Backyard Orchard News
There's a whole lot of crunchin' going on.
The redhumped caterpillar has discovered our redbud tree, which it considers an "all-you-can" buffet.
Now this is a voracious eater on the same scale of a fellow named Joey "Jaws" Chestnut.
Seconds? Yes, please.
Thirds? Of course.
Well, say "when!"
Distinguished by a bright red head and an equally bright red hump behind its head (Joey has neither, by the way), the caterpillar is yellow with red and white stripes. It's about an inch and a half long and can defoliate or skeletonize a leaf faster than you can say "The redhumped caterpillar is a Schizura concinna in the family Notodontidae." (Or “Joey Chestnut ate 54 dogs and buns on July 4, 2010 and took home the Mustard Belt.”)
The redhumped caterpillar is quite fond of redbud leaves but it also takes a liking to liquidambar, walnut and plum leaves, to mention a few.
Noted butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis and the person behind "Art's Butterfly World," took one look at my trio of happy campers...er...caterpillars and commented:
"As you can see, they are gregarious and warningly colored. The red hump contains a defensive formic acid gland. They hold their anal prolegs, which are not useful for walking, in the air and thrash their rear ends in unison when disturbed. This is the ONLY defoliator of redbud around here, and is very common."
Shapiro says it also "attacks walnut and a variety of other chemically distinctive trees that other things don't eat, as a rule. The damage is minor, and I strongly advise against spraying; hand-picking can be used if control is deemed necessary, but they feed so late in the season that there is no actual harm to the tree."
No, no harm. Just some skeletonized leaves and leaf stubs.
What's the adult look like?
"The moth is very nondescript," he says. "It holds its wings wrapped around the body cylindrically and looks remarkably like a cigarette butt, though it is probably 'imitating' a broken-off twig. Despite authoritative commentary to the contrary, they have two broods a year here but are usually seen in fall. The species is native on both coasts and oddly absent in most of the mid-continent."
It will be awhile before we see the adults, which are grayish-brownish.
Shapiro says the insects "pupate in litter or slightly below the soil surface and won't hatch until June or so, if true to form."
Meanwhile, it's OTL, followed by OTD and OTB (out-to-lunch, dinner and breakfast).
It's already won the Redbud Belt.
This is no ordinary calendar.
We just previewed the second annual North American Native Bee calendar and it's just absolutely spectacular.
Created by UC Berkeley-alumnus Celeste Ets-Hokin, a native bee advocate from the San Francisco Bay Area, the calendar is a fundraising project for the Great Sunflower Project and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
The macro images, primarily the work of UC Berkeley-trained entomologist/insect photographer Rollin Coville, are stunning. Coville, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1978, has been photographing insects and spiders for more than 25 years.
The calendar is unique in that each month not only features a "pin-up" photo of a bee but also includes notes on preferred plants, nesting needs, and guidance on how to identify the genus. It's like zeroing in on the lifestyles of the not-so-rich and not-so-famous, the ones that share your garden with honey bees. You can preview a sample of the front cover, one month, and back cover of the calendar.
The calendar idea originated with Gretchen LeBuhn, an environmental science professor at San Francisco State University. She's the one who launched the Great Sunflower Project. What's the Great Sunflower Project about? Members plant sunflowers in their garden, monitor bee visits and report back to LeBuhn. "The Great Sunflower Project currrently boasts an online membership of about 80,000 citizen scientists from across the United States and Canada," Ets-Hokin said.
Back to the calendars. This year the theme is "Bees and Food."
A good theme, a good cause, and a good place to learn about the many species of bees, including leafcutter bees, sweat bees and bumble bees, and how to attract them.
The 2010 calendar was so popular that it sold out. The 2011 calendar promises to be even more popular. In fact, the project coordinators are now taking orders. Orders received by Oct. 15 will be shipped the third week of October, Ets-Hokin said. Orders received by Nov. 30 will be shipped the first week of December.
I have it on my calendar. Only problem is, I don't want to part with my 2010 North American Bee Calendar.
North American Bee Calendar
“Beekeepers in California are cautiously optimistic that their colonies are going to survive the winter in better shape that they have in the past few years,” says Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty. ”Instead of having to feed their colonies all summer, they were glad to see that many colonies actually benefitted from last year’s nearly seasonal rainfall and produced some honey.”
Mussen said it’s too early to predict where the stress relief of better season forage will result in “a lessening of CCD, but better-fed bees can handle much more adversity than poorly fed bees.”
Mussen will be the keynote speaker at a "Bee Informed" public event, set from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Historic Ballroom of the Citizen Hotel, 926 J St., Sacramento. The educational celebration will focus on bees and honey through speeches, displays, drinks and food. A donation of $10 will be asked at the door, with donations benefitting the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.
With the recent rise of colony collapse disorder, increased honey bee awareness is vital for the preservation of local honey farms, said event coordinator Elaine Baker, pastry chef at the Citizen Hotel/Grange Restaurant.
“We’ll have honey-based cocktails available at a cash bar, a tea and coffee station, and I’m creating a selection of mini desserts, each featuring a different honey.”
“Honey is one of my favorite ingredients to use in desserts because of its beautifully nuanced flavors and gorgeous colors,” said Baker, who blogs about food at http://www.elainebakerspastryplayground.com/. “It’s just magical.”
She's right. It's just magical. Show me the honey.
And what she's doing to help the bees is magical, too.
The key goals of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden planted last fall next to the Laidlaw facility on Bee Biology Road, are to provide the Laidlaw bees and other pollinators with a year-around food source; to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees, to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own, and to serve as a research site.
And oh, yes, it's open year around to homo sapiens, too.
Show Me the Honey
All over the UC Davis campus, departments are gearing up for fall seminars.
At the UC Davis Department of Entomology, native pollinator specialist Neal Williams (top photo) and community ecologist Louie Yang (lower photo) have booked a lineup of speakers ranging from a malaria expert to an expert on wildlife ecology.The seminars will take place from 12:10 p.m. to 1 p.m. every Wednesday, beginning Sept. 29, in 122 Briggs Hall. The only exception: No seminar during Thanksgiving week. Then "T" is for turkey!
Some of the lectures will be webcast; that information will be posted in advance on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
First to the podium is noted malaria expert Shirley Luckhart.
The complete list:
Sept. 29: Shirley Luckhart, associate professor, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, who will discuss “Systems Biology of Complex Regulatory Signaling in Malaria Host-Parasite Interactions.” Host: Professor Ed Lewis.
Oct. 6: Yao Hua Law, doctoral candidate who studies with major professor Jay Rosenheim. His topic: "My Neighbors Drive Me Cannibalistic: Mechanisms of Density-Dependent Cannibalistic Behavior and its Effects on Population Dynamics." Host: Professor Jay Rosenheim.
Oct. 13: Shalene Jha, UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (working with Claire Kremen), UC Berkeley. Her topic: "Movement in the Matrix: Population Genetics and Ecosystem Services Across Human-Dominated Landscapes." Host: Assistant Professor Neal Williams.
Oct. 20: Anandasankar "Anand" Ray, principal investigator, molecular basis of insect olfaction, UC Riverside. His topic: "Expanding the Olfactory Code for Behavior Modification in Insects." Host: Professor Walter Leal.
Oct. 27: Murray Isman, dean and professor, Applied Biology (Entomology/Toxicology), University of British Columbia. His topic: "Aromatherapy for Pest Management? Pesticides Based on Plant Essential Oils for Agriculture, Industry and as Consumer Products." Host: Professor and Department Chair Michael Parrella
Nov. 3: John Stark, professor, Ecotoxicology Program, director, WSU Puyallup R&E Center, Washington State University. His topic: "Pollutant Soup: Effects of Toxic Mixtures on Fish and their Food.” Host: Professor and Department Chair Michael Parrella.
Nov. 10: Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor, insect behavior, UC Davis. His topic: "And the Beak Shall Inherit: Contemporary Local and Reverse Evolution in Morphology and Life History in American and Australian Soapberry Bugs." Host: Professor Sharon Lawler
Nov. 17: Elizabeth Crone, associate professor of quantitative wildlife ecology, Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula. Topic: "How Can Theoretical Ecology Guide Management of Plant and Insect Populations?" Host: Assistant Professor Neal Williams.
Nov. 24: None scheduled; this is Thanksgiving week.
Dec. 1: Erin Wilson, postdoctoral scholar, Louie Yang lab. Tentative Title: "Shifts in Life History Influence Invasion Outcomes.” Host: Assistant Professor Louie Yang
How did you learn how to collect, display and preserve insects?
If you look on the Internet, you'll find a few videos, but none as succinct, fast-paced and informative as the video clips on "How to Make an Insect Collection" that emerged from Professor James R. Carey's class at the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Being a strong proponent of "information by video" and knowing that today's generation obtains much of its information that way, Carey (shown above) came up with the idea of a series of entomological "how-to" videos.
The first: "How to Make an Insect Collection."
The class that he taught last spring resulted in a series of video clips now posted on the department's website.
The entire series, totaling 11 clips ranging in length from 32 seconds to 77 seconds, can be viewed in just less than 10 minutes.
“So in less than 10 minutes, someone can learn how to make an insect collection,” Carey said. The clips are tightly scripted, with an emphasis on brevity, simplicity and low cost.
To learn how to make an insect collection, you just have to click on the titles.
“It was an engaging, enjoyable fulfilling and productive experience,” Carey said. The project will also serve as a model for other entomology students who wish to create their own module of “how to” videos.
Making the insect-collection module, Carey said, was a low tech-low cost operation partly by design: “I wanted production to be ‘low tech’ so that anyone who could use a point-and-shoot camera and basic movie-editing software could produce a video clip."
It needed to be low cost not only because of no funding for the project, but because the basic challenge was to produce a set of high-content-high quality video clips at virtually zero cost.
The videographers were undergraduate students Joseline Saldivar, Tylan Selby and Ralph Washington Jr., all with a strong interest in entomology; and entomology graduate students Emily Bzdyk, James Harwood, Brittany Nelms and Amy Morice.
Lights, camera, action!
Oh, where did that bug go?