The two go together like a moth to a flame, so why not have "Moth-er's Day?"
And that's exactly what the Bohart Museum of Entomology is doing from 1 to 4 p.m.,Sunday, May 4 in Room 1124 of Academic Surge, Crocker Lane, UC Davis. The open house is free and open to the public.
The Atlas moth (Attacus atlas), the world's largest moth with the greatest wing area of 10 to 12 inches, will be among the insect specimens displayed. The Atlas is found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia--and in the Bohart Museum!
Visitors will see the incredible diversity of moths, and learn the differences between moths and butterflies. "There is far greater diversity among moths than butterflies," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
Both moths and butterflies are in the order Lepitoptera, which refers to the scales on their wings.
Another large moth on display will be the "bat moth" or "black witch" (Ascalapha odorata), found in Central America, South America, Bahamas and parts of the southwestern United States. In Mexican and Caribbean folklore, it is considered a harbinger of death. The insect played a role in the movie, "Silence of the Lambs" but the name was changed to "Death's-head Hawkmoth."
The white-lined Sphinx moth (Hyles lineata) is another critter you'll see. It flies both at night and during the day and has a wing span length between 2.7 and 3.9 inches. Some folks know it by its nickname, "the hummingbird moth." A member of the Sphingidae family, the white-lined sphinx moth is found throughout most of the United States, plus Mexico, Central America and Canada.
What other kinds of moths will you see on Moth-'ers Day?
- The White Witch (Thysania agrippina), which holds the record for the largest wingspan in an insect (one Brazilian specimen has a wingspan of almost 12 inches). Note that the Atlas has the greater wing area.
- Tomato Hornworm (Manduca quinquemacaulata), what you don't want to see in your garden.
- Sunset Moth (Urania leilus), a colorful day-flying moth often mistaken for a butterfly
- Cosmosoma spp., a genus of clear-winged moths
- Automeris spp., a genus of moths with distinctly large owl-eyes on the hindwings
- Sesiidae, a family of moths mimicking wasps
- Bee-Hawk Moths (Hemaris spp.), a genus of sphinx moths mimicking bumble bees, and sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds
- Moon Moths (Argema spp.), found in Africa and Asia
- Tiger Moths (family Arctiidae), amazing butterfly mimics
- Indian Meal Moths (Plodia interpunctella), also called pantry moths (the caterpillars are grain pests)
The Moth-er's Day event is also a good time to explore the Bohart Museum gift shop for Mother's Day gifts, including jewelry (necklaces, pins and earrings), books and other items suitable for entomology fans.
Visitors can hold live insects such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Vietnamese walking sticks, walking leaves and a rose-haired tarantula.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, was founded in 1946 by the late Richard M. Bohart. Dedicated to teaching, research and service, the museum houses nearly eight million insect specimens collected globally. It boasts the seventh largest insect collection in North America.
Foxgloves are called "the lurking place of the fairies."
That could be.
Foxgloves are also known by their genus name, Digitalis--meaning fingerlike. The genus is native to western and southwestern Europe, western and central Asia, Australasia and northwestern Africa.
Question: Have you ever pulled off the flowers and gloved them on your fingers? Probably. Not good for the plant, but what fun!
The common foxglove, Digitalis purpurea thrives in a shady spot in our yard. The honey bees and carpenter bees love it, as does a single earwig, which apparently considers it its "hidey hole."
How did it get its name? Legend has it that a botanist Fuchs first named it and the name corrupted or morphed into foxglove, according to Wikipedia. "It happens, moreover, the name foxglove is a very ancient one and exists in a list of plants as old as the time of Edward III."
Reports Wikpedia: "The 'folks of our ancestors were the fairies and nothing is more likely than that the pretty coloured bells of the plant would be designated 'folksgloves,' afterwards, 'foxglove.' In Wales it is declared to be a favourite lurking-place of the fairies, who are said to occasion a snapping sound when children, holding one end of the digitalis bell, suddenly strike the other on the hand to hear the clap of fairy thunder, with which the indignant fairy makes her escape from her injured retreat. In south of Scotland it is called "bloody fingers" more northward, "deadman's bells" whilst in Wales it is known as "fairy-folks-fingers" or "lambs-tongue-leaves."
No matter the origin, the exotic-looking freckled purple foxgloves will long be a favorite--not just by us, but by all the pollinators.
And a few earwigs.
We have this tall plant in our back yard.
How tall is it?
Tall enough to give weather forecasts. (It's never caught “short” by a sudden storm.)
Tall enough to see over the neighbor's fence to find a missing ball.
Tall enough to be "the resident tall plant" in the garden (sort of like "the resident tall person" in the office who's asked to change the clocks when Daylight Savings Time ends or begins).
Tall enough to be called a “tower.”
Tall enough to be prohibited from taking a short course.
Tall enough to have strawberry longcake instead of strawberry shortcake.
Tall enough to dunk if it were an NBA player.
It's THAT tall.
The "tower of jewels," appropriately named, can tower up to 10 feet or so. It doesn't stop short of growing.
When in full bloom, it's covered with red blossoms that resemble a decorated Christmas tree. It's a member of the Boraginaceae family, andeven boasts a scientific name that has "pretty" in it. Sort of. It's Echium wildpretii and is endemic to the island of Tenerife.
What's really amazing is that the tower of jewels turns into a "tower of bees" when it blooms. It attracts honey bees (check out the blue pollen), carpenter bees and bumble bees, as well as hummingbirds, syrphid flies, and a few spiders.
How grand and glorious can it get? "Wildpretii" grand and glorious.
Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) vowed last year to wear bees if she received at least $2500 in donations for UC student scholarships through the "Promise for Education" fundraising drive.
She did and she will. Wear honey bees that is. This week. Bee-lieve it.
Allen-Diaz chose her project to highlight the importance of pollinators to the health of agriculture and the planet.
Professional bee wrangler Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology and retired bee research scientist at UC Davis, will train bees to buzz into her open hands to sip nectar.
The event, dubbed "Operation Pollination," also will be his last professional bee stunt. "This is absolutely my last performance as a professional bee wrangler," said Gary, considered the world's best bee wrangler. "The remainder of my retirement years will be devoted to music, not bees."
Photos and/or video from the event are scheduled be posted on social media sometime Thursday, May 1.
So last week, the "B" Team did a buzz run. The "B" Team, led by Gary, included Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, yours truly and three members of UC ANR:
- Pam Kan-Rice, assistant director, News and Information Outreach Communication Services and Information Technology
- Ray Lucas, senior producer/director, Digital Media, and
- Evett Kilmartin, digital media librarian.
Was Kan-Rice a little apprehensive? Not at all. A former ag reporter based in Fresno, she felt quite comfortable around them, as Gary assured her she would. "They felt fuzzy, wuzzy and warm," she said, adding matter-of-factly: "I've never been stung by a bee."
The artificial nectar? "I make it with ordinary table sugar … about half sugar and half water," Gary said. "Then I add one tiny drop for flavoring, such as anise, that provides a fragrance that attracts bees. Almost any flavor will work fine … peppermint, lavender, etc. My artificial nectar is as good, maybe better, than natural nectar. At least the bees respond 100 percent! People don't realize that table sugar (sucrose) is perhaps the purest natural product on the market. It is identical to the sucrose found in natural nectar."
Gary retired in 1994 from UC Davis after a 32-year academic career. He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed research publications and most recently wrote a book, The Honey Bee Hobbyist: the Care and Keeping of Bees.
During his professional bee wrangler career spanning four decades, Gary trained bees to perform action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials. His credits include 18 films, including “Fried Green Tomatoes”; more than 70 television shows, including the Johnny Carson and Jay Leno shows; six commercials, and hundreds of live Thriller Bee Shows in the Western states.
He once trained bees to fly into his mouth to collect food from a small sponge saturated with his patented artificial nectar. He holds the Guinness World record (109 bees inside his closed mouth for 10 seconds) for the stunt. He is well known for wearing a head-to-toe suit of bees while "Buzzing with his B-Flat Clarinet."
So, come Thursday, the social insects in the hands of Barbara Allen-Diaz will be on the social media.
"Foraging bees do not react defensively to color whatsoever," Gary said. "Beekeepers wear white because bees can be defensive during hive manipulations and tend to react to darker colors...bees away from the hive during foraging and pollination normally do not sting unless physically molested, such as picking them up. Most stings are from yellow jackets and wasps but lay people think they have been stung by a bee."
Said Mussen: '"The few 'trained' bees that Norm will be using won't even be around a hive. Their likelihood of stinging anything or anyone is as close to zero as it can get, as long as we 'beehave.' No jerky movements. No swatting at bees around the face; no blowing the bees away from your face."
After Gary's last bee wrangling stunt, he will be totally focused on his music. He's in a duo, Mellow Fellas, and plays clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, and flute.
"For the last two years I have also been performing in a Dixieland band, Dr. Bach and the Jazz Practitioners. We are playing lots of gigs in every imaginable venue. Our most notable performances are at the Sacramento Music Festival, a four-day event held each Memorial Day weekend. We also perform at pizza parlors, senior retirement organizations, etc. We play swing-music style, too. "
Gary also performs with a quartet, Four For Fun, that has eclectic tastes, but most tunes, he says, have a Dixieland flavor. "We'll perform for the Monterey Jazz Society on May 18. Our bass sax and trumpet players are extremely talented ladies who live in Eugene, Ore. Our banjo/guitarist/vocalist lives in Sonoma. I still play duo gigs with several piano/keyboard professionals. And I play clarinet occasionally with the Sacramento Banjo Band."
That would be the "B" flat clarinet.
"It was a bad hair day," quipped native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
Yes, it was.
A very bad hair day.
Thorp was looking at several photos I took April 14 of a yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii Radoszkowski, 1862, foraging on rock rose (Cistaceae) at the Petaluma marina. With winds gusting at 18 miles per hour, the lone bumble bee struggled to right itself as the "Flight of the Bumble Bee" turned into "Crash Landings of the Bumble Bee."
This bee, also known as the Vosnesenskii Bumble Bee, was named by Polish entomologist Oktawiusz Wincenty Bourmeister-Radoszkowski (1820-1895) who worked in the Russian empire. It is one of the most common species near the West Coast, write Thorp, Leif Richardson, Sheila Colla and lead author Paul Williams in their newly published book, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide" (Princeton University Press).
Its habitat: open grassy areas, urban parks and gardens, chaparral and shrub areas, and mountain meadows. Indeed, the shrubby area around the Petaluma marina is perfect for bumble-bee habitat.
The authors report that the yellow-faced bumble bee likes a number of plants, including manzanitas (Arctostaphylos), ceanothus (Ceanothus), rabbitbush (Chrysothamnus), thistle (Cirsium), wild buckwheat (Eriogonum), California poppy (Eschscholzia), lupines (Lupinus), phacelia (Phacelia), rhododendrum (Rhododendrum), currants (Ribes), vetch (Vicia), goldenbush (Ericameria), godetia (Clarkia), and gumweed (Grindelia).
This little bumble bee showed a preference for rock rose, but the wind rocked its world.