Posts Tagged: Tithonia
For months, I've been waiting ah, so patiently (well, not always s-o-o-o patiently) for the gulf fritillary butterfly to touch down on our Mexican sunflower, Tithonia.
A perfect match, I figured. The showy reddish-orange butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) sipping nectar from the equally orange and showy Mexican sunflower.
No such luck. Every time I'd check the yard for the special butterfly-blossom scenario, it was always landing on something else: multi-colored lantana, lavender lantana, and the passion flower vine (genus Passiflora).
And occasionally, a pomegranate tree or tomato plant.
Oh, sure, it did visit the Tithonia, but it would vanish before I could grab the camera.
However, on Sunday, following the San Francisco Giants' game, I was thinking orange. Bright orange. Baseball orange. I stepped outside, and voila!
Touchdown! The perfect match!
The butterfly lingered long enough for me to capture its image, a side view of its silver-spangled wings, as well as a bird's eye view (Please, scrub jays, don't eat my butterfly.) It then fluttered off to the passion flower vine.
The gulf flit was once prevalent in the Sacramento area in the 1960s, but "it seems to have died out by the early 1970s," according to butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.
It's been making a comeback in the Sacramento area since 2009.
Sunday was a perfect comeback day. And a perfect touchdown day!
Gulf fritillary butterfly. Agraulis vanillae, lands on Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf fritillary butterfly spreads its wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A perfect match: gulf fritillary on Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
They're ambush predators.
Here you are, a bee, touching down on a flower and little do you know there's a patient and persistent crab spider lying in wait.
Sometimes they're camouflaged, matching the color of a blossom, like a yellow crab spider on a gold coin, or a pinkish-white crab spider on sedum.
But there was no missing this white crab spider on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) last weekend. It stood out like a snowy owl perched on a crate of crimson pomegranates.
Crab spiders belong to the family Thomisidae and are often called "flower crab spiders." They're not web weavers or jumping spiders. They're ambush specialists that trap unsuspecting prey.
If you're wondering why some honey bees, leafcutter bees, blue orchard bees or sweat bees don't go home at night, the crab spider is one of the reasons.
Crab spider on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Crab spider on a gold coin. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Crab spider on sedum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees on blanket flowers (Gaillardia).
Honey bees on Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia).
The Girls of Autumn....not unlike The Boys of Summer...
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, emphasizes that backyard gardeners should plant bee friendly flowers for all the seasons.
'Limited plantings of backyard, or even acres, of flowers will greatly improve the possibility of enhancing the native bee population in the area," Mussen says. "However, each honey bee colony requires an acre equivalent of forage on a daily basis, all during its active season. This seems to be pretty hard to accomplish, but honey bees will fly up to four miles from the hive in any compass direction to get food. That is an area of 50 square miles in which to find that acre equivalent."
G. H. Vansell, author of the University of California's treasured 1941 bulletin, "Nectar and Pollen Plants of California," writes that "six of the most important sources of nectar in California are the sages, alfalfa, orange, wild buckwheats, star thistle and Christmas berry; of these, the sages, wild buckwheats and Christmas berry are native." (Read this book online in openlibrary.org.)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, has singled out some of the best native plants for bees. The information, gleaned his own experience and from Vansell's list, appears on the website of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.
And if you want to look up individual plants, Thorp urges you to access Calflora (UC Berkeley).
Good advice and a good way to help the bees!
Honey bee on a blanket flower, Gaillardia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When I was teaching photography, I encouraged my students to go for the angles--from a bug's eye view to a bird's eye view. Holding a camera chest-high or at eye level renders the "same-o, same o" photos.
Yet another creative way to see the world is through a fisheye lens. With its 180-degree ultra-wide view,it grants a whole new perspective.
American physicist/inventor Robert W. Wood coined the term, "fisheye," in 1906, according to Wikipedia. He imagined "how a fish would see an ultra-wide hemispherical view from beneath the water (a phenomenon known as Snell's window)."
What does the raised bed of Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) in the Häagen-Honey Bee Haven at the University of California, Davis, look like with a fisheye lens?
Colorful, disorted, startling, intriguing.
Meanwhile, the volunteers who tend the pollinator garden every Friday morning are adding the finishing touches for the public open house, set Saturday afternoon, Sept. 15.
It's part of the Bohart Museum of Entomology's two concurrent open houses, themed "Flower Lovers: the Bees." Both will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 15. One is at the museum itself at 1124 Academic Surge on Crocker Lane, and the other, at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
They are free and open to the public.
The museum will showcase bee specimens from around the world, and offer crafts activities. At the haven, plans call for a focus on honey bees, native bees, beekeeping, garden tours, and crafts activities. And a focus on the permanent art in the garden, the spectacular work of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program.
Saturday's activities at the haven also will include a recognition ceremony at 1:30 p.m. for Derek Tully, 17, of Davis. He will be honored for his Eagle Scout project, building a fence around the half-acre garden. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis, will preside.
It's a good day to bring a camera! But then, isn't every day a good day to bring a camera?
Fisheye of Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee foraging on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)