Backyard Orchard News
A sure sign of approaching spring...
As the cold weather subsides, out come the overwintering queen bumble bees. They're gathering nectar and pollen, building their nests and laying eggs.
Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, found a young queen bumble bee (Bombus melanopygus) on campus yesterday.
The confused queen managed to fly into Briggs Hall, home of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
These particular bees, native to North America, are nicknamed "the orange-rumped bumble bees." They're basically your fuzzy-wuzzy, yellow-banded black bumble bees.
Last year UC Davis entomologist Robbin Thorp tended a nest of Bombus melanopygus on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility grounds at UC Davis. The story behind the story: an area resident was seeking a temporary location for the bumble bees, which were nesting in his birdhouse. Thorp obliged.
The photos below:
Kimsey's queen bumble bee (which rates a solid 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 for fuzzy-wuzziness) and a bumble bee ready to take flight from the birdhouse. The bumble-bee-in-the-birdhouse photo, taken Feb. 29, 2008, received an online presence when the North Carolina State University Museum asked to borrow it to illustrate some text.
All hail the humble bumble bee...ever beautiful and ever resourceful./o:p>
Queen Bumble Bee
It's a wonderful gift.
Häagen-Dazs last December committed $125,000 to the UC Davis Department of Entomology to establish a bee friendly garden at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, and today, the winner of the design competition takes center stage.
The winner...drum roll, please...a team from Sausalito.
The four-member team created a series of interconnected gardens with such names as Honeycomb Hideout, Nectar Nook and Pollinator Patch to win the international competition, which drew 30 entries--one from as far away as
Landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki submitted an amazing design that will be brought to life this summer on a half-acre site on the Laidlaw facility grounds. (View the 21-page design on this page
.The key goals of the garden are to provide bees with a year-round food source, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own.
It all started in February 2008 when Häagen-Dazs launched a national campaign to help the honey bees. They donated a total of $250,000 for honey bee research at UC Davis and Pennsylvania State University; launched an educational Web site, formed a scientific advisory committee, and created a new ice cream flavor, Vanilla Honey Bee.
And now comes the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. Or bee heaven.
“We’ll not only be providing a pollen and nectar source for the millions of bees on campus, but we will also be demonstrating the beauty and value of pollinator gardens,” said design competition coordinator Melissa “Missy” Borel, program manager for UC Davis’
“The winning design fits beautifully with the campus mission of education and outreach, and it will tremendously benefit our honeybees at Bee Biology,” said Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology. “The garden will be a campus destination.”
And it’s a close destination for the 50-some colonies at the Laidlaw facility and for neighboring bees, native pollinators and other beneficial insects.
Worker bees live only four to six weeks during their peak season. Now they won’t have far to travel to gather nectar, pollen and propolis in an environmentally friendly garden filled with some 40 different varieties of flowering plants.
Meanwhile, honey bee research to determine what's causing the declining bee population continues unabated.
Honey bees will never know the source of their gift, but the people who support them, care for their needs and admire them will.
It's a wonderful gift.
Lots of them, but what are they?
Vacaville residents Mark and Julie Vasquez began finding little flies in Birds Landing, near Rio Vista, in late January 2009.
Their numbers are increasing rapidly.
“They’re everywhere,” said Mark. “They’re in our storage shed and inside Julie’s parents’ home and grandmother’s home. They were under my rubber boots in the storage shed.”
“They come every year and get into everything,” Julie told Mark.
Everything—including Mark’s parked pickup truck. Last weekend the flies slipped through the vents and inside the cab. With no "thumbs up," they hitched a ride from Birds Landing to Vacaville.
"Some are still flying around in the cab," Mark said.
What are they?
The picture-winged fly (Ceroxys latiusculus). Order: Diptera. Family: Ulidiidae.
The insect is about the size of a house fly, but doesn’t move as fast, as Mark can attest. He captured a dozen in a jar.
Little is known about the biology of this common fly, but it's often confused with the walnut husk fly.
Entomologist Whitney Cranshaw of Colorado State University says this about the picture-winged fly "It's a moderate sized fly (9-12 mm) about the size of a house fly. Its general coloration is grayish-brown but the most notable physical features are the the wings which have dark patterned markings."
Cranshaw says the picture-winged fly is commonly found indoors from early fall through spring. It is most often noticed around windows.
Meanwhile, several of the little buggers are still flying around in the cab of Mark's truck.
These picture-winged flies were captured in Birds Landing in mid-February and popped into a jar for identification. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Side view of picture-winged fly.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Up close--This macro shot shows the head of a picture-winged fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Have you seen it?
Internationally renowned artist Eduardo Kac, who uses biotechnology and genetics to create provocative works, created the runtime animation, "Insect.Desperto" back in 1995.
(By the way, "Desperto” means “awaken” in Portuguese.)
Kac, a native of Brazil who lives and works in Chicago, describes his runtime animation as "visual and sound tracks that function independently and complementarily in two languages (English and Portuguese), one not being the translation of the other."
The art project starts with a slide or frame of "insects, helpless, dark" and then the words and sound jump together like so many pogo sticks.
Check out the individual frames first. Then see it in Flash (Flash plug required).
Eduardo Kac, however, is best known for Alba, the green-fluoresent bunny. A laboratory implanted a gene from jellyfish into the bunny. Under special lights, the bunny glows green.
You can learn more about him and his art when he speaks on "Telepresence and Bio Art" from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday, March 5 at the Consilience of Art and Science colloquium, sponsored by the Art/Science Fusion Program at the
Kac will introduce his pioneering telepresence work, give examples and discuss his current transgenic art from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Veterans' Memorial Center Theatre, 203 E. 14th St., Davis. The theatre is located between Davis High School and the Davis Public Library. The lecture is free and open to the public.
Following his lecture, Kac will autograph copies of his new book, Telepresence and Bio Art -- Networking Humans, Rabbits and Robots.
“Eduardo brings contemporary art into the center of the public discourse on issues that range from the poetics of online experience to the cultural impact of biotechnology to the creation of life and evolution,” said UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program co-director Diane Ullman, associate dean of Undergraduate Academic Programs,
Kac's talk at
“One of the goals of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program,” said Ullman, herself an artist and a scientist, “is to explore the connection between art and science through undergraduate programs, intellectual exchanges and visual and performing arts.”
See more information about Eduardo Kac and his work on his Web site.
Kac's talk at
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