It was a reddish-orange beetle, moving a little but not a lot.
We spotted it on a sunflower bordering the Avant Garden in Benicia. The garden, located at the corner of First and East D streets, thrives with assorted tomatoes, peppers, onions, strawberries, cucumbers, eggplant, squash and ornamentals.
This little beetle, as identified by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, is a meloid blister beetle.
"These are nest parasites of wasps and mostly bees," Kimsey said.
Blister beetles (Coleoptera) belong the family Meloidae. They produce a blistering agent (thus their name) known as cantharidin, that can blister the skin. Horses can die from ingesting blister-beetle contaminated feed, such as alfalfa.
Scientists estimate there are approximately 7500 known species worldwide. They vary in size, shape and color.
The adults feed on multiple plants, including garden vegetables, ornamentals, vegetables, alfalfa, soybeans and potatoes. Larvae dine on grasshopper eggs and the like. Solitary bee nests are a haven for immature stages of some blister beetle species.
UC Davis evolutionary ecologist Leslie Saul-Gershenz, a graduate student in the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology, researches a solitary ground-nesting bee, Habropoda pallida and its nest parasite, a blister beetle, Meloe franciscanus, found in the Mojave National Preserve.
Saul-Gershenz says the larvae of the parasitic blister beetle produce a chemical cue or a pheromone similar to that of a female solitary bee to lure males to the larval aggregation. The larvae attach to the male bee and then transfer to the female during mating. The end result: the larvae wind up in the nest of a female bee, where they eat the nest provisions and likely the host egg.
She and her colleagues most recently published their research in the April edition of the National Park Service's Mojave National Preserve Science News. You can read about her exiting work on the Department of Entomology website and see her amazing photograph of blister-beetle larvae on a digger bee. That's something you won't forget.
We saw her touch down in our nectarine tree last weekend.
Big green compound eyes glowed at us.
She moved up and down a branch, foraging for food, and then took off.
A wasp. The carnivore cousin of the vegetarian honey bee. They belong to the same order, Hymenoptera.
The green-eyed wasp? Genus Tachytes, as confirmed by noted "wasp woman" Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. The green eyes are a distinguishing feature of the genus.
Tachytes is a member of the Crabronidae family or "sand-loving wasps." The females burrow into sandy soil, and provision their nest with such paralyzed prey as katydids and grasshoppers. Meanwhile, their cousins, the honey bees, are out collecting nectar and pollen.
If you're looking for something to do this summer, be sure to check out the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 Academic Surge, corner of La Rue Road and Crocker Lane (formerly California Drive). Regular hours are 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.
There's always something to see and do at the museum, what with more than seven million insect specimens collected from around the world. And you can meet the critters in the "live petting zoo," including walking sticks and Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
Be sure to check out the Hymenoptera specimens in the museum's display cases. You'll be amazed./span>
It's a joy to watch these firecracker-red dragonflies (Libellula saturata) make their presence known. They dart over our fish pond, snatch an insect, and then perch on a tomato-plant stake to eat it.
Last year another generation did the same thing. They darted over our fish pond, snatched an insect, and then staked their claim in the vegetable garden. Over a tomato plant.
Most of the time the flame skimmers seem unaware of my presence. Guess they consider me neither prey nor predator.
If you love dragonflies, several years ago the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, created an educational poster, "Dragonflies of California," the work of doctoral candidate Fran Keller and naturalist/photographer Greg Kareofelas of Davis. It focuses on 18 dragonflies commonly found in the Golden State. The largest insect depicted in the poster is the Giant Darner (Anax walshinghami), but the most colorful just has to be...drum roll...the flame skimmer. But I'm biased.
Keller came up with these facts about dragonflies:
Ten fast facts about dragonflies, as provided by the Bohart Museum:
- Dragonflies date back before the dinosaur age.
- The largest known prehistoric species of dragonfly, living 300 million years ago, was the Meganeura monyi. Its wingspan measured more than two feet long.
- The largest species today is a South American dragonfly with a wingspan of 7.5 inches. The smallest modern species is an east Asian dragonfly, the libellulid dragonfly, Nannophya pygmaea, with a wingspan of about 3/4 of an inch.
- California is home to approximately 108 species. More than 5000 species are found worldwide.
- Dragonflies help control pests such as mosquitoes, midges and flies, but will also dine on honey bees and butterflies.
- The adults feed by hawking their prey. They dart off a perch to catch prey and often return to the perch to eat.
- Most dragonflies live around lakes, ponds, streams, and marshes; their larvae, known as “nymphs,” are aquatic. Some dragonfly larvae live in bromeliad flowers.
- Dragonflies usually do not bite or sting humans, but if grasped by the abdomen, they may bite to escape.
- The dragonfly is thought to have better eyesight than any other insect. Its compound eyes take up much of the insect’s head. Each compound eye has up to 30,000 facets or sensor modules, arranged to provide nearly a 360-degree field of vision. That's why it's difficult to sneak up on them.
- Dragonflies are a common motif in Native American art, displayed on Zuni pottery, Hopi rock art and on Pueblo necklaces. In Japan, they are considered symbols of courage, strength and happiness.
The Bohart Museum, home of more than seven million insects, is open year around, but is closed to the public on Friday. It's directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology att UC Davis.
But if you want to see dragonflies in The Great Outdoors, look for them near a body of water, whether it be a river, creek or...a fish pond in the back yard...
So, they’ve designed a humorous t-shirt inscribed with “Know Your Sticks,” featuring drawings of four sticks: a stick person, a real stick or twig, a Vietnamese walking stick and an Australian spiny stick (family Phasmatidae).
“One of the most popular insects in the Bohart Museum’s live ‘petting zoo’ is the walking stick,” said Fran Keller, who originated the idea of a stick t-shirt, in between studying for her doctoral degree in entomology. “So we thought we’d clarify the sticks.”
Keller designed the shirt, and undergraduate student Ivana Li, president of the UC Davis Entomology Club, drew the illustrations.
The stick person, named Talea persona (Latin for "stick person"), is the kind you might see on a rear windshield, Keller said. The real stick (Twigus stickus) is one you might see in the woods. And the Vietnamese (Medauroidea extradentata) and Australian sticks (Extatosoma tiaratum)? You can see them—and hold them--in the Bohart Museum.
The t-shirts, available in all sizes and many colors, range from $15 (for kids) to $18 (adults) to $20 (adults’ v-neck). They are available online or in the gift shop at the museum, Room 1124 of Academic Surge, located near the corner of La Rue Road and Crocker Lane (formerly California Avenue). Proceeds benefit the museum's educational programs.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, 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’s regular hours are 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.
The Bohart Museum's “petting zoo” includes such permanent residents as Madagascar hissing cockroaches and a rose-haired tarantula, in addition to the walking sticks.
Keller suggests that for a novelty photo, stick a walking stick on your "Know Your Sticks" t-shirt, and have a friend photograph the “sticktoitiveness.”
And that’s not something to shake a stick at.
She delighted in the insects on her parents' rose buses--the aphids, the ladybugs, grasshoppers and the caterpillars.
“I would trap those in containers and I kept my tiny companions underneath the bed where I could easily take them out for play and also hide them away from my mother," she recalled. "I knew I liked insects.”
But credit a cricket named Chester with really getting her into entomology.
Chester? He's the main character in George Selden's Newbery award-winning book, A Cricket in Times Square.
Young Ivana encountered the book in the second grade and learned the definition of "entomologist."
"I was pretty thrilled that to find out that there was actually a job in which you get to study insects," related Li, who was born and reared in Monterey Park, near east Los Angeles. "That was the best. It still is.”
After graduating from Schurr High School in Montebello, Li enrolled as an entomology major at UC Davis. Now a fourth-year entomology major and president of the UC Davis Entomology Club, she was just announced as the recipient of the Department of Entomology’s 2012 Outstanding Undergraduate Award.
And well deserved!
Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey presented her with the coveted award at a recent departmental barbecue. A perpetual plaque, displayed outside the department's administration office on the third floor of Briggs Hall, now bears her name.
Ivana Li does love bugs! When she's not in class, you'll find her working in the Bohart Museum of Entomology, home of more than seven million insect specimens.
Said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology: “Ivana has worked for me for several years. She is a gifted student with many impressive talents, and a maturity well beyond that of her peers. She will go far.”
As for career choices, Ivana Li hasn't’ decided yet, but it will be either “forensics or ecology.”
“Both,” she said, “are appealing at this point in my life.”