If you're trying to rear some Gulf Fritillary caterpillars on your passion flower vine, but the caterpillars seem to be doing a disappearing act, check the leaves.
You might find some assassin bug nymphs.
They look like little cartoon characters as they prowl the leaves, looking for prey.
That prey includes caterpillars.
These assassin bug nymphs, as identified by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, are memorable. The nymphs (family Reduviidae and genus Zelus) on our Passiflora have beady eyes, narrow necks, needlelike beaks, long legs, and I swear, a perennial quizzical look. They're beneficial insects when they eat leafhoppers, aphids and other pests. They're good to have in your garden.
They're not so beneficial when they eat other beneficial insects like lacewings.
Or, when they eat the larvae stages of Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae)--if you're trying to rear a few of these beautiful reddish-orange butterflies.
We've seen adult assassin bugs grab spotted cucumber beetles, inject a lethal saliva, and then suck their bodily fluids with their long feeding tube (rostrum).
We haven't seen one actually prey on a Gulf Frit caterpillar, though.
The folks at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis,call them "jungle gems."
And "gems" they are.
They were recently featured at a Bohart Museum open house.
A sign next to them read: "They pollinate orchids. They also probably have the best memory of any insect. The males memorize the location of all the orchid plants in their patch of forest and visit them periodically during the day."
The "jungle gems" are just a few of the treasures that visitors can see at the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of Academic Surge. The building is on Crocker Avenue (formerly California Avenue). The nearest intersection is LaRue Road.
The Bohart houses a global collection of more than seven million insect specimens and is the seventh largest insect collection in North America. It is also the home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946.
The Bohart is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. It is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
To allow more visitors to attend, the museum holds a weekend open house once a month. The next weekend open house is set from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27. The theme, in keeping with Halloween, is "Insects of Death."
Stay tuned on what's planned!
Oh, the life of a praying mantis...
You can hang upside down like an acrobat, shading yourself from the sun while waiting for prey and avoiding predators. You can crawl beneath dense leaves, the better to ambush, snatch and eat an unsuspecting bee. And you can mate with a fine-looking specimen like yourself and produce some more fine-looking specimens.
Life doesn't get any better than this if you're a praying mantis. (Unless, of course, you're a male mantid and the female practices sexual cannibalism. Or, if you're a newly emerged offspring and your brothers and sisters are feasting on one another and then...eyeing you.)
Finding praying mantids is not so easy. Sometimes the slightest movement in the leaves will reveal their location. Sometimes when you water a plant, they'll emerge, looking quite irritated--if mantids can look irritated. Other times they're blatantly perched on top of a blossom or lurking beneath it.
Up until recently, we'd never actually seen them mating. But there they were that warm midsummer day on Sept. 17 in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven doing just that. See, the praying mantids like to hang out in the bee garden because that's where the bees are. The half-acre garden is located next to bee research hives at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
Ah, we thought, a "lover-ly" photo to add to the educational collection of Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
So, we took a few photos, being careful not to interrupt them.
If this were a documentary being filmed about the birds 'n the bees, can't you just hear it? The Cole Porter hit, "Let's Do It," softly playing in the background:
...And that's why birds do it
Bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love.
All the while, the Cleveland or blue sage (Clevelandi salvia) stirs with life. A hummingbird, honey bees and carpenter bees drop down to investigate the blossoms and sip a little nectar. A garden spider patrols its sticky web. A scared lizard darts into the shadows.
Ants lumber by with their heavy loads. No sign of any "educated fleas," though.
When I was teaching photography, I encouraged my students to go for the angles--from a bug's eye view to a bird's eye view. Holding a camera chest-high or at eye level renders the "same-o, same o" photos.
Yet another creative way to see the world is through a fisheye lens. With its 180-degree ultra-wide view,it grants a whole new perspective.
American physicist/inventor Robert W. Wood coined the term, "fisheye," in 1906, according to Wikipedia. He imagined "how a fish would see an ultra-wide hemispherical view from beneath the water (a phenomenon known as Snell's window)."
What does the raised bed of Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) in the Häagen-Honey Bee Haven at the University of California, Davis, look like with a fisheye lens?
Colorful, disorted, startling, intriguing.
Meanwhile, the volunteers who tend the pollinator garden every Friday morning are adding the finishing touches for the public open house, set Saturday afternoon, Sept. 15.
It's part of the Bohart Museum of Entomology's two concurrent open houses, themed "Flower Lovers: the Bees." Both will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 15. One is at the museum itself at 1124 Academic Surge on Crocker Lane, and the other, at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
They are free and open to the public.
The museum will showcase bee specimens from around the world, and offer crafts activities. At the haven, plans call for a focus on honey bees, native bees, beekeeping, garden tours, and crafts activities. And a focus on the permanent art in the garden, the spectacular work of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program.
Saturday's activities at the haven also will include a recognition ceremony at 1:30 p.m. for Derek Tully, 17, of Davis. He will be honored for his Eagle Scout project, building a fence around the half-acre garden. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis, will preside.
It's a good day to bring a camera! But then, isn't every day a good day to bring a camera?
What do you know about bees, and what would you like to learn about them?
Visit the University of California, Davis campus on Saturday, Sept. 15, and you will see (1) bee specimens from all over the world and (2) bees and other pollinators in their natural habitat.
It's all happening at two concurrent open houses from 1 to 4 p.m. The theme: “Flower Lovers: The Bees.” The open houses, free and open to the public, are being arranged by the Bohart Museum of Entomology. The venues: the Bohart Museum in Room 1124 of Academic Surge on Crocker Lane, and the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
The UC Davis officials are hoping you'll attend both, and especially the special recognition ceremony at 1:30 p.m. at the haven for 17-year-old Derek Tully, who, as his Eagle Scout project, planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the half-acre haven. Tully launched the project April 2. He and his crew of 33 volunteers finished the fence on Sept. 7. Their work is nothing short of spectacular.
Tully & crew saved the Department of Entomology some $24,000 to $30,000, according to entomologist Lynn Kimsey, faculty liaison to the haven. Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology (home of more than seven million specimens), describes the fence as "meticulous" and "beautiful."
That it is.
On Saturday, the Bohart Museum will not only feature a global display of bees, but visitors can create a variety of craft activities. Ready to greet you will be Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; senior museum scientist Steve Heydon; and graduate student Matan Shelomi. In addition to viewing the specimens, you can hold Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and rose-haired tarantula, all members of the live “petting zoo.” They're perfect for photos, too!
At the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the agenda will include a recognition ceremony for Derek Tully, 17, of Davis at 1:30 p.m. Tables on native bees will be staffed by Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology and graduate student Katharina Ullmann. Staff research associate Billy Synk will showcase bee tools, bee suits, bee boxes and other beekeeping necessities. The UC Davis Entomology Club will coordinate crafts activities.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, a noted honey bee expert, will be at the haven to field questions about bees. Got a bee question? He'll answer it. Christine Casey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology will guide a tour of the haven from 2 to 2:30 p.m. There you'll likely see assorted bees, syrphid flies, butterflies, dragonflies, praying mantids, ladybugs, and spiders--and maybe even an assassin bug or two. The biggest bee is the six-foot long ceramic bee sculpture, the work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. A native bee mural, painted bee boxes and native bee condos also grace the garden.
It promises to be a fun and educational afternoon--and a nice tribute to the work of Derek Tully.