Backyard Orchard News
If I were in charge of a praying mantis' daily diet, I would enforce one stringent rule: "Please don't eat the pollinators! Do not, I repeat, target the bees or butterflies. Leave them alone!"
The mundane menu would include flies, gnats, stink bugs, aphids, mosquitoes, yellowjackets, grasshoppers, leaffooted bugs and not much else.
But since I'm not likely to be employed as the chef of a praying mantis' diet, these predators can--and do--eat what they want.
This morning I encountered a praying mantis perched on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in our bee garden. He saw me. He swiveled his head about 180 degrees as he followed me with his five keen eyes--two large compound eyes and three smaller simple eyes. Hmm, not potential prey. He went about "praying"--bending his front legs and "assuming the position."
Okay, I thought. "Go catch a fly, gnat, stink bug, aphid, mosquito, yellowjacket, grasshopper or leaffooted bug."
So, what did he catch? A beautiful Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) which made the fatal mistake of landing on his flower.
Yes, a praying mantis has to eat. Yes, he was hungry. Yes, it's nature. But why not a stink bug?
He polished off a butterfly.
"Yummy!" declared a colleague.
A praying mantis eyes the photographer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The praying mantis quickly snatches a Western tiger swallowtail. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The predator gripping his prey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Predator polishing off his prey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Say the word “wings” to folks who attend fairs and festivals and they may think of something to eat--buffalo wings or chicken wings.
But if you head over to McCormack Hall at the Solano County Fair, Vallejo, you'll be thinking of insect flight.
Flight of butterflies and moths. And maybe a ladybug or two.
Butterflies grace wall hangings, quilts and t-shirts and also appear in photographs and arts and crafts projects. You'll also encounter other bugs, including a moth (photograph), and a youngster's educational display board about spiders. (For those who aren't fond of spiders, these are illustrations.)
The 65th annual fair, themed "Cruisin' the County," opened Wednesday, July 30 and ends on Sunday, Aug. 3. The theme spotlights classic and unique cars.
Gloria Gonzalez, superintendent of the McCormack Hall building, and her crew have done a marvelous job setting up and displaying the many exhibits, which range from youth photos, preserved foods, and baked goods to quilts, special collections and arts and crafts projects.
Among the special butterfly and moth attractions we spotted:
- "Butterfly Lovers," a hand-and-machine quilted wall hanging by Tina Waycie of Vallejo
- "Butterflies," a needlepoint (stamped cross-stitchery) by Marlo Wilson of Vallejo, adult division
- "Butterfly T-Shirt," a textile project by Leslie Dunham of PACE Solano, adult division
- "Flying Wing," a machine-quilted wall hanging by Suzanne Ruiter of Fairfield, adult division
- "Moth," a photo by 9-year-old Maximilian Burgess-Shannon of Benicia
Gloria Gonzalez, a longtime 4-H leader (she's the co-community leader of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo) kept busy finishing up the displays last Sunday. Among those assisting were Sharon Payne, past president of the Solano County 4-H Leaders' Council and the superintendent of the youth exhibit building at the Dixon May Fair; Gloria's daughter, Angelina Gonzalez, who leads the arts and crafts project for Sherwood Forest; and their colleague Iris Mahew of American Canyon.
Angelina, who recently received her master's degree in sociology from Sacramento State, is also the Solano County representative to the Statewide 4-H SET (science, engineering and technology) Program. (By the way, she's also a great cook--her caramel cookies won best of show.)
Fairs are all about informing, educating and entertaining--not necessarily in that order. They are a place where you can browse through the exhibit halls, enjoy the carnival rides, check out the 4-H and FFA livestock and the junior livestock auction, attend a free concert, and eat a bacon-wrapped hot dog. (Actually, I think something vegetarian sounds better!)
We're especially glad to see the insect-themed exhibits in McCormack Hall. It's not just vehicles that "cruise" the county or parts of the county.
Insects do, too.
McCormack Hall superintendent Gloria Gonzalez hangs "Butterfly Lovers" by Tina Waycie of Vallejo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
McCormack Hall assistant Angelina Gonzalez with "Butterflies," a needlepoint by Mario Wilson of Vallejo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
McCormack Hall assistant Sharon Payne with "Butterfly T-Shirt" by Leslie Dunham of PACE Solano. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hanging "Flying Wing" are (from left) Gloria Gonzalez, Angelina Gonzalez (back) and Sharon Payne. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
McCormack Hall assistant Iris Mayhew holds a photo of a moth, the work of 9-year-old Maximillian Burgess-Shannon of Benicia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center helps develop a sorghum feedstock program in California.
Pacific Ethanol, Inc., Chromatin, Inc., CSU Fresno's Center for Irrigation Technology and the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources received a $3 million matching grant for the California Energy Commission to collaboratively develop a sorghum feedstock program in California. This includes the California In-State Sorghum Program that facilitates California's production of low-carbon ethanol from Californian feedstock so that we can meet the state's renewable fuel and greenhouse gas reduction goals mandated by the federal Renewable Fuel Standard and the Californian Low-Carbon Fuel Standard.
Jeff Dahlberg, Ph.D., the director of Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources sorghum research group. Collaborative efforts of the group will be managed from KARE.
Sorghum biomass research.
This week, Anthony Cornel, a UC Davis entomologist based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, started a new mosquito surveillance and control program in Clovis. The goal is to abate populations of Aedes aegypti mosquitos, which appeared in the Clovis, Madera and San Mateo communities last year. The Ae. aegypti, which has the ability to spread the yellow fever, dengue fever and Chikungunya viruses, survived the winter and is now being actively tracked and eradicated by mosquito abatement officials in an effort to prevent Ae. aegypti from getting a strong foothold in California.
Cornel is working with Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District to deploy new inexpensive and safe "black bucket traps" that do not require power. Read more.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito can vector yellow fever, dengue fever and Chikungunya viruses.
Bee scientists, beekeepers and bee photographers so love their bees that they can't get enough of them.
So when the international Association for Communication Excellence (ACE), comprised of communicators, educators and information technologists in agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences, issued a call for feature photos for its annual Critique & Awards Program, I thought why not?
Why not enter the photo of UC Davis visiting bee scientist Jakub Gabka of Poland wearing his bee beard? Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, now of Washington State University, loves to do bee beard events, so one day, after hours, she set up a private bee beard event on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. A handful of beekeepers gleefully participated in an event meant to inform, educate and entertain.
Talk about getting close to the bees!
Jakub Gabka's reaction was priceless. Check out the eyes!
That's the photo I entered in the feature category. The judge awarded it first place (gold), scoring it 97 points out of a possible 100, and commented: "Wow! This is a show-stopper. Depending on your relationship with bees, this can either make you laugh or cause you to go into anaphylactic shock. The photographer did almost everything right here. From the position of the bees (Is that one going to crawl into his mouth?) to the expression on the subject's face, this is nearly perfect. Because I don't believe in perfection, I'd ask only that the flesh tones be a little warmer. Other than, great image."
ACE presented the awards at its recent Portland (Ore.) conference, and the University of California communicators hauled home quite a few of them.
Other awards: yours truly received a gold for “best writing on the web” for the Bug Squad blog, "Thankful for Insects" and a bronze (third-place) award for "Looking Back at 2013, featuring a few favorite photos from 2013.
Steve Heindl, Marissa Stein and Ray Lucas of Communication Services & Information Technology won gold in the Educational Package category for the online “Introduction to Forest Management” course they produced for Rick Standiford, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley.
For promotional videos, ACE awarded silver for the UC Cooperative Extension centennial video. The video was produced by the UC Office of the President's multimedia team of Jessica Wheeler, Zach Long and Larissa Branin with direction from Pam Kan-Rice and Cynthia Kintigh of the UC ANR Communication Services and Information Technology (CSIT).
“Grape Pest Management, Third Edition” won a silver award for technical publications for Larry J. Bettiga, UCCE Extension viticulture advisor in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties, as technical editor, and CSIT editors Steve Barnett and Hazel White and CSIT designers Robin Walton and Will Suckow. They also received a bronze award for the reference book's design in the 2014 PubWest Book Design Award.
Congratulations to them all!
This photo of former UC Davis visiting bee scientist Jakub Gabka of Poland won the gold award for best feature photo, presented recently by international Association for Communication Excellence. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)