Backyard Orchard News
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
First it was the California poppies. Then the lupine.
And now it's coreopsis, aka tickseed.
It's seasonal blooming at the Campus Buzzway, a quarter-acre wildflower garden planted last fall at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at UC Davis.
A gift from Häagen-Dazs--in a project coordinated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and the California Center for Urban Horticulture--the Campus Buzzway features blue and gold, the UC Davis colors.
Poppies and lupine starred in the garden earlier this year, and most have finished blooming. It's now coreopsis' turn.
Its spectacular neighbor, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden, will be the center of attention on Saturday, Sept. 11 at the public opening celebration. But the Campus Buzzway will attract attention, too.
Garry Pearson, greenhouse supervisor at UC Davis, unfolded three banners at the Campus Buzzway last week. The banners will be on display in the Campus Buzzway on special occasions.
The Sept. 11 opening of the gardens, set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is one of them.
Trio of Banners
Bee on Coreopsis