Backyard Orchard News
UC Davis forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey is a genius, to be sure. Show him a fly and he'll tell you exactly what it is and what it's all about.
I shot this photo at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. The honey bee looked huge and the fly, tiny. There they were together. (Ah, if you let your imagination run wild, there's a children's book there! Once upon a time, a bee and a fly...)
The fly is a minute black scavenger fly (Scatopsidae). You see these flies around decomposing matter (in this case, dead bees). After all, worker bees live only four to six weeks in the summer. During that time, they encounter all sorts of killers, such as diseases, pesticides, parasites, stress, climate change, intruders, and the mysterious colony collapse disorder).
Kimsey, an adjunct professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is known for not only his expertise on flies and his courtroom testimony, but his award-winning teaching. I'm not sure which is the most popular: the CSI television series or Kimsey's classes. (My bet: his classes!)
When I visited a local farmers' market in late September, a UC Davis animal science major mentioned how much she enjoyed his class. "Kimsey, that's it!" she said. "Dr. Kimsey. He's really good."
He is, and he's a genius, too!
A bee meets a fly
What are insect pollinators worth to the global economy?
Well, it's a lot less than the Wall Street bailout...er...rescue plan.
Recent research published in the journal Ecological Economics reveals just how important insect pollinators are.
A Eureka Alert press release issued by the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres says that a team of French and German scientists found that the "worldwide economic value of the pollination service provided by insect pollinators, bees mainly, was $153 billion in 2005 for the main crops that feed the world."
That amounts to 9.5 percent of the total value of the world agricultural food production.
The study says that fruit and vegetables account for about a third of that total. The bee shortage has already hurt growers and consumers worldwide. Pollinator disappearance "would translate into a consumer surplus loss estimated between $190 to $310 billion," the news release says.
A Sept. 26 article in Business Week noted that "
Honey bee researchers think that stress may be one of the factors in the declining bee population. Other factors: malnutrition, diseases, pesticides, parasites and changing climates.
Colony collapse disorder, a phenomonon characterized by bees mysteriously abandoning their hives, is probably due to those multiple factors, according to UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen.
The declining bee population, the growing need for pollination, and the burgeoning
Bee on almond blossom
If you spot a ladybug, don't just start reciting "Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home."
Aim, click and shoot.
With a camera, that is.
Agricultural Research Service scientists and entomologists at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and South Dakota State University, Brookings, are surveying the country's ladybug species.
They want you to photograph every ladybug you see and send the photos to them so they can inventory them. They are specificially seeking rare species, such as the nine-spotted, two-spotted and transverse ladybeetles, but any and all ladybugs will do.
Ladybugs, also known as ladybeetles (family Coccinellidae and beetle order Coleoptera) are the "good guys" and "good gals." They prey on insects that eat our agricultural crops. They also help protect our nation's forests.
The good folks at The Lost Ladybug Project also offer some photo hints. They know that the bugs may not sit still for a photo shoot (let alone "smile") so they recommend you pop them in the freezer to slow them down. "You can do this in a freezer at home or in a cooler in the field," they say on their Web site. "Lady beetles can be chilled in a freezer safely for 5 minutes (over six may kill them) and this will quiet them for 2-4 minutes. Coolers are not as cold as freezers so it will take 30+ minutes to get 1-6 minutes of quiet time. They will survive for days in a chilled cooler."
Nope, I did not "chill" my ladybugs. No ladybugs were harmed or "chilled" in the making of these photographs. I popped the 60mm macro lens on my Nikon and stealthily waited amongst the Russian sage.
They danced in it, rolled in it, and bathed in it.
The honey bees just couldn’t get enough of the rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora).
Last week when we visited
Nearby, two other bees, sisters in honeyhood, shared the same flower as another honey bee tumbled happily out of her flower and made a beeline for the next one.
Ernesto Sandoval, curator of the College of Biological Sciences Greenhouses at UC Davis and Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, say that bees love Calandrinia grandiflora. The plant, native to Chile, blooms here in late summer and early fall.
"It has has bright red-orange pollen that honey bees love," Thorp said.
They do, indeed.
What do you mean, I'm too big?
Flight of the honey bee
If you love pomegranates, you can thank a honey bee.
If you love capturing images of pomegranates, you can thank a honey bee.
And, if you love juicing them and making pomegranate jelly—as I do—you can thank a honey bee.
The honey bee makes it all possible.
In mid-May, our 81-year old pomegranate tree blossomed. The silky red blossoms drew dozens of bees. On May 26, armed with a macro lens, I photographed them gathering nectar and pollen.
The blossoms, like the bees, quickly vanished. Worker bees live only four to six weeks during the busy season. The blossoms dropped and fruit formed. Today, four months later, the harvest-ready fruit glistens with red jewels. More photo ops!
The tree is truly amazing. It’s 81 years old and yields six to seven orchard boxes of fruit each year. How can we be certain of its age? It was planted in 1927, the same year our Spanish stucco home was built. The owners planted a pomegranate tree because “our daughter loved them.”
So do the bees./o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/o:p>
Bee pollinating a pomegranate