It's a well-equipped predator, with keen eyesight, a rotating head, and two spiked forelegs that grab and grasp unsuspecting prey. It's not about "who's coming to dinner"; it's "what's coming to dinner."
Plus, it appears to "pray" before dinner. How disconcerting to the prey.
This praying mantis (below) was hanging out this week at the front entrance of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.
It was perusing the menu: tasty sweat bees, succulent hover flies, luscious butterflies, piquant ants and yes--savory honey bees--an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Fortunately, it didn't head over to the apiary, where the beekeepers tend 110 hives, each with approximately 60,000 bees, or a total of more than six million bees.
Thanks a million.
But last week, for the first time, we spotted a male Acmon Blue, Plebejus acmon, as identified by noted butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis.
With its wings spread, the blue is dazzling.
Actor William Hurt starred in a 2004 movie, "The Blue Butterfly," but this Acmon Blue butterfly stars in its own galaxy.
It's often called a "pond damselfly" or a "narrow-winged damselfly."
We spotted this brilliant blue damselfly on a Great Valley gum plant (Grindelia camporum) near the Sciences Laboratory Building at the University of California, Davis.
It's a male coenagrionid damselfly, said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis. She knows her insects: she has seven million specimens in the Bohart (plus a few live ones in the "petting zoo").
The damselfly sparkled like a blue diamond as it foraged on the gum plant.
An entomological treasure, an Odonato gem, a sliver of blue in a thicket of green.
Research news coming out of the University of California, Davis and the University of Arizona labs recently drew international attention; the scientists have genetically engineered mosquitoes that are resistant to malaria parasites.
Now one of the co-authors has received a coveted research fellowship from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
who studies with noted malaria researcher and major professor Shirley Luckhart (left), has received a NIH research fellowship aimed to promote diversity in health-related research.
Luckhart is an associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Medicine, and a graduate student advisor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Drexler, who joined the Luckhart lab in January 2008, focuses her research on the roles of the human blood-derived insulin-like growth factor-1 and the role of insulin signaling in the regulation of malaria parasite transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes.The UC Davis student is a co-first author of a paper on malaria parasites published July 15, 2010 in the journal Public Library of Science Pathogens (PLOS). Titled “Activation of Akt Signaling Reduces the Prevalence and Intensity of Malaria Parasite Infection and Lifespan in Anopheles stephensi Mosquitoes,” the work is a collaborative effort between UC Davis and the University of Arizona.
Co-authors include Luckhart and UC Davis researcher Ed Lewis, who has a joint appointment with the Department of Nematology and the Department of Entomology.
The paper, with more than 4200 article views in July alone, has drawn extensive news coverage. BBC science reporter Victoria Gill, in a July 16th article headlined “Malaria-Proof Mosquito Engineered,” wrote that the scientists “have succeeded in genetically engineering a malaria-resistant mosquito.”
In a July 17th piece, “Malaria-Proof Mosquito Created,” ABC News science writer Eric Bland wrote that scientists have created a malaria-proof mosquito by engineering "a genetic ‘on switch' that permanently activates a malaria-destroying response.”
“If these mosquitoes,” Bland wrote, “are successfully introduced into the wild, they could prevent millions of people from becoming infected with life-threatening Plasmodium--the parasite that causes malaria.”
Drexler, who grew up in Washington, D.C., received her bachelor’s degree in integrative biology, with an emphasis on animal biology, from UC Berkeley in 1999. She earned her master’s degree in physiology and behavior from San Francisco State University in 2006.
The competitive NIH fellowships are available to provide funds to qualified students for stipends, research supplies, and research-related travel under an existing parent research grant.
The applications are evaluated on multiple criteria, including career goals, prior research training, research potential and relevant experience, and evidence of educational achievement.
This research is so important: targeting a killer that causes more than a million human deaths a year worldwide.
It's a big year for buckeyes, says noted butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. He counts between "30 and 85 a day" in West Sacramento and North Sacramento.
The common buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) is not only distinctive, but quite attractive, especially when it lands on a red zinnia.
Its large eye spots on the wings (probably meant to scare off predators) draw you to its world of color and drama.
We saw this buckeye (below) in Napa, just off the Napa-St. Helena Highway. However, buckeyes are found all over the United States, except in parts of the northwest.
Maybe the northwest, too! An image of the buckeye appeared on a 24-cent U. S. postage stamp issued in 2006.
This intriguing member of the Nymphalidae family also appears on a popular poster available in the Bohart Museum of Entomology gift shop. The insect museum, at 1124 Academic Surge, UC Davis campus, also counts this butterfly as among its seven million mounted specimens.