Backyard Orchard News
The first thing you notice about the fly is its brilliant red eyes.
They stand out like the proverbial elephant in the room.
But they are on a fly--a flesh fly.
Martin Hauser, an associate insect biosytematist in the Plant Pest Diagnostics Branch, California Department of Food and Agriculture, identified this little critter as a member of the Sarcophagidae family.
"Sarco" is Greek for flesh, and "phage" means eating.
Hauser, who earned his doctorate in entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is skilled at identifying insects. And he speaks German, French and English and studied Latin.
The red-eyed fly, which in its larval stage is associated with decaying flesh, sipped a little nectar and then paused momentarily to groom itself.
And pose for the camera.
FLESH FLY, a member of the Sarcophagidae family, ejects its tongue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
FLESH FLY (Sarcophagidae family) pauses to groom itself. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Aren't syrphid flies grand?
Syrphid flies, aka hover flies or flower flies (family Syrphidae), are especially grand in a Calandrinia grandiflora, aka rock purslane.
Often mistaken for honey bees, these insects hover over flowers, wings spinning like helicopters, and then dart inside a blossom to feed on pollen and nectar.
We spotted a brightly colored syrphid on a rock purslane in our garden last Sunday. It appeared in no hurry to leave its host.
Is it true that this colorful fly is in the same order (Diptera) as the common housefly? It is.
Hover flies are found everywhere in the world except Antarctica. For a look at some of the species, check out BugGuide.Net. The site contributors are self-described naturalists "who enjoy learning about and sharing our observations of insects, spiders, and other related creatures."
Another great source is entomologist Robert Bugg's 25-page booklet, "Flower Flies (Syrphidae) and Other Biological Control Agents for Aphids in Vegetable Crops," published in May 2008 by the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). You can download it for free by accessing this page.
The nights are finally cooling down and this in combination with shortening daylength, signals pests to slow down their development and in some cases go into diapause. Citrus leafminer will stop development soon and just sit in leaves in various stages through the winter. The youngest larval instars will die due to the cold. The older larval instars and pupae will become prey to predators and parasites. The leafminer population will survive primarily as a few pupae and adults, which is why it will start out in very low numbers in the spring.
Is coconut oil effective in treating varroa mites, those nasty little mites that plague our honey bees?
The facts aren't in, and research is ongoing.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, will discuss his research, “Coconut Oil - Varroa Treatment or Food Ingredient?” at the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) convention, set Nov. 16-17 in the Embassy Suites, San Luis Obipso.
He'll address the crowd on Tuesday, Nov. 16. (To read more about honey bees, check out his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, and his Bee Briefs on his website.
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey will address the conference on "Honey Bee Stock Improvement: Challenges and Options" on Thursday, Nov. 18.
In addition, she'll speak Nov. 16 at Cal Poly's Horticulture and Crop Science Department on “Mating is Risky Business and the Benefits Of Being Promiscuous." That talk is part of the Dow AgroSciences Seminar Series: “New Advancements in Biotechnology and Sustainability of Crop Science."
The CSBA is headed by Roger Everett of Porterville, who is also a member of the California State Apiary Board.
CSBA’s purpose is to “educate the public about the beneficial aspects of honey bees, advance research beneficial to beekeeping practices, provide a forum for cooperation among beekeepers and to support the economic and political viability of the beekeeping industry.”
Checking the hives
Yarrow, yarrow, yarrow.
Drone fly, drone fly, drone fly.
This little insect is often mistaken for a honey bee. In the adult stage, both the drone fly and honey bee nectar flowers. However, the drone fly is a syrphid fly (family Syrphidae, subfamily Eristalinae, tribe Eristalini, genus, Eristalis). Like all syrphids, it has two wings. The honey bee has four.
Other distinct differences tell you it's a fly, not a bee. It's amazing, though, how often stock photos proclaim "honey bee" when the insect is actually a drone fly.
In its larval stage, the drone fly is known as a rat-tailed maggot. You'll see it in stagnant water, such as in ditches, ponds and drains. It feeds on stagnant rotting organic material.
We spotted this drone fly sipping nectar on a brilliant yellow yarrow (Achillea millefolium). If you look closely, you'll see yellow pollen clinging to its abdomen.
Flies, too, are pollinators!