The National Geographic just ran a piece titled "Without Bugs, We Might All Be Dead."
"There are 1.4 billion insects for each one of us," wrote Simon Worrall in reviewing the book, Bugged: The Insects Who Rule and the World and the People Obsessed with Them by journalist David MacNeal.
Some you need a microscope to see, but insects are the 'lever pullers of the world,'" MacNeal insists.
And many are extinct, and many more will be. For example, the butterfly, the Xerces blue (Glaucopsyche xerces) is no more. But you can see it at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis.
"Bug extinction is one of the most extensive extinctions on the planet," MacNeal told her in the interview published Aug. 6. "It's scary because you don't notice it until it's too late. Migration patterns are shifting due to climate, and insects offer a great way of looking at that. A collector went to the Antioch Dunes in California, in the 1960s, and caught a range of bugs. When scientists returned decades later, they found many species were gone, and the host plants with them. These creatures rely on plants and certain weather patterns and temperatures, an adaptive power they've gained over the past 400 million years."
"Twenty years ago you could have seen one billion monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico. The latest count is 56.5 million. To combat the decline, the Obama Administration, working with Fish & Wildlife, enacted this migration highway running from Texas to Minnesota. They planted milkweed along the way, which is the host plant for monarch butterflies, hoping to quadruple that 56.5 million by 2020. I am an optimistic cynic, so I feel that insects will outlive us, if we haven't totally screwed the planet."
When's the last time you saw a monarch flutter through your yard? Are you planting their host plant, milkweed? Are you providing nectar by growing such monarch favorites as the butterfly bush (genus Buddleja), Mexican sunflower (genus Tithonia) and lantana (genus Lantana)?
Think about it: "There are 1.4 billion insects for each one of us."
Make mine the monarch. Well, I like the Western tiger swallowtails and anise swallowtails, too. And the honey bees, sweat bees, longhorn bees, bumble bees, European wool carder bees, dragonflies, and yes, praying mantids...and...wait, there's not enough room to list them all!
We recently watched McCormack Hall superintendent Gloria Gonzalez of Vallejo, and her crew set up the exhibits in preparation for the crowds that will flow through the building next week.
Butterflies appear in many of the entries, including quilts, vests, needlework, paintings, photographs, and arts and crafts. As the crew worked, a butterfly fluttered through the open door, hovered over a display table, and then fluttered out. An omen?
One of the eye-opening, jaw-dropping displays is a butterfly-themed quilt made by LaQuita Tummings of Rodeo. Judges wrote, in part: "Wow, incredible design!" Indeed it is!
The adult division exhibits include a colorful vest of brilliant blossoms and majestic butterflies, sewn by Linda Douthit of Fairfield, a veteran seamstress, 4-H leader and longtime exhibitor. Laura Ryan of Vallejo entered her intricate needlework showcasing bees and blossoms; you can almost hear the bees buzz. Tina Waycie, Vallejo, is showing her quilling (paper arts); the attention to detail is amazing. In adult collections, Joanne Dalton of Vallejo, entered her case of 93 thimbles, and yes, a butterfly motif adorns one of them.
Theme of this year's Solano County Fair, established in 1949, is "This Fair's for Ewe." The grounds are located at 900 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo. Directors of the Solano County Fair Association, appointed by the Solano County Board of Supervisors, aim for a "positive experience for the public" through "educational, cultural, artistic, commercial and recreational programs."
The fair is open from from 3 to 11 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, and from noon to 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. The schedule and ticket prices are listed on the fair website, but note the three free admission days:
- Seniors' Day: Free admission all day on Wednesday, Aug. 2 or seniors 60 and better
- Kids' Day: Free admission all day on Thursday, Aug. 3 for kids ages 12 and under
- Military and First Responders Appreciation Day: Free admission all day on Friday, Aug. 4 for military, law enforcement, firefighters and their dependents
When you go, be sure to look for the monarchs in McCormack Hall. If you're lucky, a butterfly--maybe a monarch, Gulf Fritillary or Western tiger swallowtail--will flutter into the building.
Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. --Nathaniel Hawthorne
A middle-aged woman takes the sign literally. "What would you do if you saw THAT bug in our backyard?" she asks her daughter, about six years old.
"Yecch!" responds the daughter. She didn't say what she would do, but "survival" (hers, not the bug's) seemed to be the key issue.
They were looking at an assassin bug, considered a beneficial insect in the garden.
Now if those visitors were entomologists or bug enthusiasts, they'd probably begin the conversation with one of these three scenarios:
- "Ooh, there's an assassin bug! How lucky can we get!"
- "So beautiful! A work of nature, isn't it?"
- "Oh, wait, I'm going to shoot (photograph) it."
Butterflies? Check! The specimens include monarchs, Western tiger swallowtails, anise swallowtails, West Coast ladies, painted ladies, red admirals, and the pest, the cabbage white. (Note: according to Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, there are more than 300 species of butterflies in California. See his monitoring site. "And 118 have been recorded at my Donner Summit study site alone. There are about 30 species breeding in Davis right now and probably 90+ in Yolo, Solano, or Sacramento County alone--about 100 in Colusa or Napa...")
Dragonflies and damselflies? Check.
Those misunderstood assassin bugs? Check.
Another display at the Bug Barn showcases the life cycle of a monarch, featuring live monarchs and a chrysalis. Visitors at the Insect Pavilion on Wednesday morning, July 26, seemed to like that display more than they did the others. "Oh, my, a live monarch!" Out came the cell phones for quick photos.
A bee observation hive from beekeeper Brian Fishback of BD Ranch and Apiary in Wilton also drew attention. Fishback began keeping bees in 2008 and worked at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, with bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, now of Washington State University.
“Today we continue to share our knowledge with outreach programs to encourage interest in honey bees and share the importance of the bees to our environment as well as our food supply," Fishback wrote on his display. “At BD Ranch, I work very hard rescuing colonies from destruction from pest control companies, nervous homeowners, people unfamiliar with what bees are doing during swarming seasons. By rescuing and raising these feral colonies into strong hives, I can raise queens to carry the surviving genetic traits to other hives that increase their survival."
Meanwhile, just outside the Insect Pavilion, bees buzzed in the garden, unaware of the visitors expressing an interest in them. A honey bee foraged on a blooming sunflower, trailing, stopping, trailing...
Just as the humans were doing inside the Insect Pavilion...
What a delight to see.
We strolled through milkweed patches in the UC Davis Arboretum Thursday noon and saw them.
The monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are returning from their coastal California overwintering sites. And we're getting new generations.
The UC Davis campus, including the 100-acre UC Davis Arboretum is home to much celebrated flora and fauna, including milkweed and monarchs.
After overwintering along the California coast and in central Mexico, the butterflies flutter north into the United States and Canada in the spring and summer.
However, scientists report that the monarch population in central Mexico declined from 100 million last year to 78 million this year, due to late winter storms, coupled with cold and wet weather, and deforestration.
It's a sure sign of spring, through, when the monarchs return. It's a cause for celebration. Welcome back!
Meanwhile, we're anticipating the arrival of Christine Merlin, assistant professor in Texas A&M's Department of Biology, who will discuss her research on "The Monarch Butterfly Circadian Clock: from Clockwork Mechanisms to Control of Seasonal Migration" when she presents a seminar on Wednesday afternoon, May 31 at the University of California, Davis. The seminar is set from 4:10 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Room 122 of Briggs Hall. Host is molecular geneticist Joanna Chiu, associate professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Despite other major attractions--including the gorgeous spring day and the March Madness basketball tournament--nearly 300 people visited the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology last Saturday during its three-hour open house, themed "Eggs to Wings: Backyard Butterfly Gardening."
They conferred with Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis; Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and a number of Bohart associates, including entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the moth and butterfly display; naturalist Greg Kareofelas, a butterfly and dragonfly enthusiast; entomologists Jessica Gillung and Ziad Khouri, doctoral candidates; Nicole Tam, junior specialist; and Joel Hernandez and Alex Nguyen, recent entomology graduates.
"Hungry, hungry caterpillars!" read one poster, illustrated with photos of the monarch, gulf fritillary and pipevine swallowtail caterpillars and their adult stages. "Having a garden full of flowers provides nectar, an important food source for adult butterflies, but what about their hungry, hungry caterpillars? It seems counterintuitive to grow plants that yu want insects to eat, but that is exactly what butterflies need when they are larvae."
Jeff Smith kept busy showing visitors the drawers of butterfly specimens, including blue morphos, monarchs and swallowtails. As he opened one drawer, he explained that "this drawer contains several species of South American rainforest butterflies, Preponas, in the genus Archaeoprepona." He described them as "extremely strong and fast fliers, but they love to settle on baits such as fermenting fruit on the ground. We (Bohart team) caught several in the ongoing Belize biodiversity work this past year."
Robbin Thorp showed live male Valley carpenter bees, Xylocopa varipuncta, green-eyed blond bees that are also known as "teddy bear" bees. "Boy bees can't sting," Thorp said, reassuring a few leary visitors. The female of the species is solid black. (Following the open house, Thorp returned the bees to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road.)
The bottle is tucked inside a zipped, meshed butterfly habitat and placed indoors or in a screened patio to prevent tachinid flies and wasps from laying their eggs in the caterpillars or chrysalids. Once the monarchs pupate and eclose, they are released to start another generation. This is a small-scale conservation project.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free. Special open houses take place throughout the academic year. The next open house takes place during the annual campuswide Picnic Day on April 22.
More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or email@example.com. The website is http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/