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Posts Tagged: UC Davis

Great ESA Student Debate Topic: Neonics

A sick honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It was great to see the Entomological Society of America (ESA) select "neonicotinoids" as a student debate topic for its recent meeting in Portland, Ore.

Bee health is a challenge, and this hot topic tied in with ESA President Frank Zalom's theme "Grand Challenges Beyond the Horizons."  Zalom, who just completed his presidential term and is now serving as past president, is a distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and an integrated pest management specialist.

Debate topics are always lively and this one was no exception. The teams are given eight months to practice for the 45-minute debate. The end result: their work is published in the ESA journal, American Entomologist.

 "Should the agricultural use of neonicotinoids be banned?" Graduate students from the UC Davis Department of Entomology were given the "con" side and Auburn University, Alabama, the "pro side."

From all accounts, it was a fantastic debate, with both sides making key points. The UC Davis team, captained by Mohammad-Amir Aghaee, successfully argued that a ban on the insecticides in agriculture “will not improve pollinator health or restore populations, based on current science. Neonicotinoids are important for control of many significant agricultural and veterinary pests. Part of the solution is to develop better regulations that will protect the health of pollinators and retain the use of an important IPM tool.”

UC Davis won the debate, and then went on to win the overall ESA student debate championship for the second consecutive year.

“Neonicotinoids are important for control of many significant agricultural and veterinary pests,” Aghaee said at the onset. “Part of the solution is to develop better regulations that will protect the health of pollinators and retain the use of an important IPM (integrated pest management) tool.” The team also argued successfully that neonicotinoids (also known as neonics) are not all “created equal.”

 The insecticide, chemically similar to nicotine, is implicated in the mass die-off of pollinators.  The European Union recently adopted a proposal to restrict the use of three pesticides belonging to the nenicotinoid family (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for a period of two years.  In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that by January 2016, it will ban the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides and the use of crops improved through biotechnology throughout the 150 million acres managed by the National Wildlife Refuge System.

In addition to Aghaee,  the UC Davis team included graduate students Margaret "Rei" Scampavia, Ralph Washington Jr., and Daniel Klittich. Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, served as their advisor.  The Auburn team, captained by Olufemi Ajayi, included Adekunle Adesanya, Julian Golec, Matt Burrows, Scott Clem and alternate Zi Ye. Associate professor David Held served as their advisor.

The protocol included a seven-minute statement by each team; cross-examinations; rebuttals; and questions from the judges and audience. 

The UC Davis team cited three main points:

  • Pesticides are IMPORTANT tools used in modern agriculture
  • Neonicotinoids were registered as reduced risk pesticide to replace the organophosphates, carbamates, and pyrethroids
  • Banning neonicotinoids would increase of use of pesticides that have known non-target effects

The UC Davis entomologists agreed that acute and chronic studies "have shown that neonics are toxic to honey bees and bumble bees (Blacquiere et al. 2012)" but argued that “all neonics are not created equal (Brown et al. 2014)." They cited “inconsistent results with field-realistic doses (Cresswell et al. 2012)" and noted that “many other factors have been documented as contributing to pollinator decline (Epstein et al. 2012).”

It's not just insecticides that are killing bees, the UC Davis team pointed out. They listed the varroa mite (Varroa destructor),  vectored pathogens, and the acaricides, antibiotics and fungicides that are directly added to the colony. They also mentioned American foulbrood and Nosema bombi; inadequate honey bee nutrition; insufficient food substitute; habitat fragmentation; land-use changes; and the increasing demand for pollination changes.

The UC Davis entomologists recommended that regulatory agencies need more thorough registration guidelines that incorporate bee toxicity data for all pesticides (Hopwood et al. 2012). This would encompass chronic toxicity, sublethal effects and synergistic effects. Another recommendation: mandate better management practices that follow IPM principles that protect bees on crops (Epstein et al. 2012). This would include banning certain application strategies, using less toxic neonicotinoids, and encompass the essential education and communication.

The UC Davis team summarized its argument with “There is NO definitive scientific evidence that neonicotinoids are the primary cause of pollinator declines. Neonicotinoids are important reduced risk pesticides for management of some of our most damaging pests. Neonicotinoids should be better regulated, not banned." They concluded: “Given the current state of knowledge, banning neonicotinoids is a premature and disproportionate response to a complex issue. This requires holistic scientific inquiry and interpretation, and cooperation among stakeholders. Any changes must be based on science rather than opinion, current trends, or fear.”

The Auburn team argued that neonicotinoids are causing the death of bees essential for pollinating our food crops, and that the use of neonicotinoids should end. They outlined six key points:

  • Critical time for pollinators in the United States
  • Lethal and sub-lethal effects
  • Prevalence and exposure
  • Effects on other pollinators
  • Risk-assessment
  • Food Quality and Protection Act (FQPA) as a precedent

Expanding on the fact that this is “a critical time for pollinators in the United States,” the Auburn team pointed out that honey bees pollinate $15-20 billion worth of crops in the U.S., and $200 billion worldwide; that approximately $3 billion worth of crop pollination services are provided by native bees; and that CCD likely has many contributing factors but many of those are enhanced by neonicotinoids. They said that the honey bee population is declining. In 1947, the United States had 6 million bee colonies and today, it's down to 2.5 million.

The Auburn team keyed in on lethal and sublethal effects of neonics:  synergistic interactions with other pesticides, including DMI (demethylation inhibitor) fungicides; increased susceptibility to pathogens (Nosema spp.); decrease in foraging success; decrease in overwintering queen survival; learning impairment consequences; and reproductive inhibition. They also called attention to prevalence and exposure to neonicotinoids. They discussed the neonicotinoid residues found on bee-pollinated crops and plants by various means of exposure: seed coating; foliar spray, soil drench, trunk injections; length of residue (soil vs. foliage and length of bee exposure); and single exposures resulting in season-long impacts. They also said the multiple means of exposure due to application can lead to multiple routes of exposure within bees: via pollen, nectar, guttation fluid and extrafloral nectaries.

In their concluding statement, the Auburn team said that current tools for risk assessment may not be adequate; and that limiting neonicotinoid use will not harm agriculture--"it will open the door for more sustainable agriculture and new insecticides." They emphasized that we must save our pollinators, especially in the United States. "The United States is a special case--globally there is an increase in bee colonies; however, the United States is at a critical point at which bee pollination services are being threatened irreversibly."

One of the several swaying arguments that led to UC Davis winning the debate was that not all neonics are created equal, and thus, they should not all be lumped together as "an equal" and all be banned.

The UC Davis team received a $500 cash award, a plaque and a perpetual trophy engraved with UC Davis. ESA president Frank Zalom presented the awards.

Next year's ESA meeting takes place Nov. 15-18 in Minneapolis. Its theme, chosen by ESA President Phil Mulder, professor and head of the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Oklahoma State University, is "Synergy in Science: Partnering for Solutions." He says that the theme "represents a collaborative effort with the other societies, but genuinely keeps us focused on our three strategic principles; 1) our social responsibility to develop ALL members, 2) exploring global partnerships and relationships within our science, and 3) expanding our influence around the world to maximize the impact that entomology has on improving the human condition and our knowledge of the world around us."

The UC Davis team included (from left) Margaret “Rei” Scampavia, Ralph Washington Jr., Jenny Carlson, captain Mohammad-Amir Aghaee and Danny Klittich. At far right is ESA president Frank Zalom of UC Davis who presented the team with its award. (Photo by Trav Williams of Broken Banjo Photography)
The UC Davis team included (from left) Margaret “Rei” Scampavia, Ralph Washington Jr., Jenny Carlson, captain Mohammad-Amir Aghaee and Danny Klittich. At far right is ESA president Frank Zalom of UC Davis who presented the team with its award. (Photo by Trav Williams of Broken Banjo Photography)

The UC Davis team included (from left) Margaret “Rei” Scampavia, Ralph Washington Jr., Jenny Carlson, captain Mohammad-Amir Aghaee and Danny Klittich. At far right is ESA president Frank Zalom of UC Davis who presented the team with its award. (Photo by Trav Williams of Broken Banjo Photography

The Auburn University team included (from left) alternate Zi Ye, and members Carl Clem, Julian Golec, Adekunle Adesanya, Matthew Burrows, and Olufemi Ajayi, captain.
The Auburn University team included (from left) alternate Zi Ye, and members Carl Clem, Julian Golec, Adekunle Adesanya, Matthew Burrows, and Olufemi Ajayi, captain.

The Auburn University team included (from left) alternate Zi Ye, and members Carl Clem, Julian Golec, Adekunle Adesanya, Matthew Burrows, and Olufemi Ajayi, captain.

Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Let Us Prey

So patient, so passionate.

The praying mantis looked hungry last Thursday when it perched on a coneflower in the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.

Where's breakfast? Where's lunch? Where's dinner?

Nowhere to be found.

A few honey bees and sweat bees buzzed around the predator, but didn't land.

The praying mantis changed positions, much like a fisherman who feels "skunked" in one place will try his luck at another site.

It crawled up, down and around the flower. 

Nothing.

Half an hour later, it slid beneath the coneflower, out of the hot sun. An umbrella for shade, a place to rest, a place to prey...

Praying mantis waits and waits. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantis waits and waits. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Praying mantis waits and waits. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Maybe hunting is better on the other side? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Maybe hunting is better on the other side? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Maybe hunting is better on the other side? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

What's on the other side? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What's on the other side? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

What's on the other side? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Keeping cool beneath the coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Keeping cool beneath the coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Keeping cool beneath the coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, August 9, 2013 at 6:22 PM

A Bee Fly!

Have you ever seen a bee fly, a member of the family Bombylidae?

It's about the size of some bees. It buzzes like a bee. But you can quickly tell it's not a bee by its behavior. It's a fast-moving, long-legged, fuzzylike critter that darts in and around flowers, grabbing nectar on the go, before buzzing off again.  

It's curious little insect. Its long tongue (proboscis) is so long you're inclined to say "What? Is that for real?"

It is.

Like a fly, it has two wings (unlike bees, which have four).

We spotted this one pollinating the flowers behind the Lab Sciences Building at the University of California, Davis. The adults feed on nectar and pollen.

In their larval stage, bee flies parasitize the eggs and larvae of ground-nesting bees, beetles and wasps.

Says Wikipedia: "Although insect parasitoids usually are fairly host-specific, often highly host-specific, some Bombyliidae are opportunistic and will attack a variety of hosts."

Biologist Beatriz Moisset, in writing a "Pollinator of the Month" piece for the U.S. Forest Service in celebration of wildflowers, called it "A Pollinator with a Bad Reputation." She also blogs about Pollinators.

Bee fly, a bombyliid, hovers like a helicopter. Note the long tongue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey) 2800 copy
Bee fly, a bombyliid, hovers like a helicopter. Note the long tongue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey) 2800 copy

Bee fly, a bombyliid, hovers like a helicopter. Note the long tongue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee fly foraging for nectar. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee fly foraging for nectar. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee fly foraging for nectar. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, June 28, 2013 at 10:05 PM

Pom Squad

It was definitely a hot spot.

Honey bees foraging last week on a pomegranate tree on Hopkins Road, west of the UC Davis main campus, competed for food on hundreds of blossoms.

We counted five honey bees on one blossom alone in what amounted to a pushing/shoving match.

Most of the bees probably came from the nearby apiary at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road. 

The pomegranate is an ancient fruit and the honey bee is an ancient insect. Millions of years ago, they grew up together in the Mediterranean region of southern Europe. European colonists brought the honey bee to our Eastern coast (Jamestown colony) in 1622; honey bees finally arrived in California in 1853. The pomegranate trees were introduced to California in 1769.

Together again...

Five honey bees on one pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Five honey bees on one pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Five honey bees on one pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Four honey bees on one pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Four honey bees on one pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Four honey bees on one pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Two bees on one pomegranate blossom, and about to be three. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two bees on one pomegranate blossom, and about to be three. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Two bees on one pomegranate blossom, and about to be three. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, May 10, 2013 at 10:08 PM

A Luncheon in the Garden

(Editor's note: This event has been postponed until the fall of 2013. Details pending.)

Mark your calenders!

The Honey and Pollination Center at the University of California, Davis, is planning a "Luncheon in the Garden" on Sunday, June 2 from noon to 3 p.m. in the Good Life Garden at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on campus.

It promises to be a delightful afternoon.

Executive director Amina Harris says it will be a "dazzling five-course meal from appetizers to cheese and desserts. Each course features honeys from around the globe."

The luncheon, open to the public, supports and introduces the Honey and Pollination Center. Food and drink will be provided by chefs, apiaries, wineries and meaderies (think wine made from honey), and the farmers of California. 

What is the Honey and Pollination Center? Its vision is to establish UC Davis as a global center of excellence and education on bees, honey and pollination.

Its mission:

  • Promote the use  of high quality honey in the California market, help ensure the sustainability of honey production in California, and showcase the importance of honey and pollination to the well-being of Californians.
  • Spearhead efforts to gain support and assemble teams for research, education and outreach programs for various stakeholder groups including: (1) the beekeeping industry, (2) agricultural interests who depend on bee pollination, (3) backyard beekeepers, and (4) the food industry

Its specific goals are five-fold:

  1. To optimize university resources by coordinating a multidisciplinary team of experts in honeyproduction, pollination and bee health
  2. To expand research and education efforts addressing the production, nutritional value, health benefits, economics, quality standards and appreciation of honey 
  3. To serve the various agricultural stakeholders that depend on pollination services
  4. To help the industry develop informative and descriptive labeling guidelines for honey and bee-related products to establish transparency in the marketplace 
  5. To elevate the perceived value of varietal honey to producers and consumers through education, marketing, and truth-in-labeling with the end goal of increasing the consumption of honey
The Honey and Pollination Center has obtained seed funding from Whole Foods (Founding Industry Partner); UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; UC Davis Office of Research; Department of Entomology; and Z Specialty Food, Woodland, Calif.

Tickets are $125 per person. Like to attend? Contact events manager Tracy Diesslin at (530) 752-5233 or at tdiesslin@ucdavis.edu.

And if you'd like to make a donation, contact Harris at (530) 754-9301 or aharris@ucdavis.edu.

Meanwhile, be sure to check out the newly created Facebook page.

Honey bee heading toward tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee heading toward tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee heading toward tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 8:32 PM

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