The ancient fruit, first cultivated around 4000 B.C. in Persia and known as "the fruit of kings," bursts with flavor, antioxidants and medicinal qualities.
But have you ever tasted the honey? Pomegranate honey?
That will be one of the featured honeys at the California Honey Tasting event hosted by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 20 in the Sensory Building, Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road.
Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, says the featured honeys you'll taste are “hard-to-find: almond, savory coriander, fruity pomegranate and our ever-changing Northern California wildflower.”
At the event, each honey will be paired with its produce: almonds, cilantro and pomegranate kernels. "The wildflower will be combined with a creamy cheese," she said.
Extension apiculturist Elina L. Niño will deliver a short address on the state of bees in California, and touch on the almond pollination season. California now grows a million acres of almonds; and each acre requires two colonies for pollination.
The Oct. 20th event is part of the World Of Honey Tasting Series. Cost is $30 for general admission; $25 for UC Davis affiliates; and $12.50 for students. For more information and to register, access https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/254.
A perfect perch.
A young male variegated meadowhawk dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum, found a perfect perch--a seed ball of Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif.
It towered over the garden and so did he.
Naturalist Greg Kareofelas, Bohart Museum of Entomology associate, University of California, Davis, has been seeing and photographing some of these migrating dragonflies in his yard in Davis as well.
"Evidently, there was a big migration of lots of these dragonflies south of San Francisco," Kareofelas noted in his Facebook post.
And apparently thousands have been spotted at Half Moon Bay. Dragonfly alert!
Variegated meadowhawks live near ponds, lakes, and swamps. They are largely tan or gray with a pale face that is tan in young males and females but becomes red in mature males, according to Odonatacentral.org. They're found throughout the United States and southern Canada; also Mexico south to Belize and Honduras. "This species may be seen on the ground more than other meadowhawks. It will also readily perch on the tips of grass stems and tree branches. It can be numerous flying over roads, lawns, meadows, marshes and ponds...It is largely tan or gray with a pale face that is tan in young males and females but becomes red in mature males."
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, offers a beautiful dragonfly poster, "Dragonflies of California," in its gift shop. It's the work of entomologist Fran Keller (she received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis and is now an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College) and Kareofelas, whose expertise includes butterflies and dragonflies.
So here it is Monday, Oct. 10 and the monarch butterflies are still laying eggs on our milkweed in Vacaville, Calif.
"Mrs. October" fluttered down to our tropical milkweed at 4:30 p.m. today and began laying eggs on three tropical milkweeds (Asclepias curassavica).
We grow three other species--showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa; narrow-leafed milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis; and butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa. All are looking quite healthy, but Mrs. October chose the tropical milkweed.
As she tended to her maternal business, several migrating monarchs glided down to sip some nectar (flight fuel) from Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) and butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) in our pollinator garden. Other monarchs seemed interested in finding partners. In October? Apparently so. Temperatures have hovered around 90 degrees for the last several days.
And here I was just telling the family, "My monarch-rearing season is almost over. I have two chrysalids left (in our indoor habitat). If monarchs eclose, that will make a total of 50 monarchs reared and released this season." (This is my small-scale conservation project to help the declining monarch population.)
Not so fast. We now have four monarch eggs, four eggs rescued from assorted predators (lady beetles, milkweed bugs, spiders, ants, and other critters looking for a tasty bit of protein. Pathogens, tachinid flies, wasps, assassin bugs and birds also "interrupt" the natural life cycle of a monarch. (See enemies of monarchs from monarchprogram.org.)
With any luck, the monarch eggs will become caterpillars, then chrysalids and then adults, thanks to Mrs. October's unexpected gift.
However, it's not good to count your chickens before they hatch...or the monarchs before they eclose.
This just in for Halloween!
Ever seen a false black widow spider?
Commonly known as the cupboard spider, it's a semi-cosmopolitan spider that's often confused with the "real" black widow spider, known for its powerful venom.
Adrienne Shapiro of Davis took this photo (below) of a spider on the Shapiro property (photographed and released). Her husband, Art, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, identified it as a female false black widow, Steatoda grossa.
"The overall appearance is very similar to the real thing, except it lacks the red spot on the belly and usually--but not always--has some yellow patterning on the dorsal abdomen: a crescent-like line at the anterior end and a row of triangular spots down the midline, visible here," Shapiro commented.
"But a few may be all black, or the yellow is barely visible," he noted. "This is a semi-cosmopolitan species usually found in or around buildings. It's originally from the Mediterranean region and in the United States and is mostly urban-bicoastal, absent from the heartland. Its habits are nearly identical to the black widow. It's not very common and I personally have never seen it in Davis before. The bite of the female IS venomous, but not to the degree a true black widow bite is. The symptoms are usually local pain, redness and blistering, but some people report generalized malaise for up to a couple of days. I am unaware of any deaths or serious sequelae."
Steve Heydon, senior museum scientist at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, says he gets a few calls about the false black widow. "Steatoda mostly lives under things on the ground," he said, "while the black widows live a little bit off the ground."
We've never seen the false black widow, but have seen numerous black widows (genus Latrodectus.) One black widow homesteaded on the rim of our swimming pool several years ago and we managed to photograph Mama straddling her egg cases. The familiar red hourglass was definitely visible!
The black widow's bite, particularly harmful to people, contains neurotoxin latrotoxin, which causes the condition latrodectism, both named for the genus. Only the female bite is harmful. But the bite is rarely fatal to humans.
We watched Mama scurry around, seemingly trying to protect both egg cases simultaneously from the long-lensed camera.
She was like a Mama Grizzly protecting her cubs.
Monarch butterflies are migrating now, but we're still finding a few caterpillars in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif.
We recently plucked off five caterpillars from our milkweed plants (our game plan is protect them from California scrub jays and other birds, tachinid flies, wasps and the protozoan parasite, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha or OE, for short).
These are the last 'cats of the season.
Ours is a small-scale conservation project. Our goal is to reach 50 by the end of the season. We're on track to do our small part for the declining monarch population. Plant milkweed (the host plant of monarchs), plant nectar-rich flowers such as Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), butterfly bush (Buddleia) and Lantana, and Danaus plexippus will come.
Weiford works inside the French Administration Building, named for former president C. Clement French. When I joined the Daily Evergreen news staff--way back when!--I used to interview Dr. French.
And it became even smaller when the WSU-tagged monarch (firstname.lastname@example.org), part of WSU entomologist David James' research program, stopped by for a visit. It was reared by citizen scientist Steve Johnson of Ashland, and tagged and released on Sunday, Aug. 28. "So, assuming it didn't travel much on the day you saw it, it flew 285 miles in 7 days or about 40.7 miles per day," James said. "Pretty amazing."
Yes, pretty amazing, indeed.
Now, with any luck--well, lots of luck--Steve Johnson's progeny has made its way to an overwintering colony in Santa Cruz or Pacific Grove.
And with any more luck, we'll be adding five more to the overwintering site.