Backyard Orchard News
The rain and wind took turns destroying the flowers in our garden last Sunday in a siege not unlike a scene from The Wrestler.
The rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora) took a beating, but like Mickey Rourke, it will return.
Last year the blossoms drew honey bees, native bees and hover flies--and, one spotted cucumber beetle.
The blossoms were simply gorgeous. With the warmth of the morning sun, the magenta petals peeked open and then unfolded to the tune of Vivaldi's Spring. Or maybe it just seemed like it.
This is a perennial that welcomes all visitors. "When you're here, you're family." Roll out the magenta carpet. No guest list. No engraved invitation. No RSVP.
And no gift for the hostess.
The visitors ARE the gift.
Visitor in the garden
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Claire Preston isn't a beekeeper but she's written an informative book titled Bee.
Published in 2006 by Reaktion Books,
Her 10 chapters tantalize us with such headings as "The Reason for Bees," "Biological Bee," "Kept Bee," "Political Bee," "Pious/Corrupt Bee," "Utile Bee," Aesthetic Bee," "Folkloric Bee," "Playful Bee," "Bee Movie" and the last, "Retired Bee."
But back to Bee.
Preston traces the history of bees (Apis mellifera) to southern Asia: bees probably originated in Afghanistan, she says. They were imported to South America in the 1530s and to what is now the United States (Virginia) in 1621. Native Americans called them "The Englishman's fly."
Preston calls the bee "Nature's workaholic" and borrowing a comment from Sue Monk Kidd's superb novel, The Secret Life of Bees, remarks: "You could not stop a bee from working if you tried."
"The most talented specialists (in the bee colony) are the workers," Preston writes. "They are the builders, brood-nurses, honey-makers, pollen-stampers, guards, porters, and foragers, and those tasks are related to their developmental age."
"All worker bees, in other words, take up these functions in succession as they mature, with the newest workers undertaking nursing, cleaning, building and repair in the nest, somewhat older workers making honey and standing guard, and the oldest bees foraging for pollen and nectar."
Frankly, bees are social insects in a highly social organization. They don't waver from their duties. The queen's job is to mate and then lay eggs for the rest of her life. The drone's job is to mate and then die. If the drones make it to autumn, the worker bees drive them from the hives "to die of starvation," Preston writes. "This exclusion of some hundreds of drones each autumn is one of the most remarkable sights in the animal kingdom. The workers are pitiless: drones do no work in the maintenance of the colony and cannot even feed themselves, so they cannot be allowed to overwinter and consume precious resources."
It's a sad time, to be sure. Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, tells us she feels sorry for the drones. "They're cold and hungry and get pushed out of the hive."
And, as UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen says: "First the workers quit feeding them (drones) so they're light enough to push out."
But as winter ebbs away and spring beckons, soon each hive will be teeming with some 50,000 to 60,000 bees. And all those worker bees--which Preston calls "agricultural workers"--will be turning into Nature's workaholics.
They'll never be promoted to CEO, though.
Not a chance./st1:place>/st1:placename>/st1:placetype>/st1:placetype>/st1:placename>/st1:placename>/st1:place>/st1:placename>/st1:city>/st1:country-region>/st1:place>/st1:country-region>/st1:place>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/u1:smarttagtype>/u1:smarttagtype>/u1:smarttagtype>/u1:smarttagtype>/u1:smarttagtype>/u1:smarttagtype>/o:p>/o:p>/st1:city>/st1:place>/o:p>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>
Queen Bee and Workers
It promises to attract a large crowd.
The UC Davis Center for Population Biology is planning a Darwin Day on Monday, Feb. 23.
If it sounds like a belated birthday party, it is and it isn't.
Darwin Day, billed as "a global celebration of science and reason," is held on or around Feb. 12, the birthday anniversary of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin, according to a specially set up Web site dedicated to him and his work.
The Davis celebration, free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m., in the Varsity Theatre, 616 Second St., Davis.
The one-hour event will include two public lectures, a birthday cake, and insect and fossil exhibits.
The event is sponsored by the Center for Population Biology and also involves the Department of Entomology, the Department of Geology, the Bohart Museum of Entomology and the
“This is a great synergy between the Center for Population Biology, the Department of Entomology, the Department of Geology, the Bohart Museum of Entomology and the
Presenting the public lectures will be evolutionary ecologist Maureen Stanton, chair and professor, Department of Evolution and Ecology, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan Eisen, who maintains a lab in the the UC Davis Genome Center and holds appointments in the Departments of Medical Microbiology and Evolution and Ecology. He also writes a blog, The Tree of Life.
Eisen’s topic is “Evolutionary Biology is a Valuable and Practical Tool.” He elaborates: "Evolution is frequently interpreted as a science of the past. However, an evolutionary perspective is a powerful and irreplaceable tool in studying and understanding the world around us. I will give examples of how information on evolution plays critical roles in subjects ranging from drug and vaccine development, forensics, conservation biology, and human medicine.”
Graduate students in the Center for Population Biology graduate students organized the free lectures.
UC Davis entomology graduate students Andrea Lucky, Sara Diamond and James Harwood will show live insects from the Bohart Museum of Entomology. The museum houses seven million insect specimens, but also includes live ones, such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks.
The Darwin Day event is one of more than 700 celebrations occurring globally--on or around Feb. 12.
Charles Darwin: Birthday Boy
Yes, and Briggs beckons.
"Midge madness" will occur from 12:10 to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25 in 122 Briggs Hall on the University of California, Davis, campus.
That's when Claudio Gratton of the Department of Entomology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, will discuss "Midge Madness! Quantifying Linkages Between Lake and Land" during the eighth of 10 winter seminars sponsored by the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
You've probably heard of the billions of midges--small two-winged flies--that swarm periodically at Lake Myvatn, Iceland. An article published last March in Science Daily indicated that at their peak, "it is difficult to breathe without inhaling the bugs, which hatch and emerge from the lake in blizzard-like proportions. After their short adult life, their carcasses blanket the lake, and the dead flies confer so much nutrient on the surrounding landscape that the enhanced productivity can be measured by Earth-observing satellites."
Enter Claudio Gratton, who studies f "R
Enter Claudio Gratton, who studies food web ecology, insect-plant-virus interactions, herbivore-natural enemy interactions, invasive species, biological control, and soil food webs.
"Recent empirical and theoretical models," he says, "indicate that the dynamics within food webs are often influenced by resources coming from outside of the focal food web, also termed a 'spatial subsidy.' "
By the way, Lake Myvatn means "midge lake" in Icelandic.
"We used this lake and the surrounding landscape to examine the effect that large-scale spatial subsidies have on terrestrial arthropod food webs," said Gratton, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1997. "Our studies have shown that by moving from lake onto land, the midges act as two types of subsidies."
"First, they can transfer as much as 70 kg N and 10 kg P ha-1 yr-1 to a 100-200m wide area surrounding the lake, resulting in increased plant quality, biomass and increased detritivore and herbivore abundance."
"Second, they subsidize the food base of the natural enemies (mainly spiders) on the terrestrial shoreline. As a result, food web interactions on land are significantly affected by the adjacent lake ecosystem, effects that have the potential to propagate over the long-term, even after midge abundances subside."
Want to learn more about the mighty midges of Myvatn? Attend Gratton's presentation next Wednesday. UC Davis Department of Entomology hosts are Peter Epanchin of the Graduate Group in Ecology (he's in professor Sharon Lawler's lab), and professor and insect ecologist Jay Rosenheim./o:p>/st1:place>/st1:placename>/st1:placetype>/o:p>/o:p>/st1:place>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>