Backyard Orchard News
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.
That inductive reasoning (known as "the duck test") doesn't hold true for yellow bugs with black spots.
A yellow ladybug (ladybird beetle) and a cucumber beetle look a little alike--at first glance. They're both yellow. They both have black spots.
But they're worlds apart. One is a beneficial insect. The other is a pest.
We spotted a spotted cucumber beetle (family Cerambycidae) on our sunflower plant last summer. It's a common insect in California. It eats all kinds of flowers and leaves. It's often seen on plants in the squash family. Figures. We had a squash plant in our garden. (Notice the "had.")
Ladybugs (family Coccinellidae) aren't always the classic reddish-orange color and they don't always have spots. They can be mellow yellow! But they're your buddies. They feast on aphids, mealybugs, mites, and other soft-bodied insects.
I figure that between these two insects, the ladybugs are the bright spots in the garden.
Spotted cucumber beetle
The red-pigmented white pitcher plant we purchased at the UC Davis Arboretum Plant Faire looks like a flamboyant coral reef. Like a hat askew, its ruffled “lid” hangs over the trumpet-shaped “pitcher.” The pitcher is actually a long, hollow tubular leaf.
But looks are deceiving.
Sarracenia leucophylla is a carnivorous plant. It draws insects and then devours them. In the few weeks we’ve had it, it’s gobbled blow flies, snagged tachinid (parasitic) flies, and horrors, it ate two of our beloved honey bees.
I do not think I like this plant.
Our bee friendly garden is no longer friendly. There’s war in our garden of peace. We have a weapon of mass destruction right in our own backyard. And you think Dracula is scary on Halloween!
Ernesto Sandoval, curator of the
“Ah, yes, the horrors of indiscriminate insectivity!” he says. “The Sarracenia, especially S. leucophylla are really good indicators of the relative abundance of insects and unfortunately, even honey bees are convinced to visit the flower-mimicking leaves.”
Sandoval says Sarracenia grow up and down the east coast of North America from
"The well-known Venus Fly Trap is native to
Meanwhile, I think I heard the plant burb.
Trapped Tachinid Fly
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>