Backyard Orchard News
You gotta love that red buckwheat (Eriogonum grande rubescens).
Attractive to honey bees, native bees and butterflies, red buckwheat is flourishing in the garden. Okay, it's called red buckwheat, but the clusters are rosy pink. They're about the same size as ping-pong balls.
We watched the bees work the flowers last weekend. They crawled up one side and down the other.
This is a highly recommended plant when you're gardening for bees and butterflies.
With autumn settling in and winter approaching, the honey bees won't be working the flowers much longer this year.
But right now, they're in the pink.
Honey Bee on Buckwheat
It's called a complete metamorphosis--from an egg to a larva to a pupa to an adult.
Metamorphosis--Greek for "transformation" or "change in shape" is spectacular.
And it's particularly spectacular when the subject is the Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon).
Adult butterflies recently laid their eggs on anise (Pimpinella anisum), also known as fennel, in a friend's backyard in Fairfield. The eggs transformed into larvae (caterpillars) with coloring reminiscent of the adults.
We didn't see the first stage, the eggs, but did see the second stage, caterpillar and remnants of the third stage, an empty chrysalis.
One more butterfly flying around in Fairfield...
Anise swallowtail caterpillar on anise, also known as fennel.. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Empty chrysalis: an Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) emerged from this chrysalis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Adult stage: Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Once upon a time, there was a redhumped caterpillar gorging on the leaves of a redbud tree.
For three days, the hungry caterpillar gobbled the leaves, like an insect version of Pac-Man. It snipped, shredded and skeletonized the leaves and then went for more.
On the fourth day, it lay motionless, entangled in a spider web.
On the fifth day, the lifeless redhumped caterpillar (Schizura concinna) came back to "life," in the form of Argentine ants gorging on its carcass.
Life and death in the garden...
It was a major milestone, sequencing the genome of Culex quinquefasciatus, the so-called “southern house mosquito.”
The research, spearheaded by UC Riverside geneticists and published in the Oct. 1, 2010 edition of Science, involved scientists from 37 other institutions. The mosquito is a medically important mosquito that transmits the West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis, lymphatic filariasis and other diseases.
UC Riverside research entomologist Peter Arensburger led the bioinformatics component of the multiyear research effort, launched in 2004.
Cornel collected and established the mosquito colony that was sequenced. Cornel is an associate professor of entomology at UC Davis who directs the mosquito research lab at UC Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier.
“We have multiple sub colonies of the Johannesburg colony now established in numerous insectaries worldwide,” said Cornel.
Lanzaro, a longtime collaborator with Cornel, is a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine and former director of the UC Mosquito Research Program and the Center for Vectorborne Diseases. Both Cornel and Lanzaro serve as graduate student advisors in the UC Davis Department of Entomology. They mentor future medical entomologists.
The Hammock lab played a role in annotating and examining divergence of esterases and glutathione-S tranferases in this mosquito. Bruce Hammock is a distinguished professor of entomology. The lab of Walter Leal, professor of entomology, added expertise in chemical ecology.
Cornel hailed the research as “another milestone in mosquito genomics—we now have a full genome sequence of a third medically important mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus.”
Said Cornel: "This is the first species within the Culex genus fully sequenced and now offers many opportunities for research on comparative genomics and post genomics between three mosquito species now fully sequenced—namely the major malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae; the major dengue virus vector, Aedes aegypti; and a major vector of West Nile virus, Culex quinquefasciatus.”
The genome of Culex quinquefasciatus, Cornel said, is much larger than the other two species--52 percent more than Anopheles gambiae and 22 percent more than Aedes aegypti. “Research on these three mosquitoes--how they find their hosts and vector diseases and the mechanisms involved--will likely blossom in the near future.”
This is indeed research to watch.
Honey bees foraging on zinnias?
Yes. It's not considered a "bee plant" like the salvias, lavenders and mints, but bees do forage on it occasionally.
The genus, from the aster family (Asteraceae), derives its name from the German botanist, Johann Gottfried Zinn.
At the Hoes Down Harvest Festival last weekend at the Fully Belly Farm, an organic farm in Guinda, deep in the heart of Capay Valley, life took a celebratory twist. The annual festival, so named because folks put down their hoes to celebrate the harvest, includes educational farm tours, a children’s area, hands-on workshops, live music, and the sale of organic produce (fruits, vegetables, olive oil and honey).
This year, the 23rd annual event, weavers wove, spinners spun and a blacksmith blacksmithed just as our great-grandparents did.
And those little honey bees that make it all possible, buzzed amid the basil, mints, salvias--and yes, zinnias.
Honey Bee on Zinnia