Those jumping spiders can jump--several lengths of their body, in fact.
There seem to be more spiders in our yard this summer than usual--crab spiders, black widows, web weavers and jumping spiders. Well, that makes sense--we have more bees. A bee friendly garden is a spider friendly garden.
Spiders, though, are good for the garden when they catch pests like flies, gnats and mosquitoes. We don't like them nailing our pollinators but that's a fact of life--and death.
One of the guests in our garden is the Daring Jumping Spider, a black spider with metallic green chelicerae (the "fangs" in the structure containing the mouthparts).
It looks like the perfect Halloween spider (along with the black widow).
This particular Daring Jumping Spider crawled into the leaves and flowers of a sedum yesterday to ambush an insect. It didn't take long. An Italian honey bee buzzed down and began foraging.
The spider steathily crawled toward its would-be prey.
In a nanosecond, the spider pounced.
Whew! That was close one.
One left hungry. One didn't.
We watched a leafcutter bee (genus Megachile) foraging on a gold coin flower (Asteriscus maritimus 'Gold Coin') yesterday when suddenly danger lurked.
A jumping spider peered over the petals, its legs (aka "claws") extended in anticipation, the mark of a good hunter.
The jumping spider (family Salticidae), easily identified by four pairs of eyes, can jump several lengths of its body.
That's good enough to nail a leafcutter bee, but not this time.
Score: Leafcutter Bee 1, Jumping Spider, 0.
The Gulf Fritillary butterfly is one of the showiest butterflies in California, says butterfly guru Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis.
Indeed it is.
The bright orange-red butterfly with a wingspan that can reach four inches visited our back yard yesterday. It nectared the lantana and sedum, competing for the sweet treats with honey bees, sweat bees and leafcutting bees.
Last year we planted a passionflower (Passiflora) vine (larval host of the Gulf Fritillary). None came. No butterflies, no breeding site, no little orange-and-black caterpillars to chew the passionflower leaves. We removed the vine and replaced it with vegetables.
The Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) is even more beautiful when it folds its wings. Then you can see what makes this butterfly so utterly breathtaking: the iridescent silvery spots.
Shapiro says this is a tropical and subtropical butterfly, with a range extending from the southern United States all the way to central Argentina. It appeared in southern California in the late 1800s, and was first recorded in the San Francisco Bay Area around 1908.
Like to attract this butterfly? Its larval hosts include passionflower vines, such as the maypop (Passiflora incarnata), blue passionflower (P. caerulea), and corky-stemmed passionflower (P. suberosa). As an adult, it nectars on such plants as lantana (Lantana camara), tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis), pentas (Pentas lanceolata), drummond phlox (Phlox drummondi) and something called "tread softly" (Cnidosculous stimulosus).
"Tread softly" is also a good idea if you're trying to photograph it. It's a very skittish butterfly and the slightest movement will prompt it to take off.
But if you wait patiently, the fluttering orange flash will likely return.
News media, the scientific world, and the general public can't believe it.
Yes, the male "warrior wasp" is 2-1/2 inches, not centimeters.
The new species of "warrior wasp" that Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus, discovered on the Indonesia island of Sulawesi, is the new conversation piece in the bug world. Kimsey has nicknamed it "warrior wasp" and "the komodo dragon of wasps." Others have called it "Godzilla."
But what's really interesting besides the length is this: The male wasp is equipped with jaws longer than his front legs.
"What are those large jaws used for?" another reporter asked.
Well, little is known about the biology of this wasp, but Kimsey figures it's probably similar to wasps in the same genus; that the large jaws probably play a role in defense and reproduction.
"In another species in the genus the males hang out in the nest entrance," said Kimsey, a professor of entomology at the UC Davis Department of Entomology as well as director of the Bohart Museum, which houses a worldwide collection of more than seven million specimens.
The jaws, she said, serve "to protect the nest from parasites and nest robbing, and for this he exacts payment from the female by mating with her every time she returns to the nest," she said. "So it's a way of guaranteeing paternity. Additionally, the jaws are big enough to wrap around the female's thorax and hold her during mating."
Kimsey said she'll name the insect-eating predator--which belongs to the genus Dalara and family Crabronidae--"Garuda," a powerful mythical warrior that's part human and part eagle. Garuda is the national symbol of Indonesia.
Kimsey collaborates on a five-year $4 million grant awarded to UC Davis scientists in 2008 to study the biodiversity of fungi, bacteria, plants, insects and vertebrates on Sulawesi, all considered threatened by logging operations and mining developments. Much of the mountain was logged two decades ago and now there are plans for an open pit nickel mine, Kimsey said.
“There’s talk of forming a biosphere reserve to preserve this,” she said. “There are so many rare and endangered species on Sulawesi that the world may never see.”
Globally, how many more undescribed insects are out there? A recent article in National Geographic related that scientists have identified 1.5 million insect species, but the total number of undiscovered insect species probably ranges from "10 to 30 million."
Could be more...
Now Zalom, integrated pest management (IPM) specialist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology, will be sharing his skills worldwide.
He's the newly elected vice president-elect of the 6000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA), the world's largest association of entomologists. This means he'll move up to vice president and then president, and finally, serve a year as past president. Overall, it's a four-year commitment.
Entomologists have long admired Zalom, a professor of entomology and former vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, for his pest and crop expertise and his leadership skills. He's known statewide, nationally and internationally on the IPM front. In fact, the name, "Zalom," is synonymous with IPM.
Zalom, who directed the UC Statewide IPM Program for 16 years, sets many of the standards for IPM strategies and tactics; these include monitoring procedures, thresholds, pest development and population models, biological controls and use of less toxic pesticides.
Zalom focuses his research on California specialty crops, including tree crops (almonds, olives, prunes, peaches), small fruits (grapes, strawberries, caneberries), and fruiting vegetables (tomatoes), as well as the international IPM program.
Within the last decade, the Zalom lab has responded to six important pest invasions, with research projects on glassy-winged sharpshooter, olive fruit fly, a new biotype of greenhouse whitefly, invasive saltcedar, light brown apple moth, and the spotted wing Drosophila.
Zalom is also a prolific author. In his three decades with the UC Davis Department of Entomology, he has published almost 300 refereed papers and book chapters, and 340 technical and extension articles. The articles span a wide range of topics related to IPM, including introduction and management of newer, soft insecticides, development of economic thresholds and sampling methods, management of invasive species, biological control, insect population dynamics, pesticide runoff mitigation, and determination of host feeding and oviposition preferences of pests.
Frank Zalom will be the second UC Davis entomologist to head ESA, which was founded in 1889 and is now headquartered in Lanham, Md. The first was Donald McLean, former professor/chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology; McLean served as ESA president in 1984.
Congratulations, Frank Zalom!