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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

One Last Look at the Almonds 'n the Bees

A heavy pollen load. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
While other parts of the country are buried in snow, California's Central Valley is just finishing up its almond pollination season.

In actuality, those fragile white petals fluttering to the ground in the Central Valley are a different kind of snow, but the kind that doesn't make you shiver or shovel.

The University of California, Davis, campus is now seeing the last of its dwindling almond blooms. Over on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, steady rains are driving the bees 'n blooms away.  

So we took one last look for the buds that first began unfolding in mid-February. The almond trees are leafing out as if to welcome spring.  In a couple more weeks, spring officially arrives (March 20). 

Meanwhile, the California State Beekeepers' Association is busy planning its display at the California Agriculture Day, a farm-to-fork celebration always held near the beginning of spring on the State Capitol grounds. This year it's March 19.  It's when the rural folk meet the city folk. Youths learn that chocolate milk doesn't come from chocolate cows, honey doesn't come from sticks, and beef doesn't originate on a bun at a fast food restaurant.

It's good to see the governor and the state legislators mingle with the farmers, the ranchers, the growers, the 4-H'ers and the FFA'ers.

For one day, the State Capitol lawn virtually turns into the land of milk and honey: the dairy industry hands out cartons of milk and the state beekeepers, sticks of honey.

Best of all, it's good to see a tractor on the steps of the capitol building. That's exactly where it belongs.

Honey bee foraging on an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee foraging on an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollen-packing honey bee dives in head first. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Pollen-packing honey bee dives in head first. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollen-packing honey bee dives in head first. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Land around an almond tree on Bee Biology Road is being prepared for UC Davis pollination ecology plots. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Land around an almond tree on Bee Biology Road is being prepared for UC Davis pollination ecology plots. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Land around an almond tree on Bee Biology Road is being prepared for UC Davis pollination ecology plots. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, March 3, 2014 at 10:40 PM

Susan Cobey: Queen Rearing and Instrumental Insemination

Instrumental insemination. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
We know when spring approaches by the number of information requests we receive for bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey's popular queen bee-rearing and instrumental insemination classes.

Cobey, former manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, and now with Washington State University (WSU),  is an international authority on instrumental insemination. She's perfected and taught the specialized technique of instrumental insemination for more than three decades. 

Based on Whidbey Island, Wash., Cobey maintains the New World Carniolan Closed Population Breeding Program, now in its 32rd generation. Her  independent research program focuses on the post-insemination maintenance of queens and the selection of behavioral traits at the colony level. 

Cobey currently coordinates the WSU collaborative stock improvement and  maintenance program, partnering with California queen producers.  A focus is the incorporation of germplasm (sperm) collected from Old World European honey bees into domestic breeding stocks to enhance U.S. honey bees. Much has been written about the germplasm repository established at WSU.

The recipient  of numerous honors and awards, Cobey presents her work nationally and internationally at numerous conferences and seminars, and publishes extensively in trade journals and professional peer-reviewed publications. Her credentials include the former management of several bee research labs, including those at UC Davis and Ohio State University.  She has also worked at the USDA Honey Bee Lab, Baton Rouge, and in commercial queen production in Florida and  California.  Cobey studied with Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., for whom the UC Davis research facility is named. She founded and operated a queen production business, Vaca Valley Apiaries, in northern California (Vacaville, Solano County).

Queen Rearing. Cobey now offers queen rearing classes through WSU. See http://entomology.wsu.edu/apis/. She teaches how to rear high-quality queens in workshops offered by the WSU Honey Bee Program.
 
Instrumental Insemination. Cobey is teaching insemination classes privately on Whidbey Island.  See http://honeybeeinsemination.com. Currently she's scheduling small classes, of one to three people, in July and August. These intensive classes provide individual attention designed to address specific needs at all levels, including advanced classes,  to increase efficiency and trouble-shoot. Cobey manages an onsite breeding apiary, which she uses to demonstrate queen and drone management.  Her classes draw people all over the world. Among them: researchers and beekeepers operating a breeding program or research project requiring controlled mating. A strong background in beekeeping and queen rearing  is required to enroll in these classes.  Participants are asked to bring their own instrument. Instrument rental and purchase are available with prior arrangement. "There is no instrument standardization," she said, "so  please inquire for an evaluation and/or upgrade on equipment to suit your needs."  She will provide microscopes and lights  and supply virgin  queens and drones.  For further information, prospective students may contact Cobey at scobey@mac.com or message her at (530) 554-2527. 

Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey (kneeling at right) at one of her queen bee-rearing classes at UC Davis. (Photo by  Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey (kneeling at right) at one of her queen bee-rearing classes at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey (kneeling at right) at one of her queen bee-rearing classes at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Susan Cobey (right) adding bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Susan Cobey (right) adding bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Susan Cobey (right) adding bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A healthy frame of bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A healthy frame of bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A healthy frame of bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 9:27 PM

Bring 'em On!

It's what I've always wanted to see on Christmas Day.

On Dec. 25, we rarely see any insects--probably because we aren't looking for them. But a butterfly? And a butterfly laying an egg?

Incredible!

I took an image of a Gulf Fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) laying an egg in west Vacaville (Solano County) on Christmas Day. She  fluttered around a frost-bitten, caterpillar-eaten passionflower vine (Passiflora) as the temperature held steady at 65 degrees. 

Then the butterfly dropped down, extended her abdomen, and laid an egg. A tiny yellowish egg, right in the middle of  dozens of caterpillars and chrysalids. Somehow or another, these immature stages managed to survive our extended frost, when the mercury dipped to 22 degrees. 

I told butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, about the egg-laying butterfly. Not so coincidentally, he was searching for adult butterflies in Vacaville today (temperature, 70 degrees), but didn't see any.

Shapiro, who monitors the butterflies of Central California and posts information on his website, sounded the alarm about the comeback of these spectacular orange-red butterflies several ago. It was in September 2009 that he excitedly announced the re-appearance of the Gulf Frit after its four-decade absence in the Sacramento metropolitan area, and its three-decade absence in the Davis area.

The larvae or caterpillars of the Agraulis vanillae feed on the leaves of the passion flower vine; they eat "many but not all species of the genus Passiflora," Shapiro says. "There are no native members of this genus in the state of California, but several are widely cultivated in gardens."

It's a tropical and subtropical butterfly with a range that extends from the southern United States all the way to central Argentina. No one knows exactly when the first Gulf Frit first arrived in California,  but "it was already in the San Diego area by about 1875," Shapiro said. It was first recorded in the San Francisco Bay Area around 1908.

The showy butterfly colonized both south Sacramento and the Winding Way/Auburn Boulevard area in the 1960s but by 1971 it "apparently became extinct or nearly so," recalled Shapiro, a Davis resident since 1971. 

Now we know that at least some Gulf Frits survived the freezing temperatures--just when a setback threatened the comeback.

Gulf Fritillary butterfly laying an egg on Christmas Day in west Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary butterfly laying an egg on Christmas Day in west Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Gulf Fritillary butterfly laying an egg on Christmas Day in west Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Gulf Fritillary spreading her wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary spreading her wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Gulf Fritillary spreading her wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 6:47 PM

Ah, Humbug!

It's no secret that bugs often get a bad rap.

Take the negative expression, "Bah, Humbug!" uttered by Ebenezer Scrooge, a Charles Dickens character.

Now it seems that everyone who dislikes Christmas says it, with an emphasis on "bug."

Why not turn things around and say "Ah, humbug!" Think of the hum of the buzzing honey bees on a warm summer day.

Or even a cold wintry day. 

Yesterday as the temperature hovered at 48 to 49 degrees on the University of California, Davis, we took a noonhour stroll behind the Lab Sciences Building to look for insects. We spotted a lone honey bee buzzing around some spiderylike red flowers, and buds that looked like tiny balls of red yarn. The plant? Calliandra californica, also known as Baja fairy duster, according to Ernesto Sandoval, director of the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory.

Now bees don't usually leave their colony until the temperature hits at least 55 degrees (although we've seen them flying at 50 in our backyard). 

This bee apparently wasn't aware of the "no fly" list.

This honey bee was not aware of the
This honey bee was not aware of the "no fly" list; bees don't usually fly when the temperature is 49 degrees, but this one did. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This honey bee was not aware of the "no fly" list; bees don't usually fly when the temperature is 49 degrees, but this one did. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee gathering nectar on Calliandra californica, aka Baja fairy duster. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee gathering nectar on Calliandra californica, aka Baja fairy duster. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee gathering nectar on Calliandra californica, aka Baja fairy duster. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee continues foraging on Calliandra caifornica. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee continues foraging on Calliandra caifornica. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee continues foraging on Calliandra caifornica. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, December 6, 2013 at 10:51 PM

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