Posts Tagged: benicia
Talk about an early bloomer!
At least one almond tree was blooming in California on the first day of the year. In the Benicia State Recreation Area, to be exact.
We spotted the almond tree flowering on Jan. 1 near the entrance to the state park. The delicate white blossoms poked through a rusty fence as they were dignitaries at a meet-and-greet reception.
From the looks of the blossoms, the buds had probably opened in late December, maybe shortly after Christmas.
We're accustomed to seeing wild almond trees flowering in mid- to late January as we drive along Interstate 80, Solano County. But not this early! Jan. 1?
California's commercial almond trees usually begin blooming around Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. Our state has about 800,000 acres of almonds, each acre requires two hives for pollination. The buzzing bees are trucked here from all over the country. Indeed, California's $3 billion-almond industry--the state's largest export--is pure gold.
Meanwhile, it's too bad that there's no contest for finding the first almond tree blooming. Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolution at UC Davis, sponsors a contest for anyone collecting the first cabbage white butterfly in the three-county area of Yolo, Solano and Sacramento. The prize he offers is a pitcher of beer.
Maybe there should be beer for a bud?
There's only one thing wrong with the bucolic scenes below: no foraging bees. But there will be.
Almond tree blooming on Jan. 1, 2013 in Benicia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Almond blossom poking through the Benicia State Recreation Area fence. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This bud's for you. Almond bud about to unfold. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It was a reddish-orange beetle, moving a little but not a lot.
We spotted it on a sunflower bordering the Avant Garden in Benicia. The garden, located at the corner of First and East D streets, thrives with assorted tomatoes, peppers, onions, strawberries, cucumbers, eggplant, squash and ornamentals.
This little beetle, as identified by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, is a meloid blister beetle.
"These are nest parasites of wasps and mostly bees," Kimsey said.
Blister beetles (Coleoptera) belong the family Meloidae. They produce a blistering agent (thus their name) known as cantharidin, that can blister the skin. Horses can die from ingesting blister-beetle contaminated feed, such as alfalfa.
Scientists estimate there are approximately 7500 known species worldwide. They vary in size, shape and color.
The adults feed on multiple plants, including garden vegetables, ornamentals, vegetables, alfalfa, soybeans and potatoes. Larvae dine on grasshopper eggs and the like. Solitary bee nests are a haven for immature stages of some blister beetle species.
UC Davis evolutionary ecologist Leslie Saul-Gershenz, a graduate student in the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology, researches a solitary ground-nesting bee, Habropoda pallida and its nest parasite, a blister beetle, Meloe franciscanus, found in the Mojave National Preserve.
Saul-Gershenz says the larvae of the parasitic blister beetle produce a chemical cue or a pheromone similar to that of a female solitary bee to lure males to the larval aggregation. The larvae attach to the male bee and then transfer to the female during mating. The end result: the larvae wind up in the nest of a female bee, where they eat the nest provisions and likely the host egg.
She and her colleagues most recently published their research in the April edition of the National Park Service's Mojave National Preserve Science News. You can read about her exiting work on the Department of Entomology website and see her amazing photograph of blister-beetle larvae on a digger bee. That's something you won't forget.
Meloid blister beetle, which produces a toxin known as cantharidin, peers at the camera. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Meloid blister beetle foraging on a sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)