Posts Tagged: Robbin Thorp
Gotta love those dragonflies in the family Libellulidae.
The Thunderbirds of the insect world, they perform amazing aerial maneuvers as they skim over water, catching mosquitoes, knats, flies and other undesirables on the wing.
But oh--occasionally they nail a pollinator.
A red flame skimmer (Libellula saturata) skimmed over our fish pond and pool last Saturday and picked on the pollinators. Well, at least one pollinator.
It grabbed a female sweat bee, of the genus Halictus, probably H. tripartitus (as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis).
Yes, they can even identify a mangled sweat bee in the mouth of a dragonfly.
And no sweat bee.
Flame skimmer munches on a female sweat bee of the genus Halictus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Flame skimmer is long and lean with huge compound eyes. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Oh, to go through life being called a "short fat fly."
Such is the case with a specific tachinid fly (family Tachinidae, genus Gymnosoma), which we spotted on a coreopsis (aka tickseed) growing along a Fort Bragg cliff.
It's an odd-looking fly. Its abdomen resembles a ladybug or lady beetle. Its head--definitely a fly. (Gymno is Greek for naked, and soma means body.)
"Its larvae are parasites on stink bugs," said native polliantor specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
Check out another image on bugguide.net.
Well, it's good that this ladybug mimic rids the world of a few more stink bugs!
Short fat fly (genus Gymnosoma) on coreopsis at Fort Bragg. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The larvae of this "short fat fly" feed on stink bugs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's often mistaken for the honey bee.
But it's not a honey bee (Apis mellifera). It's a different species of bee. Specifically, it's a long-horn sunflower bee.
We spotted this sunflower bee July 11 in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who does bee research in the garden, identified it as a "female long-horn sunflower bee, Svastra obliqua expurgata (family Apidae)."
You often see it on sunflowers and other members of the aster family (Asteraceae), including black-eyed Susans, Mexican hat flowers and Gaillardia.
The sunflower bees put the "sun" in sunflowers./span>
Sunflower bee, Svastra obliqua expurgata, on Gaillardia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of the long-horn sunflower bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you're gearing up for the Fourth of July weekend, you'll probably head to the farmers' market, a roadside stand, or the produce department of your favorite grocery store for some freshly picked strawberries.
And you can thank a honey bee if your berry is fully formed. If it looks deformed "or not quite filled out," possibly "the seeds on that side didn't get pollinated," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Among the fruits and vegetables that require bee pollination are almonds, (seeded) citrus, plums, cherries, apples, kiwi. melons, squash, pumpkin, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and vegetable seeds such as onion seeds.
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly demonstration garden at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, showcases a number of plants that require bee pollination, including almonds, apples, plums, blueberries, onions and squash. The garden, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, is open to the public, year around, from dawn to dusk.
The goal of the bee haven is to provide a year-around food source for the bees at the Laidlaw facility, to raise public awareness on the plight of the honey bee, and to show visitors what they can plant in their own gardens to attract bees. And, it's a research garden. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, is monitoring the dozens of different species of bees visiting the garden.
The strawberry patch is tiny--after all, this is a demonstration garden--but the berries are big. Staff and volunteers keep the garden weeded and occasionally, harvest a few strawberries.
The verdict: Berry, berry fine!
Honey bee pollinating a strawberry blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Luscious, freshly picked strawberries. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Little visitor to the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven samples a strawberry. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If it looks like a bee, sips nectar like a bee, and buzzes away like a bee, that doesn't mean it's a bee.
Last weekend we visited a Fort Bragg nursery specializing in succulents, and these "little white bees" were all over the red flowering thyme (Thymus serphyllum).
"Little white bees." That's what nursery personnel and visitors called them.
Not bees, though. Wasps.
But both in the order Hymenoptera.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, identified it as a sand wasp, genus Bembix, probably B. americana.
"These wasps fly very rapidly and frequently visit flowers," Thorp said.
Being a wasp, it's a predator and a carnivore, not a vegetarian like the honey bee. It preys upon flies, hover flies (aka flower flies or syrphids), tachinid flies, lacewings, and other critters, taking the carcasses back to its ground nest to feed its larvae.
The sand wasp digs its nest holes in the sand, thus its name. Its abdomen looks something like a basketball referee: except instead of black and white stripes, it sports curvy black and white stripes.
Bug Guide indicates that North America is home to 19 species of sand wasps.
This one (below) seemed to be sipping nectar (adults feed on nectar).
Probably a "matter of thyme" before it nailed a fly.
Sand wasp on red flowering thyme. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Abdomen of sand wasp: note the black and white curvy stripes. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)