Like to learn how to make mead? You know, transform honey into honey wine?
The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute and the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology are offering a beginners' introduction to mead making on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 13-14 at the Mondavi Institute on Old Davis Road.
"Explore the rich history of this fascinating fermented beverage from its ancient origins to its recent rebirth in America," teases Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center. "Taste and learn styles, ingredient selection and steps to making good mead."
Mead is known as the ancestor of all fermented drinks.
This is a hands-on learning experience. "We have about 35 seats left and we would like to fill every one," Harris said. "So far, folks have enrolled from all over the United States and from Canada and India."
Here's a link to the Honey and Pollination Center's website and registration: http://honey.ucdavis.edu/events/introduction-to-mead-making
Or, if you want to chat with Harris and learn how delicious mead is--it's called "the drink of the gods"--contact her at (530) 754-9301 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Honey, will you pour me some mead?
I've always rather liked katydids.
Anyone who is called "Kate" or "Katy" in their childhood usually winds up with "Katydid" as a nickname. And they repeatedly hear "Katy did. Katy didn't" (the sound the insect makes).
So when a katydid appeared on our Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) this morning, yours truly (once a Kate and a Katydid) grabbed a camera.
Up close, they look like prehistoric animals, a mini version of the huge dinosaurs that roamed the earth 245 million years ago.
From the family Tettigoniidae and the order Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets and katydids), they're found throughout the world except in Antarctica. Sometimes katydids are called long-horned grasshoppers or bush crickets.
Fruit growers know the katydids as pests. They scar fruit such as citrus, taking a bite from one and moving onto the next. You can imagine what that does to the market value.
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) provides information about the forktailed bush katydid: (Scudderia furcata) and the angularwinged katydid (Microcentrum retinerve) in its Citrus Pest Management Guidelines: "Of the two species feeding on citrus, only the forktailed katydid causes economic damage. This species feeds on young fruit at petal fall with subsequent buildup of scar tissue and distortion of expanding fruit. Katydids take a single bite from a fruit and then move to another feeding site on the same or nearby fruit. In this way, a few katydids can damage a large quantity of fruit in a short time. They also eat holes in leaves and maturing fruit, creating injury that resembles damage by citrus cutworm. The angularwinged katydid is less abundant than the forktailed katydid and feeds only on leaves."
Katydids also damage such fruits as pomegranates, pears, peaches, plums and apricots.
"Our" little katydid fed on the petals of the Tithonia, stopping occasionally to look at the photographer.
Katy did and then Katy didn't.
Whenever folks post photos of praying mantids, their readers expect to see prey.
You know, the hapless bee or butterfly that made the fatal mistake of getting too close to those spiked forelegs.
This praying mantis (below) appeared to have been a hapless victim of another predator. It, still however, kept that praying mantis pose as it tried to find prey on a blanketflower (Gaillardia). And it still rotated its head 180 degrees.
Praying mantis belong to the order, Mantodea, which includes more than 2400 species and about 430 genera in 15 families, according to Wikipedia.
"They are distributed worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats. Most of the species are in the family Mantidae," Wikipedia tells us. "Females sometimes practice sexual cannibalism, eating their mate after, or occasionally decapitating the male just before mating."
Did you know that the closest relatives of mantids are termites and cockroaches (Blattodea)? And that they are sometimes "confused with stick insects (Phasmatodea) and other elongated insects such as grasshoppers (Orthoptera), or other insects with raptorial forelegs such as mantisflies (Mantispidae)?" Check out Wikipedia's entry for praying mantids.
Praying mantids live about a year. This one lived about five hours before it expired.
But not before it gave a honey bee the fright of her life.
UC Riverside entomologist Peter Graystock and colleagues Dave Goulson and William O. H. Hughes of the University of Sussex, United Kingdom, just published first-of-its-kind research in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, that clearly shows the interaction of parasites between flowers and bees.
"Despite their beauty, flowers can pose a grave danger to bees by providing a platform of parasites to visiting bees, a team of researchers has determined," wrote UC Riverside senior public information officer Iqbal Pittalwala.
Graystock, a postdoctoral researcher in the UC Riverside Department of Entomology and lead author of the paper, was quoted in the news release: “Flowers are hotspots for parasite spread between and within pollinator populations. By showing that visits from parasite-carrying bees can turn flowers into parasite platforms, we can say that it is likely that heavily visited flowers may become more ‘dirty' with bee parasites. Planting more flowers would provide bees with more options, and parasite spread may thus be reduced.”
The researchers found four common honey bee and bumble bee parasites dispersed via flowers: Nosema apis (causes a honey bee disease), Nosema ceranae (causes an emergent disease in honey bees and bumble bees), Crithidia bombi (causes a bumble bee disease) and Apicystis bombi (mostly found in bumble bees). "These parasites are known to cause, lethargy, dysentery, colony collapse, and queen death in heavily infected bees," wrote Pittalwala.
The research, titled "Parasites in Bloom: Flowers Aid Dispersal and Transmission of Pollinator Parasites within and between Bee Species," was published Aug. 4 in the prestigious journal.
"The dispersal of parasites is critical for epidemiology, and the interspecific vectoring of parasites when species share resources may play an underappreciated role in parasite dispersal. One of the best examples of such a situation is the shared use of flowers by pollinators, but the importance of flowers and interspecific vectoring in the dispersal of pollinator parasites is poorly understood and frequently overlooked. Here, we use an experimental approach to show that during even short foraging periods of 3 hours, three bumblebee parasites and two honeybee parasites were dispersed effectively onto flowers by their hosts, and then vectored readily between flowers by non-host pollinator species. The results suggest that flowers are likely to be hotspots for the transmission of pollinator parasites and that considering potential vector, as well as host, species will be of general importance for understanding the distribution and transmission of parasites in the environment and between pollinators."
As Graystock pointed out in the news release: "With some 20,000 bee species, it is a surprise that only recently has research in pollinator health considered the interactions between bee species. Our finding may also affect the national and international trade of flowers unless sterilization of parasites on these flowers can be guaranteed. Otherwise, flower movements may also be moving pollinator parasites to new territories.”
We're looking forward to more of this research.
They look like shiny blue and black needles.
Make that "flying" shiny blue and black needles.
We spotted this damselfly foraging on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) this week in our family bee garden. The blue was breathtaking.
Can anything be so blue? What species is this?
"By the amount of black on the middle abdominal segments, it looks to me like a male of Enallagma carunculatum Morse," said senior insect biosystematist Rosser W. Garrison, with the California Department of Food and Agricultur'es Plant Pest Diagnostics Branch.
Its common name is "tule bluet." It's a species of damselfly in the family Coenagrionidae, found throughout North America, according to Wikipedia. It's all over the United States, "except for the southeastern quarter."
Its blue and black abdomen is usually more black than blue. It derives its common name, "tule bluet," from the stands of tule it frequents. Its habitat includes rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes and bogs. It likes to hang out in the bulrushes.
The nymphs eat such aquatic insects as mosquito and mayfly larvae, while the adults feet on a wide variety of small flying insects, including mayflies, flies, small moths and mosquitoes. Sometimes they'll grab a few aphids from plants.
Our little buddy (along with other damselflies) was hanging out in our Tithonia patch.
But the Tithonia patch is just a few feet away from our fish pond...
Check out the images of tule bluet on BugGuide.net for more of a blue fix and more information!