It's sort of like "The Beauty and the Beast."
Or "The Pollinator and the Pest."
A gorgeous Western Tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus), seeking nectar from a butterfly bush, touched down and began to feed.
It didn't take long for the butterfly to spot a stink bug crawling on top of the blossom. This blossom's not big enough for both of us.
The shield-shaped bug quickly scrambled out of its way.
Stink Bug: 0
She's a butterfly magnet.
When Oakland parks supervisor Tora Rocha, known as "The Monarch Queen" and "The Butterfly Whisperer," (she rears monarchs and encourages everyone to do so), visited the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the University of California, Davis, on Thursday, butterflies seemed to float in from everywhere!
The Western Tiger Swallowtail, Painted Lady, Gulf Fritillary and even the Cabbage White fluttered around her head.
But that Western Tiger Swallowtail...that newly emerged Western Tiger Swallowtail...
Aglow in yellow and fringed with black, it headed over to the Verbena to sip some flight fuel: sweet nectar. A brisk wind threatened to dislodge its hold but it refused to budge from its buffet.
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven is the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road. Planted in the fall of 2009, it is located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus. (See history of the bee garden.)
And on Saturday, May 2 there will be a fifth anniversary celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You're invited! (Yes, it's free and open to the public.) You'll see bee observation hives and beekeeping demonstrations. You'll learn what to plant for bees. Bee scientists will show you how to observe and identify bees, and show you native bee condos, also called "bee hotels" or "bee houses."
Besides the honey bees, bumble bees, sweat bees, carpenter bees and other pollinators, there's a good chance you'll see such butterflies as the Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) sailing over the state-of-the-art fence that Eagle Scout Derek Tully and his assistants crafted.
Two's company. Three's a crowd?
Sometimes we wish it were half a dozen.
Last July we were admiring two newly emerged Gulf Fritillary butterflies on Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) when a Western Tiger Swallowtail fluttered down, seemingly out of nowhere, to occupy the same sunflower as one Gulf Frit.
The Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) and the Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) eyed each other for a few seconds. Then in the way of the West ("This town isn't big enough for the both of us") the tiger spread its wings and took off.
The Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) is the kind of butterfly that combines steel with silk.
It's a tough critter. Often you'll see it with its wings clipped by a predator--maybe a bird or a praying mantis.
Then when you see it glide around, landing on Jupiter's beard, it's the epitome of grace.
The magnificent butterfly is found throughout much of western North America, from British Columbia to North Dakota in the north to Baja California and New Mexico in the south. We've seen it nectaring not only on Jacob's beard, but zinnias, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), California buckeye but thistles, too.
Kite makers, dress makers and tattoo artists mimic this colorful yellow-winged butterfly with its bold black stripes and ll orange and blue spots on its swallow tail.
This one favored Jupiter's beard on Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville, but if you look closely you'll see that a predator tried to give it a clean shave.
If I were in charge of a praying mantis' daily diet, I would enforce one stringent rule: "Please don't eat the pollinators! Do not, I repeat, target the bees or butterflies. Leave them alone!"
The mundane menu would include flies, gnats, stink bugs, aphids, mosquitoes, yellowjackets, grasshoppers, leaffooted bugs and not much else.
But since I'm not likely to be employed as the chef of a praying mantis' diet, these predators can--and do--eat what they want.
This morning I encountered a praying mantis perched on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in our bee garden. He saw me. He swiveled his head about 180 degrees as he followed me with his five keen eyes--two large compound eyes and three smaller simple eyes. Hmm, not potential prey. He went about "praying"--bending his front legs and "assuming the position."
Okay, I thought. "Go catch a fly, gnat, stink bug, aphid, mosquito, yellowjacket, grasshopper or leaffooted bug."
So, what did he catch? A beautiful Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) which made the fatal mistake of landing on his flower.
Yes, a praying mantis has to eat. Yes, he was hungry. Yes, it's nature. But why not a stink bug?
He polished off a butterfly.
"Yummy!" declared a colleague.