Naturalist Greg Karofelas of Davis, an associate of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, has not only seen them, he has photographed them. See his truly spectacular photo below.
The mites look like a cross between pomegranate kernels and salmon eggs. They are hitchhikers!
It's a good case of phoresy, or the symbiotic relationship in which one organism transports another organism of a different species.
Scenario: Say a damselfly is laying her eggs in a fish pond or the wetlands. Say some mites are waiting for her. They seek free meals and a free ride to the next pond to find mates and reproduce.
The damselfly dips down. They jump up.
What a load!
We wrote about these mites in a Bug Squad blog on July 25, 2013.
As for the image of the water mites that Greg Kareofelas captured, he suspects they may be Arrenurus mitoensis.
All we can say is "Wow!" Great image, Greg!
Make way for the Good Food Awards competition, opening July 6.
This year is the second consecutive year for the honey category. Last year more than 50 beekeepers from throughout the United States entered their honey.
Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, is chairing the committee. She's joined by fellow members Emily Brown, owner of AZ Queen Bee and winner of a 2014 Good Food Award in Honey; Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine; Marina Marchese, founder of the American Honey Tasting Society and co-author (with Kim Flottum) of The Honey Connoisseur; and Mea McNeil, writer, beekeeper and organic farmer.
Here's what Harris advises:
- Put July 6, 2015 (sometime in the afternoon) on your calendar
- Go to the website: http://www.goodfoodawards.org/
- Click on the ‘Honey' link to read the NEW criteria (also listed below)
- Click on Entrant Information to download a form.
So, what are the rules? Among them:
- All honey must be the bona fide produce of the entrant's own bees.
- It must be harvested between August 2014 – August 2015.
- It must be extracted with minimal heat (100°) and after extraction, not exposed to heat greater than 120°.
- It must be strained and/or filtered to leave in pollen.
- It can be made with inclusions (such as fruit, alcohol and herbs):
- That grow domestically, inclusions are locally sourced wherever possible; traceable; and grown without synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fungicides or fertilizers.
- That are not grown domestically on a commercial scale; they are farm-direct, certified organic, or Fair Trade certified.
- It must be produced in the United States
There are other rules as well, including being responsibly reproduced.
Is honey the nectar of the gods? Or the soul of a field of flowers? Both. How many flowers must honey bees tap to make one pound of honey? Two million, according to the National Honey Board. The average worker honey bee makes only 1/12 of a teaspoon in her lifetime. How long have bees been producing honey from flowering plants? 10-20 million years. How many flowers does a honey bee visit during one collection trip? 50-100. See more questions here.
The Good Food Awards, according to its website, is all about celebrating "tasty, authentic and responsibly produced foods." The organization presents the awards at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. This year, the sixth annual, will include 13 categories: beer, cider, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, honey, pickles, preserves, spirits, oil and the newest category, pantry. Awards will be given to producers and their food communities from each of five regions of the U.S.
Meanwhile, Amina Harris says we're tasting honey all wrong! Read the interview in Civil Eats.
What an amazing photo!
Vacaville resident Cindy Carmouche, a nurse at Kaiser Permanente, captured a photo of early instar redhumped caterpillars eating her French prune leaves.
One look at this photo and you will marvel at some v-e-r-y hungry caterpillars. Ravenous, in fact!
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, and professor of entomology, identified the caterpillars as Schizura concinna. "We always have people finding them outside Academic Surge (Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus) where they're feeding on the redbud and a variety of other things," she said.
Kimsey showed this photo to Professor David Wagner of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn.
Professor Wagner described the image as "stunning given that these are first or second instars. Keep them coming—I am working on a guide to western caterpillars and need people in your part of California (desperately)." So if you see any redhumped caterpillars, he'd love to see them, too. (Email him at david.wagner
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) provides some excellent information about this pest on its Pest Note website. The major reference: Dreistadt, S. H., J. K. Clark, and M. L. Flint. 2004. Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs: An Integrated Pest Management Guide, 2nd ed. Oakland: Univ. Calif. Agric. Nat. Res. Publ. 3359.
"The redhumped caterpillar, Schizura concinna, is found throughout much of California," the UC IPM authors wrote. "Although the climate of the coastal regions usually doesn't favor development of destructive populations, it can be a serious problem in the warm Central Valley. This pest most commonly attacks liquidambar (sweet gum), walnut, and plum trees, but you also can find them on almond, apple, apricot, birch, cherry, cottonwood, pear, prune, redbud, willow, and others, especially where insecticides applied to control other pests have killed their natural enemies.
"The redhumped caterpillar has four stages of development—egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult (moth)," they pointed out. "Adults lay eggs, which are nearly spherical and pearly white to cream colored, in groups of 25 to 100 on the undersides of younger leaves.
"Caterpillars are 1 to 1-1/2 inches long when fully grown and have a base color of yellow. Longitudinal white, reddish brown, or sometimes black stripes mark the body. The head is usually orange or brick red, as is the fourth body segment, which is distinctly humped and has two prominent, black tubercles (spines). Each body segment also has less distinctive black tubercles. Caterpillars rest with their hind end elevated."
You can read more about redhumped caterpillars on the UC IPM site--and how to control them.
Back in 2010, we spotted several redhumped caterpillars eating the leaves of our newly planted redbud tree. We let them eat their fill. However, they weren't nearly as abundant--or ravenous!--as the caterpillars on Cindy Carmouche's French prune!
Two species of male sunflower bees, Svastra obliqua and Melissodes agilis, spend the day on our Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) chasing the girls and protecting their turf.
Sometimes I wonder why they don't tire out sooner than they do. The Energizer Bunny could take lessons from them.
But a night, it's a different story.
While the female sunflower bees return to their underground nests at night, the males sleep in a tight cluster on the nearby lavender stems. These boys are s-o-o tired that they're often "in bed" by 5 or 6 p.m.
But their cousins, the honey bees, are still foraging, gathering pollen and nectar for their colony.
So what a surprise last weekend to see a worker bee doing what her name implies--working!--on a lavender blossom next to the sleeping boy bees, Melissodes agilis. "Excuse me, boys! There's nectar here! Do ya mind? Could you move over just a little bit?"
I aimed my little pocket camera, a Nikon P340, and caught the girl on the boys' night out.
She'll be back. So will the boys.
(Editor's Note: You can learn more about native bees in the Heyday book, California Bees and Blooms, a Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, written by UC-affiliated authors Gordon Frankie, Robbin Thorp, Rollin E. Coville, and Barbara Ertter.)
Artist Lisa Rico of Vacaville originated this first-of-its-kind project, a fundraiser for the museum. Area artists transformed 25 fiberglass white rabbits into works of art and then local businesses displayed them for several months, wowing the crowds. Then, voila! All the rabbits hopped over to the museum courtyard (with the help of trucks, wheelbarrows and carts) for a spectacular get-together. Voters singled out "Will Rabbit" by Mernie Buchanan for the People's Choice award.
Fast forward to Saturday, June 20 (rabbits can hop in any direction) and the jacks regrouped at a gala at the C.C. Yin Ranch in Vacaville, where they were auctioned off to the highest bidders. The hare-raising event, billed as "Hit the Road, Jack!", raised some $90,000 for the museum, including a high bid of $6,900 from Vacaville resident Heidi Campini for the Mardi Gras rabbit, the work of Geraladine Arata. The People's Choice rabbit drew the second highest bid, $6,700, from the Vacaville Performing Arts Theater.
Since this is a Bug Squad blog, we thought you'd enjoy some of the artistic butterflies adorning the rabbits. One of our favorites was The Velveteen Rabbit, the work of a consortium of artists. Butterflies adorned the paws, torso and back. Then there was "Flyin' Jack" by Richard Rico of Vacaville with brilliant depictions of the kind of butterflies you'd expect to see in the tropics.
After the courtyard appearance, volunteers--including John Vasquez Jr., member of the Solano County Board of Supervisors--wheeled the line of rabbits back into the museum.
Talk about a receding hareline!