Backyard Orchard News
Who hates termites? Raise your hands.
Those dratted termites damage our homes, decks, furniture, fence posts and other wooden materials.
But at the 95th annual UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 18, you’ll see termites “walk the line”--ala the Johnny Cash song--between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Briggs Hall.
(Too bad Cash didn't sing about termites "walking the plank." But then, termites wouldn't "walk the plank"--they'd eat it.)
Tara Thiemann, one of the graduate students in entomology coordinating the activity, will take a pen (Papermate or Bic ballpoint pen with blue ink),
take a pen (Papermate or Bic ballpoint pen with blue ink),draw a line on white paper, scoop up a termite, and place it on the paper.
The termite will walk the line.
Since termites are blind and cannot hear, they rely on smell to navigate. They navigate by following the scent of a pheromone, which is a chemical they secrete to send information to their buddies.
It so happens that a chemical in certain ink pens smells just like a pheromone, so they'll follow the trail.
Not all pens, however, are created equal in the pheromone category. Many contain no pheromone-like scent. And those that do certainly aren't labeled: "Attracts termites."
Lisa Reimer, a malaria mosquito scientist who received her doctorate in entomology last year from UC Davis, told us that it's too bad that we can't use the termite trail "technology" to draw termites out of our homes.
"Like draw a line right out the front door," she quipped.
"But," she added, "it doesn't work that way."
Walking the Line
Poet Gertrude Stein wrote in her 1913 poem, "Sacred Emily," that "a rose is a rose is a rose."
Things are what they are. The laws of identity. No matter where I go, there I am.
When I captured this photo last Sunday of a fly on a rose petal, I immediately thought "A fly is a fly is a fly."
Not to an entomologist.
The common house fly (Musca domestica Linnaeus) commonly breeds in manure, compost piles and dumpsters.
The housefly is known to transfer at least 100 different pathogens, and carry about 6.6 million bacteria on its body at a single time, according to UC Davis forensic entomologist and fly expert Robert Kimsey. It's responsible for transmitting both parasitic and bacterial pathogens as well as viruses. Among them: typhoid, cholera and dysentery (bacterial diseases) and infective hepatitis (virus).
It's enough to make you "stop and fell the roses."
Fly on a Rose
If you attend the 95th annual UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 18 and stop by Briggs Hall between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you'll get a taste of honey.
In fact, six tastes of honey.
Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a 32-year member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, will provide six different flavors of honey: Eastern buckhweat, redwood forest, orange blossom, California sage, Northwest raspberry and Georgia gallberry.
Here's the procedure: you scoop up six toothpicks, one per honey sample. You dip a toothpick into a container of honey (no double-dipping!) and then you discard the toothpick..
The darker honeys are Eastern buckwheat, redwood forest and Georgia gallberry; medium color, Northwest raspberry; and the lighter ones are orange blossom and California sage.
You can almost catch the buzz as you taste the honey. Honey differs in flavor and color, depending on the nectar source (blossoms) that the honey bees visit. Some 300 different varieties of honey are available for sale in the United States. In general, the lighter the color, the milder the flavor.
For more information on honey, visit the National Honey Board's Web site.
Questions about bees? Colony collapse disorder? Bee behavior? Queen bees, worker bees and drones? Why beekeepers wear light-colored clothing and don't eat bananas before visiting the hive? Mussen will be happy to answer them.
Honey bee on sage
If you're accustomed to seeing ants crawl, wait a minute...some can actually jump.
Ants? Jump? Like leaping lizards?
Harpegnathos saltator, aka Jerdon's jumping ant, a species found in India, can indeed jump. It can leap a distance of about 10 centimeters (about 3.9 inches). It does this to catch prey and to escape sticky situations.
Christian Peeters, director of the Laboratoire d’Ecologie, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, will talk about Jerdon's jumping ant when he discusses his research at a noon lecture on Wednesday, April 15 in 122 Briggs Hall, University of California, Davis. His topic is “Recurrent Selection Against Winged Queens in Ants, and Shifts in Life History Traits.”
This exquisite photo (below) of Jerdon's jumping ant is the work of entomologist-insect photographer Alex Wild, who received his Ph.D. from UC Davis (his major professor was Phil Ward). Wild is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois. You'll want to visit his Web sites often to view his amazing work. One site is at http://www.myrmecos.net and the other at http://www.alexanderwild.com.
In a matter of days, the aphids discovered our newly purchased rose bushes.
They clustered around the buds and unfolding leaves, piercing the tender stems and sucking the plant juices as if there were no tomorrow.
For some of them, there would be no tomorrow.
A ladybug arrived and began feasting on the colony of aphids, like a 10-year-old kid with a bag of french fries from a fast food place.
She gobbled the aphids and then, satiated, off she flew.
With spray from a garden hose, we knocked the aphids off.
Something tells me the aphids will be back.
But so will the ladybugs.
Aphids on Rose Bush
Not a Rosy Situation
Feast for One