Backyard Orchard News
On the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, something as simple as a freshly watered potted plant will do.
Without water to ventilate and cool the hive, the wax inside an overheated hive on a hot day will melt and the brood will die.
However, if you see a honey bee collecting water, you might also see a European paper wasp (Polistes dominula).
These wasps need water to mix with their saliva and wood fibers to build their nests (right). They also bring back water for the offspring and to cool their nests.
Honey bees stand on the lip of the container or on rocks or sediment. They don't like getting their feet wet. Not so with wasps.
European Paper Wasp
The spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica) is a major agricultural pest. You'll see it on cucumbers, squash, corn, beans, watermelons, musk melons, cotton, tomatoes and other crops. You'll see it on ornamentals, too, including roses, dahlias, agapanthus and zinnias.
In its larval form, it's known as the southern corn rootworm. The larvae feed on roots and stems, and the adults, on foliage, pollen and flowers. The adults burrow into the corn ear tips and chew on the corn silks.
At first glance, the spotted cucumber beetle, about one-fourth inch long, resembles a ladybug or lady beetle that's changed its colors. Instead of reddish beetle with large black spots, however, these beetles are yellowish-green with large black spots.
When hiking last week in the cliffs above Timber Cove, Sonoma County, we spotted scores of spotted cucumber beetles. They were foraging on dandelions, seaside daisies and the California state flower, the golden poppy.
Seemed like every other flower harbored a spotted cucumber beetle. Or two.
Its predators, including tachnid flies, soldier beetles, lacewings and ladybugs, were no where in sight.
Spotted Cucumber Beetle
Two on a Poppy
It's a well-equipped predator, with keen eyesight, a rotating head, and two spiked forelegs that grab and grasp unsuspecting prey. It's not about "who's coming to dinner"; it's "what's coming to dinner."
Plus, it appears to "pray" before dinner. How disconcerting to the prey.
This praying mantis (below) was hanging out this week at the front entrance of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.
It was perusing the menu: tasty sweat bees, succulent hover flies, luscious butterflies, piquant ants and yes--savory honey bees--an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Fortunately, it didn't head over to the apiary, where the beekeepers tend 110 hives, each with approximately 60,000 bees, or a total of more than six million bees.
Thanks a million.
On the Hunt
But last week, for the first time, we spotted a male Acmon Blue, Plebejus acmon, as identified by noted butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis.
With its wings spread, the blue is dazzling.
Actor William Hurt starred in a 2004 movie, "The Blue Butterfly," but this Acmon Blue butterfly stars in its own galaxy.
It's often called a "pond damselfly" or a "narrow-winged damselfly."
We spotted this brilliant blue damselfly on a Great Valley gum plant (Grindelia camporum) near the Sciences Laboratory Building at the University of California, Davis.
It's a male coenagrionid damselfly, said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis. She knows her insects: she has seven million specimens in the Bohart (plus a few live ones in the "petting zoo").
The damselfly sparkled like a blue diamond as it foraged on the gum plant.
An entomological treasure, an Odonato gem, a sliver of blue in a thicket of green.