Just call it "Fire and Fury in a Pollinator Garden."
That would be the firecracker red flameskimmer dragonfly, Libellula saturata.
They fly into our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif., attracted by the lily-padded pond and the all-you-can-eat buffet of flying insects.
They snag their prey in flight--usually a native bee or syprhid fly--and perch on a bamboo stake to eat it.
Table for one, please! No, waiter, I don't need a napkin. Thank you, though.
Native to North America, they are a delight to see and photograph. Sometimes they allow multiple close-up images and that's when we turn into a paparazzi! (To be honest, we'd rather take images of low-flying dragonflies than of high-profile people.)
Their flight reminds us of helicopters. Firecracker red helicopters.
If you've ever thought about the dragonfly being a perfect design for a helicopter, you'd be right.
Check out the website, "Design and the Universe," for its informative piece on "The Dragonfly: The Inspiration for the Helicopter."
"The wings of the dragonfly cannot be folded back on its body. In addition, the way in which the muscles for flight are used in the motion of the wings differs from the rest of insects. Because of these properties, evolutionists claim that dragonflies are "primitive insects."
"In contrast, the flight system of these so-called 'primitive insects' is nothing less than a wonder of design. The world's leading helicopter manufacturer, Sikorsky, finished the design of one of their helicopters by taking the dragonfly as a model.6 IBM, which assisted Sikorsky in this project, started by putting a model of a dragonfly in a computer (IBM 3081). Two thousand special renderings were done on computer in the light of the manoeuvres of the dragonfly in air. Therefore, Sikorsky's model for transporting personnel and artillery was built upon examples derived from dragonflies."
"The body of a dragonfly looks like a helical structure wrapped with metal. Two wings are cross-placed on a body that displays a colour gradation from ice blue to maroon. Because of this structure, the dragonfly is equipped with superb manoeuvrability. No matter at what speed or direction it is already moving, it can immediately stop and start flying in the opposite direction. Alternatively, it can remain suspended in air for the purpose of hunting. At that position, it can move quite swiftly towards its prey. It can accelerate up to a speed that is quite surprising for an insect: 25mph (40km/h), which would be identical to an athlete running 100 metres in the Olympics at 24.4mph (39km/h).
"At this speed, it collides with its prey. The shock of the impact is quite strong. However, the armoury of the dragonfly is both very resistant and very flexible. The flexible structure of its body absorbs the impact of collision. However, the same cannot be said for its prey. The dragonfly's prey would pass out or even be killed by the impact."
"Following the collision, the rear legs of dragonfly take on the role of its most lethal weapons. The legs stretch forward and capture the shocked prey, which is then swiftly dismembered and consumed by powerful jaws."
As for our little male flameskimmer, our firecracker red dragonfly, we watched him ambush prey, unleashing his special brand of fire and fury in a pollinator garden.
Fire and fury in a pollinator garden...
And meet the UC Davis researchers, UC Master Gardeners, students and community members who study them or promote them.
That's what's planned on Sunday, May 20 at an event sponsored by the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden and the UC Master Gardeners from 1 to 4 p.m. at the newly installed Hummingbird GATEway Garden.
It's "Pollinator Discovery Day," and its free and open to the public (all ages). No reservations are required.
"Pollinators are critical to the health of our environment," a spokesperson said. "It's all at this engaging, all-ages event where you can learn how the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden supports pollinators on campus and how you can create a pollinator paradise at home!"
The event will include tours, demonstrations, and interactive investigation stations.
You can visit the 14-plus stations featuring pollination education and family activities. You can build a bamboo bee condo for leafcutter bees. You can learn from the Master Gardeners about the value of native pollinators in our ecosystem and how you can attract them to your garden year-around.
You can chat with Levy Hernandez of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden Learning by Leading™ intern who helped design the Hummingbird GATEway Garden.
The Hummingbird GATEway Garden is located north of the Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive, and east of the newly constructed Veterinary Medicine Student Services and Administration Center.
Expect to see honey bees, bumble bees, sweat bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds! You'll find the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden both pollinator friendly and people friendly!
Or at least you saw the crowd circling Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The bees buzzed and so did the festival-goers.
Niño presented several "live bee" demonstrations in a circular screened tent. She opened the bee hive, pulled out frames, and showed the crowd the three castes of bees: the queen, worker bees and drones.
Niño talked about beekeeping and what bees need, and then passed a couple of drones through the tent to the crowd. Some gasped, not realizing that drones are males and cannot sting. Other marveled at the docile drones, took cell phone photos and petted them. The drones didn't seem to mind!
All in all, it was a great day for bees at the California Honey Festival, which is annually sponsored by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the City of Woodland.
"Bees face many threats today—it is the goal of the festival to help attendees understand the importance of bees to food diversity in the United States." The California Honey Festival's mission is to promote honey, honey bees and their products, and beekeeping. Through lectures and demonstrations, the festival goers learned about bees and how to keep them healthy. Issues facing the bees include pests, pesticides, diseases, malnutrition, and climate changes.
How many attended the festival? About 30,000, said Harris. (That's not counting the bees!) Harris noted that the inaugural festival drew about 20,000. Organizers had expected about 3000. Next year: maybe 40,000 or more?
Be sure to check out the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) newly posted video on the festival, featuring Niño. It's excellent. Although she's based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, she's California's Extension apiculturist. We are fortunate to have her! See the UC ANR video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUPEdMBYXZY
Resources? The E. L. Niño lab website is at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu.
Their Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/elninolab/.
Their California Master Beekeeper Program is at https://cambp.ucdavis.edu.
Meet Olivia Winokur, an enthusiastic, dedicated and multi-talented medical entomologist whose childhood curiosity about a yellow fever vaccination sparked her interest in 'skeeters.
In her youth, Olivia traveled with her parents and brothers to “off-the-beaten-path” locations. “So I was exposed to vector-borne disease awareness from a young age,” she recalled. “When I was 8 years old, I remember getting the yellow fever vaccination and being curious about why I had to get it for a trip to Southern Africa. I think that was my defining moment when I learned mosquitoes are more than just annoying. Since then, I've slept under many mosquito nets and am no stranger to mosquito bites.”
“I didn't think much about making a career out of those 'skeeters, though. I attended Cornell University as undergraduate, where I studied global public health from multiple perspectives. It wasn't until I became a research assistant in Dr. Laura Harrington's lab that I became fascinated with mosquito biology and decided to pursue a career in medical entomology.”
Winokur, who received her bachelor's degree in 2015 from Cornell University, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies and focusing on the environmental effects on human health, enrolled in the UC Davis graduate program in 2016 as a Ph.D entomology student with a designated emphasis in the biology of vector-borne diseases.
She studies with major professor and UC Davis alumnus Christopher Barker, associate professor and associate researcher in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, who doubles as a graduate student advisor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Earlier this year, Winokur received a three-year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. A 2017 Bill Hazeltine Memorial Award also helps fund her research.
Her research at UC Davis mainly involves Aedes aegypti, also known as the yellow fever mosquito. “At present, most of the research done on mosquito-borne virus transmission is done under a very narrow range of conditions that reflect a particular mosquito species' 'optimal' rearing and adult environment,” Winokur said. “I'm interested in how conditions outside of this optimal range at both the larval and adult stages affect mosquito-borne virus transmission. I work mostly with Aedes aegypti, which transmits diseases including dengue, Zika, yellow fever, and chikungunya viruses. Currently my research is focused on Zika virus. I hope to determine how the range of conditions mosquitoes encounter outside of the lab alter their life history traits, such as survival and blood feeding behavior, as well as viral transmission so that we can better understand geographical and seasonal mosquito-borne virus risk and eventually mitigate the risk.”
What fascinates her about mosquitoes? “People are usually wowed when I tell them there are over 3500 species of mosquitoes!” she said. “But don't worry.. not all of them transmit human pathogens. I love telling people about the natural history of different genera and species and how this affects the likelihood of pathogen transmission to humans. I'm continually fascinated by how resilient mosquitoes are, how successful they've been throughout history, and how they've completely altered human history. I actually gave a lecture on how vector-borne diseases have altered human history last quarter (Winter 2018) to an undergraduate class led by UC Davis entomology graduate students (Ent10: Natural History of Insects).”
Born in Long Beach, Calif., Olivia grew up in Laguna Niguel, Calif., where she focused on science as a part of the Dana Hills High School Health and Medical Occupations Academy. Olivia also played basketball at Dana Hills and helped the team win its first league title.
What drew her to UC Davis? “I grew up in California so I was familiar with UC Davis from a young age. I actually applied to UC Davis as an undergraduate, but decided to try life on the East Coast instead and attended Cornell University. While at Cornell, I learned a lot about UC Davis as most of my professors had spent some time at UC Davis during their academic tenure, and a lot of the research I was reading was coming out of UC Davis. I was excited to come back to the West Coast for graduate school so UC Davis seemed like an obvious choice!”
Winokur is a co-author of “The Impact of Temperature and Body-Size on Flight Tone Variation in the Mosquito Vector Aedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae): Implications for Acoustic Lures," published in April 2017, in the Journal of Medical Entomology. Several other manuscripts are accepted or in preparation.
She has given presentations at the Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California and the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Dedicated to helping high school girls transition into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers, Winokur is a founding board member and publicity co-chair of GOALS (Girls' Outdoor Adventure in Leadership and Science). The organization seeks “to cultivate and embolden the next generation of STEM leaders through a free, immersive, field-based summer science program for high school girls.”
“GOALS is for high school girls, inclusive of cis, trans, and gender nonbinary youth who identify with girlhood, to learn science hands-on while backpacking through the wilderness,” Winokur related. “I have worked with an incredible team of UC Davis affiliates to create GOALS to increase opportunities for high school students who identify with girlhood from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in STEM. Our first trip is happening this summer!” This year's program takes place July 21 to Aug. 5.
Winokur is also a part of the Letters to a Pre-Scientist program “so I get to be a pen-pal to an elementary school student to talk about science!” In addition, she serves as the treasurer of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association.
Delighted to return to California after being on the East Coast, Winokur spends her leisure time outdoors hiking and backpacking “and exploring the beautiful places near Davis like the Lake Tahoe area and Yosemite. I taught backpacking and wilderness survival skills for Cornell Outdoor Education during college. Additionally, I'm a trivia nerd so I watch a lot of Jeopardy! and play pub trivia with my entomology colleagues weekly. I also enjoy drawing, reading, playing board games, and doing jigsaw puzzles. When I get the chance I enjoy traveling as well--I just returned from Belize and I'll be in Denmark in July!”
After finishing her Ph.D., Winokur plans to remain in academia, but “I'm unsure exactly what that will look like! I really enjoy research, teaching, and mentoring so I'd like to have a career where I can do all of these. I also plan to have a career where I can conduct translational research with broad global health implications, engage non-scientists, create tools to help decision makers mitigate vector-borne disease burden worldwide, and encourage interest and diversity in STEM.”