Mother's Day, insect-style, dawned like any other day. In our back yard, golden honey bees foraged in the lavender and those ever-so-tiny sweat bees visited the rock purslane.
The honey bees? Those gorgeous Italians.
The sweat bees? Genus Lasioglossum, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. He figures the female sweat bee (below) may be L. mellipes, which is brownish toward the tips of the hind legs.
A trip to Benicia yielded a photo of a ladybug chasing aphids. It was almost comical. A fat aphid appeared to be playing "King of the Hill" while other aphids sucked contentedly on plant juices, unaware of pending predators.
While the aphids wreaked havoc on a very stressed Escallonia (fast-growing hedge in the family Escalloniaceae), the ladybugs, aka lady beetles, wreaked havoc on some very stressed aphids.
After all, "stressed" spelled backwards is "desserts."
First the buds, then the blossoms, then the bees.
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre, bee-friendly garden planted in the fall of 2009 next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, is, in one word—spectacular.
The strawberries planted in the haven are in various stages of growth: buds, blossoms, immature fruit and now ripe fruit.
The bees did it.
It's a good time to view the garden, which is open from dawn to dusk every day. There's no admission charge.
You'll see art work; assorted fruits, vegetables and herbs; ornamental plants; and insects! The garden provides the Laidlaw honey bees with a year-around food source, raises public awareness about the plight of honey bees, encourages visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own, and serves as a research site.
Sunday, May 8 is Mother's Day.
Saturday, May 7 is Moth-er's Day.
Yes, that's Moth-er's Day, Lepidopteran style.
That's when the Bohart Museum of Entomology will showcase moths at a special weekend opening from 1 to 4 p.m. The museum, located at 1124 Academic Surge on California Drive, UC Davis, is home to more than seven million insect specimens, including moths that you wouldn't believe.
Visitors can check out such moths as Urania leilu, and Chrysiridia rhipheus—“two moths that that will challenge people's notions of what a moth is,” said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum. Admission is free.
“We will also have our new public microscope on display for people to use and to see the scales on the wings that define the order Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies),” Yang said.
In addition, the Bohart Museum features a live “petting zoo” that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks; and a gift shop where visitors can purchase such items as t-shirts, sweat shirts, posters, jewelry and insect candy.
To accommodate families and other area residents who are unable to attend the regular visiting hours, Mondays through Thursdays, the Bohart began offering special weekend hours last year.
The last of the special weekend hours this season will be on Sunday, June 5, when the Bohart celebrates “June Bugs” from 1 to 4 p.m. The first weekend opening of the year was Jan. 23 and featured the theme, "Butterflies."
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, was founded in 1946 by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart. Dedicated to teaching, research and service, it houses the seventh largest insect collection in North America.
The museum holds specimens collected worldwide and is the home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity of California’s deserts, mountains, coast and great central valley.
The museum’s regular hours are from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. It is closed on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
It's easy to see why folks find insects fascinating. Among all those visitors, I'm sure some will become entomologists.
And some, Lepidopterans.
Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology is known as "The Fly Man of Alcatraz."
When he's not teaching classes, advising students and graduate students, or heading out on homicide cases, you can usually find him on "The Rock"--researching flies.
Kimsey will discuss "The Flies of Alcatraz" tomorrow (Thursday, May 5) at a meeting of the Northern California Entomology Society, to be held at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. His talk starts at 1:15.
Kimsey has walked where Al “Scarface” Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Robert “The Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud and Arthur “Doc” Barker walked. He sleeps where "The Bird Man of Alcatraz" sleeps when his research involves overnight trips.
“One day when I was working on research until 4:30 a.m., I laid down in the cell, extremely tired,” Kimsey said. “I looked through the steel bars and saw the lights of San Francisco. I thought about how I’d feel if I had to spend a large chunk of my life in this cell. I’d certainly be very angry with myself.”
Kimsey became involved in the fly project in July 2007 when he received a call about the annoying flies from entomologist Bruce Badzik, integrated pest management coordinator with the National Park Service, Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Complaints rose to a feverish pitch in late August, September and October. The flies seemed to land on people as if they were rotten meat. Kimsey witnessed the incessant “shoo-fly” behavior on the docks and encountered it on a personal basis.
Kimsey identified the troubling fly as a “kelp fly” (Fucillia thinobia) or “cormorant fly” in the family Anthomyiidae. “But it’s not a kelp fly as such,” said Kimsey, who plans to publish his research in an entomological journal. “It has nothing to do with kelp. It lives in purge-soaked soil under dead cormorants found in rookeries all around the island. It does not exist in any other place.”
Since then, he and Badzik have identified 17 species of flies. They are the first to research the flies of Alcatraz.
Kimsey has also become friends with many of the National Park Service employees, the former inmates and the former guards.
“Federal prisoners were sent to Alcatraz not necessarily because of the nature of their crime but of their deportment or behavior toward others in jails elsewhere,” Kimsey said. “If they fought constantly, tried to kill the guards, or tried to escape, Alcatraz was the place to send them. They were not necessarily the worst of the worst, but the most difficult.”
County fairs are known for cotton candy, corn dogs and cool treats.
But some--such as the 136th annual Dixon May Fair in Solano County--have bugs!
When the fair opens Wednesday, May 4 at 655 S. First St., the Floriculture Building will house gorgeous flowers...and gorgeous bugs.
The Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is providing for public viewing: a bee observation hive; posters offering facts about honey bees and native bees; and macro photos of honey bees.
The bee observation hive is where you can see the queen bee laying eggs, the workers tending to the brood, and drones walking around, being fed by their sisters. If you're lucky, you'll see a retinue of workers surrounding the queen as they fulfill her every need.
Also in the Floriculture Building, the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis will be displaying mounted butterfly and other insect specimens.
The fair opens at 10 a.m. daily through Sunday, May 8, Mothers' Day.