That's where it usually begins when your father is an entomologist.
Tom Hammock, son of distinguished professor Bruce Hammock, of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, learned about insects early in life. Young Tom caught, sketched and released such insects as dragonfiles, damselflies and wasps.
"He didn't want to kill them," his father recalled.
Tom took art lessons from noted scientific illustrator Mary Foley Benson, and initially pondered a career as a scientific illustrator. He considered biology as a college major, and finally, landscape architecture. After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in landscape architecture, Tom studied film design at the American Film Institute and worked on such films as Breaking Bad, Dexter and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Tom, who now lives in Hollywood, is better known for his work in the wildly popular young adult and horror genre, including "You're Next!" and "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane."
"Will o' the Wisp" is based on many of his father's childhood memories of the Deep South. Bruce Hammock, born in Little Rock, Ark., and a graduate of Louisiana State University, beguiled him with fascinating stories about southern swamps and will o' the wisps, his pet raccoon, a biological supply company, venomous creatures, and dermestid beetles, used to clean animal skeletons.
You'll read about them--and more--in "Will o' the Wisp."
“Almost no one writes for girls and almost no one writes for girls dealing with girls and science,” Tom said. “Graphic novels for girls are rare and have a tough road in the publishing world.”
Assorted bugs, including butterflies, scorpions, fireflies, mosquitoes, beetles and spiders, find their way into the book. And a tattoo of a dermestid beetle found its way on Hutchison's arm. (For more information on the graphic novel, access ossuaryisle.com, and then check out the trailer, Facebook page, and YouTube video.)
"Will o' the Wisp" is drawing rave reviews, and rightfully so. Already it has been nominated for "best young adult graphic novel" award from the American Library Association.
The Hammock-Hutchison team plans to make this a trilogy.
One online comment, with triple exclamation points, says it all: "OMG!! This was so good. I hope and hope and hope there will be more!!!!"
Looking back, entomologist Bruck Hammock commented: "Tom was always interested in landscape, art, and biology. However, film and graphic novels are so far from my background, I never saw this as a career path. In retrospect it is obvious."
And it all began with bugs.
But there is a "bee" in its name. It's the "long-nosed bee fly."
I once captured an image of that curious critter in the Storer Garden, UC Davis Arboretum (see below)
"This nominee is a personal favorite of the team @ The INN for it is bodacious!," Brady wrote on the INN website. He broadcasts INN on Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m. and Fridays from noon to 1 on KDRT 95.7 FM, Davis. You can also listen online.
"Long-nosed bee flies (Bombylius major) stay low to the ground are highly territorial and are easy to track," Brady wrote. "Unlike the majority of glyciphagous dipterans, the bee flies feed on pollen (from which they meet their protein requirements). A similar trophic behavior occurs among the hover flies, another important family of Diptera pollinators.
"Watching these flies argue over a flower or a patch of plants is pure enjoyment for the whole family. While the Bombyliidae include a large number of species in great variety, most species do not often appear in abundance, and for its size this is one of the most poorly known families of insects. There are at least 4,500 described species, and certainly thousands yet to be described. So if you pay attention and plant the right flowers, you may be able to create a Citizen Science project that is a little Hollywood and a little Natural History Museum. You might even discover a new species, and then you can name it whatever you want!"
The first runner-up? The honey bee. Interesting that the long-nosed bee fly and the honey bee were "neck and neck" for awhile.
Brady is delighted that the bee fly won because it's a fairly unknown and unusual bug--a bugs that doesn't get much attention.
As for the honey bee, it's "the perennial candidate for the Bug of the Year (BOTY)," Brady says, acknowledging that the honey bee "perhaps the most important insect to human civilization."
So, bee fly, first. Honey bee, second.
Here's the top 10:
1. Long-Nosed Bee Fly
2. Honey bee
3. Kirk Jellum’s Praying Mantis Sculpture from Burning Man
4. The Monarch Butterfly
5. Madagascar Sunset Moth
6. Ogre-Faced Spider
7. Elephant Hawk-Moth Caterpillar
8. Mirror Spider
9. Salt Marsh Tiger Beetles
10. Orchid Bee
You know which of the 25 nominees for Bug of the Year came in dead last?
The mosquito! It's "not last but not least..." It's "last and definitely least."
Nobody likes the mosquito.
The three queen bumble bees (Bombus melanopygus) we found circling our porch lights the night on Jan. 9 appear to be fine.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, cared for them at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility from Jan. 9 through Jan. 22. Were they parasitized? Curious minds wanted to know.
We speculated that a parasitoid florid fly, Apocephalus borealis, which lays its eggs in bumble bees, wasps and honey bees, may have accounted for the strange behavior of the queens' "red-eye" flight. Were they "zombie" bees?
Result: No signs of parasitism. No sign of being "zombie" bumble bees. Nothing.
So this morning we released them back into their habitat. Two of the queens buzzed off immediately, while the third lingered. She foraged on the nearby pansies, considered a nuc box for her home, sipped some honey, buzzed back into the nuc box, foraged on some more pansies, sipped some more honey, and then buzzed back into the nuc box.
Her new home? Maybe.
However, we still don't know why the three bumble bee queens were buzzing around at night. We may never know.
Thorp said it best: "It was probably the Girls' Night Out."/span>
If you have a passionflower vine (Passiflora), check to see what insects or stages of insects are making this plant their home.
A frost-bitten passionflower vine on a front porch near downtown Vacaville, Solano County, last weekend still contained a number of Gulf Fritillary caterpillars, some viable chrysalids, and some empty paper-thin chrysalids fluttering in the wind. The passionflower vine is the host plant of the Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae. These colorful reddish-orange butterflies lay their eggs on this plant, and the resulting larvae or caterpillars skeletonize the leaves.
But wait! What's that on that dangling seed pod?
Could it be? It was. A leaffooted bug or coreid (family Coreidae, suborder Heteroptera).
The bug is so named because of its leaf-like tibia or hind legs. Leaffooted bugs seem to prefer developing fruit, such as tomatoes and peaches, as well as seeds. They also are pests in almond and pistachio orchards. Folks in the Deep South see them on the seeds of black-eyed peas.
"They feed by piercing plant parts with their elongate beaks and sucking out the juices," wrote authors/entomologists Jerry Powell and Charles Hogue in their book, California Insects (University of California Press).
This one was draped on a seed pod, not moving much. That would come later.
You can quench your thirst.
And then you can "quince" your thirst.
That would be a honey bee on a flowering quince.
Yes, the flowering quince are flowering. And none too soon in our drab landscape, nearly devoid of color.
Today the honey bees seems to be in a feeding frenzy. They emerged from their hives and went looking for food for their colonies. They found it in the flowering quince, amid the contrasting deep pink and soft pink blossoms.
The spiny shrub, in the rose family (Rosaceae) and genus Chaenomeles, is a native of eastern Asia, originating in Japan, China and Korea.
When the flowering quince flowers, that's a sure sign that spring is peeking around winter's corner.