The bees have it,
The Beez Kneez, that is.
The Beez Kneez, a Sacramento-based band led by Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, will reunite for one last performance on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at the Straw Hat Pizza, 2929 Mather Field Road, Rancho Cordova.
The group, which performed as a seven-piece band in the Sacramento area from 1995 until Oct. 17, 2004, will entertain from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
“Our first performance was at the original Shakey’s Pizza (57th and J streets,” Gary recalled. “Shakey Johnson was there! We were the last band to perform at Shakey's. A big fire destroyed this jazz landmark on Jan. 8, 1996.”
“Guess our hat jazz reached the ignition point,” Gary quipped.
“Over the years we had a super bunch of faithful fans, and we miss you. Since we disbanded, many of our faithful Beez Kneez fans have repeatedly requested more performances.”
So there’s just one more—Oct. 26.
All surviving members of the original cast will be there. (Tom Tucker is deceased.)
Gary promises that “we’ll play our most popular songs that we recorded on two CDs.”
They include "When the Saints Go Marching In," "If I Had You," "Just a Little While to Stay Here," "New Orleans," "Long Way to Tippary" and "My Gal Sal."
Gary is the author of a newly published book on beginning beekeeping titled “Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.”
“Keeping bees is far more challenging than caring for common pets,” said Gary, who retired in 1994 from UC Davis after a 32-year academic career.
And bees? One last time for the Beez Kneez.
Staff at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's Center for Equine Health encountered "a strange little bug" that they'd never seen before outside their office Friday on Old Davis Road.
Barbara Meierhenry, senior editor at the Center for Equine Health, described it as "a strange little bug...It was about an inch long, with two rounded body sections covered with 'blond' fuzz, and six legs. He was actually very cute. We have never seen a bug like this before."
She emailed us two cell-phone images taken by Equine Control Officer Laurie Christison.
Enter UC Davis bug experts. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, quickly identified it as a "female velvet ant (family Mutillidae)."
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, added: "The photo is of a female velvet ant, genus Dasymutilla, family Mutillidae. The females are wingless and parasitize ground-nesting bees. The males are winged. These ants are not commonly seen. They're usually associated with sandy soil, and are mostly active on cloudy days or at night. Males squeak when handled, females have powerful stings, so it's not a good idea to try to handle them."
Meierhenry speculates the velvet ant "may have come here on a hay truck as we had a delivery of hay on Friday. In the years we have both worked here, we have never seen such a creature."
As a side note, renowned insect photographer and ant specialist Alex Wild, based in Illinois, posted a Mutillidae family member on his popular Monday night insect quiz last February. He titled it "What's That Fuzz?" The responders got the genus right: Dasymutilla, but differed somewhat on the species.
For another amazing photo of Dasymutilla, check out Alex Wild's Dasymutilla gloriosa, aka Thistledown Velvet Ant. Talk about a good hair day!
By the way, Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology at UC Davis in 2005, studying with major professor Phil Ward, will return to UC Davis this week to speak on insect photography. His talk is Wednesday, Oct. 26 from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. Professor James R. Carey plans to webcast the seminar and post it on UCTV.
It's a good week for bugs!
Photographers never tire of capturing images of ladybugs, aka lady beetles.
First of all, they're beneficial insects. You know when you photograph them that they're about to scoot, crawl or fly off to grab a tasty lunch--an all-you-can-eat aphid buffet.
Second, they're colorful. They brighten a garden, standing out like red Corvettes on a freeway.
Third, they're among the most recognizable of insects. Halloween costume companies relish in creating polka-dotted attire for the 5-and-under set. Nobody will ask "What are you supposed to be?"
Fourth, they're quite common. California alone has some 125 species of Coccinellids.
Worldwide, there are some 5000 described species.
Not too many people know, however, that many species in the family Coccinellidae secrete a nasty fluid. As UC Berkeley retired entomologist Jerry Powell writes in his book, California Insects, "...when disturbed, many species secrete a bitter, amber-colored fluid that is believed to have poisonous effects on vertebrates..."
Indeed, their red and black coloring warns "Leave me alone!"
There are those who point and shoot, those who shoot and point, and those who see the world through a viewfinder.
And then there's Illinois-based Alex Wild, who is in a class by himself. He's an evolutionary biologist turned full-time science photographer whose visual explorations of insect natural history appear in numerous magazines and textbooks, on websites, and in museum exhibits.
Wild also runs photography workshops, teaches entomology and beekeeping at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and blogs for Scientific American.
He's an amazing photographer, Alex Wild is. His work has been showcased in the New York Times, National Geographic and Scientific American, among others.
Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology in 2005 from the University of California, Davis, with major professor and ant specialist Phil Ward, will be on the UC Davis campus on Wednesday, Oct. 26 to speak on "How to Take Better Insect Photographs" from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall.
This is his first visit to the campus since 2005 and he says "I can't wait."
Neither can all the folks eager for his tips on insect photography and an opportunity to view some of his spectacular photos.
"I am aiming this talk specifically at graduate students," Wild writes on his blog, Myrmecos (derived from the ancient Greek word for ant). "Because scientists use images in many applications--from lab websites to posters and presentations--and because cameras are so available and inexpensive, I think basic photography should be as much a part of academic training as learning to assemble a poster or a conference talk. Thus, 50 minutes on simple tips for taking better photos.”
"I do hope those of you within easy travel distance can attend," he adds.
When you access his Myrmecos blog and his Alex Wild Photography portfolio, you'll be transported into the fascinating world of insects. It's not just a journey; it's a trip. A delightful, exciting, inspiring, educational and informative trip.
One of Alex Wild's favorite photographs (below) shows Lasioglossum sweat bees gathering pollen from sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula). He captures a moment in time, and time in the moment.
You usually see them crawling around, but never about to fly.
The Western spotted cucumber beetles (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) is one of California's most common insects. And though quite attractive in coloring, it's a major agricultural pest.
"Come in, my pretty," is probably what a witch would say during the Halloween season.
Retired UC Berkeley entomologist Jerry Powell, in his book, California Insects (co-authored by Charles Hogue), describes the adult as "bright green with six variable black spots on each wing cover and variable amounts of black on (the) legs and underside."
"They eat leaves and flowers of all kinds except conifers; (they're) particularly abundant on plants of the squash family."
They're found throughout California, except at the highest elevations, he says.
But have you ever seen this insect take flight?
We recently watched a spotted cucumber beetle crawl beneath a tangerine leaf and vanish. Suddenly, like a submarine periscope, its antennae appeared, twitchy rapidly. Then its head popped up.
That huge dark object (camera!) startled it, though. It took flight, landing a few feet away on the sidewalk.
With its wing covers open, it looked very much like a polka-dotted airplane on a runway.