Backyard Orchard News
If you collect the first live cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) of 2015 in Yolo, Sacramento or Solano counties and have it verified as the winner, you'll get a pitcher of beer or its equivalent.
Arthur Shapiro, distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, is sponsoring his annual “Beer for a Butterfly” contest to draw attention to Pieris rapae and its first flight.
The contest, launched in 1972, is all part of Shapiro's four-decade study of climate and butterfly seasonality. “It is typically one of the first butterflies to emerge in late winter. Since 1972, the first flight has varied from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, averaging about Jan. 20.”
"I do long-term studies of butterfly life cycles and climate," he said. "Such studies are especially important to help us understand biological responses to climate change. The cabbage white is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago here."
Shapiro, who is in the field more than 200 days a year, usually wins his own contest. In 2014, he netted the winning butterfly at 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14 in West Sacramento, Yolo County. It ranked as "the fifth or sixth earliest since 1972."
The professor, fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Entomological Society and the California Academy of Sciences, said the cabbage white butterfly inhabits vacant lots, fields and gardens where its host plants, weedy mustards, grow.
The white butterfly, with black dots on the upperside (which may be faint or not visible in the early season), inhabits vacant lots, fields and gardens where its host plants, weedy mustards, grow. It is typically one of the first butterflies to emerge in late winter.
The male is white. The female is often slightly buffy; the "underside of the hindwing and apex of the forewing may be distinctly yellow and normally have a gray cast,” Shapiro says. “The black dots and apical spot on the upperside tend to be faint or even to disappear really early in the season.”
The contest rules include:
- It must be an adult (no caterpillars or pupae) and be captured outdoors.
- It must be brought in alive to the department office, 2320 Storer Hall, UC Davis, during work hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with the full data (exact time, date and location of the capture) and your name, address, phone number and/or e-mail. The receptionist will certify that it is alive and refrigerate it. (If you collect it on a weekend or holiday, keep it in a refrigerator; do not freeze. A few days in the fridge will not harm it.
- Shapiro is the sole judge.
Shapiro has been defeated only three times since 1972. And all were his graduate students. Adam Porter defeated him in 1983; and Sherri Graves and Rick VanBuskirk each won in the late 1990s.
Shapiro maintains a website on butterflies, where he records the population trends he monitors in Central California. He and biologist/writer/photographer Tim Manolis co-authored A Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions, published in 2007 by the University of California Press.
A cabbage white butterfly on catmint in Vacaville, Solano County. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's time to revisit "The 13 Bugs of Christmas."
You've heard "The 12 Days of Christmas," beginning with a single "partridge in a pear tree" and ending with "12 drummers drumming." In between: two turtle doves, three french hens, four calling birds, five gold rings, six geese-a-laying, seven swans-a-swimming, eight maids-a-milking, nine ladies dancing, 10 lords-a-leaping, and 11 pipers piping.
But have you heard "The 13 Bugs of Christmas?"
Back in 2010, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology) and yours truly came up with a song about "The 13 Bugs of Christmas." Presented at the Department of Entomology's holiday party, it drew roaring applause. Then U.S. News featured it when reporter Paul Bedard picked it up.
It's still making the rounds, via tweets.
"The 13 Bugs of Christmas" is about a psyllid in a pear tree, six lice a'laying, 10 locusts leaping and 11 queen bees piping. Beekeepers know that distinctive sound of a queen bee piping.
"We attempted to keep the wording as close as possible for ‘The 12 Bugs of Christmas' and then we opted to spotlight some new agricultural pests in the next stanza," said Mussen, an Extension apiculturist with the department since 1976 who writes the bimonthly from the UC apiaries newsletter. He will be retiring in June 2014.
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a psyllid in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two tortoises beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three French flies, two tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four calling cicadas, three French flies, two tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five golden bees, four calling cicadas, three French flies, two tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six lice a'laying, five golden bees, four calling cicadas, three French flies, two tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven boatmen swimming, six lice a'laying, five golden bees, four calling cicadas, three French flies, two tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight ants a'milking, seven boatmen swimming, six lice a'laying, five golden bees, four calling cicadas, three French flies, two tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine mayflies dancing, eight ants a'milking, seven boatmen swimming, six lice a'laying, five golden bees, four calling cicadas, three French flies, two tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 10 locusts leaping, nine mayflies dancing, eight ants a'milking, seven boatmen swimming, six lice a'laying, five golden bees, four calling cicadas, three French flies, two tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 11 queen bees piping, 10 locusts leaping, nine mayflies dancing, eight ants a'milking, seven boatmen swimming, six lice a'laying, five golden bees, four calling cicadas, three French flies, two tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 12 deathwatch beetles drumming, 11 queen bees piping, 10 locusts leaping, nine mayflies dancing, eight ants a'milking, seven boatmen swimming, six lice a'laying, five golden bees, four calling cicadas, three French flies, two tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree
Knowing the agony that Californians experience with the seemingly unending flood of pests, Mussen felt it "bugworthy" to add this verse:
"On the 13th day of Christmas, Californians woke to see: 13 Kaphra beetles, 12 Diaprepes weevils, 11 citrus psyllids, 10 Tropilaelaps clareae, nine melon fruitflies, eight Aedes aegypti, seven ash tree borers, six spotted-wing Drosophila, five gypsy moths, four Japanese beetles, three imported fire ants, two brown apple moths, and a medfly in a pear tree."
Mussen, who retired this year after 38 years of service, noted that "Tropilaelaps clareae" is a honey bee mite from Asia, as is the well-known Varroa mite (Varroa destructor), which was first detected in the United States (Wisconsin) in 1987 and is now beekeepers' No. 1 problem.
It's unlikely, however, that "Tropilaelaps clareae" and "Varroa destructor" will become part of any other Christmas song...but you never know...
Golden bee (Cordovan) nectaring on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Varroa mites: Public Enemy No. 1. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Professor Clement Clarke Moore (July 15, 1779 – July 10, 1863) wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas" for his family in 1822. It later became known as "The Night Before Christmas." Fast forward, 92 years later. With apologies to the good professor, we took pen in hand and thought about what "The Night Before Christmas" might be like in a honey bee colony.
The Night Before Christmas...in a Bee Colony
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the bee yard
Not a creature was stirring, not even a guard
The honey was packed in the hive with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The larvae were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of royal jelly danced in their heads
The workers, drones and queen were all a'fling
To await what trouble next spring will bring.
It's a dangerous world out there, the queen said
Life on the wing can leave you dead
Spiders, dragonflies, yellowjackets and birds
Assassin bugs, mantids and wasps, it's absurd.
Then there are pesticides, parasites and pests
And viruses, diseases, malnutrition and stress
It's a dangerous world everywhere, the queen said
A little of that can leave us all dead.
For years, we put out the "unwelcome mat"
For there are bears, skunks and raccoons about
And ‘possums, badgers, ‘jackets, and mice
'Scuse me! Why can't everyone just be nice?
Santa, you didn't listen to us bees
When we sat down upon your knees
You called us by name, that is true
But you left us all feeling quite blue.
Hi, honey! Hi, sweetie! Hi, sugar! Hi, dear!
You said we had nothing to fear.
Hi, darling! Hi, precious! Hi, baby! Hi, love!
And with that, you gave us a shove.
You didn't ask what kills us, St. Nick
You didn't ask what makes us sick
You didn't ask us about our clan
Do you care that we're in a jam?
There's just one thing we want, that's it
Something that will make us fit
Just two little words, please answer our call
We want to “bee healthy,” for once and for all!
(c) Kathy Keatley Keatley December 24, 2014
Inside the hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
New life emerging. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male praying mantids looking for "a little love" don't always fare well. Sometimes they lose their head. Female mantids can--and do--cannibalize them before, during or after copulation.
Now mantid researcher Katherine Barry of Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, says that some hungry female mantids are deceptive liars. They emit chemical cues, or pheromones, as if seeking a mate, but what they want is not a mate, but a meal. Her research, "Sexual Deception in a Cannibalistic Mating System? Testing the Femme Fatale Hypothesis," appears in the Dec. 17 edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The starving females in her study produced the same chemical cues that the well-fed females did. The deception clearly worked. “The consumption of one male improves body condition by approximately 33 percent and fecundity by approximately 40 percent," Barry pointed out.
In her abstract, Barry wrote: "The Femme Fatale hypothesis suggests that female mantids may be selected to exploit conspecific males as prey if they benefit nutritionally from cannibalism. Such a benefit exists in the false garden mantid Pseudomantis albofimbriata—females use the resources gained from male consumption to significantly increase their body condition and reproductive output. This study aimed to examine the potential for chemical deception among the subset of females most likely to benefit from cannibalism (poorly fed females). Females were placed into one of four feeding treatments (‘Very Poor', ‘Poor', ‘Medium' and ‘Good'), and males were given the opportunity to choose between visually obscured females in each of the treatments. Female body condition and fecundity varied linearly with food quantity; however, female attractiveness did not. That is, Very Poor females attracted significantly more males than any of the other female treatments, even though these females were in significantly poorer condition, less fecund (in this study) and more likely to cannibalise (in a previous study). In addition, there was a positive correlation between fecundity and attractiveness if Very Poor females were removed from the analysis, suggesting an inherently honest signalling system with a subset of dishonest individuals. This is the first empirical study to provide evidence of sexual deception via chemical cues, and the first to provide support for the Femme Fatale hypothesis."
We've seen scores of praying mantids lurking, snagging prey, and devouring their prey, but we've never seen any engaging in sexual cannibalism, which occurs when a female cannibilizes the male before, during or after copulation.
Professor Jay Rosenheim of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of California, Davis, has.
In fact, he captured an amazing photo of it and posted it on his website. His daughter, Leah, found the pair in their garden. "Note that the larger female has consumed the head of the smaller male (an example of the famous sexual cannibalism that can occur in this species," Rosenheim wrote. "Amazingly, the decapitated male continued to cling to the female and even attempt to re-initiate copulation several times."
With his permission, we're posting his photo below. We're adding two photos typically seen: a praying mantis waiting for prey--or a mate?--in a bed of cosmos, and another of a gravid praying mantis climbing a bamboo stake.
We don't know if a male lost its head during the male-female encounter, but we do know that we have an ootheca or egg case on our back porch.
Thank you, Mrs. Mantis!
This photo by Professor Jay Rosenheim of UC Davis shows sexual cannibalism. The female (larger one) has just chomped off the head of the male, during sexual reproduction.
A praying mantis perched on a cosmos waiting for prey--or maybe a mate? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gravid praying mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It was Dangerfield (1921-2004), you know, who coined the catchphrase, "I don't get no respect."
Male ants don't either, says myrmecologist (ant reaseacher) Brendon Boudinot, a doctoral student in Phil Ward's Department of Entomology and Nematology lab, University of California, Davis.
Boudinot, who recently won a first-place President's Award for his presentation on “Revising Our Vision of Ant Biodiversity: Male Ants of the New World” at the 2014 Entomological Society of America meeting in Portland, Ore., is passionate about ants, particularly male ants.
Male ants get little respect or attention, said Boudinot, who aims to raise public awareness of their importance and demystify them through his scientific research.
“There are about 12,800 living species of ants described to date,” explained Boudinot, who enrolled in the UC Davis doctoral program after receiving his bachelor's degree at Evergreen State College, Olympia, Wash., in 2012. “Males are known for only 27 percent of these species, and no identification resource exists for identifying male ants for most bioregions.”
Addressing this concern, he provided the first male-based identification keys to subfamily and genus level for the New World. The keys cover 13 of the 16 subfamilies and 151 of the 324 genera. This, coupled with a global male-based key to all 16 ant subfamilies he submitted in November, will enable male ants to be identified by genus in the New World---encompassing North, Central, and South America---for the first time.
“This will facilitate the use of male ants in evolutionary, ecological, and taxonomic studies,” Boudinot said. “Moreover, it encourages a shift in the focus of myrmecology, the study of ants, by allowing male-specific collecting methods to be used and will encourage future workers to include males in their research.”
As for telling the difference between a male and a female ant, that's not easy, even for many ant researchers, Boudinot acknowledged. “Males and reproductive females, queens, usually have wings and look different from workers. Males are usually differentiated from females by having slightly different morphology. Besides having complex and strange genitalia, male ants also tend to have one more antennal segment, larger eyes, and in general look more ‘waspy.' "
The genitalia of male ants are fascinating, he said. “Think of a Leatherman or Swiss Army knife which has paired muscular claspers, graspers, and sawblades. Male ants have evolved winglessness and worker-like morphology at least five times in the ants, which has historically led to the accidental description of these wingless males as new species. This is a weird phenomenon which I will be focusing on for a chapter of my dissertation. Why have they evolved winglessness? What are the evolutionary patterns of skeletomuscular reduction? Are there trade-offs for a colony when they lose the ability to produce dispersing males? Anyway, this should be fun.”
Boudinot noted that the inaccurate portrayals of ants in Hollywood movies lead to lifelong misinterpretations. “There is a perception that there are two kinds of ants: red ants and black ants--and sometimes yellow ants--and that the workers of ants include both sexes, as in the Disney movies A Bug's Life and Antz,” Boudinot said. “Really, ants are incredibly diverse---which is why I am fascinated with them in part.”
Reproductory misinformation abounds in “A Bug's Life,” the 1998 American computer-animated comedy adventure film, Boudinot said. All worker ants are female and sterile, but Princess Atta marries a male, Flik. “Flik and Princess Atta wouldn't have married, and if they did, Flik wouldn't be the dad as chances are she, as a worker, would be able to lay only unfertilized eggs which would become clonal males.”
If there's one thing that Boudinot wants youngsters of today to know about ants, it's this: “There are remarkable things to discover everywhere, and unanswered questions abound. Discovery is borne out of observation, and there is so much to observe in any single square meter of Earth's surface. I like ants in this respect because they are everywhere! In tropical rainforests ants and termites (another group of social insects) may make up to one-third of the total animal biomass, dwarfing that of vertebrates such as panthers, birds, and amphibians. There are about 90 species of ants in Sonoma, Napa, Yolo, and Sacramento counties alone, including fungus-cultivating ants!”
Boudinot encourages people to check out AntWeb.org. “This website is a digital database of thousands and thousands of species of ants, many of which look like they are extraterrestrials or are strange beasts out of nightmares,” he said, adding “Okay, and some of which are just fluffy and adorable.”
Myrmecologist Brendon Boudinot in the field. This was taken at the Southwest Research Station in the Chiricahua Mountains near Portal, Ariz., by Roberto Keller, National Museum of Natural History and Science, Portugal.