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Observing Bay Area World Malaria Day

Yoosook Lee
The statistics are alarming.

 "Every 45 seconds a child in Africa dies from malaria, a disease spread by a single mosquito bite. There are more than 200 million cases of malaria each year, and nearly 1 million of those infected die from the disease — most of them children under the age of five."

That's on the Nothing But Nets website and there's something we can all do to help. We can donate $10 for a life-saving bed net to protect families in Africa from getting bit by a mosquito.

There's something else we can do: attend the  third annual Bay Area World Malaria Day Symposium, set for 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, April 25 on the Clark Kerr campus, UC Berkeley.

It promises to be a day of innovation, knowledge-sharing and collaboration, announced Kay Monroe of Zagaya, the event host.  The schedule of events will be presented the day of the symposium.

Greg Lanzaro
Thirteen UC Davis researchers who study the malaria mosquito are scheduled to participate. They include Gregory Lanzaro, professor, and Yoosook Lee, assistant researcher in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology  (PMI) in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Shirley Luckhart,  professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Medicine.  Lanzaro and Luckhart are graduate student advisors in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Lanzaro's Soundbite presentation,"Malaria in the Americas: A New Research Initiative for the UC Davis Vector Genetics Lab," will key in on the challenges of malaria control in Brazil.  Lee's  Soundbite presentation will be on a new diagnostic tool for malaria mosquito research. Luckhart is scheduled for both a Soundbite and poster. 

Two of the UC Davis presenters, Laura Norris and Bradley Main, are National Institutes of Health T32 postdoctoral fellows. They will cover the topic of malaria vector evolution in the face of insecticide pressure from bed net campaign.

The list of the other UC Davis presenters, as announced by Monroe:

Nazzy Pakour, Soundbite; and Elizabeth Glennon, Kristen Lokken, Jason Maloney, Jose Pietri, Rashaun Potts and Lattha Souvannaseng, Bo Wang, poster.

Keynote speakers are:

  • Tim Wells, chief scientific officer,  Medicines for Malaria Venture, Geneva, Switzerland, who will share the latest efforts to develop new drugs aimed at wiping out malaria. 
    
Title: The Pipeline of Medicines to Support Malaria Control and Elimination

    View abstract
  • Joseph DeRisi, professor and vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, UC San Francisco, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, who will talk about work in his lab.
    Title: "A View from the Trenches – Anti-malarial Drug Development"
    View abstract  
  • Regina Rabinovich, ExxonMobil Malaria Scholar in Residence at the Harvard School of Public Health, who will examine the future of malaria eradication efforts, past the 2015 UN Millennium Development goals.

    Title: "Beyond the Millennium Development Goals Horizon – What Will Help Drive Success Post-2015?"
    View abstract

Shirley Luckhart
This year Zagaya has added to the symposium, "The Malaria Artwork Showcase," designed to display artistic representations of malaria, from the molecular to the global scale. 

Officials at Zagaya (which means "spear") say this is a critical time for malaria research professionals to come together, as it's one year away from the 2015 UN Millennium Development goal of halting and reversing the growth of malaria incidence. The symposium provides the forum for researchers, implementers, advocates and students to "inspire and catalyze change for the greater good."

Registration is open and ongoing until the day of the event. General registration is $50, and students, $25. A portion of the registration fee--$10--will go toward purchasing bed nets via the United Nation's Nothing but Nets program, a global, grassroots campaign to save lives by preventing malaria.

 The nets are considered one of the most cost-effective tools to prevent the spread of malaria. How effective? Statistics show that bed nets can reduce malaria transmissions by 90 percent in areas with high coverage rates.

A malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, feeding on human blood. (Photo by Anthony Cornel)
A malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, feeding on human blood. (Photo by Anthony Cornel)

A malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, feeding on human blood. (Photo by Anthony Cornel)

Posted on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 8:28 PM

Golden Boy

Robbin Thorp holding a male Valley carpenter bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A "golden boy" drew a lot of attention at the Bohart Museum of Entomology last Saturday, April 12 during the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day.

"Golden boy?" A male Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) to be exact. This carpenter bee is usually mistaken for a bumble bee but a bumble bee it is not. It's a male Valley carpenter bee. And the females of this species are solid black.

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, provided information to wide-eyed youngsters as he held the golden carpenter bees,  what he calls "the teddy bear bees."  They look and feel soft and cuddly, just like a teddy bear.  

The questions flew.

Visitor: "Does it sting?"

Thorp: ""No, boy bees don't sting. They don't have a stinger."

Visitor: "Why does he act like he's going to sting me?"

Thorp: "He's bluffing. He's trying to make you think he can sting."

Visitor: "Do carpenter bees make honey?"

Thorp: "No, honey bees make honey."

Visitor: "Can I touch it?"

Thorp: "Yes, can you feel it vibrating?"

Visitor: "Does it die after it mates?"

Thorp: "No, it can mate again. A drone (male) honey bee dies after mating, but not carpenter bees."

Visitor: "What are you going to do with it afterwards?"

Thorp: "Release it back into the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven (a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road that's operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology)."

Fact is, it's a pollinator. Keep your eyes open for it and other pollinators on May 8. That's when the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) is conducting "Operation Pollination," one of three events on a Day of Science and Service. Your help is needed. Wherever you are in California--at work or at play--allow three minutes to count the pollinators around you. That could be honey bees, bumble bees, butterflies, sweat bees, syrphid flies, carpenter bees, bats and the like. Take some photos, too. Then register the data and upload your photos on the UC ANR web page.

We suspect that if and when the nearly 5000 visitors who attended the Bohart Museum open house, catch a glimpse of a "golden boy" on May 8, they'll know exactly what it is, whatever they choose to call it.

  • Male Valley carpenter bee
  • Xylocopa varipuncta
  • Boy bee
  • Golden boy
  • "Teddy bear bee"
  • Pollinator

Male Valley carpenter bee draws attention at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male Valley carpenter bee draws attention at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Male Valley carpenter bee draws attention at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A tentative touch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A tentative touch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A tentative touch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Fingers nestle the male Valley carpenter bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fingers nestle the male Valley carpenter bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Fingers nestle the male Valley carpenter bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, April 14, 2014 at 9:01 PM

Just Me and My Maggot

Rebecca O'Flaherty teaching elementary students about maggots. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you've never been to Briggs Hall during the annual campuswide Picnic Day at the University of California, Davis, you're missing a special kind of art.

Maggot Art. Yes, you read that right. Maggot Art.

It's a traditional and popular part of the Department of Entomology and Nematology's many activities at Picnic Day. This year the UC Davis Picnic Day is Saturday, April 12, and the Briggs Hall events take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Maggot Art is especially for children, but anyone can participate. You grab a special pair of forceps, pick up a maggot, dip it into non-toxic, water-based paint and let it crawl around on white paper. Voila! Maggot Art. Suitable for framing!

Rebecca O'Flaherty, former entomology doctoral candidate at UC Davis, coined and trademarked the term in 2001 while a student at the University of Hawaii. She was organizing a community outreach program and seeking ways to teach youngsters about insects. Not to hate them. Not to fear them. To respect them and learn about them.

Maggot Art was the way. Her way. It worked.

Her program, which now includes a website, drew national publicity, highlighted by an interview with National Public Radio.

 "I love my work and being able to share my love with so many people has truly been a joy," she told us in an interview back in 2007. "I tend to target young elementary students, second and third graders, because I find that at that age, most children are enthusiastic, uninhibited and extremely open to new ideas. They haven't developed aversions to insects, and we're able to instill in them an appreciation for and interest in all organisms, no matter how disgusting those organisms may be perceived to be."

Specially designed forceps lift a maggot onto the artist's canvas. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Most people are open-minded," said O'Flaherty, who used to coordinate the Maggot Art at many a Picnic Day. "The kids are excited and the parents become enthusiastic when the kids are so excited."

Some adults find maggots revolting, she acknowledged.  "A few parents have pulled their children away with a 'Eeew!' and 'Don't touch that!'"

Since 2001, O'Flaherty has taught thousands of students, ranging from kindergarteners to college students to law enforcement professionals. She even showcased her own Maggot Art at a 2007 art show in the Capital Athletic Club, Sacramento. Some art critics compared her work to that of American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock.

While at UC Davis, O'Flaherty studied with major professor/forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey. Although she no longer participates in Picnic Day's Maggot Art, her art continues.

UC Davis entomology undergraduate and graduate students now guide little hands in creating art that is like no other.

Some youngsters are concerned about the welfare of the maggots (no maggots are harmed in the making of the paintings) and a few ask to take the maggots home.

Just the art work goes home, thank you. No maggots, please.

A maggot dipped in water-based, non-toxic paint crawls on paper. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A maggot dipped in water-based, non-toxic paint crawls on paper. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A maggot dipped in water-based, non-toxic paint crawls on paper. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey, Let's Go Honey Tasting!

Eric Mussen
Want to sample some honey?

How about almond, yellow starthistle, leatherwood, cultivated buckwheat, safflower and wild oak?

Those are the varieties that will be offered by Extension apiculturist  Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology at Briggs Hall on Saturday, April 12 during the 100th annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day.

Mussen will be offering honey tasting to one and all--come one, come all--from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. And it's free. You grab a toothpick, poke it in the honey dish, and enjoy.

Folks don't usually like the bitter taste of almond, Mussen says. That's why you won't find it sold in stores. His favorite? Starthistle. It's an invasive weed, but don't tell that to the bees. They love it.

It's also a good time to ask Mussen about honey bees and check out the glassed-in bee observation hive in 122 Briggs. There you can look for the queen (she's the one with a number on her thorax) and watch the colony at work. In addition, the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is planning scores of educational displays and fun activities. You can learn what an insect is--how it differs from spiders and other critters. You can create maggot art, follow the termite trails and "bet" at the cockroach races.  You can learn about  forensic, medical, aquatic, apiculture and forest entomology.  Like pollinators? Learn about the major pollinators in your backyard. Like fly fishing? Tie a fly.

At the Bohart Museum of Entomology, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, you can see insects have been recently discovered and insects that are threatened and extinct. You can also hold Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks (live!) in your hand.

All in all, it plans to be a fun day for picnickers who love bugs--or want to learn more about them and what they do.

Fish-eye view of the honey tasting at Briggs Hall during the UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fish-eye view of the honey tasting at Briggs Hall during the UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Fish-eye view of the honey tasting at Briggs Hall during the UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Evan Marczak of Davis samples honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Evan Marczak of Davis samples honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Evan Marczak of Davis samples honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Briggs Hall will be busy on Saturday, April 12 during the annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Briggs Hall will be busy on Saturday, April 12 during the annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Briggs Hall will be busy on Saturday, April 12 during the annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 7:25 PM

Bees and Onions Go Together: Pollination Partners

The University of California, Davis, is a world leader in seed, plant and agricultural sciences. Some 100 seed and seed-related companies are located near UC Davis and benefit greatly from its proximity, but the influence of UC Davis extends throughout the USA and far beyond.--Seed Central

So it stands to reason that Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will keynote a Seed Central-affiliated conference on Thursday, April 10 on the Davis campus. He'll speak on "Honey Bees in Seed Crop Pollination" at 6 p.m. in the UC Davis Conference Center.

Mussen serves as the Extension apiculturist for the entire state, but is also involved at the national and global level.

Seed Central is co-organizing the two-day conference (which ends April 10) with the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. This is the Veg Research and Development Forum, an annual meeting of the research managers of vegetable seed companies with breeding activities for the North American market.  Its purpose, according to the Seed Central website: "to enable discussion among research managers of long-term, pre-competitive research topics and research-related policy issues of importance to the North American vegetable seed industry. Attendance includes invited participation with university scientists, technology providers to the seed industry and members of the downstream agriculture and food industries."

If you've ever seen honey bees pollinating an onion umbel (flowering head), they're a joy to watch. The bees come in twos and threes, buzzing up, around, over and under. It's their world on a string. A globe on a stalk. A bee-covered ball.

Nevertheless, there's concern among the onion growers and beekeepers about decreasing seed production due to the increased use of insecticides to control onion thrips. This insect vectors the pathogen, iris yellow spot virus.

Hybrid onion seed is indeed a small specialty crop in California, but an important one. To get acquainted with what's going on in the industry, read the UC Agriculture an Natural Resources (UC ANR) publication (No. 8008) on "Onion Seed Production in California," published in October 2013. One of the experts on onion seed production in California is Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Long, who directs the Yolo County Cooperative Extension, Woodland.  

Honey bees on an onion umbel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees on an onion umbel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees on an onion umbel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees circling the
Honey bees circling the "globe" (onion umbel). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees circling the "globe" (onion umbel). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 10:31 PM

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