Today's the Fourth of July and folks are splashing in their pools.
So, what happens when a bee falls in?
Sometimes they get lucky--if there's a human around to rescue them. And sometimes their luck extends to a floating leaf.
This tiny female sweat bee, genus Halictus (probably H. tripartitus, as identified by native polinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, fell into our pool and then managed to save herself by climbing onto a cherry laurel leaf.
If you look closely, you'll see another sweat bee, an even smaller one, trying to climb onboard, too.
The scenario ended well. The bee coasting along the leaf dried her wings and then flew off.
Luck be a lady...
It was a reddish-orange beetle, moving a little but not a lot.
We spotted it on a sunflower bordering the Avant Garden in Benicia. The garden, located at the corner of First and East D streets, thrives with assorted tomatoes, peppers, onions, strawberries, cucumbers, eggplant, squash and ornamentals.
This little beetle, as identified by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, is a meloid blister beetle.
"These are nest parasites of wasps and mostly bees," Kimsey said.
Blister beetles (Coleoptera) belong the family Meloidae. They produce a blistering agent (thus their name) known as cantharidin, that can blister the skin. Horses can die from ingesting blister-beetle contaminated feed, such as alfalfa.
Scientists estimate there are approximately 7500 known species worldwide. They vary in size, shape and color.
The adults feed on multiple plants, including garden vegetables, ornamentals, vegetables, alfalfa, soybeans and potatoes. Larvae dine on grasshopper eggs and the like. Solitary bee nests are a haven for immature stages of some blister beetle species.
UC Davis evolutionary ecologist Leslie Saul-Gershenz, a graduate student in the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology, researches a solitary ground-nesting bee, Habropoda pallida and its nest parasite, a blister beetle, Meloe franciscanus, found in the Mojave National Preserve.
Saul-Gershenz says the larvae of the parasitic blister beetle produce a chemical cue or a pheromone similar to that of a female solitary bee to lure males to the larval aggregation. The larvae attach to the male bee and then transfer to the female during mating. The end result: the larvae wind up in the nest of a female bee, where they eat the nest provisions and likely the host egg.
She and her colleagues most recently published their research in the April edition of the National Park Service's Mojave National Preserve Science News. You can read about her exiting work on the Department of Entomology website and see her amazing photograph of blister-beetle larvae on a digger bee. That's something you won't forget.
We saw her touch down in our nectarine tree last weekend.
Big green compound eyes glowed at us.
She moved up and down a branch, foraging for food, and then took off.
A wasp. The carnivore cousin of the vegetarian honey bee. They belong to the same order, Hymenoptera.
The green-eyed wasp? Genus Tachytes, as confirmed by noted "wasp woman" Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. The green eyes are a distinguishing feature of the genus.
Tachytes is a member of the Crabronidae family or "sand-loving wasps." The females burrow into sandy soil, and provision their nest with such paralyzed prey as katydids and grasshoppers. Meanwhile, their cousins, the honey bees, are out collecting nectar and pollen.
If you're looking for something to do this summer, be sure to check out the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 Academic Surge, corner of La Rue Road and Crocker Lane (formerly California Drive). Regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. It is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
There's always something to see and do at the museum, what with more than seven million insect specimens collected from around the world. And you can meet the critters in the "live petting zoo," including walking sticks and Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
Be sure to check out the Hymenoptera specimens in the museum's display cases. You'll be amazed./span>
When I last met up with a pipevine swallowtail, it wasn't faring well.
In fact, I didn't recognize it as a pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor), no thanks to it being in the clutches of a hungry praying mantis.
Mantids have to eat, too, but I'd prefer they express an culinary interest in pests such as spotted cucumber beetles instead of beneficial insects.
On his website, butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, calls the pipevine swallowtail "the signature riparian butterfly of our region, occurring along streams in foothill canyons and on the Central Valley floor, essentially everywhere where its only host plant, California pipevine or Dutchman's pipe, Aristolochia californica, occurs."
If you head out to the Storer Garden in the UC Davis Arboretum, you might see a pipevine swallowtail catching the breeze, stopping here and there to nectar a plant.
Maybe this time a praying mantis will catch something else.
Training for the Olympics?
If you step into your garden in the early morning, you might see a male bumble bee sleeping on one of your plants. The females return to their nests at night, but the males don't. They stage slumber parties, aka sleepovers, on your plants.
If they look bedraggled, that's because they are. It's the beginning of a bad hair day.
Such was the case when we encountered this male yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) on the lavender.
As the sun began rising, Mr. Bombus vosnesenskii, too, struggled to rise. Had he been partying all night? Sipping too much nectar, perhaps? Rolling in the pollen?
He crawled along the lavender plants , backtracked, and then appeared to be using a stem as a chin-up bar.
Nothing like a little morning exercise...