From toe biters to flame skimmers...
That's what visitors will see on "Aquatic Insect Day" on Sunday, March 24 at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis.
Toe biters (giant water bugs) and flame skimmers (dragonflies) are just some some of the aquatic insects to be featured at the open house from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 Academic Surge, Crocker Lane. The event is free and open to the public.
The toe biters belong to the Belostomatidae family of insects in the order Hemiptera. The largest insects in the order, they are found in freshwater streams and ponds throughout much of the world. In some Asian countries, the giant water bugs are considered a delicacy. The Belostomatids are unique in that the female lays her eggs on the back or wings of a male; the male carries the eggs until they hatch.
The flame skimmers belong to the family Libellulidae and are native to western North America. The red flame skimmer (Libellula saturata) is common in California. The immature flame skimmers or nymphs inhabit warm ponds and streams and feed on the larvae of mosquitoes, aquatic flies and mayflies, as well as on freshwater shrimp, small fish, and tadpoles. You'll often see the adults gliding through the air, catching moths, syrphid flies and bees.
Bohart Museum personnel also will pull out the fly-fisher drawers containing caddisflies, mayflies and stoneflies, said Tabatha Yang, Bohart Museum education and outreach coordinator.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens and is the seventh largest insect collection in North America. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946.
Visitors can hold such live insects as Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks, and buy gifts at the gift shop, which is filled with t-shirts, jewelry, insect nets, posters and books, including the newly published children’s book about the California dogface butterfly, the state insect. The 35-page book, “The Story of the Dogface Butterfly,” written by UC Davis doctoral candidate Fran Keller and illustrated (watercolor and ink) by Laine Bauer, a 2012 graduate of UC Davis is geared toward kindergarteners through sixth graders. Naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, a volunteer at the Bohart, provided photos.
Net proceeds from the sale of this book go directly to the education, outreach and research programs of the Bohart Museum. The book also can be ordered online at http://www.bohartmuseum.com/the-story-of-the-dogface-butterfly.html.
Bohart officials schedule weekend open houses throughout the academic year so that families and others who cannot attend on the weekdays can do so on the weekends. The Bohart’s regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The insect museum is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
The remainder of the open houses for the academic year:
Saturday, April 20: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Theme: UC Davis Picnic Day
Saturday, May 11, 1 to 4 p.m.
Theme: "Moth-er's Day"
Sunday, June 9, 1 to 4 p.m.
Theme: "How to Find Insects"
For more information, contact Yang at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 752-0493.
Gotta love those dragonflies in the family Libellulidae.
The Thunderbirds of the insect world, they perform amazing aerial maneuvers as they skim over water, catching mosquitoes, knats, flies and other undesirables on the wing.
But oh--occasionally they nail a pollinator.
A red flame skimmer (Libellula saturata) skimmed over our fish pond and pool last Saturday and picked on the pollinators. Well, at least one pollinator.
It grabbed a female sweat bee, of the genus Halictus, probably H. tripartitus (as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis).
Yes, they can even identify a mangled sweat bee in the mouth of a dragonfly.
And no sweat bee.
For at least three days, he visited our yard.
He swooped over our fish pond and swimming pool and returned each time to perch on a tomato stake in the vegetable garden.
We nicknamed him "Big Red." Big Red? Actually, a flame skimmer dragonfly (Libellula saturata), native to western North America.
Our presence never bothered him. Our excitement at seeing him never bothered him. My macro lens poked a couple of inches from his face never bothered him.
I captured his image from above (bird's eye view), from the sides (both sides now!) and from beneath (bug's eye view).
It was only when I popped a barbell-like ring flash on the 105 macro lens that he stirred. Whoops! That was a bit big. He lazily took off and then returned--with a native bee in his mouth.
One day Big Red sat on his perch for three hours, periodically leaving to snag insects, then methodically returning to eat them.
On the fourth day, he disappeared. We haven't seen him since.
I suspect Big Red proved to be an easy catch for a hungry bluejay.
You can't miss the flame skimmer dragonfly (Libellula saturata). You especially can't miss the male, which is firecracker red.
We watched a male flame skimmer hunt for prey over our fish pond Saturday afternoon. (Hopefully, it was nailing mosquitoes!)
This insect's pattern of flight is so unpredictable that it's difficult to photograph. Where it was, is not where it is. Where it is, is not where it was. It flutters, swoops, soars, and corners a turn like an Indy 500 race car heading for the checkered flag.
But wait! After you watch a dragonfly catch prey, follow it. See where it lands.
In our yard, the dragonflies seem to prefer landing on a tomato stake. The bamboo stake is there for two reasons: (1) to anchor the tomato vines and (2) to attract dragonflies.
We set up a "stakeout." The dragonfly kept returning again and again within a five-minute span to rest or eat its prey.
Nature's pole dancer...resplendent in red...
Dragonflies occasionally hang around our fish pond to catch flying insects, such as flies and mosquitoes.
Last weekend a gorgeous flame skimmer swooped down in our garden--a few yards from our fish pond--and landed on a bamboo stake.
She absolutely glowed in the late afternoon sun.
Soon she lifted off to catch insects. Would she return? She did. She repeatedly left her perch to nail more insects.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis and professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, identified it as a female Libellula saturata. Order: Odonata. Suborder: Epiprocta. Family: Libellulidae.
The Bohart Museum contains some seven million insect specimens.
The flame skimmer is there, too. It's also on a dragonfly poster that the Bohart offers for sale in its gift shop or online.