When you first see the leaffooted bug, you know immediately how it got its name.
The appendages on its feet look like leaves!
This morning we saw one in our catmint (Nepeta) patch. It crawled beneath the tiny leaves, sharing space with honey bees, European wool carder bees, butterflies and assorted spiders.
Tonight scores of them stormed our pomegranate tree. In fact, they made the immature fruit their kitchen, living room and bedroom.
Although the leaffooted bug (Leptoglossus clypealis) is a pest of pistachios and almonds, we've never seen it on our pomegranate tree until today. Our tree, planted in 1927--back when Herbert Hoover was the U.S. president--has few pests. One year white flies attacked it mercilessly. Tonight leaffooted bugs claimed squatters' rights.
The adult bug is about an inch long with a white or yellow zigzag across its back. Shades of Zorro! Its most distinctive feature, however, are the leaflike appendages on its feet.
Back in 2009, integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, co-authored UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines on the leaffooted bug as it pertains to almonds. Zalom and his colleagues called attention to their needlelike mouthparts. The adults feed on young nuts "before the shell hardens." And after the nut is developed, "leaffooted bug feeding can still cause black spots on the kernel or wrinkled, misshapen nutmeats."
As for our pomegranate tree, we're not sure how well these leaffooted bugs can probe the tough, leathery fruit.
We open the pomegranates with a serrated knife...
if you're growing plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae--you know, the plants with the square stalks and opposite leaves--you may see a very tiny reddish-orange visitor.
It's so tiny that it's smaller than the leaf of a catmint (Nepeta). Its wing span is probably about 10 to 15 millimeters.
This little critter (below) is a California Pyrausta Moth (Pyrausta californicalis), as identified by butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. Pyrausta is a genus of moths in the Crambidae family.
We spotted this one Saturday morning in our yard, foraging in the catmint. This is one moth you'll see during the day!
"Pyrausta californicalis is a native feeder in the mint family, which is often quite common on cultivated exotic mints, including spearmint, peppermint, etc.," Shapiro said.
In fact, Shapiro found the mint moth in his own garden in Davis for two decades "until I took the spearmint out."
And, it occurs on introduced mint in his Gates Canyon study site near Vacaville, Calif.
The wool carder bees (Anthidium manicatum), so named because the females collect or "card" plant fuzz for their nests, move quickly. The males, more aggressive and very territorial, move even faster.
The wool carder bee is an Old World bee introduced into the United States (New York) in 1963. It was first discovered in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
Today we spotted one in our Vacaville yard that didn't seem to be in much of a hurry.
In fact, it sidled up to the catmint (Nepeta) and appeared to be having a conversation. No, not with an empty chair. With a mint leaf.
No, said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and one of the instructors at the annual Bee Course at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz.; this year's course takes place Sept. 10-20.)
"This one is a boy bee," Thorp said. "Note the prominent golden fringe hairs along the side of the abdomen and the edge of the tooth-like processes at the tip of the abdomen. Also the lower part of the face (the clypeus) is mostly yellow."
So there you have it, a boy bee!
I'm still wondering why he wasn't body-slamming the honey bees and engaging in other aggressive and territorial escapades.
You often see a single solitary bee on a sunflower.
Perhaps it's a sunflower bee (Svastra) or a honey bee (Apis mellifera).
But four on one? Sharing a sunflower?
If you look closely at the photo below, you'll see Svasta, Apis and a sweat bee, Halictus ligatus on the sunflower head, plus another sweat bee, Halictus triparitus, "coming in for a landing," says native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
If you're curious about the sunflower bee, "Our Svastra obliqua expurgata is a native bee and exhibits a preference for sunflowers which are also native and other relatives of sunflower," Thorp said. "The genus Svastra has over 20, all occurring in North and South America. All are ground nesting solitary bees. Some other species of Svastra exhibit preferences for pollen from evening-primrose or cactus.'
The garden is open from dawn to dusk, with free admission. You can do self-guided tours. Soon, probably next spring, the UC Davis Department of Entomology will offer guided tours.
Bee friendly garden? Indeed. In fact, Thorp has found 75 different species of bees--and counting--since he began monitoring the plot in October 2009, a year before it was planted.
If you wander through the garden, be sure to bring your camera, especially if you love insects and flowers.
You may find five species of bees sharing a sunflower!
Now that's Italian!
The Italian honey bee (below) nectaring on a zinnia at the University of California, Davis, is striking for two reasons: she's as gold as starthistle honey in the sunlight and she's a very young forager.
"That is a pretty young bee to be a forager," said Exension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "Look at all that baby hair."
When European colonists introduced honey bees (Apis mellifera) into the Jamestown colony (now Virginia) in 1622, it wasn't the Italian. It was what beekeepers call the "dark bee" subspecies of Northern Europe, Apis mellifera mellifera.
The Italian or Apis mellifera ligustica didn't arrive in America until 1859. "The American beekeeping public was enamored with the newly available yellow and gentle bees," bee breeder-geneticist and co-author Susan Cobey wrote in a chapter of the book, Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable Solutions. "As a result, Italian-type bees form the basis for most present-day commercial beekeeping stocks in the U.S. Following the arrival and success of honey bees from Italy, U.S. beekeepers developed an interest to try other honey bee subspecies."
Indeed, it took 231 for years for honey bees to arrive in California. Beekeeper Christopher A. Shelton introduced honey bees to the Golden State in 1853, establishing an apiary just north of San Jose. (Check out the bee plaque at the San Jose International Airport.)
Cobey, of UC Davis acclaim, serves as the project leader of the Honey Bee Stock Improvement Program, working with Steve Sheppard, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University, and other scientists.They aim to enhance the genetic diversity of domestic bee stocks through the importation of honey bee germplasm (drone sperm).
Meanwhile, this week over at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk (who worked with Cobey at Ohio State University) is extracting honey.
If you look at the backlit honey, it looks just like the young Italian honey bee that Mussen says "is pretty young to be a forager."