Some linger quite awhile before they buzz off.
Have you ever thought about this: Do they have taste buds?
A colleague asked that question. In fact, it was his friend's nine-year-old son who asked: "Do bees have taste buds, and if so where?"
"No," says Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who retired in 2014 after 38 years of service.
That's the short answer. But wait, there's more.
"Honey bees, and other insects do not have taste buds, as such," Mussen said. "They have specialized, enlarged hairs; chaetic and basiconic sensillae; that protrude from the cuticle (exoskeleton). The sensillae have gustatory receptor cells in them that sense the chemicals that are contacted by the tips of the antennae, the mouthparts, or the tarsi (feet) of the front legs. The interpretation of the chemicals takes place in the subesophageal ganglion of the bee, not in the brain. The esophageal ganglion is a very large nerve cell cluster attached beneath the brain."
It's good to see youngsters so interested in insects!
Orb-weaver spiders know a thing or two about web design and development.
And their skills have nothing to do with computers.
Have you ever stepped out into your garden in the early morning and seen a spiral or wheel-shaped web glistening with droplets of dew? And encountered the web developer hanging out with its prey?
Such was the case last weekend when we spotted an orb weaver or araneid with its catch, a honey bee. The bee was all wrapped up and ready to eat. Web designers and developers get hungry, too.
Why are they called orb weavers? Well, orb is an old English word meaning "circular."
"The family is cosmopolitan, including many well-known large or brightly colored garden spiders," according to Wikipedia. "With around 3,100 species in 169 genera worldwide, Araneidae is the third-largest family of spiders (behind Salticidae and Linyphiidae). Araneid webs are constructed in a stereotyped fashion. A framework of nonsticky silk is built up before the spider adds a final spiral of silk covered in sticky droplets."
So an unsuspecting honey bee flew into the sticky web, struggled to free itself and could not. And along came a spider and the rest is history. Or breakfast.
A group of scientists associated with the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, journeyed to Belize last summer to add to the Bohart Museum's global collection of insects. The group included professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and Bohart Museum staff and volunteers.
But just wait until you see what they brought back.
You will at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 18 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. You can learn about their journey, what they collected, and also glean information on how to collect insects.
The event, free and open to the public, is the first in a series of weekend open houses at the Bohart Museum during the academic year. All open houses are family friendly.
Two scientists, Dave Wyatt, a professor at Sacramento City College, and Bohart Museum associate Fran Keller, assistant professor at Folsom Lake College, led the collection trip. Wyatt has been on more than a dozen collection trips to Belize and has also collected in Costa Rica. Keller is not only a veteran of Belize collecting trips but is a former student of Wyatt's. It was Wyatt who introduced her to entomology at Sacramento City College. Keller went on to receive her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum.
How many specimens did they bring back? About 100,000, Keller estimated.
The Bohart Museum 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. Among the newest additions to the "zoo" are a young praying mantis and a population of Gulf Fritillaries--the public can see the caterpillars, chrysalids and adult butterflies.
At the open house, visitors can engage in one-on-one conversations with the scientists about the Belize trip. And they can also hold and photograph some of the petting zoo residents. A gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
Family arts and crafts activities are also planned, said Tabatha Yang, public education and outreach coordinator.
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
Have you ever seen a pink praying mantis, Stagmomantis californica?
No? Now you have.
Adrienne Austin-Shapiro of Davis yesterday spotted this pink praying mantis (below) on the second-floor wooden planking above Blondie's Pizza, 4th and G streets, Davis. She rescued it and placed it in better habitat--shrubbery---where she photographed it with her iphone.
Her husband, Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, emailed this remarkable photo to us.
"I've never seen a pink one--only pink katydids--though there is, of course, the famous pink Malaysian orchid mantis," he noted. "I imagine that molecularly, it's probably a similar mutant to the pink one in katydids--which is, by the way, dominant to green--but heavily selected against by visual predators."
Stagmomantis californica, commonly known as the California mantis, is native to the Western United States. There are green, yellow and brown varieties.
From Wikipedia: "Like all mantids, the California mantis is carnivorous, consuming virtually any other insect it perceives as small enough to be eaten, including other members of its own species. Males and females come together to reproduce but otherwise the adults are strictly solitary. Nymphs hatch in the spring from hard egg cases laid the previous fall. Adults do not overwinter—lifespan is seldom more than one year and usually less than nine months, with females sometimes surviving longer into the winter season than males, presumably allowing the females more time to lay their oothecas on suitable vegetation or rocks before dying. Though fast runners, both sexes are also capable of using their wings for flight, and the males are especially good flyers: the wings of the male extend well beyond the end of the abdomen, whereas those of the female do not extend more than half this distance. Males are often attracted to bright lights at night and can sometimes be found swarming around them along with other insects, though as ambush hunters, they fly at night primarily for dispersal and not in search of food."
So, a pink katydid? Yes, see one on the mudfooted.com website. (Katydids are usually green and are well camouflaged in green vegetation.) But now, a pink praying mantis? Well, let's see, it could camouflage itself on such pink flowers as foxgloves, salvias, zinnias, dahlias, roses, clover, orchids, violas and candytufts.
A pink predator in the pink...
Presidential candidate Herbert Hoover campaigned for "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." (Now we have free-range organic chicken on every barbecue grill, and as many as three fuel-efficient cars with sophisticated high-tech gadgets in every multi-car garage.)
Marco Gutierrez, founder of the group "Latinos for Trump," warned that we might have a "#taco truck on every corner." (That's a slogan that backfired; who doesn't love tacos?)
So, "chicken in every pot," "car in every garage" and "taco truck on every corner."
What about a slogan for our monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus)? If we all planted milkweed, the monarch's host plant (monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed and their caterpillars eat only milkweed), that would be ideal. And even more ideal, if we all provided some flight fuel (floral nectar) for migrating monarchs.
In the 1990s, nearly 700 million monarchs made the epic flight each fall from the northern plains of the U.S. and Canada to sites in the oyamel fir forests north of Mexico City, and more than one million monarchs overwintered in forested groves on the California Coast. Now, researchers and citizen scientists estimate that only a fraction of the population remains, a decline of more than 80% has been seen in central Mexico and a decline of 74% has been seen in coastal California.--Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Public awareness could go a long way in helping to boost our monarch population:
- "Milkweed on every corner" or hashtag it: #MilkweedOnEveryCorner.
- "Tithonia in every garden" or hashtag it: #TithoniaInEveryGarden.
Meanwhile, you can't go wrong with Mexican sunflower or Tithonia, which anchors many pollinator gardens in California from early spring through fall. In addition to monarchs, we've seen Gulf Fritillaries, Western tiger swallowtails, mourning cloaks, pipevine swallowtails, skippers, buckeyes, acmon blues, painted ladies and other butterflies sipping nectar from Tithonia. That's not to mention the other pollinators drawn to the colorful orange flower. Among them: bumble bees, carpenter bees, sunflower bees, leafcutter bees, blue orchard bees, sweat bees, syrphid flies or hover flies, and hummingbirds.
Imagine a world with #MilkweedOnEveryCorner" and "TithoniaInEveryGarden." Imagine more monarchs...