Backyard Orchard News
What a perfect camouflage!
Have you ever seen a green praying mantis hiding among the green growth in your garden?
Concealed. Disguised. Camouflaged.
The praying mantis is a patient insect. It will lurk for hours in its familiar prayer-like position, ready to ambush passing prey, usually an unsuspecting insect like a honey bee, bumble bee, sweat bee or grasshopper. Then with a movement faster than you can say "What the..." it will strike, grabbing its prey with its spiked forelegs. The target, unable to escape the deadly grip, becomes its meal. No catch and release here!
There's a reason why many folks have never seen a praying mantis. It's like trying to find Waldo, especially when the mantis is camouflaged in the vegetation and lying motionless.
Wikipedia tell us that the mantids, in the order Mantodea, comprise more than 2400 species and about 430 genera in 15 families worldwide. Some 20 species occur in North America, according to entomologist Gilbert Waldbauer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Author of The Handy Bug Answer Book, Waldbauer writes that the introduced Chinese mantis is the largest "at a length of asmuch as four inches."
Camouflaged praying mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Exposed! Praying mantis peering around green stems. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
At a recent meeting in Exeter, I discussed the Fuller rose beetle management plan for 2014. Research from 2013 demonstrated that two insecticide treatments per season were better than one. These treatments could be ground treatments or foliar. The ground treatment helps to keep emerging beetles from climbing the trunks and the foliar treatment kills them if they do reach the foliage. If two treatments are planned, early August and early October are the best time periods for the San Joaquin Valley. Choice of insecticide depends on application target and concerns about MRLs. Remember that skirt pruning in June and weed control are essential components of the Fuller rose beetle program. Korea may allow blanket fumigation or fumigation of infested loads with Methyl Bromide this year, but they are counting on California growers to apply in-field treatments to lower FRB populations. Methyl Bromide is not likely to be allowed in future years. Treating blocks several years in a row with foliar and/or ground treatments will help to bring the populations down to very low levels.
Just one word--stems.
Bees forage on the lavender in our bee yard, but sometimes you'll see them on the stems.
Male longhorned bees, Melissodes agilis, sleep together on the stems and it's fascinating to watch them stir in the early morning, wiggle around, and then buzz off--usually to dive-bomb any critter that's foraging on "their" flowers that they're saving for the females of their species.
But every once in a while, an early riser, a honey bee, will pause on a lavender stem to soak in the warmth of the sun. Got to get those flight muscles warmed up! Busy day ahead for Apis mellifera.
A longhorned bee, Melissodes agilis, awakens on a lavender stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee warming herself on a lavender stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Wow! Oh, wow!"
That's what people usually say when they encounter dozens of reddish-orange butterflies at a home on the 1500 block of Claremont Drive in Davis, Calif. The home is behind the Nugget Market on East Covell Boulevard, but the real gold mine, the mother lode, is that Claremont Drive fenceline of passionflower vines.
The passionflower vine (Passiflora) is the host plant for the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) of the family Nymphalidae and subfamily Heliconiinae. Homeowner Christina Cogdell, professor of architectural and design history in the UC Davis Department of Design, planted the vine several years ago.
Today it's a butterfly fandango.
You'll see butterflies mating. You'll see females laying tiny yellow eggs on the tendrils and leaves. You'll see caterpillars munching on the leaves. You'll see chrysalids dangling from the thin green stems. And then--voila!--newly emerged adults ready to start the life cycle all over again.
Cogdell generously donated some of her caterpillars for a Bohart Museum of Entomology open house last year. The 'cats were a big hit.
Noted butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis who monitors the butterfly populations of Central California and posts the information on his website, has long admired the established population on Claremont Drive, as has naturalist Greg Kareofelas, a volunteer at the Bohart Museum and an avid butterfly aficionado.
Shapiro will tell you that the Gulf Frits first appeared in California in the 1870s in the vicinity of San Diego. In the early 1970s, they were considered extinct in the Sacramento-Davis area, but began making a comeback in 2000. The showy butterfly “apparently bred in the Sacramento area and possibly in Davis in the 1960s, becoming extinct in the early 1970s, then recolonizing again throughout the area since 2000.”
Yes, recolonizing and doing well.
Today Cogdell pointed out a newly emerged Gulf Frit hanging onto its empty chrysalid. Female? Probably. We watched the Grand Little Lady unfold her wings and greet a number of ruggedly handsome males (and some raggedly handsome males, the work of predators). Then she took off, trailed by a fluttering line of males.
Christina Cogdell's Claremont home (note the alliteration!) will soon be for sale (for inquiring minds or lepitopterists who want to know, she's listed it with Claire Black-Slotton, First Street Realty). The professor's home is unique in that it's an architecturally unique urban "farm" home but it's also unique in that it comes complete with a treasure trove of butterflies. A veritable lepidopterist landmark.
If holidays ads can say "Batteries not included," maybe this home listing should say "Butterflies included."
We thought of that today as 50 butterflies gracefully fluttered around us.
Wow! Oh, wow!
A newly emerged Gulf Fritillary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bohart Museum volunteer Greg Kareofelas cradles the newly emerged Gulf Frit. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Newly emerged Gulf Frit flashing its wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A suitor (left) arrives on the scene. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two's company, three's a crowd? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you have Mexican sunflowers (genus Tithonia) in your garden, you can expect a diversity of insects--and not just honey bees.
Lately we've been photographing all the insects that visit the Tithonia in our bee garden.
They include butterflies (including monarchs, Gulf Fritillaries, skippers and cabbage whites) bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii and Bombus fervides, formerly known as Bombus californicus), sweat bees, leafcutter bees, long-horned bees, praying mantids, honey bees, carpenter bees, and yes, flies (green bottle fly).
The Mexican sunflower, an annual in the sunflower family, Asteraceae, originates from Mexico and Central America. What's good about the Tithonia--besides its sizzling color and its ability to attract a diversity of insects--is that it's drought-tolerant. That's especially important as we thirsty Californians endure our worst-ever drought.
We grew our Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) from seed, and it should bloom all summer. Already it's reaching NBA basketball-stature--topping seven feet in height.
We may have to set up a orchard ladder in our bee garden on our next photo shoot!
A longhorned bee, Melissodes agilis, dive-bombs a bumble bee, Bombus fervides. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, takes flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) foraging on the Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A skipper takes a liking to the Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This fly is a pollinator, too! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)