"Well, yes, I would like some aphids for dinner," said every lady beetle (aka ladybug) everywhere.
With the lush green growth of spring, come aphids (the prey) and lady beetles (the predators).
And now, if you look closely, you'll see clusters or rows of lady beetle eggs on your roses. Luck be a lady...
"The name 'ladybug' was coined by European farmers who prayed to the Virgin Mary when pests began eating their crops," National Geographic says on its website. "After ladybugs came and wiped out the invading insects, the farmers named them 'beetle of Our Lady.' This eventually was shortened to 'lady beetle' and 'ladybug.'"
Globally, we have some 5000 species of lady beetles. Entomologists call them ladybird beetles. Yes, they're beetles, not bugs. The term, bugs, applies to insects in the order Hemiptera, while lady beetles belong to the order Coleoptera.
Lady beetles range in color from red to orange to yellow, with or without spots. See the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program website for photos and descriptions.
The red and orange are warning colors in nature. Hey, don't eat me. I don't taste good! You'll be sorry! In fact, their hemolymph is both toxic and foul-smelling. Predators steer clear of them.
Although lady beetles don't taste good to predators, aphids are a different matter. Aphids are apparently quite tasty. One hungry lady beetle can gobble up about 50 to 75 aphids a day or 5000 over a lifetime, scientists say. But who's counting? There's no "Weight Watchers" or "Waist Watchers" program in place.
Lady beetles also devour other soft-bodied insects, such as scale insects, white flies and mites.
Today (March 20) marked the first day of spring and the international Day of Happiness, one and the same. Rain pelted our roses, and doused the lady-beetles-that-were-eating-the-aphids, and the aphids-that-were-sucking-the-plant-juices and the roses that were just trying their darndest to grow.
Meanwhile, the goldlike eggs just glistened...with promises of a new generation of lady beetles...
It's a glorious day, the first day of spring, and what better time to mark the occasion by visiting the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive?
Mother Earth, a mosaic ceramic sculpture by talented Donna Billick of Davis, co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, overlooks a thriving garden populated with honey bees, butterflies, sweat bees, syrphid flies, and ladybugs.
Today we saw the mournful dusky-wing butterfly (Erynnis tristis), the first of the year. (How ironic a butterfly with such a sad name would be in the garden the first day of spring!) The more colorful painted ladies (Vanessa cardui) arrived earlier this month. (See the Central California butterfly monitoring site of Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis for more information on butterflies and his research.)
The UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery attracts scores of pollinators with such plants as ceanothus, salvia, California fuchsia, cut-leaf lilac, rosemary, bulbine and Spanish lavender.
Meanwhile, the officials at the teaching nursery are gearing up for their next public plant sales, set for three Saturdays: April 5, April 26 and May 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Garden and irrigation experts will offer guidance for what to plant in your garden, including the Arboretum All-Stars, and offer advice on drought-related resources. A plant doctor clinic is also planned. (Members say 10 percent on plant sales.)
While you're browsing through the plants, don't overlook the pollinators! Indeed, they may just nudge you into buying a specific plant...
These freezing temperatures we're experiencing make us yearn for spring.
True, it's still autumn and winter doesn't officially start until Dec. 22, but it's a good time to think of honey bees pollinating the almond blossoms.
California almonds usually bloom around mid-February. We remember, however, that on Jan. 1, 2013 we spotted almonds blooming in the Benicia State Recreation Area. Guess they didn't get the message that it's not spring yet. Bees didn't get the message, either.
Then in early February we cruised over to Matthew Turner Shipyard Park, Benicia, and saw more almond blossoms and a bevy of bees flying.
Let's skip the winter solstice and head right into the vernal equinox!/span>
When the honey bee meets the flowering quince, the bee is "the belle of the ball."
The winter ball.
Suddenly the flowering quince (genus Chaenomele) transforms the bleak wintery landscape into a spring ballroom of sorts. The giddy bee is a joy to see.
Around here, the ornamental flowering quince, a member of the rose family (Rosaceae), usually blooms around late January or early February. The tightly woven pink buds unfold amid the tangled, dreary limbs that still denote winter but promise spring.
When you watch the bees, sometimes you can't tell where the pollen load ends and the anthers begin.
Extension apiculturst Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology encourages gardeners to plant flowers that will bloom in late winter or early spring. The bees, he says, are hungry.
Indeed they are.
The flowering quince is a buffet for the bees and a feast for our eyes.