Posts Tagged: Alex Wild
If you think they're just uninvited guests at your picnic or something to spray or stomp, think again.
They're marvelous creatures, as any ant specialist will tell you.
You can learn about them from noted ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, when he presents a program Friday, July 17, on the native ants found in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, UC Davis campus.
The event, free and open to the public, is set from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the half-acre bee garden, located on Bee Biology Road, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus.
Among the native ants at the haven are:
- Dorymyrmex insanus (workers small, ~3 mm long, black; conspicuous crater-shaped nests in bare soil)
- Dorymyrmex bicolor (workers small, ~3 mm long, bicolored, dull orange and black; conspicuous crater-shaped nests in bare soil)
- Prenolepis imparis (also known as the “winter ant” or “winter honey ant”; workers small (3-4 mm long), brown, with shiny gaster; inconspicuous nests in soil)
- Formica moki (sometimes called “field ants”; workers medium-sized (6 mm long), with a dark head, orange-brown mesosoma (thorax) and silvery-gray gaster; nest in soil)
Images of these species can be found on the AntWeb, a website hosted and supported by the California Academy of Sciences that provides specimen-level data, images, and natural history of ants.
Approximately six other species of native ants reside in the vicinity of the garden, including Formica aerata, Pogonomyrmex subdentatus, and Solenopsis xyloni. The introduced Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) occurs around the Bee Biology building, but it appears not to have colonized the bee garden.
Attendees will learn how to observe and identify California native ants, and learn about the differences between bees and ants, said Christine Casey, director of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, which is owned and operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. It was planted in the fall of 2009.
Meanwhile, if you want to learn more about ants, be sure to download (free!) Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants, an entry-level book by entomologist/science writer Eleanor Rice; entomologist/ant specialist/photographer Alex Wild (he received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Phil Ward, and is now a curator at the University of Texas, Austin); and designer Neil McCoy.
"Of the nearly 1,000 ant species living in North America, fewer than 30 are true pests, and fewer still actually can hurt us," Rice points out in her book. "We might not notice them, but they're there, and they shape, literally shape, our world," she writes. "Look at the colossal trees in your forest, the plants around your lawn. Ants, like winnow ants, plant the forest understory, ultimately contouring plant distribution that becomes those giants of trees, animal homes, abounding green life. Other ants help turn soil (more than earthworms in some places!), break up decomposing wood and animals, and keep the canopy healthy."
Ants are also crawling in the international spotlight now. Did you know the North American release of the superhero movie, Ant-Man, is Friday, July 17?
That makes Friday, July 17, a good day for ants.
Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Formica moki (Photo by Phil Ward, www.entweb.org)
A honey bee and its cousin, an ant, a velvety tree ant, Liometopum occidentale. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
An ant crater, the work of a species in the genus Dorymyrmex. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
CCD, the mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind the queen bee, immature brood and stored food, surfaced in the winter of 2006. Scientists believe CCD is caused by multiple factors: diseases, viruses, pesticides, pests, malnutrition and stress.
Meanwhile, misinformation about bees continues to surface. Posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media often caption a syrphid fly as a bee or a syrphid fly as a bumble bee. Magazine and newspaper editors frequently misidentify a syrhpid fly (aka flower fly and hover fly) as a honey bee. Even the cover of the well-respected book, Bees of the World, by Christopher O’Toole and Anthony Raw shows a fly, not a bee. University of Illinois-based entomologist Alex Wild, who received his doctorate from UC Davis, mentioned the error in his Scientific American blog.
So, we asked noted honey bee authority Eric Mussen, UC Cooperative Extension apiculturist based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology: What should the general public know about honey bees? Can you share some basic information? A honey bee primer?
First of all, honey bees are not native to the United States. European colonists introduced them to what is now the United States in 1622. The site: the Jamestown colony in Virginia. Then in 1853, the honey bees were introduced to California. The site: San Jose.
“Honey bees,” Mussen says, “are commercial pollination workhorses, while native bees — mostly solitary — pollinate the native plants of field and forest. Around 250 commercial California beekeepers operate about 500,000 honey bee colonies, approximately one-fifth of the country’s supply. Over 72 percent of commercial crop pollination is conducted in California, and about one-third of our daily diet is dependent upon bee pollination. We also have about 6,000 small-scale or hobby beekeepers, who tend to keep one to five colonies.”
Mussen attributes CCD with “fomenting great media and public interest. It also sparked an increase in the number of small scale beekeepers.”
About 60,000 individuals, including the queen, thousands of worker bees (sterile females) and drones (male bees) comprise a colony in the late spring/summer.
“Up to a thousand drones are present during the mating season,” Mussen says, “but they get evicted at the end of the fall.”
The drones serve one purpose: to mate with a queen. And then they die. When a virgin queen is about 10 days old, she will mate with 12 to 20 drones on one or more mating flights. The queen returns to the hive and begins laying eggs, as many as 2,000 eggs a day.
“Bees are vegetarians and live on pollen and nectar obtained from flowers or extra-floral nectarines,” Mussen says. “A mix of pollens is required to meet honey bee nutritional needs.”
During the active season, a honey bee colony each day requires an acre-equivalent of blooms in order to meet its nutritional needs. Bees store both pollens and honey for winter food. The bees usually forage within five miles of the hive. Nutrition is crucial to a healthy hive.
“Malnutrition impairs the protective physiological systems — particularly the immune system and detoxification system — and leads to less productive and shorter-lived bees,” Mussen says.
The bottom line: “More research is required to find better ways to reduce populations of honey bee parasites, reduce levels of honey bee diseases, and develop beekeeping management practices that prevent excessive losses of honey bee colonies during the year.”
Honey bee on blanket flower, Gaillardia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This floral visitor, a syrphid fly, is often mistaken for a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)