They're everywhere. They're zigzagging around your yard, bumping into walls and windows, landing on your screen door and fence, and clustering on your porch lights, all the while searching for mates. They're in your garden, home and garage. They're in your office. They're in your car. They're everywhere.
There are tons of these spring insects this year. Why so many?
"Perhaps because of the previous years of drought, followed by good rainfall this winter, we have had a remarkable emergence of crane flies in the Central Valley, with unusually large numbers emerging over the past month or so," says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Writing in the current edition of the Bohart Museum Society newsletter, Kimsey says that they're often falsely called mosquito hawks or mosquito eaters, but they don't eat mosquitoes. "In fact, adult crane flies generally don't eat at all," she points out. "Their entire brief adult lives are spent searching for mates and laying eggs."
With their long, stilt-like legs dangling, they look goofy when they fly. In fact, they're nicknamed "daddy long legs." They're not to be confused with arachnids; crane flies are members of the family Tipulidae of the order Diptera (flies).
Crane fly larvae, known commonly as leatherjackets, eat algae, microflora, and living or decomposing plant matter. Who knows--as larvae they may also scoop up a few mosquito eggs if they're in their habitat.
Adults are short lived and "generally live only a few days," Kimsey says.
Yes, and some of them may live only a matter of hours or minutes--especially when they're snared in a spider web.
That's what will happen on Thursday, April 28 during the annual "Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work" day at the University of California, Davis.
The UC Davis event, nicknamed TODS Day, coincides with the national workplace celebration, a day when employers spring open their doors to the offspring of their employees.
"Kids will have the opportunity to see how our UC Davis community functions, instructs, learns and grows," a spokesperson said.
Insects? Not to worry. Yes, there will be insects. The Department of Entomology and Nematology is planning special activities at its Bohart Museum of Entomology and at its bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo," is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. The half-acre bee garden is located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
"The haven will have activities for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day from 11:30 to 1:30," reports Christine Casey, staff director of the haven. "Learn how to safely catch and observe bees, learn about bee diversity, and have your lunch in our picnic area."
Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at the Bohart Museum, says the Bohart will be open to TODS participants in the afternoon from 2 to 5. Education interns from EDU 142, an environmental education class, will provide insect life cycle activities. Visitors can hold and photograph the critters in the pettzing zoo, including walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches and rose-haired tarantulas.
Among the many things to do:
- Make pottery and grind acorns with the Anthropology department.
- Experience what it's like to work in agriculture and plant some vegetables to bring home.
- Enjoy a reprise of the famous Picnic Day Chemistry Show.
- Meet the UC Davis dairy cows.
- Listen and dance to Band-Uh and explore the “Instrument Zoo.”
- Explore Chinese culture with Chinese crafts and food at the Confucius Institute.
- Visit feathered friends at the Raptor Center.
- Taste honey and see how wine is made at the Robert Mondavi Wine and Food Science Center.
- Enjoy a “Walk in the Woods with Chemistry.”
- Check out the famous double-decker buses and see UC Davis keeps them running.
- Get a peek at animal skins, nests, eggs, and skeletons collected by scientists/explorers from creatures around the world at the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology.
- Discover plants from the world's deserts and tropical forests, some which are carnivorous!
- Sound the police siren and spray the fire hose at the police and fire atations.
- See what it's like to be an Aggie football player and experience the stadium from inside-out.
- Check out the tiny world of plants and animals through the eyes of a microscope .
- Explore the backstage of the Mondavi Center for Performing Arts.
- Explore the artifacts, bones, stones and pottery at the Archaeology Lab.
Educational. Informative. Entertaining. And there's an added bonus: It's an opportunity for youngsters to envision their own future.
If you've ever wanted to learn how to tell the difference between a honey bee and a drone fly, head over to the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, during the 102nd annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 16. The overall theme of Picnic Day is "Cultivating Your Authenticity." The Bohart Museum's theme: "Real Insects and Their Mimics."
The Bohart, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is ready for your questions. They'll be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The drone fly (Eristalis tenax) or European hover fly, is about the same size as a honey bee (Apis mellifera) and has similar coloring. They both visit flowers and sip nectar. But the drone fly has what appears to be an "H" on its back. The "H" does not stand for honey bee--but don't tell the fly that!
What is a drone fly? In its immature (larva) stage, it's known as a rat-tailed maggot. It lives in drainage ditches, manure piles and puddled, polluted water. The honey bee larva does not live in drainage ditches, manure piles, and puddled, polluted water.
But what a great mimic the adult drone fly is--so great that's it's commonly mistaken for a honey bee. One of the most memorable cases of misidentification occurred on the cover of Bees of the World, by Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw. Someone--not them--selected a fly for the cover. Major metropolitan newspapers, nature magazines, stock photo agencies and bee fundraisers have all made the same mistake. Here's a honey bee. Nope, that would "bee" a fly.
A quick way to tell the difference between a honey bee and a drone fly:
Honey Bee: Four
Drone Fly: Two
Honey Bee: Elbowed antennae
Drone fly: Short, stubby antennae
Honey Bee: Moves pointedly to a flower; it does not hover
Drone Fly: Hovers and moves erratically
Honey Bee: Workers (and queens) can sting
Drone Fly: Does not sting. Does not bite.
Bottom line: Don't apply the "Duck Test" to honey bees and drones ("If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck").
"If it looks like a bee, buzzes like a bee, and visits flowers like a bee, well, you know, it may not be a bee; it may be a fly."
What's a picnic without bugs?
Bugs may be uninvited guests at your family picnic, but at the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day, set Saturday, April 16, bugs are not only invited, but more than welcome. And so are you, your family and friends. In fact, thousands will be attending the 102nd annual celebration, themed "Cultivating Your Authenticity."
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is among the departments participating, with activities at Briggs Hall on Kleiber Hall Drive from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and an open house at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Briggs Hall will be the site of a pollination pavillion, maggot art, cockroach races, fly-tying, face-painting, honey tasting, and a bee observation hive, and displays about ants, mosquitoes, aquatic insects and forest insects. The Bug Doctor booth ("The Doctor Is in") will be staffed by faculty and graduate students, while UC Davis forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, aka "The Fly Man of Alcatraz," will man the Dr. Death table.
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) will give away lady beetles, aka ladybugs, to kids to take home to their gardens. Lady beetles are beneficial insects and will make short work of your aphids. UC IPM also will provide advice on how to manage home and garden pests with environmentally sound methods.
At the pollinator pavilion, you can get up close and personal with butterflies, bees and other pollinators and learn how to protect our pollinators.
At the maggot art table, youths are invited to dip maggots into water-soluble paint and coax them to "create art" on a piece of white paper. Voila! Suitable for framing. And what a great conversation piece!
At the cockroach races, you are invited to cheer for your favorite roach. Everyone has a favorite roach, don't they?
You can also purchase a popular insect-themed t-shirt from the Entomology Graduate Student Association. Think beetles, bees, and wanna-bees.
Mosquitoes? They're invited, too. The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District will provide an educational exhibit about mosquito abatement.
Another popular exhibit at Briggs Hall is fly-tying by the Fly Fishers of Davis. They'll show you how to tie a fly.
At the Bohart Museum, the focus will be on "real insects as mimics." You'll see flies that look like bees--and bees that look like flies. In addition, you can hold and photograph the critters in the live "petting zoo," including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, and rose-haired tarantulas. The gift shop, featuring t-shirts, books, posters, insect collecting equipment, will be open.
All in all, it promises to be a picnic that will "bug ya." That's the plan!
Clean-shaven it's not. Yet it's a cut above.
For bees, syrphids and butterflies, the long-blooming Jupiter's Beard make the cut.
Centranthus ruber, also known as Jupiter's Beard, Red Valerian, Kiss-Me-Quick, and Keys to Heaven, is a popular drought-tolerant plant that attracts insects like a picnic draws people.
A native of the Mediterranean region, Jupiter's Beard grows wild in California and in several other states, including Arizona, Hawaii, Oregon and Utah.
Cozy up to a Jupiter's Beard, and you're likely to see foraging honey bees, native bees, syrphid flies and butterflies. (And assorted other critters like leafhoppers, lady beetles and spiders.)
The plant was one of the first residents of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. The garden, installed in the fall of 2009 and operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will be the site of a spring open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 9. The event, free and open to the public, will feature a noon tour, and other activities, including how to catch, observe and release bees; how to identify bees; and what to plant to attract bees and other pollinators. A bee observation hive is also planned where visitors can see the queen bee, workers and drones.
Then don't forget the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 16. What's a picnic without bugs?
In addition to the scores of the other fun and educational activities on campus, remember the two B's: Briggs and Bohart. You can enjoy entomological events at Briggs Hall, located on Kleiber Hall Drive, and the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located on Crocker Lane.
Among the activities at Briggs: cockroach races, pollinator pavilion, a honey tasting, fly-tying, facepainting, Bug Doctor (The Doctor Is In!), maggot art, medical entomology exhibits, and displays of ants, mosquitoes, aquatic insects and forest insects. The UC Integrated Pest Management Program will give away lady beetles (aka ladybugs) to kids, and hand out information about pests and beneficial insects.
At the Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, you can get up close and personal with the live "petting zoo," including the Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and a rose-haired tarantula named "Peaches." In keeping with the UC Davis Picnic Day's overall theme, "Cultivating Our Authenticity," the Bohart theme is "Real Insects and Their Mimics." Think bees. Think flies. Think about how to tell the difference. Syrphids, especially drone flies, are commonly mistaken for honey bees. Not all floral visitors are bees...