Backyard Orchard News
Pull up a lawn chair and watch the honey bees.
They're buzzing around the Russian sage, gathering nectar. So focused are they that they don't seeem to mind the photographer sharing their space. So dedicated. So committed. So industrious.
Wait, a honey bee is wearing a new hat. Wait, another is playing peek-a-bee.
It's a great time to be in the garden.
My new hat
C’mon, you know you want one.
Who wouldn’t want a horror skull stress ball to relieve the tension of today's world?
Here's what you do. Take one stress ball. Place it in the palm of your hand and squeeze. From the eyeball socket pops out a membrane of assorted bugs. Or worms, frogs, rats or centipedes.
It’s definitely a conversation piece, and it’s yours for only $7 in the Bohart Museum of Entomology gift shop at the
If the skull stress ball doesn’t sound like your main squeeze, try the ant candy, larvettes and crick-ettes. Lollipops appropriately named “Cricket-Lick It” are a new item and they're sugar free, just what the dentist ordered. Butterfly candy is also new.
"We sell insects to eat as candy or sweet treats and people are amazed that you can actually eat insects," said Fran Keller, a doctoral candidate in entomology who's based at the Bohart.
Among the other items available in the gift shop (both online and at the museum) are dragonfly and monarch butterfly t-shirts, insect posters, magnets, and insect collecting nets.
Besides the specimens, the Bohart also showcases live critters, including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas (including a rose hair) and a fiesty black Brazilian spider that's just moulted.
The museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey--who also chairs the Department of Entomology--is dedicated to teaching, research and service.
The Bohart Museum is open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays. Educational outreach program coordinator Brian Turner arranges the group tours.
For more information telephone
Horror Stress Ball
Plumbers, especially a plumber named "Joe," are hogging the news a lot lately.
But what about the carpenters? What about the carpenter bees?
The carpenter bee, a black bee larger than a bumble bee, burrows into dead trees, logs and your unpainted or unvarnished fence posts or deck.
You’ll see it nectaring flowers, too. Below, this female carpenter bee (Xylocopa) is robbing nectar from sage. Maybe she's Josie the Carpenter?
You’ll hear the carpenter bee before you see it.
Its buzz is loud and it means business.
The next thing you notice: the eyes. They're huge.
Carpenter bees, like most adult insects, have compound eyes. The surface contains circular or hexagonal areas called facets. Each facet is the lens of a single eye unit or ommatidium. The lenses of the ommatidia form images.
Sound complicated? Well, an eye is nothing more than an organ of vision sensitive to light rays or a complex light receptor. (Caution: Do not call the eyes of your family and friends "complex light receptors." You will get no points.)
Insects with compound eyes readily detect motion and sense ultraviolet light better than we humans do.
The better to see you, m' dear./o:p>/o:p>/o:p>
"Go ahead, make my day."
So said actor Clint Eastwood, as the character Harry Callahan, in the 1983 movie, Sudden Impact, after a robber grabbed a hostage.
"Dirty Harry" was known for blowing away the bad guys. Clashes and confrontations often ended with blow flies on bad guys.
Recently a green bottle fly that touched down on our daylily "made my day." The rich golden blossom and the red-eyed insect with its emerald-green metallic body seemed to go together nicely.
I know. I know. A green bottle fly (Phaenicia sericata) isn't exactly the poster child of the insect world, but it is pretty.
Pretty on a golden daylily after an autumn rain.
Blow fly on a daylily
Red-eyed and metallic green
Well, it's not really a Halloween butterfly, but it is orange.
The Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) visits us more than the politicians do at Election Time. Last Sunday we spotted four Skippers in our backyard. Only two politicians skipped to our front door.
The Fierry Skipper nectars our sage, adding a decidedly orange glow to the purple flowers.
UC Davis butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro says this one (below) is a male. It's California's "most urban" butterfly, he says, adding that it's almost limited to places where people mow lawns.
Its range extends to Argentina and Chile. The oldest Bay Area record of the Fiery Skipper dates back to 1937.
Its caterpillar hosts include Bermuda grass, crabgrass, St. Augustine grass and other grasses. Well, that counts us out. We have none of those, just a bee friendly garden. No lawn. No grass. No weeds. Just a big burst of flowers.
And Fiery Skippers.
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