Backyard Orchard News
It wasn't an itsy bitsy spider.
And it didn't climb up the water spout.
It was climbing all over the tower of jewels, ready to stalk and pounce on prey.
We spotted this male jumping spider in the genus Phidippus (as identified by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis) cruising the interstate of a nine-foot-high tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii).
The tower of jewels is a bee-friendly plant, but it's also spider-friendly.
The eight-eyed jumping spider (four large eyes on its face and four smaller eyes on top of the head) is considered an excellent predator because of its keen eyesight and amazing speed. Although it's only about two centimeters (less than 0.8) long, it can jump about 40 to 50 times its length. It's distinguished, too, by its iridescent green chelicerae or mouthparts.
The kneeling photographer and the jumping spider went eye to eye--well, two eyes versus eight eyes--and then the spider crawled under a stem.
I was hoping it would jump.
Ant specialist Andrea Lucky, who will receive her doctorate in entomology on June 10 from UC Davis, will speak on the evolutionary history of ants on Wednesday, May 12 in 122 Briggs, UC Davis.
This is her "exit seminar" but it's doubling as part of the spring seminar series. Her talk, from 12:10 to 1 p.m., will be Webcast live. To tune in, access this site.
She researches the evolutionary history of ants in the geological complex region of Australasia, Melanesia and the islands of the Western Pacific.
“I use a combination of traditional morphological taxonomy and molecular phylogenetics to interpret how, when and where individual lineages diversified within this complex landscape,” said Lucky, who maintains a research website and studies with major professor Phil Ward. “In addition to my work on the biogeography of ants, I am also involved in biodiversity assessment and conservation using ants in Papua, New Guinea.”
You can watch a mini- interview of her in New Guinea on YouTube.
Lucky completed her undergraduate degree at Brown University in Providence, RI, where she majored in biology with an emphasis on ecology and evolutionary biology.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she traveled to Ecuador as a Fulbright Fellow, where she worked with insects in the Amazon.
Lucky entered the doctorate program in the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 2004 and completed her degree in the lab of Phil Ward.
After receiving her Ph.D., she will move on to a postdoctoral scholarship at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, where she will work with Rob Dunn on a project examining geographic variation in ants and the processes they mediate.
If you miss any of the UC Davis Department of Entomology webcasts, they're archived.
These webcasts are a good resource for entomologists, would-be entomologists, and folks of the curious-sort who just want to learn more about the exciting world of science.
And, somewhere out there, there's another young entomologist who will follow in Andrea Lucky's footsteps...trailing ants.
Andrea Lucky in New Guinea
Honey bees are wild about the wild radish.
It's not an invasive weed to them.
You'll see bees foraging among stands of wild radish along roadsides, pastures and other disturbed areas.
The wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) is a member of the mustard family, Brassicaceae--a family that also includes cabbage, mustard and turnip.
Thought to be a native of Asia, the wild radish is found in just about every part of the world. In California, you'll see it throughout the state except in the deserts.
We recently paused to watch honey bees foraging among the wild radish at Pat Heitkam's Honey Bees, Orland. Heitkam maintains stands of wild radish and mustard near his apiary as early-spring sources of pollen and nectar. Bees need the food for their rapid spring build-up.
The bees did not disappoint.
Food for thought, and food for their hives.
Foraging Among Wild Radish
Working the Wild Radish
When the Antioch Charter Academy, a middle school in Contra Costa County, toured the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis on Tuesday, May 4, they learned all about honey bees and native bees.
Tour coordinator Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology set up three activity stations, visited by groups of 13.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, talked to them about bee biology, bee communication and colony collapse disorder; Yang and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, discussed bee diversity, bee monitoring, bee identification and foraging behavior; and to top it off, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and Elizabeth Frost displayed bee equipment, discussed the breeding program and then opened several hives.
The students singled out the three castes: queen bee, drones and worker bees. They admired the many different colors of pollen. They gingerly picked up drones (male bees have no stingers).
Then at the urging of Cobey and Frost, the teenagers dipped their fingers into the honey.
Straight from the hive.
Their verdict: "Wow, this is good!"
A taste of honey, a picture of contentment, and a greater admiration for the work of honey bees.
Many Colors of Pollen
A Taste of Honey
It's not the prettiest of plants.
It looks somewhat like a thistle.
No matter. The honey bees love it.
Lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), a leggy three-foot plant with clusters of light blue to purple flowers, attracts not only honey bees but syrphid flies, bumbles bees and other pollinators.
Some folks call it "the honey plant" because it's considered one of the top 20 honey-producing flowers.
Native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, it's an annual that's used as a cover crop and as bee forage. It's especially popular in Europe and in California vineyards.
The Xerces Society recommends that it be planted in the almond orchards to attract pollinators after the almonds finish blooming. The Xerces Society recommends that it be planted along access roads and roadways as a nesting habitat and source of nectar and pollen for early emerging bees.
We planted some in our bee friendly garden to see what it would attract. Last Sunday one of the first insects it drew was an aged honey bee, her thorax worn of hair and her wings ragged.
The slow-moving bee foraged among the delicate blossoms. Indeed, the soft breeze moved faster than she did.
Then, lift off and she was gone.
Up, Up and Away