Bug Squad - Agriculture and Natural Resources Blogs (2024)

It's Pollinator Month: No Sweat?

Bug Squad - Agriculture and Natural Resources Blogs (1)

  • Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey

Published on: June 7, 2024

In the sweltering heat of SolanoCounty (100 degrees) during National Pollinator Month, how about an image of a sweat bee, genus Halictus, a tiny bee that's often overlooked in the world of pollinators.

It's a social bee that nests in the soil. "These nests consist of a complex of tunnels with individual brood chambers," according toCalifornia Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists(Heyday), the work of UC-affiliated scientists,Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley,RobbinThorp(1933-2019) of UC Davis, and BarbaraErtterand Rollin Covilleof UC Berkeley.

My camera caught thisHalictusflying overCoreopsisin our Vacavillepollinator garden on June 5.

Camera: Nikon Z8 with a 50mm lens

Settings: Shutter speed, 1/4000 of a second; f-stop, 5; ISO500.

UC Davis distinguished professor emerita Lynn Kimsey, emeritus director of the BohartMuseum of Entomology, and BohartMuseum scientist Sandy Shanks saidthe species appears to beHalictus ligatus.

MostHalictusspecies are generalist foragers, according to the Great Sunflower Project. "They use all sorts of genera of plants from the Asteraceae to Scrophulariaceae. They are very common on composites (daisy-like disc and ray flowers) in summer and fall."

We've seen them on everything from mustard to milkweeds to catmintto rock purslane, from spring to fall. They also appear regularly on the tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii).

Not to mention the Coreopsis.


A sweat bee, genus Halictus, sailing over a Coreopsis in a Vacaville pollinator garden. June is National Pollinator Month. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Environment, Natural Resources,

Tags: Bohart Museum of Entomology (0), California Bees and Blooms (0), Halictus (0), Lynn Kimsey (0), National Pollinator Month (0), Sandy Shanks (0), sweat bee (0)

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The Water Girls

Bug Squad - Agriculture and Natural Resources Blogs (3)

  • Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey

Published on: June 6, 2024

If you're struggling with triple-digit temperatures, think about the honey bees.

They need to collect water for their colony to cool the hive so their brood can develop. And for other purposes.

Just call them "The Water Girls."

Lately the bees have taken a liking to our birdbath. The birds? They're practicing social distancing.

We remember Extension apiculturistEric Mussen(1946-2022) telling us "Like most other animals, the bodies of honey bees are mostly water. Thus, they need to drink water routinely as we do. Additionally, water (or sometimes nectar) is critical for diluting the gelatinous food secreted from the head glands of nurse bees, so that the queen, developing larvae, drones, and worker bees can swallow the food. They use water to keep the brood nest area at the proper relative humidity, especially when it gets hot and dry outside the hive. Water droplets, placed within the brood nest area, are evaporated by fanning worker bees and that cools (air conditions) the brood nest area to keep the eggs and developing brood at the critical 94 degrees Fahrenheit required for proper development."

Unlike us, honey bees cannot simply turn on a faucet. "They will fly up to nearly five miles to find a suitable watering source," Mussen told us back in 2014. "Suitable to honey bees might not be suitable to us, but if it is moist, it may be visited. Suitable to the neighbors is a separate question. Honey bees can become quite a nuisance if they visit drippy irrigation lines or hose connections, birdbaths, pet water dishes, swimming pools, fountains, or wet laundry and the like. The water foragers become habituated to those sites. If you try to dissuade the bees by drying up the source for a while, it becomes evident that the bees will visit the site every so often so they'll be around quickly after the water is returned."

What to do? "People have tried to use repellents in the water, but the bees are likely to use the odor as an attractant when attempting to relocate the water source. Some people have had success keeping bees and wasps out of their swimming pools with very lightweight oils or monomolecular films--their purpose is to prevent mosquitoes from being able to breathe. But, if the water is splashed very much, you'll require a new layer."

And all those bees struggling in your swimming pool? "Not all moribund honey bees in a swimming pool are there because they were trying to get a drink. Every day, approximately 1,000 old honey bees from each colony die naturally. This normally occurs during foraging, and the bees just flutter down to the ground, sidewalk, driveway, parking lot, or whatever they were passing over. Some flutter into swimming pools. They are not dead, yet, so they can and do inflict stings on people who bump into them on the surface of the water. "

Beekeepers should make sure there's a watering source on their property so the bees won't hunt for water elsewhere, Musssenpointed out. It should be available all year around. "Once the bees are habituated to the site, most of them will use that source."

It's also a good idea to place corks in a birdbath for the bees to stand on. Bees don't like to get their feet wet. And if they drop into the water structure, they can drown.

As for the bee tenants in our watering hole, bring 'em on.

We absolutely love "The Water Girls." The birds, well, not so much. (But they do have access to a second birdbath and a fish pond.)

A honey bee, its proboscis extended, collects water from the edges of a birdbath. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)For worker bees: Two's company, three's a crowd, and four is a work party. Bees collecting water from a birdbath. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)'The Water Girls'--six of them--collecting water at a Vacaville birdbath. Note the absence of birds. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)A honey bee heading back to her colony after collecting water to cool down the hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Focus Area Tags: Environment, Innovation, Natural Resources,

Tags: birdbath (0), Eric Mussen (0), honey bees (0), The Water Girls (0), UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology (0), water (0)

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Carey Engages Audience in California's Fruit Fly Crisis

Bug Squad - Agriculture and Natural Resources Blogs (8)

  • Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey

Published on: June 5, 2024

If you missed UC Davis distinguished professor James R. Carey's well-attended seminar on "California's Fruit Fly Invasion: A 70-Year StruggleNears Critical Mass," it's now onlineon YouTube.

His seminar, which took place June 3 in Briggs Hall, UC Davis, and on Zoom, drew global interest, stretching as far as Australia.

Carey pointed out thatCallforniahas "the largest agricultural industry in the United States ($55 billion), is the fifth largest worldwide supplier of agricultural produces, grows more than 200 different crops, and "most fruit crops have been attacked by multipletephritidspecies."

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) reported that the first Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) outbreak occurred on June 5, 1980, he said, and as of June 3, the state has detected 18 total species of fruit flies in 350 cities, amounting to 11,000 detections.

In his hour-long seminar, Carey presented an overview of the long-developing crisis, discussed lessons learned from analysis of fruit fly detection databases, and arguedthat "in order to have any chance at stemming this ever-rising tide,CDFAand theUSDAurgently need to switch from their historic, adhoceradication strategy to a new one that is evidence-based and far more scientific."

In the closing moments, he asked "Why have oriental fruit fly outbreaks been occurring annually for the past 60 years in California?"

Because, he said, the fruit flies are "permanentlyestablished."

Carey, a 44-year member of the UC Davis faculty who is retiring in June, and a senior scholar in the Center for the Economics and Demography of Aging at UC Berkeley, researches insect biodemography, mortality dynamics, and insect invasion biology. He holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley (1980).

Carey served on theCDFA'sMedflyScientific Advisory Panel from 1987-1994, testified to the California Legislature "Committee of the Whole" in 1990 on theMedflyCrisis in California, and authored the paper "Establishment of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly in California" (1991,Science258, 457).

He is a fellow of four professional societies: Entomological Society of America, theAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science, the California Academy of Sciences, and theGerontologicalSociety of America. He is former director (2003-13) of a 11-university consortium funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIH/P01) on the evolutionary ecology of lifespan. He co-authored the bookBiodemography: An Introduction to Concepts and Methods(Carey, J. R. and D. Roach. 2020; Princeton University Press) and authored the books, “Demography for Biologists (Oxford University Press 1993), Longevity (Princeton University Press, 2003), and Longevity Records: Life Spans of Mammals, Birds, Amphibians and Reptiles (Odense, 2000) as well as more than 250 journal articles and book chapters.

UC Davis distinguished professor James R. Carey presented a seminar on "California's Fruit Fly Invasion: A 70-Year Struggle Nears Critical Mass" on June 3 in Briggs Hall, UC Davis campus, and on Zoom. (Photo by UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal)

Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Economic Development, Environment, Food, Innovation, Natural Resources, Pest Management

Tags: CDFA (0), James R. Carey (0), Mediterranean Fruit Fly (0), UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology (0), USDA (0)

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A Bumble Bee's Beeline for a Rock Purslane

Bug Squad - Agriculture and Natural Resources Blogs (10)

  • Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey

Published on: June 4, 2024

We miss the lateRobbinThorp, 1933-2019, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, who co-authoredBumble Bees of North America: an Identification Guide(Princeton University Press, 2014).

He loved to share his expertise on bumble bees, which originated more than 100 million years ago. But their distribution and diversity are not well known, he used to tell us.

Bumble bees are just one of the some 20,000 species of bees that populate the world. Of that number, however, only about 250 species are bumble bees, and they all belong to the genusBombus.

Some 46 different species of bumble bees reside in North America, north of Mexico, Thorprelated for aBug Squadblogposted on July 10, 2014.

In their book, lead author Paul Williams and co-authorsThorp, Leif Richardson and SheilaCollapublished information about bumble bees and their history, plant favorites, distribution maps, up-to-date taxonomy, and extensive keys to identify the many color patterns of the species.

They list sites to spot bumble bees:

  • farms and gardens with a diversity of flowering crops and herbs
  • hay fields
  • roadside ditches
  • windbreaks with good abundance and diversity of “weedy” flowering plants, such as clovers and vetches
  • wetlands and wet meadows
  • hardwood forests
  • mountain meadows, and
  • urban parks and gardens

The primary species found inYoloCounty, Thorprelated, are:

  • Yellow-faced bumble bee, now known as theVosnesenskybumble bee,Bombusvosnesenskii
  • Yellow bumble bee,Bombuscalifornicus, now known asBombusfervidus
  • Black-tailed bumble bee,Bombusmelanopygus,formerly known asBombusedwardsii. This is the first to fly in the winter and spring.
  • Crotch bumble bee,Bombuscrotchii, a short-tongued species
  • VanDykebumble bee,Bombusvandykei,a medium long-tongued species

Lately we've been observingB.vosnesenskii,andB.fervidus, B.melanopygusin our pollinator garden inVacaville,SolanoCounty.

Currently, B.fervidusfavors the rockpurslane, Calandrina grandiflora. What a joy to see!

Bombus fervidus, formerly known as B. californicus, makes a beeline for a rock purslane in a Vacaville garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)Bombus fervidus cradles itself in a rock purslane in a Vacaville garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)The bumble bee's proboscis is easily seen in this image. This is Bombus fervidus foraging on a rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)Bombus fervidus exits a rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Focus Area Tags: Environment, Innovation, Natural Resources,

Tags: Bombus fervidus (0), bumble bees (0), Calandrina grandiflora (0), Robbin Thorp (0), rock purslane (0)

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The Bees, The Team, The Honor

Bug Squad - Agriculture and Natural Resources Blogs (15)

  • Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey

Published on: June 3, 2024

UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal gestures during his Faculty Distinguished Research Award Lecture. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)WhenUC Davis distinguished professorWalter Leal, recipient of a UC Davis Academic Senate's 2024 Faculty Distinguished Research Award, delivered his seminar at a recent luncheon in the UC Davis Conference Center, honey bees showed up, too.

In images, text, and analogies.

“Just like in a honey bee colony, it takes a team to win an award," he said, and graciously proceeded to thank all those who made it possible. Family, friends, students, postdoctoral fellows, colleagues, staff and more. Or, as he said "work performed by the cast of thousands deserve the distinguished research award."

Leal, former professorand chair of the Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology) joined theDepartment of Molecular and Cellular Biology faculty in 2013. He is first UC Davis faculty member to win Academic Senate's trifecta of coveted awards: Distinguished Teaching Award for Undergraduate Teaching (2020), Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award (2022) and now, the Faculty Distinguished Research Award.

A week before the seminar, Leal was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

“Dr. Lealisan internationally recognized entomologist and a world leader in his field for his groundbreaking and transformative research in insect olfaction and chemical ecology,” said UC Davis distinguished professorBruce Hammock, who nominated Leal for the Faculty Distinguished Research Award.

Leal credits Hammock, a 25-year friend and colleague, as instrumental in “luring” him from his tenured position in theMinistry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Japan, to the Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology) in 2000.A native of Brazil, Leal received his Ph.D. in applied biochemistry from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, with subsequent postdoctoral training in entomology and chemical ecology at the National Institute of Sericultural and Entomological Science and Cornell University, respectively.

In his letter of nomination, Hammock pointed out "I especially applaud him for elucidating the mode of action of the insect repellent DEET, developed in 1946 and known as ‘the gold standard of repellents.' Its mode of action remained an enigma for six decades until Walter's discovery. In researching the neurons in mosquito antennae sensitive to DEET, he isolated the first DEET-sensitive odorant receptor, paving the way for the development of better repellents.”

Leal'sanalogy ofbees working together to succeed, just like what occurs in a successful lab, is spot on.The worker bees inside the hive perform specific duties: nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue" specialists, air conditioning and heating technicians, guards, and undertakers.

As an aside, Lealmentioned that one research project in his lab involved his daughter Helena, honey bees and her shampoo. “Helena always said the bees were bothering her and then when we collected the volatiles from her, we noticed that there was a contaminant, isoamyl acetate,” Leal told the crowd. “To make a long story short, isoamyl acetate is a chemical that elicits a very aggressive behavior. It's called a sting pheromone known from the early 1960s, and we figured out that that chemical was coming from a shampoo that she was using at that time--the so-called Aussie. So, she stopped using that shampoo and there was no problem with the bees anymore.”

Read more about his lecture here and watch his lecture athttps://youtu.be/HkfhsYQE5bI.

UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal delivering his Academic Senate Faculty Distinguished Research Award lecture. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)Inside a honey bee colony: worker bees and the queen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Environment, Innovation, Natural Resources,

Tags: Academic Senate (0), Faculty Distinguished Research Award (0), honey bees (0), team (0), Walter Leal (0)

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