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!
One of Buck Owens' signature songs that never failed to please his fan base was "I Got a Tiger by the Tail."
The Country-Hall-of-Fame singer, who died in 2006 at age 76, said the lyrics came to him after he noticed a gas station sign advertising "Put a tiger in your tank." (Source: Wikipedia)
"I've got a tiger by the tail, it's plain to see," sang Buck Owens. "I won't be much when you get through with me..."
Well, he's not the only one with a "tiger by the tail."
We recently spotted male longhorn bees, probably Melissodes agilis, targeting Western tiger swallowtails, Papilio rutulus, in our family's pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif. The butterflies were trying to sip nectar from the 8 to 10-foot-high Mexican sunflowers (genus Tithonia).
Who knew that sipping nectar could be so difficult? The extremely territorial male longhorn bees kept trying to push the "tigers" off the Tithonia by dive-bombing them, slamming into them, and then regrouping for more aerial assaults. Their goal: to save the resources for their own species.
And then it happened. A longhorn bee slid through a tiger's tail.
A tiger by the tail.
A little haggard, a little worn, a little ragged, a little torn.
But there she was on Monday, Aug. 1, the first monarch of the season to lay eggs in our little pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif.
She found the milkweed, but that was AFTER the aphids, milkweed bugs, praying mantids, assassin bugs and assorted spiders claimed it.
It's always a joy to see the majestic monarch fluttering through a pollinator garden. On Sunday, July 31, a male lingered for two hours, nectaring on the Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) as the male territorial longhorn bees tried to chase him away. No welcome mat for him! No place setting for him!
Then today, a female arrived, first stopping by the showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, to lay eggs and then fluttering over to the tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, to lay more.
It's amazing how the monarchs, Danaus plexippus, know how to put their "resources" in multiple places. Like the idiom that cautions "don't put all your eggs in one basket," instinctively they seem to know that if they put all their resources in one place, they could lose them all. There's a better chance of offspring survival if they spread the eggs around.