Backyard Orchard News
Honey bees sip nectar from the Mediterranean spurge (Euphorbia characias wulfenii) planted in our bee friendly garden.
So do flies.
Last weekend several flies flashing colors as brilliant as those blue morpho butterflies landed on the evergreen shrub.
It wasn't your basic green bottle fly. No, indeed.
This fly was the European blue bottle fly, Calliphora vicinia, as identified by UC Davis forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey.
Check out the photos below showing the metallic blue-silvery coloration of the thorax and abdomen.
C. vicinia is known as a "colder-weather bottle fly," prevalent in early spring and fall when temperatures are relatively cool, about 55-75 Fahrenheit. It lays its eggs in dead bodies and sometimes inside infected wounds in healthy tissue. It's a fly species of significant forensic importance.So here was this blue bottle fly on green blossoms.
The fly was gathering some quick energy, a sugar high.
The museum houses some seven million specimens.
And that includes...drum roll...the European blue bottle fly.
Blue on Green
Sip of Nectar
The number of new housing developments throughout the country continues to shrink as we struggle with the throes of a deep recession.That's with human housing, not in a healthy honey bee hive.
The bees are busy building up their colonies, just as they do every spring. Spring officially begins Saturday, March 21, but don't tell that to the bees.
Their rapid build-up is in full swing (unless the colony is suffering from colony collapse disorder and other ailments).
The queen bee is laying eggs, the worker bees (sterile females) are tending the hive and foraging, and the drones (males) are flying out in mid-afternoon to try to mate with a virgin queen.
Watch closely inside the hive and you'll see the queen bee poke her head inside a cell that the worker bees have prepared for her. "The queen bee examines every cell before she lays an egg in it," says Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty. The workers decide if the colony needs more workers, drones or more queen bees and build cells accordingly.
Just think of the bureaucracy involved if bees were human. Human construction development involves concept goals, a project vision, site evaluation, financial sources, market and feasibility studies, regulatory requirements, consultations with governmental agencies, planning approvals, environmental impact reports (EIRs), building permits, construction bids, neighborhood protests (Not in My Back Yard!), and scores of inspections.
The paperwork alone would weigh down thousands of honey bees and send them spinning.
Interesting that when humans are born, they go through a long learning process. When bees emerge from their cells, they're genetically programmed and know just what to do.
And they do it.
Without EIRs and building permits.
Inspecting a Cell
If you see a patch of California native wildflowers known as "Tidy Tips," look closely.
The yellow daisylike flower with white petals (Layia platyglossa) may yield a surprise visitor.
You may see an assassin.
An assassin bug.
A member of the family Reduviidae, this is a long-legged, beady-eyed beneficial insect that stalks its prey and snatches it with its forelegs, somewhat like a praying mantis. It conquers its victim with a squirt of deadly venom from its beak (the collective term for its piercing, sucking mouthparts).
Once it has immobilized its prey, the assassin sucks the bodily contents, like a milkshake slurped through a straw.
The assassin bug, true to its name, ambushes, attacks and captures other insects, such as aphids, flies, crickets, mosquitoes, beetles, caterpillars and "sometimes a hapless bee," said Bohart senior museum scientist Steve Heydon.One thing about the Zelus assassin bug--it does not fly very fast. In fact, it totally ignored the camera poked close to its protruding eyes.
The camera neither looked like or acted like a predator or prey.
Patch of Tidy Tips
Sip of Nectar
Ladybugs, aka ladybird beetles, are searching for aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
If you see a ladybug (family Coccinellidae), odds are you'll see her prey, the plant-sucking aphids.
Today we spotted a ladybug in a flower garden on the UC Davis campus and she wasn't there to enjoy the warm sunshine or watch the students go by.
She was there to dine.
The ladybug snared a few aphids, then flipped under a leaf like an Olympic athlete performing a daily routine.
She wasn't going for a gold medal, though. She was heading for another kind of gold--a gold aphid.
Face to Face
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