Backyard Orchard News
Dragonflies occasionally hang around our fish pond to catch flying insects, such as flies and mosquitoes.
Last weekend a gorgeous flame skimmer swooped down in our garden--a few yards from our fish pond--and landed on a bamboo stake.
She absolutely glowed in the late afternoon sun.
Soon she lifted off to catch insects. Would she return? She did. She repeatedly left her perch to nail more insects.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis and professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, identified it as a female Libellula saturata. Order: Odonata. Suborder: Epiprocta. Family: Libellulidae.
The Bohart Museum contains some seven million insect specimens.
The flame skimmer is there, too. It's also on a dragonfly poster that the Bohart offers for sale in its gift shop or online.
You'll learn all about butterflies and moths of Central Europe if you attend his talk or webinar (listen live) from 12:10 to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 26 in 122 Briggs, University of California, Davis. The webcast will later be archived.
His topic: “Butterflies and Moths in Central Europe: Natural History, Climate Change and Voltinism."
Altermatt is the last speaker in a series of spring seminars launched March 31 by the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Altermatt, who is with the Marcel Holyoak Group at UC Davis, received his doctorate in 2007 from the University of Basel, Switzerland. From 2007-2009, he served as a scientific collaborator at Hintermann & Weber AG, (Ecological Consultancy, Planning and Research), working on the project “Biodiversity Monitoring Switzerland.”
Entomology graduate students James Harwood and Amy Morice of professor James Carey’s lab will be webcasting the seminar. The Wednesday webcastings draw widespread audiences, some from as far away as Brazil.
This is the last spring seminar, but the noon-hour seminars will continue in the fall.
Amy Morice and James Harwood
The Campus Buzzway is buzzing with bees.
The quarter-acre wildflower garden, located by the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis, was planted last fall with California golden poppies (the state flower), lupine and coreopsis (tickseed).
This spring it's come alive.
This morning we watched honey bees dive head first in the poppies and roll around like kids in a haymow. The bees emerged coated with fine grains of pollen, much like kids dusted with hayseed.
The Campus Buzzway, a gift from Häagen-Dazs, is situated next to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden that's a year-around food source for honey bees and other pollinators and a year-around educational experience for visitors. Plans are under way for a Sept. 11th grand opening, complete with speakers, tours and bee-themed hand-outs.
Meanwhile, the Campus Buzzway is picture-perfect with poppies and bees. Or is it bees and poppies?
Heading for Poppy
Rolling in the Pollen
Up, Up and Away
Every insect looks prettier when it lands on a tower of jewels (Echiium wildpretti).
When in full bloom, the 9-to-10-foot-high plant, native to the Canary Islands, blazes with firecracker-red flowers. It's a showstopper.
Syrphid flies, aka flower flies or hover flies, battle with honey bees to sip the sweet nectar.
The flower flies flit in and out of the blossoms, barely visible.
However, these insects suffer from an identity crisis. Their wasp-like coloring wards off predators. That same coloring confuses people, too. The average person on the street--or in a flower bed--thinks they're bees.
They're not. They're flies.
UC Davis-trained entomologist Robert Bugg wrote an excellent pamphlet on flower flies that's downloadable free from the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Titled Flower Flies (Syrphidae) and Other Biological Control Agents (Publication 8285, May 2008), it will help you identity flower flies.
Not bees. Not wasps. Flies.
When we think of pollinators, we usually think of honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, syrphid or flower flies, and butterflies.But wait, blow flies can be pollinators, too.
You see them stopping on flowers for a sip of nectar, and in their travels from one flower to the other, they can--and do--transfer pollen.
Blow flies, though, aren't exactly what the organizers of National Pollinator Week had in mind when they set aside June 21-27 to celebrate the pollinators.
The U. S. Forest Service says that "of the 1,400 crop plants grown around the world, i.e., those that produce all of our food and plant-based industrial products, almost 80% require pollination by animals. Visits from bees and other pollinators also result in larger, more flavorful fruits and higher crop yields. In the United States alone, pollination of agricultural crops is valued at $10 billion annually. Globally, pollination services are likely worth more than $3 trillion."
So, when we talk about "the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees," we ought to include an occasional blow fly from the order Diptera and family Calliphoridae.
Besides, this little bugger does lend itself to alliteration: birds, bees, bats, beetles, butterflies and blow flies.
Blow Fly on Lavender