The last time we encountered a praying mantis it was waiting for prey on a plant by the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
Then we saw two more that day in front of the Laidlaw facility. They jumped on us while we were watching the first one.
Surely we didn't look like prey!
Staff research associate/beekeeper Elizabeth Frost tends the garden in front and notices many of the stealthy little critters. They're perfectly camouflaged and ready to pounce.
The egg cases she earlier saw have hatched. One little, two little, three little mantids....
And probably many more.
They stay because the area is a good source of food--honey bees, sweat bees, butterflies, hover flies...
Those praying mantids grab unsuspecting--and sometimes quite slow--prey in their spiked forelegs and it's off with the head. Fast food it is. Fast food in the slow food movement....
Well, hello there!
A praying mantis, perfectly camouflaged in bushes outside the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, was searching for prey when we spotted it. Front legs upraised in a "praying position," head twisting, eyes turning, it waited motionlessly for lunch.
Also called a mantid (order Mantodea), the praying mantis is a favorite of insect photographers. A close-up of the mouth and the "spiky" forelegs (used for grasping prey) make you really appreciate what this insect can do and make you glad you're not another insect.
This one (below) was immature. Tomorrow we'll show you shots of it landing on a human being.
And the other pollinators.
And the plants.
We were glad to see that Melissa "Missy" Borel, program manager of the California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis, recently received a much deserved honor for her work in making the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven a reality.
Borel, recipient of a 2011 Distinguished Citation for Excellence from the UC Davis Staff Assembly, drew a round of applause at the awards reception at the home of Chancellor Linda Katehi. Campuswide, only two other individuals--and two teams--received a Distinguished Citation for Excellence. Their names will be engraved on a perpetual plaque at the Walter A. Buehler Alumni and Visitors' Center.
Borel's award is closely linked to the haven, a half-acre bee friendly demonstration garden planted next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. The haven is is a year-around food source for the Laidlaw bees and other pollinators, an educational resource for visitors, and a research garden.
Borel coordinated the design competition, helped develop the garden through donations and an outreach program, and recruited and coordinated additional campus programs to add educational and art content to the garden.
A product of UC Davis (bachelor's degree in plant sciences and master’s degree in horticulture and agronomy), Borel meshed with five distinct campus units and three extra agencies during the design and building phases of the garden. More than 80 percent of the garden was installed with donated materials.
Borel offered her expertise on plants, asked for donations from a network of friends and colleagues in the horticulture industry, granted news media interviews, and helped with the official opening of the garden on Sept. 11, 2010.
Borel continues to be actively involved; you can usually find her out there every Friday morning tending the garden and working side by side with a corps of other dedicated volunteers.
And Missy Borel would be the first to tell you that the garden is the work of many people--administrators, faculty, staff, donors and volunteers.
The garden, installed under the watch of Bohart Museum of Entomology director and entomology professor Lynn Kimsey, then interim chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, has become a campus destination where visitors learn about bees and pollinator landscaping and can admire the art (a six-foot-long bee sculpture, beehive art, and mosaic of native bees).
What was once a field of nasty weeds is now a field of pollinator dreams. When you walk through the garden or enjoy lunch at a picnic table, you become very aware of the plight of the bees--and the beauty of the garden. The garden is a gift to UC Davis Department of Entomology, but more than that, it's a gift to the university, to the surrounding communities, and to all of us who care about what's happening to the bees.
A tip of the gardening hat to Missy Borel!
Sometimes you can't get within 20 feet of a Western tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papillo rutulus).
Sometimes it's a matter of inches.
That was the case this morning at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the University of California, Davis, when a lone Western tiger swallowtail took a liking to the Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia).
The spectacular butterfly, one of the most recognizable of all butterflies, glided to the patch of Mexican sunflowers (so named because they originate from Mexico and Central America) sipped a little nectar, and then fluttered away, only to return again.
Not once, but dozens of times.
The haven, a half-acre bee friendly demonstration garden planted next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the main campus, features ornamentals, vegetables, fruits and nuts (almonds), as well as art work from the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. It's open from dawn to dusk; admission is free.
The Mexican sunflowers, family Asteraceae, grow a towering eight feet, and are as orange as the jerseys of the San Francisco Giants. Today they attracted scores of honey bees, sunflower bees, hover flies, sweat bees, and yes, a spotted cucumber beetle (pest).
However, the "tiger" in the Tithonia stole the show.
Mama said there'd be days like this,
There'd be days like this, Mama said...
When Van Morrison wrote the lyrics to "Days Like This," a song popularized by The Shirelles, he probably wasn't thinking of a mama garden spider or her prey.
Still, when Mama Spider weaves her web and snares three pollinators in two days, that's a "Wow." A double, triple "Wow!"
Garden spiders are good to have in the garden when they're capturing and eating pests, like flies, knats, mites, lygus bugs, katydids and the like. Just wish they'd quit picking on the pollinators.
Still, Mama has to eat.