAMBP is designed for beekeeping at the urban and homesteader levels, and small hobbyists,” Mather said. “We work with beekeepers and bee clubs throughout the state to ensure an ongoing interest in keeping bees healthy.”
In 2016, 56 participants successfully passed the Apprentice Level exams and became Master Beekeepers in the Class of 2016. In 2017, 40 more joined them. Next on tap is the Apprentice Level exam for the Class of 2018. The prospective members, who all pre-registered earlier this year, will participate in the CAMBP Apprentice Exam Review on Saturday, Sept. 15, with the exam set on Sunday, Sept.15. Both will take place in the Laidlaw facility on Bee Biology Road.
Mather, an El Dorado Hills resident, has been keeping bees since 2007. “I learned from the Tech Transfer Team at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, on the job from my former boss at Nature's Own Design (NOD) Apiary Products, the manufacturer of Mite Away Quick Strips, and from the many customers I have had the honor of working with in the field.” While at NOD, she also served on the Honey Bee Health Coalition. She holds a Journeyman Beekeeper Certification from the University of Montana.
Born and raised in Montreal, Wendy moved to the Toronto area in her late teens. “I've always loved bees,” she said. “I've always loved watching bees forage, but I never imagined becoming a beekeeper! I was invited to cover a leave of absence for a position that required some apiculture knowledge, and was given a couple of hives to 'bring me up to speed'! I've been keeping bees ever since.”
Active in eight beekeeping or bee-affiliated associations, Mather is a member of CSBA, Delta Beekeepers, Sacramento Area Beekeepers, Nevada City Beekeepers, Colorado State Beekeepers, American Beekeepers Federation, American Honey Producers Association and the El Dorado Beekeepers' Association (she is a past secretary).
Beekeeping runs in the family. Wendy and her husband, Darrell, kept an apiary with 24 colonies in Cold Springs, Ontario, Canada before they moved to California. "Darrell and our eldest daughter, Aislyn, and I all took the 'Introduction to Beekeeping' offered through the Tech Transfer Team at the University of Guelph," Wendy said. "Darrell and I took that course twice. Darrell has successfully raised queens, too!" The couple and their three daughters participated in the extraction, packing and labeling. "Extraction weekend was also a great time for the extended family to gather and enjoy fun times together during the sweet harvest," Wendy recalled.
California Master Beekeeper Program Grant
"Honey bees are arguably the most important managed pollinator and are used as the primary pollinator for over 30 crops in California many of which are considered specialty crops such as almonds," wrote Niño in her successful grant application. "Therefore, the food security of our state and our nation depends largely on robust and healthy honey bee populations. However, in recent years, U.S. beekeepers have been reporting annual colony losses of up to 45 percent. These losses are attributed to many pathogens and pests associated with bees, as well as pesticide exposure and lack of access to plentiful and diverse forage."
"Colony losses have also prompted those who have never kept bees before to try their hand at beekeeping in an effort to help honey bee conservation," Niño pointed out. "Currently, in California there are an estimated 11,000 backyard and small-scale beekeepers, with many of them belonging to one of 35 beekeeper associations within the state. While these associations often serve as hubs of information transfer, the information provided is not always accurate or supported by research findings. Considering the importance of California to the US agriculture and the fact that almost 80 percent of the U.S. colonies start their pollination and honey production routes in almonds, it is clear that there is an urgent need to develop a comprehensive, science-based, and state-wide apiculture curriculum."
The statewide funding that CAMBP received will enable the program to
- expand to the intermediate and advanced levels of the curriculum
- create partnerships with advisers in UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) offices throughout the state (UC Davis currently has collaborators in Fresno and San Diego);
- begin creating comprehensive web-based resources such as a library of online materials including an online classroom; and
- support the expansion of the program's educational apiary.
Those interested in enrolling in the California Master Beekeeper Program can find more information about the Apprentice Level at https://cambp.ucdavis.edu/levels/apprentice.
Indeed, spiders rank high on Americans' phobia list, often fifth in line behind fear of snakes, public speaking, heights, and small space confinement (claustrophobia). While arachnophobians cringe at the very sight of a spider, these eight-legged critters excite, enthrall and engage Professor Bond, an international arachnid authority whose research spans nearly three decades.
“Spiders are an incredibly diverse group with more than 50,000 species described with probably another 200,000 remaining to yet be discovered,” said Bond, who joined the department in July from Auburn University, Alabama. “They are quite ancient, with fossils dating back well over 300 million year and are known to be exclusively predatory. In fact, based on a study published last year, spiders are estimated to consume somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 million tons of insect biomass.” Spiders are an incredibly diverse group with nearly 50,000 species described with probably another.
“To capture insects, and other prey item--sometimes even vertebrates-- most spiders employ silk and venom to snare and subdue their victims,” the arachnologist said. “Spider silk is an amazingly strong, proteinaceous material that is produced in many different forms; venoms are likewise complex, diverse proteins. All of this to say – what's not to like – spiders are a tremendously ecological important predatory group, that has persisted on the planet for 100s of millions of years and employ a remarkable suite of silks and venoms to make a living.”
Highly respected for his expertise on spiders, Bond served as the plenary keynote speaker at the 2016 International Arachnological Congress, and also keynoted the 2012 European Arachnological Congress.
Bond's other research interests include millipedes (diplopods) and darkling beetles (tenebrionids). He studies how the fog-basking tenebrionids (genus Onymacris) in the Republics of Namibia and Angola, collect water.
Jason Bond received his bachelor's degree in biological sciences, cum laude, in 1993 from Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, and his master's degree in biology in 1995 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg. He earned his doctorate in evolutionary systematics and genetics in 1999 from Virginia Tech.
All three degrees focused on arachnids. His undergraduate thesis involved silk spigots; his master's degree, systematics of the spider genera Mallos and Mexitlia; and his doctoral dissertation covered “Systematics and Evolution of the Californian Trapdoor Spider Genus Aptostichus Simon (Araneae: Mygalomorphae: Cyrtaucheniidae).”
What drew him to arachnology? Spiders sparked his interest as an undergraduate researcher at Western Carolina University. “I had this amazing opportunity to work with two really well-respected arachnologists, Drs. Jackie Palmer and Fred Coyle,” Bond recalled. “My first research project was related to functional morphology (evolution of the spinning apparatus in more primitive spiders) but quickly shifted to systematics and taxonomy.”
“A real defining moment for me was a trapdoor spider project as part of a Costa Rica Organization for Tropical Studies field course,” he added. His relatively newfound interest in spider evolution and systematics coincided with the publication of E.O. Wilson's book, “The Diversity of Life.” Wilson's emphasis on the importance of biodiversity and the relevance of taxonomy and systematics “really influenced my career path--away from other options I was considering at the time like lipid biochemistry or bacteriology--bullets well-dodged!” he quipped.
“Although I have always worked on terrestrial arthropods--even as an undergraduate when I started working on spiders-- my education/experience has predominantly been in biology departments,” Bond said. “That said, I was hired in to my first position in 2002 at East Carolina University as an entomologist.”
Bond joined the UC Davis faculty after a seven-year academic career at Auburn University, Ala.. He served as professor of biology and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences from January 2016 to July 2018, and as curator of arachnids and myriapods (centipedes, millipedes, and related animals) at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, from August 2011 to July 2018.
In fact, Bond named a species of trapdoor spider (Apomastus schlingeri Bond and Opell 2002) in Evert Schlinger's honor. “At the time it was the type species for a monotypic new California endemic genus of trapdoor spiders we described (Apomastus),” he said. The genus now includes another prominent species, Apomatus kristenae Bond 2004, which Bond named for his wife, Kristen.
“Third, much of my research over the years has been in the American Southwest, particularly California,” the new UC Davis faculty member related. “I am chomping at the bit to get the lab setup and everything settled at home so I can start spending time in the field studying and collecting California trapdoor spiders! And, finally, this was a mid-career opportunity to get back 100 percent to research and teaching.”
“Although I remain very fond of and grateful for my past few years at Auburn University, I was primarily in administrative roles there, first as museum director, and then department chair, and thus did not have near the time to devote to students and scholarly activities as I would like. The move to Davis really represents the first time in career when I will have the time to really focus on research and teaching in a truly meaningful and thoughtful way.”
It was at Auburn University where Bond and his colleagues discovered a new species of trapdoor spider that drew international attention and a news story in the Huffington Post. They named it Myrmekiaphilia tigris, or the Auburn Tiger Trapdoor Spider, in honor of the university's costumed tiger mascot, Aubie. The discovery was exciting but not “surprising,” Bond told the Huffington Post, pointing out that it took taxonomists about 250 years to describe about 1.8 million plants and animals, and that this scratches the surface of what scientists estimate to be between five and 30 million overall species on earth.
Although the noted arachnologist has no spiders named for him, one species of mites, Torrenticola bondi, bears his name.
At UC Davis, Bond will be re-establishing and teaching the insect systematics course, ENT 103.
“My understanding is that the course was intended to introduce students to systematic methods, classification, and phylogenetic--of course, with an emphasis on insects,” he noted. “I think this course would be a blast to teach--so much has changed in systematics over the past 5 to 10 years, particularly with the introduction of next generation sequencing technologies--phylogenomics. That said, the basics of classification and taxonomy remain as relevant today as in the past; thus I would anticipate the course also covering some historical and more traditional topics, as well.” He also hopes to launch an arachnology course at Davis with arachnologist Joel Ledford of the Department of Plant Biology.
In the meantime, the endowed chair is establishing his lab in the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. “The lab is going to get busy here pretty quickly,” he said, adding that his first postdoc, Vera Opatova and his second postdoc Jim Starrett from Auburn are here and will be joined soon by three graduate students making the move from Auburn --Rebecca Godwin, Xavier Xahnle, and Lacie Newton.
Bond considers his move to Davis as one of the highlights of his career or ”what I think will stand out as one of the big highlights of my career.”
“Strictly speaking scientifically, I would have to say that some of our recent discoveries with respect to spider evolution have been some of the more exciting highlights,” Bond said. “However, working with students in the lab and seeing them to go on and be successful also stands out as some of the biggest highlights along the way. Everybody knows it's a tough job market out there and I would guess that most Ph.D. advisors share some of the stress when their students are applying for jobs – having them get the jobs they want and be successful is always a highlight.”
Most recently, his former Ph.D. student “and good friend and colleague” Chris Hamilton landed an academic position in the University of Idaho's Department of Entomology “and I couldn't be happier for Chris. He's a remarkable biologist, teacher, husband, and dad, with an incredible storied life who is going to do great things; it's great to see him be successful and get the type of job that he wanted.”
Meanwhile, Jason and his wife, Kristen and daughter, Elisabeth are settling into their new Davis home. “We've traveled together a good bit in the United States--a recent trip cross country that also included our yellow lab Daisy-- but also in Africa,” he said. “I am an avid fly fisherman and motorcyclist--since moving to Davis, I have managed to sneak away a couple of times for rides up in the hills heading toward Napa and Saint Helena. At home, I really like to cook – Kristen and I like good food and very red wine.”
What do people NOT know about him? What would surprise them? “I guess a lot of folks would be surprised to learn that I have not always been an ‘academic,' Bond said. “I was an aircraft mechanic in my younger years. When I was in high school, I spent some time in Hamburg, West Germany--at the time East/West was still split--as an apprentice aircraft builder as part of a vocational student exchange between a number of companies in Hamburg and Winston-Salem.”
“After high school I went in to the U.S. Army where I served for a number of years as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crew chief. I learned from that experience that I would probably rather be doing other things so with money for college courtesy of the GI Bill, I got out and headed back to North Carolina to go to school. My choice of schools was naively based on a really attractive brochure showing a campus nestled in the mountains of North Carolina--relative to my current surroundings up on the DMZ in Korea--but nevertheless turned out to be a great choice.”
Spiders, too, turned out to be great choice--a bond, “a Jason Bond,” if you will, as strong as spider silk.