Backyard Orchard News
Call it the "Mournful Dusky-Wing" or the "Sad Dusky-Wing."
Call it what you will, but the Erynnis tristis, a member of the skipper butterfly family (Hesperiidae), is neither mournful nor sad when it's nectaring lavender.
The skipper, distinguishable from other dusky wings by its white fringe, is a frequent floral visitor.
As a caterpillar, its host is oak, including Valley Oak and Cork Oak, says UC Davis butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology.
Compared with other butterflies, including the Western Tiger Swallowtail, "E. T." is not the most beautiful of butterflies.
It doesn't stand out in the crowd. But it does stand out in the lavender.
It's no secret that bees like sedum.
The Autumn Joy sedum (family Crassulaceae) growing in our garden is still a tight cluster of broccoli-like buds--not ready for prime time.
But don't tell the honey bees that.
Sedum is a slow bloomer, and bees poking their heads in the dusty pink buds is a common sight.
Plant sedum and they will come. (As will the butterflies, hover flies, carpenter bees and other insects.)
We are eagerly anticipating the blooms, too, in the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, to be installed next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. It's scheduled to open to the public on Oct. 16. Nearby will be a quarter-acre wildflower walkway called "Campus Buzzway."
The gardens will be a year-around food source for bees and provide educational experiences for visitors, who can learn about honey bees and glean ideas about bee friendly plants for their own gardens.
Bring 'em on!
Honey bee on sedum
What a treat to see the Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutullus) gliding into a patch of ookow (Dichelostemma congestum), also known as wild hyacinth.
A recent outing to Healdsburg, Sonoma County, found the tiger on the ookow.
The colors were perfect: the bright yellow butterfly bordered in black visiting the delicate purple flower with light yellow stamens.
Fortunately, the Western Tiger Swallowtail cooperated with the photographer by lingering in the flowers. He perched, wings open, then fluttered away.
Him? Yes. UC Davis butterfly expert Art Shapiro knows his butterflies.
He also knows his "hims" and "hers."
A tip of the bee veil to Susan Cobey.
Cobey, bee breeder-geneticist and manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, has won the 2009 “Outstanding Service to Beekeeping” award from the Western Apicultural Society (WAS).
Cobey received a plaque at the organization’s 31st annual conference, held last week in Healdsburg.
Known world-wide for her expertise in instrumental insemination and stock improvement, she trained under Harry Laidlaw (1907-2003) of UC Davis, considered “the father of honey bee genetics.”
WAS president and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, presented her the award, praising her expertise, dedication and passion.
Cobey is well-known in the beekeeping industry. Her advanced beekeeping courses on queen bee rearing and queen bee insemination draw students from throughout the world.
“It’s a special honor to receive this award, especially since my return to California,” said Cobey, who participated in the first WAS conferences.
Cobey joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology in May 2007, after a career spanning 17 years as staff apiarist at the Rothenbuhler Honey Bee Laboratory, Ohio State University.
Cobey developed the New World Carnolians stock, a dark race of honey bees, in the early 1980s by back-crossing stocks collected from throughout the United States and Canada to create a more pure strain. A current focus of her research includes selecting and enhancing this stock to show increasing levels of resistance to pests and diseases.
Of her research, she says: “Over time, it has proven very productive, winter hardy, well-tempered and more resistant to pests and disease. Genetic diversity, the raw tools for selection, is critical in maintaining colony fitness and resisting pests and diseases.”
She is enhancing the stock, now in its 27th generation, with importation of semen from the German Carnica Association.
Cobey is the 28th person to receive the WAS award, and the sixth from UC Davis. Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. received the award in 1980; Robert Page in 1989; Norman Gary in 1990; Eric Mussen in 1991; and Christine Peng in 2002. Page (now with Arizona State University), Gary and Peng are all emeriti professors.
Mussen and Gary co-founded WAS in 1978 as a non-profit, educational organization designed specifically to meet the educational needs of beekeepers from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon; and the states of northern Mexico.
If you're in the right spot at the same time, you may get a double bonus: a non-native bee and a native bee on a native plant.
We took this photo in Healdsburg last week of a non-native bee (the common European or Western honey bee, Apis mellifera) and a native sweat bee (Halictus ligatus) sharing a plant native to the Americas: the sunflower.
A golden moment.
Two on a Sunflower