Backyard Orchard News
Two newly moulted insects in the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, look just like leaves.
But these “leaves” are made for walking.
These are camouflaged insects (Phyllium giganteum), commonly known as "walking leaves." They're green, wide, and flat.
“They’re hard to detect among the leaves,” said senior museum scientist Steve Heydon. “It’s surprising how long it takes visitors to find them.”
The insects, natives of Malaysia, dine on bramble, oak, eucalyptus, raspberry, rose, and red/yellow salmon berry.
They mimic leaves in the wind by swaying as they walk, Heydon said. Females can reach a length of 5 inches.
“We got them as nymphs,” Heydon said. “They grow very slowly, probably the slowest of all the insects we’ve ever had at the museum. It took nine months for them to moult and become adults, and they each did it within a day of each other.”
The insects, splotched with red, look like green autumn leaves turning color. “With insect camouflage, there’s never a perfect leaf,” Heydon said. “You see simulated damage.”
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis entomology professor, said she’s always craved walking leaves for the museum. “They are so incredibly bizarre-looking,” she said. “It’s amazing how this insect develops new skin when its abdomen is as flat as paper.”
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, founded in 1946 by the late Richard M. Bohart, former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is dedicated to teaching, research and service. The insect museum houses more than seven million specimens, the seventh largest insect collection in North America.
The museum also includes live insects such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, and black widow spiders.
But for now, the walking leaves are the big attraction.
At the Bohart, you can actually "turn over a new leaf"--and it will be an insect.
Do you recognize the native bee that graces the cover of the current edition of California Agriculture, a peer-reviewed journal published by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources?
Yes, it's a carpenter bee. The spectacular photograph by Rollin Coville captures this native pollinator nectaring a mint flower in an urban
You've probably seen this insect in your own garden. It's about the size of a bumble bee with a decimel level that rivals rush-hour traffic.
The carpenter bee is just one of the native bees featured in the July-September edition.
UC Berkeley entomologist Gordon Frankie, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, wrote the lead article with several co-authors, including professor emeritus Robbin Thorp of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. (Thorp, a noted bumble bee expert, recently presented a Webinar at UC Davis on bumble bees.)
(Thorp, a noted bumble bee expert, recently presented a Webinar at UC Davis on bumble bees.)
The photos drive home the point that not all bees are honey bees, and the bee we know as a honey bee is not a native. In fact, European colonists brought the honey bee (Apis mellifera) to North America
The journal article spotlights bee-pollinator research conducted over a three-year period in seven cities from northern to s
And now, more good news...
The national award-winning California Agriculture journal, edited by executive editor Janet White and managing editor Janet Byron, just reached a major milestone. Their newly launched Web site, two years in the making, offers the full text of nearly 6000 articles published over the past 63 years. Free access. Searchable, too. You’ll want to bookmark the link.
The military has its 21-gun salute. California Agriculture ought to have a 21-field salute.
No, make that a 63-field salute.
One for every year.../st1:place>/st1:place>/o:p>/st1:place>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/st1:state>/st1:place>/o:p>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>
So, you spot a bug crawling up and down a plant in your garden.
What is it?
Plant bug? No kidding.
The common name for certain members of the Miridae family is--you guessed it--"plant bug." Entomologist Lynn Kimsey, who directs the Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus, quickly identified this little bugger.
"It's a Hemiptera," Kimsey said. Hemiptera, the fifth largest order of insects, all have a tubular beak for piercing and sucking. They're among the seven million insects in the Bohart Museum.
"Members of the family Miridae are the commonest Hemiptera in most areas of California," write entomologists Jerry Powell and Charles Hogue of UC Berkeley in their book, California Insects. "Many species attain high population densities, and most are specific to certain plants."
They describe the critters as "small, soft-bodied, elongate or oval bugs with prominent eyes and long, thin antennae and legs."
Most mirids, they say, suck plant juices (with their long beak) but some prey on other soft-bodied insects.
In case you're wondering, California has recorded more than 150 species of miriads.
The others, as they say, "await discovery."
In their book, Powell and Hogue list some of the species of plant bugs: ornate plant bug (Closterocoris ornatus), black grass bugs (Irbisia) and tarnishesd plant bugs (Lygus).
You can't go wrong, however, by calling it a "plant bug."
Pretty in pink
Now here's something that will tick you off.
You're taking photos of bumble bees and honey bees in tall grass near a wooded area, minding your own ISO, shutter speed and aperture. All's well with the world.
When you arrive home, there's an eight-legged visitor in your hair from the genus Dermacentor. That's the bad news.
The good news: You discovered the blood-sucking parasite, aka dog tick or wood tick, before it could embed or engorge.
This tick (below) is a reddish brown female dog tick I picked up in Marin County. It took a liking to my hair. My first tick. My first tick photo.
It is not something to crave.
Dog ticks look like spiders when their belly isn't full. They are typically found in tall grasses and wooded areas. They lie in wait for an unsuspecting host, like a dog bouncing through, and then attach themselves.
Not only are dog ticks painful but some can transmit human diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. Dog ticks can also induce tick paralysis. Another tick, known as a blacklegged tick, can transmit Lyme disease.
At the Center for Vectorborne Diseases, headquartered at UC Davis, some of the scientists research tick-borne diseases.
So, how do you remove a firmly embedded tick from your dog? Take your tweezers and firmly pull it out.
Preventive measures? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers helpful tips. People are encouraged to wear light-colored clothing, long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Wearing light-colored clothing can help you detect them. Covering your skin can help avoid attachment. Some folks swear by insect repellent, too.
Key point: After a hike, check for ticks.
In your hair, too.
They're up and at it long before the honey bees.
Before dawn breaks, you'll see the tiny bees gathering nectar and pollen in squash, pumpkins and other cucurbits.
They're squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa), sometimes called the plush bee. Unlike honey bees (which European colonists brought here in the 1600s), these are native pollinators. And unlike honey bees, these are solitary bees that nest underground. You'll find them from Quebec southward into Mexico.
Entomologists say they do a better job pollinating squash than the honey bees.
We'll take their word for it. Dozens of blossoms grace our sole squash plant, a yellow straightneck summer squash.
We bought the plant for a dollar, planted it in April, and already it has produced a dozen squash, thanks primarily to the little squash bees. Later in the morning, honey bees and carpenter bees gather where the squash bees have been.
It's our "yellow blossom special."
A squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)