Ever seen the male European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) protecting its turf?
It's "no-holds barred" on our blue spike sage (Salvia uliginosa) and frankly, it's a delight to see and photograph.
The highly territorial male body-slams all floral visitors, including honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees and butterflies that are trying to seek a little nectar, too.
The wool carder bee (so named because the female scrapes or cards leaf fuzz for her nest) is an Old World bee belonging to the family Megachilidae (which also includes leafcutter and mason bees, among others). Accidentally introduced into the United States from Europe, this pollinator was first discovered in New York State in 1963, and then spread across the continent. Scientists found it in Davis, Calif. in 2007.
In size, wool carder bees are comparable to honey bees. They're readily distinguished, however, by their striking yellow markings on their black abdomens, and yellow faces. Males are considerably larger than females, and have a spine on either side of the last two abdominal segments and three spines on the last segment, according to Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis. Those spines have been mistaken for stingers, but only females have stingers.
One thing's for sure: their highly aggressive behavior tends to make honey bees forage faster! They don't want to get bonked! (Davis insect photographer Allan Jones aptly calls them "bonker bees.")
In our little pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif., European wool carder bees seem to prefer blue flowers, especially our blue spike sage.
In fact, noted entomologist George Eickwort, writing in 1980 in the journal Psyche, observed that they seem to prefer "blue flowers with a relatively long throat."
We've seen the male carder bees protect patches of lamb's ear, foxgloves, catmint, oregano, cosmos, African blue basil, and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
However, they seem to go "bonkers" over bluebeard (Caryopteris x clandonensis) and blue spike sage (Salvia uliginosa).
A blue plate special...
Well, it's not so much as a "best-kept secret" but a "UC Davis treasure."
Thousands attended the seventh annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, which showcased 13 museums or collections. Billed as "a celebration of the vast diversity of life on Earth, both present and past," it's also "a celebration of science."
It took place Feb. 17. Here's the update: you can now see it on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzdOuHivEms. The newly posted video is the work of talented UC Davis undergraduate student Alexander Fisher-Wagner, who filmed, edited and posted the piece.
You can get a bird's eye view and a bug's eye view of all the activities, which ranged from ancient dinosaur bones to live praying mantises, from hawks to honey bees, and from California condor specimens to carnivorous plants. Participating were:
- Arboretum and Public Garden, Good Life Garden, next to the Robert Mondavi Wine and Food Science Institute, 392 Old Davis Road
- Anthropology Museum, 328 Young Hall and grounds
- Bohart Museum of Entomology, Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane
- Botanical Conservatory, Greenhouses along Kleiber Hall Drive
- California Raptor Center, 340 Equine Lane, off Old Davis RoadDesign Museum, 124 Cruess Hall, off California Ave
- Center for Plant Diversity, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
- Design Museum, 124 Cruess Hall, off California Avenue
- Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, Room 1394, Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane
- Nematode Collection, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
- Paleontology Collection, Earth and Physical Sciences Building, 434 LaRue Road
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
- Viticulture and Enology Culture Collection, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
The annual Biodiversity Museum Day, free and family friendly, is indeed a special occasion. All participating museums and collections have active education and outreach programs, but the collections are not always accessible to the public, said Biodiversity Museum Day committee chair Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
The UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Committee is already gearing up for the eighth annual, set Feb. 16, 2019. Mark your calendars!
Meanwhile, the Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, is hosting a Moth Night this Saturday, July 21 from 8 to 11 p.m. Free and open to the public (and it's family friendly), the event features both indoor and outdoor displays as scientists share their love and knowledge of moths, butterflies and other insects.
A blacklighting display (moth trap) will get underway around 9:30-10 p.m.
The Bohart Museum Moth Night is being held in conjunction with National Moth Week, July 21-29, which celebrates the beauty, life cycles and habitats of moths.
Bohart scientists will be on hand to discuss moths and answer questions. They include Bohart senior museum scientist Steve Heydon; entomologist Jeff Smith, curator of the the moth and butterfly specimens; "Moth Man" John DeBenedictis; naturalist and photographer Greg Kareofelas; and UC Davis undergraduate entomology student Wade Spencer, who staffs the live "petting zoo," featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas.
The family craft activity is "shaping up to be colored beeswax moths on a candle," Yang said. Free refreshments--cookies and hot chocolate--will be served.
So here's this male longhorned bee (Svastra) sipping a little nectar from a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
As the late Mr. Rogers (1928-2003), star of the TV show, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," so often proclaimed: "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood."
And here I "bee," admiring and photographing the bees on the reddish-orange blossoms on July 13 in our little pollinator garden.
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Could you be mine?
Would you be mine?
Yes, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, but wait--what's that?
Another male longhorned bee, fast as the proverbial speeding bullet, dive-bombs my little buddy. Both are male Svastra--territorial males--as identified by Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. He's the co-author of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (along with UC-affiliated colleagues Gordon Frankie, Rollin E. Coville and Barbara Ertter), a must for everyone who wants to learn about bees and blooms. A noted authority on bees, Thorp annually teaches at The Bee Course, a nine-day intensive workshop affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and held at the Southwestern Research Station in Portal, Ariz. To be held Aug. 20-30, it is offered "for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists, and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees." He's served as one of the instructors since 2002.
So, what happened to the male Svastra occupying the blossom?
Nothing. The occupier kept occupying and the dive-bomber quit dive-bombing.
I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you
(This image was taken with a Nikon D500, with a 105mm macro lens and a fast shutter speed of 1/3200 of a second. Other settings: f-stop, 7.1, and ISO 1600.)
Are you ready to celebrate Moth Night at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis?
Mark your calendar for 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, July 21.
That's when the Bohart Museum will join forces with National Moth Week, July 21-29, to celebrate the beauty, life cycles and habitats of moths. It's free, open to the public, and family friendly.
The Bohart, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane, is hosting the "Moth Night" both inside and outside the museum. You will see scores of moth and butterfly displays inside. Outside, moth light traps will be set up so you can see what moths are drawn to the blacklighting displays.
The UC Davis event is one of only two public events scheduled in California during the week; the other is in San Mateo County on July 28.
Bohart scientists will be on hand to discuss moths and answer questions. They include three Bohart associates: entomologist Jeff Smith of Rocklin, curator of the the moth and butterfly specimens; and "Moth Man" John DeBenedictis and naturalist and photographer Greg Kareofelas, both of Davis, who will staff the light traps/blacklighting displays. The best time to see the moths in the light traps is later in the evening, closer to 10, according to Lynn Kimsey, director of the museum, and Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
"We will focus on colorful moths of the night--night rainbows if you will and the biodiversity of tropical moths," Yang said. A family craft activity is planned. Last year the family craft activity featured making moth-shaped window ornaments resembling stained glass.
Free refreshments--cookies and hot chocolate--will be served. Common Grounds, a Davis coffee shop. will be providing the large containers of hot water for the event.
One of the "oh, wow!" moths is Attacus atlas (Atlas moth), found in the rainsforests of Asia. One of the largest moths in the world, it has a wingspan that can measure 10 to 11 inches.
Last year more than 15 species landed on the blacklighting display. The first moth to arrive was the alfalfa looper moth, Trichopusia ni. The most striking: the grape leaffolder, Desmia funeralis.
Some facts about moths, from the National Moth Week website:
- Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth.
- Scientists estimate there are 150,000 to more than 500,000 moth species.
- Their colors and patterns are either dazzling or so cryptic that they define camouflage. Shapes and sizes span the gamut from as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult's hand.
- Most moths are nocturnal--others fly like butterflies during the day.
- Finding moths can be as simple as leaving a porch light on and checking it after dark. Serious moth aficionados use special lights and baits to attract them.
The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum. It maintains a live "petting zoo," featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas, and praying mantids. The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. It is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
And she's beautiful!
It all began with finding two anise swallowtail chrysalids clinging last July to the fennel stems in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif.
To protect them from predators and the elements, we tucked them inside a zippered net butterfly habitat and placed “the prized package” in the corner of a laundry room to await the spring of 2018--and eclosure.
The first day of spring, March 20, came and went. Then 288 days slipped by. The chrysalids remained intact. Were they viable?
We showed images of the chrysalids to butterfly guru Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, who's been researching the butterfly population of central California for more than four decades.
“They both look OK—the intersegmental membranes are not showing,” he said. “Stick them in the refrigerator for a month and try again. If they are a coast range population, some may diapause up to 5 years. If a valley population, multiyear diapause is very unusual.”
Shapiro advised that we “put them in a lidded container” to prevent their drying out. “Diapausing pupae only breathe once or twice a day.”
So, on June 5, in the refrigerator they went, joining assorted cups of yogurt, bags of fruits and vegetables, jars of peanut butter, cartons of fat-free milk and what-have-you.
What a life!
Then on July 4, Independence Day (but with no fanfare, ceremony or celebration) out they came. (The yogurt, fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, milk and what-have-you stayed behind.)
We placed the (probably) thoroughly confused chrysalids back in the butterfly habitat, but this time, outdoors, and right next to their host plant, fennel. Daytime temperatures climbed to 100 degrees and night temperatures dropped into the 50s.
Nothing happened. Nothing.
Just as we were wondering if they were still viable, we saw a winged burst of yellow, black and blue on Sunday night, July 14. A long-awaited eclosure!
It's a girl! (as identified by Professor Shapiro). (Read more about the anise swallowtail, Papilio zelicaon, on his website.)
Early Monday morning, we dipped a fennel blossom into a mixture of 10 parts water and one part honey. Food! She drank heartily. Then we placed her atop the towering fennel so she could warm her flight muscles.
Two hours later, Ms. Anise Swallowtail became part of the Wonderful World of Butterflies. She circled the house, returned to nectar on the Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), and left. No fanfare, no ceremony, no celebration. This is her world now.
The other chrysalis? It remains intact. Fingers crossed that it, too, will survive.
It doesn't get much better than this--in a world where kindness matters. It always has.