Posts Tagged: lavender
Ladybugs, aka ladybeetles (family Coccinellidae), are best known for devouring aphids, those pesky little critters that suck plant juices.
But have you ever seen ladybugs gobbling ants?
There's a three-way predator-prey relationship here. When aphids pierce plant stems, they leave behind honeydew excretions. Ants scurry to the honeydew and quickly alert their buddies. Soon, you'll see a long trail of ants marching toward the honeydew.
Now enter the ladybug, which is attracted--quite nicely, thank you--to both aphids and ants.
This little beetle will feast on aphids and ants much like we humans chow down on popcorn and jelly beans at a movie.
In the photos below, unsuspecting ants climbed a lavender stalk, only to meet their demise.
If you look on You Tube, you'll see a video of an apparently famished ladybug chowing down ants. The background music of Queen's "We Will Rock You" adds the finishing touch.
Want to learn more about ants? Check out professor Phil Ward's website. He's a noted myrmecologist (one who studies the taxonomy, evolution, biogeography and behavior of ants) and a professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
One of his former graduate students, Alex Wild, has incredible insect photography on his website, appropriately named myrmecos.net.
We can learn a lot from insects, especially when a predator ambushes its prey.
An ambush, as defined by Wikipedia "is a long-established military tactic in which the aggressors (the ambushing force) use concealment to attack a passing enemy."
The crab spider is a perfect example of an insect that conceals itself in a flower and waits for an unsuspecting visitor.
The crab spider doesn't build a web to trap its prey. No, too much wasted energy. It capitalizes on concealment, the element of surprise, and the quick assault and rapid kill.
And then, a leisurely meal.
Crab spiders or Thomisidae family (order Araneae) resemble crabs in that they can move sideways or backward.
You rarely notice them.
Neither do their prey--until it's too late.
It's not often you see a ladybug and a honey bee sharing the same plant.
The ladybug, a predator in disguise, devours aphids like a kid does M&Ms. The honey bee, all buzziness, works furiously to collect nectar or pollen for her hive.
Sometimes a lavender patch can bring them together.
Such was the case yesterday in our garden. A ladybug staked claim to a lavender spike, while a dozen honey bees glided in for a sweet sip of nectar.
The honey bees are hungry.
There are fewer flowers blooming this time of the year, so the bees are foraging for what they can.
This morning the bees were all over the lavender (Lavandula) in our yard. One bee, packing red pollen (probably from rock purslane), glided in, strapped herself to the lavender, and sipped the nectar from a floral "cup."
The bees are a little testy this time of the year. They're foraging for their winter stores as the days grow colder and shorter and the floral supply fades. "Honey bees don't forage when it is cool, below around 50 degrees," says bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk of the University of California, Davis.
To help support the declining bee population, it's crucial to offer the bees a year-around food supply, and that's exactly what the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden planted next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the UC Davis, will do. A public open house is scheduled June 19.
Meanwhile, it was Red Letter Day today as the pollen-packing bee made her rounds.
Packing Red Pollen
Red Tongue, Red Pollen
Ever seen a tachinid tiptoeing through the lavender?
The tachinids are parasitic flies that lay their eggs in hosts such as Lepidoptera (butterfly) caterpillars.
As larvae, they live in and kill their hosts.
As adults, they sip nectar and other plant juices.
That's why you'll see the adults tiptoeing through the lavender, sage and mints.
The scenario is unforgettable. The soft, silken flowers contrast sharply with the insect's long, hairy bristles.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as entomologists are fond of saying.
This one (below) was exploring a lavender in our yard last weekend.
If it were six-feet tall, it would probably scare little children.
Except for future entomologists!