It was not a good way to welcome an admiral.
The Red Admiral butterfly, that is.
The Vanessa atalanta fluttered into our pollinator garden on Sunday, July 16 in Vacaville, Calif., and touched down on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
The warmth of the sun, the rich nectar, a soft breeze, and all was well.
For a little while.
Several territorial male long-horned bees spied the stranger and pulled out the welcome mat. In a frenzy, they began dive-bombing the colorful black and red butterfly, trying to chase it away. "Those flowers are for our girls!" they seemed to say. "Leave! Now!"
Everywhere the butterfly went, a squadron of bombers followed. The sailboat-like wings proved a clear target.
One bullet-of-a-bee, probably a Melissodes agilis, slammed into the butterfly's wings, and that was enough.
"This pollinator garden's not big enough for both of us!"
Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor at the University of California, Davis, who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, annually hosts a water balloon battle for his lab members and staff.
It amounts to 15 minutes of aim (not fame) and it takes place on the Briggs Hall lawn, off Kleiber Hall Drive. Only 15 minutes? That's how fast the water warriors can toss 2000 water balloons.
Researcher Christophe Morisseau, who organizes the annual funfest, says this year's event will take place at 3 p.m., Friday, July 21.
Hammock's lab and staff are international. They're from Canada, Ukraine, France, China, Sweden, Japan, Germany, Korea, Uruguay and the Netherlands, besides the United States. They are post docs, researchers, graduate students, visiting scholars, visiting graduate students, visiting summer students, short-term visiting scholars and student interns.
They will fill 2000 water balloons, place them in plastic tubs, and at 3 p.m., they begin. But just when you think it's all over, it's not. Any water remaining in the buckets will be splashed on unsuspecting water warriors.
Hammock launched the annual event in 2003 as a form of camaraderie and as a means of rewarding the lab members for their hard work. Other professors and their labs are invited to join in.
After the 15 minutes of aim, it's clean-up time. The water warriors leave refreshed (especially in triple-digit temperatures) and the thirsty lawn isn't as thirsty.
Highly honored by his peers (but a target at the annual water balloon battle), Hammock is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, and the recipient of the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 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.
The event, to take place from 8 to 11 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is free and open to the public. The blacklighting demonstration will occur after sundown.
National Moth Week, set July 22-30, celebrates the beauty, life cycles, and habitats of moths.
Bohart Museum scientists will be on hand to discuss moths and answer questions. They include Bohart associate and entomologist Jeff Smith of Sacramento, who curates the moth and butterfly specimens. Also expected: "Moth Man" John DeBenedictis of Davis and Bohart senior museum scientist Steve Heydon who traditionally set up the blacklighting sysem and identify the insects.
The Trump moth, Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, is a relatively new species that Bohart Museum scientists collected at Algodones Dunes, bordering Arizona and the Mexican state of Baja California. Evolutionary biologist and systematist Vazrick Nazari of Canada named it donaldtrumpi because the yellow scales on the tiny moth's head reminded him of the hairstyle of Donald Trump, then president-elect. The orange-yellow moth has a wingspan of less than one centimeter.
Nazari published the piece on the Trump moth Jan. 17, 2016 in the journal Zookeys and explained the name: “The reason for this choice of names is to bring wider public attention to the need to continue protecting fragile habitats in the U.S. that still contain many undescribed species."
The Neopalpa donaldtrumpi belongs to the family, Gelechiidae of the Lepitoptera order.
Three Trump moths were collected in a Malaise trap in one of the washes on the east side of the dunes. In a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Bohart scientists have collected nearly 2,000 species of insects from about 200 square miles of sand, according to Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis. Some six percent are new to science.
Of the Trump moths collected, Nazari kept one in Canada, the norm--but the holotype, the one he determined as the standard for the species--is a permanent part of the Boohart, said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
Naming species for people--from citizens to celebrities to presidents to other public figures--is common. President Barack Obama has nine species named for him (more than any other president). His namesakes include a long-legged, resourceful Northern California spider, Aptostichus barackobamai, and a colorful spangled darner, a perchlike fish, Etheostoma obama.
The Bohart Museum offers a biolegacy program in which donors can select a species for naming, and receive a framed photo and documentation (publication). The Bohart Museum scientists describe as many as 15 new species annually, and their associates, "many more," Kimsey says.
For more information on the open house or the Bohart's biolegacy program, email email@example.com or call (530) 752-0493.
Most of the time, I see red.
Occasionally, I see spots.
Red? The flameskimmer dragonflies (Libellula saturata) that hang out in our pollinator garden.
Spots? The 12-spot dragonfly, Libellula pulchella.
On Sunday, July 16 a male Libellula pulchella (as identified by Greg Kareofelas, Bohart Museum of Entomology associate) zigzagged into our pollinator garden in Vacaville and assumed the position--on a bamboo stake. He was there to feast on a few insects.
BugGuide.net says of the 12-spot dragonfly:
"Once upon a time, this was the Ten-spot(ted) Skimmer, and formerly appeared in most books under that common name. To make it so, the basal spot of opposite wings was counted as one spot crossing the thorax (and so it appears at a glance, especially when they are flying or seen from a distance). Some authors rationalize it as counting the cloudy white spots on the wings, but that's only good for mature males, and it often doesn't work (there are often only eight white spots, the two at the base of the hind wing either missing or having been rubbed off)."
It's one of about 25 to 30 species, and most are North American, according to BugGuide.Net. How can you distinguish males from females? "Mature males have twelve brown wing spots, as well as eight white wing spots. The basal area of the hind wing is also whitish. Females and immature males have the twelve brown wing spots but not the white spots. Their abdomens are brown with a yellow stripe along each side."
Check out BugGuide.net for more information and beautiful photos!
The question is: Where are you? Have you managed to "hide" all these years or are you extinct?
A “search party” of scientists and citizen scientists is forming to look for Franklin's bumble bee and other rare bumble bees from Monday, July 17 through Friday, July 21 at Mt. Ashland, Ore.
Noted bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, will be there to identify the bees. In addition, he will present a brief introductory training session, showing examples of bumble bees that inhabit the area, “and especially the rare ones we hope to find.”
The event, organized by Jeffrey Dillon, Endangered Species Division Manager, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Ore., mainly involves searching for Bombus franklini and the endangered Western bumble bee, Bombus occidentalis, in the Mt. Ashland and Siskiyou-Cascade National Monument area. The survey is open to all interested volunteers.
Both bumble bees are on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
“The objective is to get more eyes out looking for the rare bumble bees,” said Thorp, co-author of Bumble Bees of North America, An Identification Guide.
Thorp will provide a "Bumble Bee 101 Tailgate Course" at 3 p.m. on Monday, July 17. The group will meet him "a few hundred yards west of the Mt. Ashland ski resort (just before reaching the gravel road)," Dillon said. Thorp also will be there Tuesday morning for an informal overview of bumble bees.
Thorp, who has been monitoring Franklin's bumble bee since 1998, hasn't seen the bee since Aug. 9, 2006, when he spotted it in a meadow near Mt. Ashland. In August of 2016 a documentary crew from CNN, headed by John Sutter, followed Thorp to the same meadow. Sutter wrote about Thorp, then 82, in a piece he called "The Old Man and the Bee," a spinoff of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea."
"That black-and-yellow bee, which looks like so many others except for the characteristic 'U' on is back, is the object of Thorp's obsession," wrote Sutter. "It's a creature he told me flies through his dreams always just out of reach."
Thorp says the distinctively marked bumble bee has the most restricted range of any bumble bee in the world. Its habitat is--or was--a small area of southern Oregon (Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties) and northern California (Siskiyou and Trinity counties).
Franklin's bumble bee frequents California poppies, lupines, vetch, wild roses, blackberries, clover, sweet peas, horsemint and mountain penny royal during its flight season, from mid-May through September, Thorp points out. It collects pollen primarily from lupines and poppies and gathers nectar mainly from mints.
Thorp sighted 94 in 1998; 20 in 1999; 9 in 2000 and only 1 in 2001. Sightings increased slightly to 20 in 2002, but dropped to 3 in 2003. Thorp saw none in 2004 and 2005; one in 2006; and none since.
In a UC Davis interview in July 2010, Thorp said: “People often ask the value of Franklin's bumble bee. In terms of a direct contribution to the grand scale of human economies, perhaps not much, but no one has measured its contribution in those terms. However, in the grand scheme of our planet and its environmental values, I would say it is priceless.”
“Loss of a species, especially a pollinator, diminishes our global environment,” he said. “Bumble bees provide an important ecological service--pollination. This service is critical to reproduction of a huge diversity of plants that in turn provide shelter, food (seeds, fruits) to diverse wildlife. The potential cascade of effects from the removal of even one localized pollinator may affect us directly and indirectly.”
Meanwhile, Thorp keeps looking.
Dillon emailed survey volunteers that “we plan to spend two full days, Tuesday and Wednesday up on Mt. Ashland, a day over at the Hobart Bluff area (Thursday), and potentially part of a day at Grizzly Peak (Friday morning). Volunteers are welcome for part of the survey or all of it."
Some of the habitat is rugged terrain. All volunteers are encouraged to bring their own nets, and any medication needed if they are allergic to bee stings. Inexperienced folks will be paired with the more experienced, Dillon said.
"If you don't make it over on Monday, we will be up on Mt. Ashland to start the day between 8:30 and 9 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. "To find us, go to the Mt. Ashland ski resort. Then continue west past the resort onto the gravel road. Stay basically at the same elevation for about 1 to 1.5 miles past the ski resort--there are other side roads that go down or up oin elevation. You should run into a cluster of vehicles on the side of the road with a number of people nearby that appear to be wandering aimlessly through the alpine meadows with white nets. There will not have been an escape, just fellow bumble bee enthusiasts hoping to be the first to find a Franklin's bumble bee."
“We have already reserved and covered the cost of the group campsite (there is only one) at the Emigrant Lake campground for the week. There are four level tent areas that hold several tents each with plenty of parking space. Showers and restrooms are a short walk away. Everyone is welcome to camp with us if interested.” The campground is located southeast of Ashland on the north edge of Emigrant Lake (reservoir). "Following the main road through the campground, the group site is basically the last campsite area before heading around the lake--it will be on your left. On Monday, July 17, we will probably get there between 5:30 and 6 p.m. We have already covered the cost of the campsite.
For further information, Dillon's office number is (503) 231-6197 and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Results of the 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Ore., survey:
- Bumble bee species found at Mt. Ashland on July 18/19, 2016:
Bombus mixtus, B. melanopygus, B. bifarius, B. vosnesenskii, B. flavifrons, B. occidentalis, B. appositus, and B. insularis. Had a report of a B. vandykei but did not see it.
- Bumble bee species found at Hobart Bluff trailhead area July 20, 2016:
Bombus mixtus, B. vosnesenskii, B. flavifrons, B. appositus, B. californicus, B. griseocollis, B. flavidus, and B. insularis.
- Bumble bee species found at Grizzly Peak area July 21, 2016:
B. vosnesenskii, B. flavifrons, and B. appositus.