Backyard Orchard News
Last weekend we spotted a San Francisco-bound car sporting a bumper sticker that read simply:
"I brake for bugs."
Bugs rule. Bugs are cool. Bugs are definitely worth stopping for (especially if it's the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis which houses seven million specimens).
Lot of brakin' going on.
Which brings us to what the Royal Entomological Society, United Kingdom, did.
The society invited 23 distinguished entomologists and entomologists-in-training to write a daily blog about bugs during National Insect Week. The blogs are online--and let's hope this really catches on.
They're "bug bloggers" extraordinaire.
Cranston, recently awarded an honorary membership in the Royal Entomological Society, teaches teaches systematic entomology and biodiversity at UC Davis and serves as the co-editor of the Royal Entomological Society’s journal Systematic Entomology. His research interests include the systematics, ecology and biogeography of aquatic insects, particularly the Chironomidae (non-biting midges).
His blog bio indicates: "In his childhood years in the West Midlands of the UK in the 1950s, he was allowed, even encouraged, to roam the countryside with friends and siblings, and he developed a fascination with aquatic wildlife--birds, mammals and the larger insects. His formal education built on these interests, thanks to the support of a high-school biology teacher who encouraged him to undertake fieldwork projects."
Cranston went on to earn his bachelor's degree in biology at the University of London. For his doctorate, also obtained from the University of London, he studied the development stages (larvae and pupae) of the dominant group of aquatic flies--the chironomid midges.
If you're an entomology student, you probably have a copy of the popular textbook, The Insects: An Outline of Entomology, written by Cranston and Penny Gullan, also an entomology professor at UC Davis.
As for Tom Miller, he teaches insect physiology, insect toxicology and first-year biology at UC Riverside. He earned his doctorate in entomology at UC Riverside in 1967. He then served a year as a research associate at the University of Illinois and a year as a NATO postdoctoral fellow at Glasgow University before joining the UC Riverside faculty in 1969.
Miller's research interests: the structure and function of the insect circulatory system; the mode of action of insecticides; insect neuromuscular physiology; physiology, toxicology and behavior of pink bollworm in cotton fields; transgenic insects; applied symbiosis for crop protection; and biopesticides for crop protection.
Miller received the coveted Gregor J. Mendel Medal for Research in Biological Sciences in 2003 from the Czech Academy of Sciences.
We can learn a lot from insects, especially when a predator ambushes its prey.
An ambush, as defined by Wikipedia "is a long-established military tactic in which the aggressors (the ambushing force) use concealment to attack a passing enemy."
The crab spider is a perfect example of an insect that conceals itself in a flower and waits for an unsuspecting visitor.
The crab spider doesn't build a web to trap its prey. No, too much wasted energy. It capitalizes on concealment, the element of surprise, and the quick assault and rapid kill.
And then, a leisurely meal.
Crab spiders or Thomisidae family (order Araneae) resemble crabs in that they can move sideways or backward.
You rarely notice them.
Neither do their prey--until it's too late.
Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
Such was the case today with the Mournful or Sad Dusky-Wing, Erynnis tristis (Hesperiidae).
UC Davis butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, describes it as "Common below 2000, including the Sacramento Valley; the only Erynnis routinely found in cities. A strong flier but not a very dedicated puddler, it is multiple-brooded, from March to October. This is the only common Dusky-Wing with a white fringe (compare E. funeralis)."
Shapiro says the Mournful Dusky-Wing visits tall blue verbena, yerba santa, California buckeye and a variety of garden flowers, including the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii).
Today it was visiting lavender, both purple and white lavender. It lingered long enough to be admired.
The Eyes Have It
It hasn't been a good year for honey bees, no thanks to colony collapse disorder, but it has been a good year for the release of educational information.
The latest edition of The Bee Health Update, a bimonthly newsletter which updates current activities around the Bee Health, eXtension.org community, is now online.
And it's a wealth of information.
Video: "Honey Bees and Beekeeping: A Year in the Life of an Apiary," by Keith Delaplane, University of Georgia
Instrumental Insemination: Susan Cobey of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis
Nosema ceranae: The Inside Story by Tom Webster, Kentucky State University
Pesticides Applied to Crops and Honey Bee Toxicity: Marion Ellis, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
A View from the Front Lines: Kerry Lynott, Pennsylvania State University
Breeding Bees for Resistance to Parasites and Diseases: Greg J. Hunt, Purdue University
Among the many other topics: The Stationary Apiary Coordinated Agricultural Project; Dance Language of the Honey Bee; and upcoming events.
A tip of the bee veil to the folks at Bee Health Update.
Inside the Tube
The yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) may be one of the most underappreciated pollinators.
You see it buzzing around lavender, lupine, California poppies, mustard and other plants.
But a Xerces Society study of organic farms in Yolo County found that it was one of the most important of the native bees visiting the Sungold cherry tomatoes.
The study, titled “Native Bee Pollination of Cherry Tomatoes,” was based on research by Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley, Neal Williams and Robbin Thorp of UC Davis and Sarah Greenleaf, California State University, Sacramento, all members of Xerces.
“Recent studies demonstrate that tomatoes pollinated by native bees produce larger and more numerous fruits,” the authors wrote. “Honey bees do not pollinate tomatoes because they cannot get the pollen and the flowers do not produce nectar. With no reward, honey bees will not visit the flower. Many native bees, however, know the trick to extracting tomato pollen and are, therefore, valuable pollinators.
"Although the tomato plant is self-fertile, flowers must be vibrated by wind or bees in order to release pollen for fertilization. To achieve the most effective pollination, the flower must be vibrated at a specific frequency to release the pollen. Honey bees are unable to vibrate the tomato flower in this way, but bumble bees and other native species can.
The Xerces Society offers a great resource on how to attract bumble bees: see Farming for Bees: Guidelines for Providing Native Bee Habitat on Farms.
In some respects, the yellow-faced bumble bee resembles a cuddly teddy bear. It's big and bumbly, as a bumble bee should be.
From behind, however, its heavy load of pollen looks for all the world like saddlebags on a trail horse.
Foraging Bumble Bee