So you like bugs...
C'mon, just a little bit?
If so, you're in luck. The UC Davis Department of Entomology is featuring scores of insects from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 16 as part of the campuswide Picnic Day.
If you head over to Briggs Hall on Kleiber Hall Drive or to the Bohart Museum of Entomology at 1124 Academic Surge, California Drive, you'll be in bug heaven.
The Bohart Museum alone houses more than seven million specimens of insects, which can make budding entomologists so downright happy they'll turn cartwheels and somersaults. Plus, there's the added feature of the live Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks. Hold out your hand!
Over at Briggs, they'll be hosting scores of activities, including cockroach races, termite trails, honey tasting, and Maggot Art. That's capitalized because entomology graduate student Rebecca O'Flaherty invented this educational curriculum and coined the term. Kids love this. Just pick up a maggot with a specially designed larvae forceps, dip it into water-based paint and then let it crawl on a piece of white paper. Voila! Maggot Art, suitable for framing--or posting on the family refrigerator. (It's also a good conversation starter when family and friends come to visit.)
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program will provide a number of educational activities and also will give away free ladybugs, aka lady beetles.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty will provide honey tasting and samples of Gimbal's Fine Candies. This San Francisco company helps support UC Davis honey bee research. So, taste a little honey, eat some delicious candy, and go watch the roach races.
Or maybe you'll also want to learn about the diversity of ants. The Phil Ward lab will oblige. Besides, what's a picnic without ants?
It's called the "Pride of Madeira" but don't let that name fool you.
True, it's the pride of the Portuguese island of Madeira, where it's endemic, but it's also the joy of Bodega Bay.
"What's that purplish spiked flower that grows somewhat like a yucca or a tower of jewels?" visitors ask. "It's all over the Bodega area."
It's not a yucca, which belongs to the agave family, Agavaceae. It's an Echium candicans, a member of the family Boraginaceae. It's a kissing cousin of Echium wildpretti, or the tower of jewels.
Last Sunday visitors to the Sonoma County coastal town enjoyed the warmth of a spring day and those spectacular blue-to-the-bone-and-purple-as-you-please blooms. An extra bonus: an occasional bumble bee.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, identified the bumble bee below as Bombus melanopygus.
This little forager found the Pride of Madeira and the Joy of Bodega Bay.
There's a good reason why lady beetles, aka ladybugs, are prevalent this time of year: aphids.
Ladybugs, from the family Coccinellidae, are actually beetles with voracious appetites for those soft-bodied insects that suck plant juices.
Wherever there are aphids, you'll usually see ladybugs. It may take awhile for the ladybugs to find them, but find them they will.
Some call them "soldier beetles."
Some call them "leather-winged beetles."
Some call them "Cantharids" (family Cantharidae).
Whatever you call them, be sure to welcome them to your garden. They eat aphids, lots of aphids. Like the good soldiers they are, they're ready to do battle.
We spotted five or six of them munching on aphids on our year-old plum tree.
Soldier beetles have a large thoracic shield, long threadlike antennae and beady little eyes.
According to retired entomologist Jerry Powell of UC Berkeley, there are about 100 species of them in California.
Most of them, according to the Jerry Powell-Charles Hogue book, California Insects, are "similar in appearance, red or orange with gray, black or brown wing covers."
That old saying, "Be all you can be," should be changed to "Bee all you can bee."
Have you ever seen festooning in a bee hive, when the bees link their legs together to perform tasks?
"They festoon when they're producing a lot of wax and drawing new comb," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Sometimes bees will build comb in bee space, and when the beekeeper lifts out a frame and scraps away the excess comb with a hive tool, the bees may festoon.
Such was the case yesterday at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Faciity at UC Davis.
If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, does that apply to bees?