Backyard Orchard News
The drone fly, aka European hover fly, aka syrphid fly, doesn't get as much press as the other drone, the unmanned aircraft.
But the drone fly (Eristalis tenax), about the size of a honey bee and often mistaken for a honey bee, makes for great in-flight photos. It's sort of the Fat Albert of the Blue Angels.
Last weekend we watched a drone fly (distinguished by the "H" on its abdomen), hovering over an Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule). The rain-battered poppy certainly wouldn't have won any gold awards in a county fair's garden show.
But to the drone fly, bent on foraging, this was gold. It emerged with "gold dust" (pollen) on its head.
Yes, its larva are known as rat-tailed maggots and yes, they frequent manure piles, sewage drainage ditches and other water-polluted areas.
But the adults are pollinators. Significant pollinators, at that.
A drone fly, aka hover fly and syrphid fly, engaging in a little acrobatics over an Iceland poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hover fly heading for an Iceland poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This photo shows why drone flies are pollinators. Check out the pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It was a fun and educational afternoon when the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology hosted an open house last Sunday.
Visitors checked out the displays, asked the entomologists and staff questions, and looked over the list of myths.
Yes, there are a lot of myths.
We'll share! (Ask the person next to you if he/she can answer them. No fair peeking at the answers)
1. Butterflies and moths can't fly if you rub the scales of their wings.
Answer: Not true, they can fly.
2. Black widow females eat the males after mating.
Answer: Only if the male isn't fast enough.
3. Chiggers burrow under your skin and suck your blood.
Answer: False. Chiggers simply feed and leave, like mosquitoes.
4. Brown recluse spiders are common in California, biting many people.
Answer: Brown recluse spiders are not found anywhere near California.
5. Ultrasonic devices help keep pests out of your kitchen.
Answer. False. Few insects can hear, certainly not cockroaches.
6. Camel spiders scream like babes, inject toxins and prey on GI's in Iraq.
Answer: Not true at any level.
7. Mosquitoes transmit HIV.
Answer: They cannot transmit HIV under any circumstances.
8. Earwigs crawl into your ear and lay eggs in your brain.
Answer. They sometime do crawl in ears by accident, but do not lay eggs.
9. Bedbugs bore, burrow, dig and fly.
Answer: No, they can only walk or scurry.
10. Insects don't feel pain.
Answer: Probably true; their nervous systems are too limited, any injury would probably kill them.
11. It is illegal to catch preying mantids and monarchs.
Answer: There are no laws against this.
12. Twenty-five percent of the protein in our diet is from swallowing spiders that crawl in our mouths at night.
Answer: This never happens.
13. Love bugs that plague the southeastern United States are the result of government experiments.
Answer: No, Mother Nature came up with this.
14. Ten percent of the weight of your pillow is house dust mites.
Answer: False. House dust mites are found only in coastal southeastern United States.
15. All bees die after stinging.
Answer: False. Only worker honey bees die after stinging.
16. Ticks must be removed by rotating them clockwise.
Answer: False. Just pull the tick straight out.
17. "Daddy long legs" are deadly, but their jaws are too small to bite humans.
Answer: False. Their venom is no more poisonous than most spiders.
18. Copper pennies cure bee stings.
Answer. No, it just doesn't work.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, is open to the public Mondays through Thursdays (except holidays). It is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane (corner of LaRue and Crocker). It is home to nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" (think Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and a year-around gift shop filled with T-shirts, jewelry, insect collecting equipment, posters, books and insect-themed candy.
The beginning of a black widow spider tattoo, compliments of entomology Jessica Gillung of the Bohart. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Entomologist Fran Keller, who received her doctorate from UC Davis, smiles as student Jessica Gillung asks her which insect she wants. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A youth looking at a ladybug display. The premise, "You can tell the age of a ladybug by counting its spots, is false. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology hosts its open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 23, the theme will be "Insect Myths." (Okay, and spider myths, too!)
You'll learn about honey bee, ladybug, butterfly and spider myths at this family-oriented event, which is free and open to the public.
The insect museum located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is not only the home of nearly 8 million insect specimens, but it operates a live "pettting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and a year-around gift shop filled with T-shirts, jewelry, posters, books, bug-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy, including chocolate-dipped scorpions, crunchy crickets, and protein-rich lollipops.
Another popular book, published in 2013, is a 35-page children's book, The Story of the Dogface Butterfly, authored by entomologist Fran Keller, who this year received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis. She is a researcher, college instructor, mentor, artist, photographer, and author.
The book, geared for kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms, and also a favorite of adults, tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice), and how a classroom successfully mounted a campaign to name it the California state insect. Illustrations by artist Laine Bauer, a UC Davis graduate, and photographs by naturalist Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart Museum volunteer, depict the life cycle of this butterfly and show the host plant, false indigo (Amorpha californica). Net proceeds from the sale of this book are earmarked for the education, outreach and research programs at the Bohart Museum.
Gift shop items are available both in the store (Monday through Thursday) and online, http://www.bohartmuseum.com/.
Among the favorites gifts at the Bohart Museum:
- T-shirts depicting images of dragonflies, butterflies, beetles and moths
- Bohart Museum coffee mug
- Insect collecting net
- Posters of butterflies of Central Californian, Dragonflies of California, and the California Dogface butterfly
- Butterfly habitat
- Jewelry depicting bees, butterflies, dragonflies and ladybugs (many of the boxes are engraved with the Bohart logo and treasured)
- Science kits
- Insect and spider books
- Insect magnets
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. It is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free. More information is available by contacting the Bohart Museum at (530) 752-0493 or Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at email@example.com.
Robbin Thorp with two of the books he co-authored. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Applications are now being accepted for scholarships to attend California Naturalist training in the San Joaquin Valley and central Sierra region in 2015.
To become a certified California Naturalist, trainees take part in 40 hours of classroom and field courses and complete a capstone project. More than 700 California Naturalists have been certified by UC Cooperative Extension since the program's inception in 2010. The 2015 training sessions will be offered with the Sierra Foothill Conservancy, the UC Merced Vernal Pools and Grasslands Preserve and the UC Merced Sierra Nevada Institute.
Partial scholarships will be awarded in two categories: Student Scholars Award and Service Award. The Student Scholars Awards are open to graduating high school seniors and currently enrolled college students. The Service Awards are open to people engaged in work (volunteer or paid) that directly impacts under-served communities.
The scholarships are intended to engage participants who will apply their experience by taking action in their own communities. To be eligible for a scholarship, aspiring naturalists are invited to fill out the online application at http://ucanr.edu/CalNatScholarship. Application review will begin in December 2014 and continue until all the scholarships have been awarded. Read more.
California Naturalist training in an outdoor classroom.
Bats are pollinators? Definitely. According to the USDA Forest Service, more than 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination. The crops include mangos, bananas and guavas, grown in tropical and desert climates. While bees take the daytime pollinator shift, bats take the nighttime shift.
Entomologists and agriculturists think about bats a lot, too, because bats eat insects that ravage our crops.
Someone who really knows and appreciates bats is Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Freeman Long. "I've had a long time interest in ecosystem services of bats because they feed on insects and can help with pest control in agricultural crops," Long said. "For example, we just determined that in walnuts, each bat provides about $6 in pest control services for codling moth control, a major pest in this crop (Long RF et al. 2014. What's a bat worth to a walnut orchard? BATS Magazine [Bat Conservation International] Spring 2014)."
A person of many interests and talents, Long has also written a children's book that features bats.
In honor of bats, The Avid Reader, 617 2nd St., Davis, between E and F St., is planning a special program from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 22. Long will be there for the book signing, and talk about her book, and Corky Quirk of Nor Cal Bats will be there with her live bats and talk about their importance in the world. The organization is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of bats throughout Northern California.
"My interest in writing this trilogy is science literacy for kids to teach them about the natural history of bats and the incredible importance of bats in our world for pollination and pest control benefits," Long said. "Bats are major pollinators of many plants; without bats we wouldn't have tequila as they are the main pollinators of the agave plant from which tequila is made!"
"In my stories, we learn all kinds of wonderful tidbits about bats, including echolocation, migration, that they feed on insects and that 'blind as a bat' is a total myth. I'll have to talk about their shiny poop in my third book with all the insect exoskeleton parts that bats can't digest and the fancy name of guano!"
Long recalls telling these stories to her son, when he was little, "on our long drives into town from our ranch."
"He loved them so much that one day I finally decided to write them down to share with other children--and adults too!!"
Sadly, bats often get a bad rap. When a person is mentally unstable, he's "batty" or has "bats in the belfry." Visual issues? "Blind as a bat." And who hasn't heard the expression, "like a bat out of hell?" (usually referring to a speeding car heading toward you at breakneck speed).
In Long's book, a little boy named Jack falls into a cave and loses his memory. We won't tell you what happens next but that the book is engaging and entertaining.
Just like bats.
Rachael Long beneath the Yolo Causeway with a bat detector. Notice the bats in the photo. (Photo courtesy of the California Farm Bureau Federation)