And it's not only a book you can't refuse, but you can reuse over and over again. It's that fascinating.
This ebook, meant for youths in grades 4 through 12 but equally enthralling to us adults, will tell you about the ants that live in the Big Apple, what they do, how they survive, and where to find them. They include the carpenter ant, lasius ant, odorous house ant, crazy ant, winter ant, Asian needle ant, winnow ant, big headed ant, thief ant, acrobat ant and honeyrump ant.
Truly, there is a honeyrump ant.
The book was written by entomologist Eleanor Spicer Rice and biologist Rob Dunn of the Your Wildlife group, a public science program based at North Carolina State University that engages the public "in the exploration and scientiﬁc study of the biodiversity in our daily lives."
Why ants? Dr. Eleanor says she loves all insects but is "particularly fascinated by ants." In earning her doctorate in entomology from North Carolina State University, she studied the behavior and interactions of two invasive ant species, the Argentine ant and the Asian needle ant. "Ever since she was a little girl exploring the swamps and woods around her hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina, Eleanor has had a boundless curiosity for the natural world," according to the author description. "When she's not turning over logs or poking at the cob-webby corners of her basement in pursuit of a six-legged critter, Dr. Eleanor is sharing her passion about entomology through writing (see her website."
Rob Dunn, a biologist and writer in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University, craves being around insects, too. The author description: "Central to all of his work is the sense that big discoveries lurk not only in faraway tropical forests but also in our backyards and even bedrooms. The unknown is large and wonderful, and Dunn and his collaborators, students, and postdocs love to spend their days in it."
There's also a University of California, Davis connection. Two connections, actually. The book's amazing insect images are primarily the work of Alexander "Alex" Wild while Andrea Lucky served as the scientific advisor. Both received their doctorates in entomology from UC Davis, studying with acclaimed ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology.
Wild, now a biologist in Illinois and a full-time professional insect photographer, has published his work in National Geographic, Discover, Smithsonian Magazine, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and numerous other publications and museum exhibits. He writes the Compound Eye blog for Scientific American and the Myrmecos blog. Lucky is an evolutionary biologist and biodiversity scientist at the University of Florida. One of her goals (in addition to her research interests) is "to make science accessible and available to the general public, particularly to make the process of ‘doing' science accessible to non-scientists."
The book is a wonderful means of linking young people with science, and teaching all of us about an insect that is so common among us, but yet so unfamiliar.
When a honey bee stings you, she makes the supreme sacrifice and dies. She's usually defending her colony. In the process, she leaves behind part of her abdomen. A beekeeper simply scrapes the sting with a fingernail or a hive tool to stop the pulsating venom and continues working.
But is it ever possible for a bee to "unscrew the sting?"
A beginning beekeeper asked Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, that very question last week.
She prefaced her question this way: "Richard Dawkins wrote in his biography that he observed a bee working her stinger out of his hand--unscrewing, so to speak--thereby not losing her stinger or her life. Is this true? I'm just a beginning beekeeper but have read many books on the subject and have never come across this interesting bit of information."
Mussen has been asked thousands of questions about bees since he joined the UC Davis faculty in 1976. Bee stings are just one of the topics. Like all beekeepers, he's been stung many times. It's no big deal. However, one documented bee sting (below) turned out to be rather a big deal. It went viral. (It went from winning a feature photo contest sponsored by the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE), an international association of communicators, educators and information technologists, to being named the Huffington Post's "Most Amazing Photos of 2012"; one of the Sacramento Bee's top 10 news stories of 2012; and My Science Academy's top photos of the year. Along the way, scores of websites named it "Picture of the Day." It also will appear in a number of books.)
The photo (taken by yours truly) shows Mussen being stung by a bee in the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. At the time, we were walking through the apiary when he noticed a bee loudly buzzing around him. "Get your camera ready, Kathy," he said. "The bee's going to sting me."
That's exactly what the bee did. If you look closely, you can see the abdominal tissue, aka "guts," as she's trying to pull away. Usually a bee sting is a clean break.
So, can a bee "unscrew the sting?"
"As you may know, the sting of an adult worker honey bee has backward-pointing barbs that tend to hold the bee sting in the victim's flesh," Mussen told the beekeeper. "However, how well the sting stays stuck depends upon how deeply it was pushed in. Yes, some bees seem to make only a half-hearted effort to sting. The point of the sting pierces the skin, but doesn't go in very deeply. At that point, the sting can be pulled out if the bee begins to leave. It goes back up, inside the bee, but I do not know if, or how much, damage was done to the bee."
"These half-hearted stings are more commonly encountered with quite young workers. Sometimes the sting remains, but no venom is felt. Sometimes, a slight tinge of venom is momentarily noticed, then it is gone. So, while most stings are the full-blown, driven-pretty-deep-into-the-flesh type, there are less assertive attempts that result in intermediate sting results. The sting cannot be 'unscrewed,' because the barbs on the sting are directly across from each other and not in a spiral. However, the barbs are larger as the sting penetrates deeper."/span>
The purplish-blue spiked flowers attract honey bees, bumble bees and syrphid flies.
And visitors. And photographers.
The honey bees were buzzing all over the Echium last Sunday, Feb. 16, as were syrphid flies, aka hover flies or flower flies. But a yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, preferred to hide beneath the leaf of a passionflower vine (Passiflora). Next time!
The towering Pride of Maderia, which can easily reach a height of six feet or more, is the pride of the Portuguese island of Madeira, where it's endemic. It's an evergreen bush planted as a drought-tolerant ornamental, particularly in coastal communities. It even gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
Wikipedia informs us that the genus name is derived from the Greek "echion," and that the root word "echis" means "viper." Think snake. Apparently the shape of the seed resembles that of a viper's head. Another interpretation: there's an age-old belief that another Echium species, Echium vulgare, aka "Viper's Bugloss," is a remedy for the adder's bite.
However, Echium candicans is not so popular in the state of Victoria, Australia, where it is considered "a high weed risk" and its very presence prompts the Department of Primary Industries to send in the troops...er...alerts.
The first blooms of the year in Bodega, though, are cause for celebration.
And speaking of bees and blooms, you'll want to sign up for the "Pollinator Gardening Workshop, Your Sustainable Backyard,"set Saturday, March 15 at UC Davis. Hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCHU), it will take place at Giedt Hall, UC Davis campus, with a side trip to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden, just west of the campus, on Bee Biology Road.
Registration is underway at on the CCHU website.
CCHU program manager Anne Schellman says that this will be an informative workshop where participants will learn:
- How to identify common bee pollinators
- How to make a landscape pollinator-friendly
- Which plants pollinators prefer
- The latest research about honey bee health and pollinator habitat
- How UC Davis helps honey bees at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden
Honey bee and native pollinator specialists with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will be among the speakers. (See previous Bug Squad blog.)
They made it through the winter: the bitter cold with subfreezing temperatures; the 54-day drought (will it ever rain again?) and the heavy rain that caught us thinking about ark-building.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, was among those concerned about whether the Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) would be able to survive the winter in this area.
They did. And they are.
Shapiro spotted the "signs of life" in the City of Davis (Yolo County) and the City of Vacaville (Solano County). Naturalist/butterfly enthusiast Greg Kareofela, a volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, has also seen them in Davis.
The ones pictured in this blog we found near downtown Vacaville last Monday, Feb. 17, on a passionflower vine (Passiflora): two adults and half a dozen caterpillars. Empty chrysalids, and a few viable chrysalids, plus seed pods from the Passilfora, hung from the branches.
The showy reddish-orange butterfly continues to make a comeback in the Sacramento-Davis area. In the early 1970s, it was considered extinct in that area.
“It first appeared in the vicinity of San Diego in the 1870s,” Shapiro told us. "It spread through Southern California in urban settings and was first recorded in the Bay Area about 1908. It became a persistent breeding resident in the East and South Bay in the 1950s and has been there since.”
Shapiro describes the Gulf Fritillary as “one of the most widespread weedy butterflies in the Americas." However, he points out, it has no “native host plant in California."
Those who want to attract the Gulf Frit can do so by planting its host plant, passionflower vine (tropical genus Passiflora).
If you'd like to learn more about butterflies, ecological communities, and the science of conservation, be sure to attend Art Shapiro's talk at noon on Monday, March 24 at the Commonwealth Club, 595 Market St., San Francisco. His topic is "Ecological Communities and the March of Time."
Ecological communities as we know them are similar to freeze-frames from a long movie. Associations among species are very dynamic on millennial scales, as demonstrated by the evidence since deglaciation 15,000 years ago. Coevolution of species occurs locally in geographic mosaics and can be extremely dynamic as well. Frederic Clements, the father of American community ecology, had a holistic vision. He saw communities as super-organisms. He was wrong.
This program is part of “The Science of Conservation and Biodiversity in the 21st Century”: This series of lectures will present a new way of looking at public policy issues in conservation. The things we've assumed as facts often are not. Traditional approaches are losing ground as science illuminates new pathways for framing and achieving conservation goals.- See more at: http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/2014-03-24/arthur-m-shapiro-ecological-communities-and-march-time#sthash.iJcIhIcg.dpuf
This program is part of Commonwealth Club's “The Science of Conservation and Biodiversity in the 21st Century," according to spokersperson Chisako Ress (firstname.lastname@example.org). This series of lectures is aimed at presenting a new way of looking at public policy issues in conservation. The things we've assumed as facts often are not, she noted. Traditional approaches are losing ground as science illuminates new pathways for framing and achieving conservation goals.
From the Commonwealth Club website: "Ecological communities as we know them are similar to freeze-frames from a long movie. Associations among species are very dynamic on millennial scales, as demonstrated by the evidence since deglaciation 15,000 years ago. Coevolution of species occurs locally in geographic mosaics and can be extremely dynamic as well. Frederic Clements, the father of American community ecology, had a holistic vision. He saw communities as super-organisms. He was wrong."
You can use this coupon code "friendsforshapiro" to get a discount, Ress said. For program detail and registration, access http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/2014-03-24/arthur-m-shapiro-ecological-communities-and-march-time.
Following Shapiro's talk, the next speaker is another UC faculty member; this time it will be Joe McBride of UC Berkeley: