It's the easy way to do it.
A carpenter bee heads for a foxglove blossom and drills a hole in the corolla to sip the nectar. This is "nectar robbing"--bypassing the pollination process and heading straight for the reward, the nectar.
Honey bees are quick learners. Soon they're sipping nectar from the hole pierced by the carpenter bee and they are not supplying "pollination services," either.
Insects populate the earth and they're also populating the 140th annual Dixon May Fair (May7-10).
Sharon Payne, superintendent of the Youth Building in Denverton Hall, noticed quite a few insects in the building--but in photographs. The youths' images included praying mantids, lady beetles and a Gulf Fritillary butterfly. Many of the images are from Solano County 4-H'ers.
Payne, a past president of the Solano County 4-H Leaders' Council and active in the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club of Vallejo and Benicia, coordinates the exhibits in the Dixon May Fair's Youth Building with fellow 4-H colleagues Gloria Gonzales and Julianna Payne.
Julianna served as a Solano County 4-H Ambassador for the 2012-2013 program year. Both Sharon and Julianna, mother and daughter, are master trainers in the 4-H THRIVE program, a leadership development project.
And over at Madden Hall, the almond and walnut industries have come to life, in keeping with the fair theme, "Nuttin' But Fun." Dixon May Fair chief executive officer Patricia "Pat" Conklin came up with the idea of wall-sized photos of almond and walnut orchards and bee pollination. (Wall photos donated by yours truly.)
It's good to see the focus on agricultural industries, the focus on 4-H, and the focus on entomology at California's oldest district fair. The grounds are located at 655 S. First St., Dixon.
And, by the way, of Solano County's 12 4-H clubs, Dixon claims five of them: Maine Prairie, Dixon Ridge, Roving Clovers, Tremont and Wolfskill.
A great agricultural community!
But over at the 140th annual Dixon May Fair (May 7-May 10), you'll see another kind of buzz, another kind of palace and another kind of royalty.
The Buzzingham Palace will be buzzing. It's a bee observation hive belonging to the Honey and Pollination Center, UC Davis. Looking through the glass, fairgoers can observe a colony in action--the queen laying eggs, worker bees (females) tending to her every need and the needs of the colony, including the drones (males).
The bee observation hive is a product from Mann Lake, Woodland, said.Amina Harris, who directs the Honey and Pollination Center. The bees were donated by Ray Olivarez of Olivarez Honey Bees, Orland.
Staff research associate Billy Synk of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is tending the bees in the Buzzingham Palace.
The observation hive will be showcased inside a booth in the Southard Floriculture Building along with posters, photos and scientific information about bees from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Entomologists and graduate students from UC Davis will staff the booth. Among them will be entomologist Jeff Smith, an associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who will talk about insects and spiders. Fairgoers can hold Peaches, a rose-haired tarantula; walking sticks, and Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
Want to see Buzzingham Palace, hold Peaches and talk to the entomologists?
The fairgrounds are located at 655 S. First St., Dixon. The Dixon May Fair is the oldest district fair and fairgrounds in the state of California, according to chief executive officer Patricia "Pat" Conklin. It's filled with many agricultural-related exhibits in keeping with the theme, "Nuttin' But Fun." (Think walnuts and almonds, two of the major agricultural industries in the county.)
Fair hours are:
Thursday, May 7: 4 to 11 p.m.
Friday, May 8: Noon to 11 p.m.
Saturday, May 9: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday, May 10: Noon to 11 p.m.
For more information check out Dixon May Fair's "Fair at a Glance."
Meanwhile, the Buzzingham Palace is buzzing!
How many times have you heard that?
Often it is not the beneficial lady beetle--commonly referred to as a ladybug--but that dratted pest, the spotted cucumber beetle.
In a case last week, it was the dratted spotted cucumber beetle, or more specifically, the western spotted cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata undecimpunctata, being "diabotical" on an Iceland poppy.
Lady beetles, the good guys and girls, can be many other colors besides red with black spots. They can also be with or without spots or stripes. They're the blue ribbon winners when it comes to devouring aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
The spotted cucumber beetle, however, is a pest of many of our agricultural crops, including the cucurbits family, Cucurbitaceae, which includes cucumbers, squash and zucchini. You'll also find these little diabolical munchkins just about everywhere.
"Western striped cucumber beetle larvae feed exclusively on cucurbit roots, whereas western spotted cucumber beetle larvae feed on a wide variety of plants including grasses, corn, legumes, and cucurbits," according to an entry in the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Program's Pest Management Guidelines.
So, the next time you're slicing a melon, remember what UC IPM says: "Cucumber beetles are serious pests of smooth-skinned cucurbits, especially melon varieties such as honeydew, crenshaw, and casaba. While the adults prefer tender, succulent portions of plants, including the flowers and leaves, which they may destroy with their feeding, it is the damage to the surface of the melon that reduces marketable yield. When temperatures are high, adults especially feed on the undersides of young melons, scarring them. After the skin hardens, melons are much less subject to attack. Scarring in the crown of the plant is also typical of adult damage. Feeding on stems of young plants, followed by sustained winds, may result in severe stand reductions making replanting necessary. In some situations, larvae may cause serious injury by feeding on roots, and young plants can be killed. Cucumber beetles also spread squash mosaic virus."
A cute little ladybug? No.
Pretty? Well, it is quite photogenic.
The first day of May calls for a little color.
And the blanket flower (Gaillardia) fills the bill. Native to North and South America, it's a member of the sunflower family, Asteraceae.
Its delightful yellow and red flowers remind us of the Native American Indian blankets. It was named, however, for Frenchman M. Gaillard de Charentonneau, who is often described as "an 18th century French magistrate, patron of botany, naturalist, amateur botanist, and member of the Académie des Sciences."
The blanket flower was among the first flowers planted at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre UC Davis bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
If you're around Davis on Saturday, May 2, stop at the haven for the fifth anniversary celebration, set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A public ceremony will be held from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the department, will welcome the crowd at 10:30.
Raj Brahmbhatt, associate brand manager of Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream at Nestle USA, Dreyer's Ice Cream company, will speak at 10:50 a.m. on “What the Haven Means to Us.” Christine Casey, manager of the haven, will discuss “What Your Donations Mean to the Haven” at 11:15.
Public events at the haven through 2 p.m. will include discussions on how to observe and identify bees, what to plant to help bees, and how you can help the bees (leafcutter bees and mason bees) by providing bee condos. There also will be beekeeping demonstrations and garden tours. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, will show the unforgettable male Valley carpenter bee (blond with green eyes), which he fondly calls "the teddy bear bee." It's all warm and fuzzy. And it doesn't sting, because, as Thorp points out, "it's a boy bee."