Backyard Orchard News
Just because an entomologist is cast in a Hollywood movie, that doesn't mean there will be bugs.
Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and his wife, Lassie, recently headed to the Los Angeles Film Festival for the premier showing of “The Well,” directed by their son, Tom Hammock.
The parents play minor roles in the film, a thriller set in a futuristic dust bowl.
“It was too cold for bugs,” said Professor Hammock of the December 2013 filming in a secluded area of the high desert, near the Mojave.
“No bugs were featured in the film,” Tom confirmed. “But there were bugs around the set. A few velvet ants, for sure.”
The film marks Tom Hammock's debut as a director and Bruce and Lassie Hammock's debut as actors.
At the edge of a barren valley, all that remains of the Wallace Farm for Wayward Youth is a few hollowed-out husks of buildings and the memories of Kendal, a seventeen-year-old girl who can barely recall when the valley was lush. It's been a decade since the last rainfall, and society at large has dried up and blown away. Only Kendal and a few others remain, barely scraping by while dreaming of escape. When a gang leader named Carson lays claim to what little precious water remains underground, Kendal must decide whether to run and hide or bravely fight for what little she has left in this post-apocalyptic thriller.
The film stars Haley Lu Richardson, Booboo Stewart, Max Charles, Nicole Fox, Michael Welch and Jon Gries. Critics are praising the Tom Hammock-directed film as "superb" and looking forward to more of his work.
Wrote“Hammock's direction is superb; every moment of every scene matters, and the film shifts between action and drama superbly. Cinematographer Seamus Tierney also deserves kudos; considering how many scenes in the film incorporate both dark hiding places and the sun-razed landscape around them, the shots are always clean, clear and, in their way, beautiful. The Well"has its pleasures and powers, as well as a distinctive take on what could have been familiar, dead material; Hammock may have begun his career making worlds for other directors, but given a chance to create his own here, he not only succeeds but excels.”
Although new to acting business, Bruce Hammock is not new to "directing." In addition to his joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, he directs the campuswide Superfund Research Program, National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Combined Analytical Laboratory. Bruce also is an athlete who loves rock climbing and white-water rafting and water balloon battles. (He will host the annual Bruce Hammock Water Balloon Battle--10 minutes of aim--on Thursday, July 24 on the Briggs Hall lawn for his students, researchers and colleagues.)
In "The Well," however, Bruce Hammock does not look like a professor, a researcher, an athlete or a water warrior. For the shoot, he grew a beard, donned his father's old ragged World War II clothes and worn-out shoes, and practiced looking (1) forlorn and haggard and (2) like a corpse.
“It was very interesting,” the professor told us last December. “But my, the producers work hard. We were on the set at 5:30 a.m. We worked until dark, in weather well below freezing, with high winds blowing sand. The professional actors and actresses put in amazing performances under quite adverse conditions."
“They're a very professional and fun group. I had never realized the complexity of filming a movie. I hope they pull off their vision.”
Tom Hammock is obviously multitalented. He served as the production designer for the critically acclaimed horror films, "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" and "You're Next," and also worked on such film productions as “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." A 1994 graduate of Davis High School, he received his bachelor's degree in landscape architecture from UC Berkeley, and then studied film design at the American Film Institute. He is now very much involved in the hugely popular young adult and horror film genre, but showed more of his talent when he authored the original graphic novel, “An Aurora Grimeon Story—Will O' the Wisp." (See previous Bug Squad blog)
Release date of "The Well?"
Well...the next step is to find a buyer. Directors are fully aware that sometimes this can take months or years.
Meanwhile, Bruce Hammock doesn't intend to quit his day job, but he could--if he wanted to--add "acting" to his resume./span>
Professor Bruce Hammock in his office in Briggs Hall, UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Perhaps it was searching for a thistle.
The Mylitta Crescent butterfly (Physiodes mylitta) did not find the thistle—at least in our bee garden.
What it did find were the leaves of a tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii) where it sunned itself before fluttering off to parts unknown.
This butterfly breeds on thistles, says noted butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. He monitors the populations of Central California butterflies on his website.
"With the naturalization of weedy European species of Cirsium, Carduus and Silybum, it (the Mylitta Crescent) is now found in all kinds of disturbed (including urban) habitats," he says on this website.
Perhaps the next time we see the invasive bull thistle, Cirsium vulgare, growing in a field or alongside a road, it will be occupied by not only a spotted cucumber beetle (a pest) but a Mylitta Crescent.
Mylitta Crescent butterfly (Physiodes mylitta) on the leaf of a tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Occupied! This bull thistle is occupied by a spotted cucumber beetle. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Over 30 nonprofit, educational and government organizations attended Parlier Earth Day in April, where about 2000 local residents increased their awareness of how these groups can help them. Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center provided information on how we work on integrated pest management strategies and uses for biopesticides to help ensure an abundant supply of affordable and safe food. Attendees were very interested in discussing how this work at Kearney directly helped them.
Rodolfo Cisneros sharing information about Kearney with a local resident at the 2014 Parlier Earth Day.
There's a good reason why lepidopterists call the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) "showy."
Its bright orange-red wings, spangled iridescent silver on the underside, and a four-inch wingspan all point to "showy."
The Gulf Frit is a tropical and subtropical butterfly with a range that extends from the southern United States all the way to central Argentina. Back in September of 2009, butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, excitedly announced the re-appearance of the Gulf Frit the Sacramento metropolitan area after a four-decade absence, and in the Davis area after a 30-year absence.
Yes, the Gulf Frits are back. Thankfully, they've returned to creating a nursery of sorts on our passionflower vine and their host plant (Passiflora). The eggs, caterpillars, chrysalids and adults are a delight to see.
However, the cycle of life is in full force in our bee garden. The hawks are eating the scrub jays; the scrub jays are eating the bees; and the bees are just trying to mind their own "bee business" by collecting pollen and nectar for their colonies. Always opportunists, the jays nesting in our trees are also targeting the butterflies and caterpillars. (So, too, are such predators as spiders and praying mantids.)
Today we captured several images of a Gulf Frit in flight. If you look closely, you'll see that part of her wing is missing.
That was a close one!
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) in flight over a passionflower vine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary checking out a place to lay her eggs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary warming her wings on a passionflower vine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
These triple-digit temperatures make us all thirst for water.
Honey bees need water, too.
If you see them taking a sip from your birdbath or taking a dip in your pool, the "sip" means they're collecting water for their hive, and the "dip" could mean they're dying, says retired Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Like most other animals, the bodies of honey bees are mostly water," he points out. "Thus, they need to drink water routinely as we do. Additionally, water (or sometimes nectar) is critical for diluting the gelatinous food secreted from the head glands of nurse bees, so that the queen, developing larvae, drones, and worker bees can swallow the food. They use water to keep the brood nest area at the proper relative humidity, especially when it gets hot and dry outside the hive. Water droplets, placed within the brood nest area, are evaporated by fanning worker bees and that cools (air conditions) the brood nest area to keep the eggs and developing brood at the critical 94 degrees Fahrenheit required for proper development."
On extremely dry, hot days, all bee foraging except for water will cease, Mussen says. "Under those conditions it has been estimated that the bees may be bringing back nearly a gallon of water a day."
Unlike us, honey bees cannot simply turn on a faucet. "They will fly up to nearly five miles to find a suitable watering source," Mussen says. "Suitable to honey bees might not be suitable to us, but if it is moist, it may be visited. Suitable to the neighbors is a separate question. Honey bees can become quite a nuisance if they visit drippy irrigation lines or hose connections, birdbaths, pet water dishes, swimming pools, fountains, or wet laundry and the like. The water foragers become habituated to those sites. If you try to dissuade the bees by drying up the source for a while, it becomes evident that the bees will visit the site every so often so they'll be around quickly after the water is returned."What to do? "People have tried to use repellents in the water, but the bees are likely to use the odor as an attractant when attempting to relocate the water source," Mussen points out. "Some people have had success keeping bees and wasps out of their swimming pools with very lightweight oils or monomolecular films--their purpose is to prevent mosquitoes from being able to breathe. But, if the water is splashed very much, you'll require a new layer."
And all those bees struggling in your swimming pool? "Not all moribund honey bees in a swimming pool are there because they were trying to get a drink. Every day, approximately 1,000 old honey bees from each colony die naturally. This normally occurs during foraging, and the bees just flutter down to the ground, sidewalk, driveway, parking lot, or whatever they were passing over. Some flutter into swimming pools. They are not dead, yet, so they can and do inflict stings on people who bump into them on the surface of the water. "
Beekeepers should make sure there's a watering source on their property so the bees won't hunt for water elsewhere, Musssen says. It should be available all year around. "Once the bees are habituated to the site, most of them will use that source."
One good thing to know: Bees don't like to get their feet wet. In the Garvey birdbath, we have floating wine corks just for the bees. They can land on a cork to sip water or simply sip from the edge of the birdbath. Besides wine corks, you can also use a stone, a twig or a flat chunk of cork. The Melissa Garden, a privately owned garden in Healdsburg that was designed by internationally distinguished bee garden designer Kate Frey of Hopland, includes a flat floating cork in a fountain. On any given day, you'll see bees claiming it as their own.
Honey bees find water where they can. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A flat floating cork in the fountain of The Melissa Garden, Healdsburg, is great for bees to buzz down and safely take a sip. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)