Sometimes you just can't win for losing.
This morning a newly emerged Gulf Fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) began drying its damp wings, preparing for flight. It had just emerged from its chrysalis. Soon it would be off to do what Gulf Frits do: leave its host plant, the passionflower vine, and find a mate.
It was not to be.
A cunning praying mantis, camouflaged as a green stem, snared it, grasping it in its spiked forelegs. Then it did one praying mantids do. It bit off its head and proceeded to eat it.
Quick and easy prey, for sure. But the mantis was not alone. A European paper wasp, seeking a little free protein to take back to her colony, got into the act, circling the struggling butterfly and taking quick bites.
The wasp carefully evaded the mantid's head and spiked forelegs.
If it it had not, this it would have been a two-course dinner. Butterfly first, wasp second.
Mouse Productions filmed a battle between a praying mantis and a wasp back in 2013. The mantis won. See YouTube video.
That's not to say you'll see beneficial insects doing their thing—but you might.
The event, a walk and talk, is “Scouting Out the Hedgerows on the DH Long Farm,” set from 10 a.m. to noon at 8304 County Road 91B, Zamora. Coffee and snacks will be available at 9:45.
The workshop, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), Solano Resource Conservation District (RCD), Colusa County RCD, and the Yolo County RCD. Attendees are asked to wear "good walking shoes and a hat" and bring water.
The event begins at 10 with a welcome by Laurel Sellers, UCCE project assistant, Yolo County, who will provide a DPR grant project update.
Next to speak will be John Anderson of Hedgerow Farms, Winters, at 10:10. His topic is “Land of Milkweed and Honey: A Walk Into Beneficial Insect Habitat.”
Anderson will be followed at 10:35 by Sellers speaking on “Rodent Activity and Hedgerows: What's the Correlation?” Sellers is a master's degree candidate in international agricultural development, UC Davis.
Then at 10:55, Kristina Wolf, a doctoral candidate in entomology at UC Davis, will cover “Raptors, Rodents and Reptiles, What's in Restored Grasslands?”
Rachael Long, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Yolo County, will offer her insights on “Establishing Hedgerows: Protecting Crops with Insect Predators and Parasitoids” at 11:15.
Following Long's talk, Kelly Garbach of Loyola University, Chicago, will share “Hedgerow Survey Highlights.” A summary and audience review will follow.
For more information, contact Rachael Long at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's a good reason why you should not clean the fixtures around your porch lights--if you need a reason.
The lights attract all kinds of nocturnal flying insects. It's like the proverbial draw of a moth to a flame.
Spiders weave their webs on the light fixtures to trap their prey. If you remove the webs, you'll remove the insect smorgasbord.
Recently we saw an insect we'd never seen before on the light fixture: a praying mantis lying in wait, maybe to snare a moth or share the spider's bounty.
The porch light screams '"science project!" We remember our son's science projects in elementary school, including "Can a Plant Grow Upside Down?" and "How Fast Can a Yo-Yo Spin?" Somewhere the curious mind of a science student will look at the light on his or her front porch and ask: What insects are flying toward the night light and how many? How many predators are lying in wait? What do they eat? And, what roles do these lights and predators play in luring the insects to their death?
Meanwhile, the praying mantis has vanished. It's end of the season. Next year there will be many more praying mantids. One deposited an egg case beneath a table on the back porch. After they emerge and eat their brothers and sisters (no sibling love there!), one or more may hang out on the light fixture next year.
The lady beetle, aka ladybug, was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
We don't know how she managed to get tangled in the cellar spider's web or why the cellar spider opted to have her for dinner instead waiting for a tasty honey bee, a nutritious leafcutter bee or a plump bumble bee.
Nevertheless, we came upon this predator-prey attack in our backyard. It was too late to save the ladybug.
Ordinarily, the ladybug's bright red coloration serves as a "warning" to predators. Plus, ladybugs are known to ooze a foul-tasting chemical that tastes so bad that predators leave them alone.
"The bright colors of many coccinellids discourage some potential predators from making a meal of them," according to Wikipedia. "This phenomenon is called aposematism and works because predators learn by experience to associate certain prey phenotypes with a bad taste. A further defense known as 'Reflex bleeding' exists in which an alkaloid toxin is exuded through the joints of the exoskeleton, triggered by mechanical stimulation (such as by predator attack) in both larval and adult beetles, deterring feeding."
So why the cellar spider's unusual menu choice? "The spider's 'taste buds' probably weren't very good," quipped a UC Davis scientist.
Jumping spiders have to eat, but do they have to snag the bees?
Last weekend as we were checking the lavender patch in our yard, we noticed something partially hidden--and moving--on a post.
It was a jumping spider eating a honey bee. Later in the afternoon, the same jumping spider snared a sweat bee.
If you have flower patches in your yard--and you should, to attract the pollinators--you will also attract the predators.
Fortunately, they don't eat as much as Joey "Jaws" Chestnut of San Jose, the hot-dog eating champion of the world.