And then one morning you see a moth on your blanket flower (Gaillardia). Hmm...
What is it? The moth (below) is "Heliothis virescens, the tobacco budworm, adult," said Lepitopteran expert Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology. "The species is a seasonal immigrant from the south. There is a sibling species, H. subflexa, that is quite rare and feeds only on ground cherry (genus Physalis, Solanaceae).
Like to learn more about moths? Statewide, nationwide and worldwide?
The Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, will celebrate Moth Night at its open house from 8 to 11 p.m., Saturday, July 30. The theme: "Celebrate Moths!"
Activities, free and open to the public, will take place inside the museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, and outside the building where black lighting will be set up to observe and collect moths and other insects.
Entomology graduate student Jessica Gillung will participate, "so there will be an entomologist fluent in Spanish and Portuguese on site," said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator.
Visitors are invited to view the Bohart Museum's vast collection of worldwide moth specimens and participate in family friendly craft activities featuring a moth motif. Scientists will explain how to differentiate a moth from a butterfly. Free hot chocolate will be served.
The event is in keeping with International Moth Week: Exploring Nighttime Nature, July 23-31, a citizen science project celebrating moths and biodiversity. The annual event is held the last week of July.
Moths continue to attract the attention of the entomological world and other curious persons. Scientists estimate that there may be more than 500,000 moth species in the world. They range in size from a pinhead to as large as an adult's hand. Most moths are nocturnal, but some fly during the day, as butterflies do.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, is a world-renowned insect museum that houses a global collection of nearly 8 million specimens. It also maintains a live “petting zoo,” featuring walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches and tarantulas. A 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. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free. More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or email@example.com
Access the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) website if you want to learn more about the tobacco budworm, which, in caterpillar stage, is a field crop pest of tobacco, alfalfa, clover, cotton, soybean and flax. And also attacks many of the plants in your vegetable garden and flower bed. Vegetable garden: cantaloupe, pea, pepper, lettuce, squash, tomato and more. Flower bed: geraniums, petunias, mallow, marigold, zinnia, snapdragon, zinnia and more. If you can't distinguish the larva of a tobacco budworm and cabbage looper from a variegated cutworm or a beet armworm, check out this UC IPM page. Then, to glean more information, search for "Tobacco Budworm" or "Heliothis virescens" on the UC IPM site.
And you won't want to miss it.
If you head over to the 69th annual Solano County Fair, 900 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo, between now and Sunday, July 31, you'll see lots of bees, butterflies, lady beetles, dragonflies, ants and other insects in McCormack Hall. They're depicted in photos and drawings, and on display boards, quilts, cakes, muffins, China plate paintings and more.
Gloria Gonzalez, superintendent of McCormack Hall, and her crew assembled the last of the displays earlier this week, just in time for the opening on Wednesday, July 27. The fair is open weekdays until 11 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday, July 30-31, from noon to 11 p.m.
Fairs are educational, informative, and entertaining, and the Solano County Fair, launched in 1949, is no exception. This year's theme is "Play It Again, Solano!"
But, back to the insects. Most of the exhibits in McCormack, of course, do not showcase insects, but many do! And they are amazing!
Have you ever seen a honey bee on a rock? Andrew Donato of Vallejo, has. In fact, he painted a bee on a rock and entered it in the 9-10 age graphic arts category. It's a winner!
Lexi Haddon Mendes of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, entered a decorated cake, "Flowers and Bees," in her age division, 9-10. She knows bees; she's a beekeeper and her father heads the club's beekeeping project.
Madeline Giron of Benicia entered muffins decorated with colorful ladybugs, aka lady beetles, in her 11-13 age division. Judges said "Yum!" and "Beautiful!" and "Blue Ribbon!"
Joseph Garrett of Fairfield entered several mounted insect specimens--along with a wolf spider (spiders are not insects)--in the science project division, ages 5-8. Is Joseph an entomologist-to-be?
The work of the adults is also incredible!
- Laquita Cumings of Rodeo entered a quilt of the most colorful butterflies you've ever seen. Best of show!
- Kim English of Fairfield entered a "Dresden design" China painting, adorned with flowers, butterflies and a bee.
- Celia Weller of American Canyon crafted a machine-quilted wall hanging adorned with flowers and an exotic butterfly not found in nature--but found at McCormack Hall.
- Beverly O'Hara of Benicia appliqued a quilt with ants and called it "Ant-titude." Clever! It features ants enjoying a picnic. What's a picnic without ants?
- Anita Jessop of Benicia imagined a field of flowers, and quilted a "Sunny Field of Flowers" wall hanging, complete with a hummingbird and dragonflies.
- Laura Ryan of Benicia entered a fan needlepoint anchored with a delightful blue butterfly. Reminds us of the blue morpho!
Those are just some of the prize-winning exhibits by youth and adults displayed at McCormack Hall. Be sure to check out the other buildings as well for an overall look at what the fair offers. The fair ends on Sunday, July 31 at 11 p.m.
Gloria Gonzalez, a longtime 4-H volunteer, has worked on the McCormack Hall displays for 11 years and has served as the superintendent for three years. She's the community leader of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, a position she's held for eight years.
The veteran 4-H adult volunteer has served as a project leader in the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club for 18 years. Many of the folks who crew McCormack Hall are also 4-H'ers, including Sharon Payne, a past president of the Solano County 4-H Leaders' Council; and longtime 4-H'ers turned leaders, Angelina Gonzalez and Julianna Payne, all of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club.
Sometimes caregivers, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors, take photos of babies to show "proof of life." They post them for the parents to see, admire and confirm.
It's delightful to see images of your offspring while you're on vacation, on a business trip, or just out and about.
Same with monarch caterpillars. "Monarch Moms" and "Monarch Dads" take "proof-of-life" photos.
Often we'll see a hungry monarch caterpillar chomping and chewing and gorging on milkweed. It's a pretty sight, these chunky white caterpillars banded in yellow and black doing what they do best--eating. Some day they'll form a "J" and then a jade-green chrysalis rimmed with gold. And then--voila!--an adult monarch will eclose.
Some day, but maybe not.
A predator may nail them.
We recently noticed a Missing-in-Action caterpillar from our showy milkweed, Asciepias speciosa, and a quite contented Western scrub jay looking like the cat that ate the canary, or the scrub jay that ate the 'cat. Note that the jays nest in our trees, and to nourish them, we feed them seeds year-around in the birdfeeder.
The birdfeeder, however, happens to be located right next to the 8-foot showy milkweed where monarchs lay their eggs.
Jays apparently like a varied diet. Like a fat juicy worm (to them). Yum? Not yum. It does not taste good. Species in the genus Asclepias produce the toxic cardiac glycosides and this helps protect the caterpillars from predators. Although they don't taste good, they will still eat a few.
The photos below are proof of life of one hungry, thriving caterpillar. The next day? Gone. It became a bird's dinner.
But not its sibling caterpillar. We rescued it and fed it and watched it form a chrysalis. Soon an adult monarch butterfly wlll eclose. This one will be "proof of life."
He's the bully in the bee garden.
If you've ever watched the male European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) patrolling "his" flower patch, you'll see him targeting insects several times larger than he is.
Take the case of the Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta), one of the largest bees in California. The female is solid black, while the male is a green-eyed blond.
Last week we were watching female Valley carpenter bees trying to gather some nectar from a bluebeard (Caryopteris x clandonensis) when the much smaller male carder bee dive-bombed her.
The male was also dive-bombing and body-slamming honey bees, sweat bees leafcuter bees and other bees, in addition to butterflies. They do that to "save" the flowers for their own species and perchance to mate!
As the sun set, the sleepy male carder bees headed over to a bee condo to grab some shuteye.
The bee condo was meant for nesting blue orchard bees (which pollinate the almonds in the spring).
Bee condos can also be occupied by other critters, including spiders, wasps and European wool carder bees!
Well, if you're Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor of entomology with a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, you annually host the Hammock Lab Water Balloon Battle on the Briggs Hall lawn.
He and research scientist Christophe Morisseau, coordinator of the event, are water warriors--the "Splash Brothers" counterpart to basketball superstars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors.
Their aim is as good the Curry/Thompson three-pointers.
Just call it 15 minutes of aim...and here's why.
Last Friday afternoon 40 participants, including professors, researchers, graduate students, staff, students and family members, tossed 3000 water balloons in 15 minutes on the thirsty lawn, as the temperature soared to 97 degrees. As the supply dwindled, they dumped the remaining water from the buckets on each other.
A highlight: “Splash Sister” Alifia Merchant of the Hammock lab, who just received her master's degree in agriculture and environmental chemistry, managed to sneak up on Hammock and drench him.
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. The international Hammock lab includes 7 researchers, 9 postdoctorates, 3 graduate students, 10 visiting scholars, 3 staff and 1 undergrad. They represent Barbados, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United States, Ukraine and Uruguay. Among those participating was Aldrin Gomes, associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Membrane Biology, and his lab.
Hammock, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, directs the campuswide Superfund Research and Training Program, an interdisciplinary program funded by the National Institute of Environmental Sciences (NIEHS) that has brought in almost $60 million to the UC Davis campus. The Hammock lab is also the home of the National Institutes of Health Training Grant in Biomolecular Technology. The lab alumni, totaling more than 100 graduates, hold positions of distinction in academia, industry and government as well as more than 300 postdoctorates.
The “Balloon Battle at Briggs” was canceled last year due to the severity of the California drought. In 2014, the water warriors took drought-conservation precautions as they did this year.
“We devised a filling station out of drip line and valves so we could fill the balloons outside and also turn off the water when not in use,” said Hammock lab program manager Cindy McReynolds. “Water conservation was a big topic surrounding the (2014) event, so we also used it as an opportunity to discuss ways we have changed our daily routines to conserve water."
As an extra bonus, the annual battle provides a little water for the thirsty Briggs Hall lawn, which is used by campus wildlife, including ducks, turkeys, squirrels, birds, butterflies and bees.
(Editor's Note: Hammock, who received his doctorate in entomology at UC Berkeley in 1973, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1980. Although an entomologist, he is now involved more in human health--alleviating human pain--than he is with insect research. With Sarjeet Gill (now at UC Riverside) he discovered that the enzyme, soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH), degrades fatty acid epoxides and plays an important role in human diseases. Hammock and his lab have developed inhibitors of sEH that are anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, analgesic and organ-protective. Groundbreaking neuropathic pain research emanating from the Hammock lab made Discover magazine's Top 100 Science Stories of 2015 and ranks among the Top 15 in the Medicine/Genetics category. The UC Davis research was singled out for “Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in the Peripheral Nervous System is a Significant Driver of Neuropathic Pain,” published in July 2015 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (See UC Davis news story)