Insects are cold-blooded so their temperature coincides with their environment.
Before the sun rises, they lie ever so still. As the sun warms them, they stir ever so slowly.
At 6 a.m. yesterday, we checked the roses for aphids (yes, they were there) and so were the predators: the soldier beetles and ladybugs.
A soldier beetle crawled to the edge of a leaf. A ladybug cartwheeled over a leaf and then clung to the tip.
Breakfast is ready!
Lady beetles, aka ladybugs, eat lots of aphids. Did we say lots of aphids? Lots of aphids. They have no portion control.
If you watch closely, you'll see them gobble aphids like theater-goers devour buttered popcorn. Ladybugs eat so many aphids you wonder if they'll ever be able to lift off the plant.
Last Saturday we observed the usual: a ladybug chomping down aphids. But wait! What was that riding on her back? Coud it be? Was it?
It was. An aphid was riding the ladybug like a cowboy on a bucking rodeo bull. Didn't the aphid know that one little slip, and no more happy trails?
"Well," one wag said, "that's the safest place for an aphid--on the back of a ladybug."
In a matter of days, the aphids discovered our newly purchased rose bushes.
They clustered around the buds and unfolding leaves, piercing the tender stems and sucking the plant juices as if there were no tomorrow.
For some of them, there would be no tomorrow.
A ladybug arrived and began feasting on the colony of aphids, like a 10-year-old kid with a bag of french fries from a fast food place.
She gobbled the aphids and then, satiated, off she flew.
With spray from a garden hose, we knocked the aphids off.
Something tells me the aphids will be back.
But so will the ladybugs.
Ladybugs love our Russian sage.
Ladybugs, aka ladybird beetles, eat aphids, which are pests in the garden. The ladybugs are welcome. The aphids are not.
Belonging to the family Coccinellidae, ladybugs look resplendent in their bright red or orange wing covers, dotted with spots. They'd surely be the center of attention at a Bug Ball. Luck be a lady.
We see immature ladybugs going through metamorphosis. Last weekend, we witnessed a pupa sheddding its skin. Exvium is a biological marvel.
If you want to see a ladybug eating an aphid, you'll have to watch the 44-minute film presentation, "Biological Control of Greenhouse Pests with Natural Arthropod Enemies," to be shown at 12:15 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 15 in 122 Briggs Hall, UC Davis campus. It's the work of professor Urs Wyss of the Institute of Phytopathology, Kiel University, Germany, who will be there to discuss the film. It shows ladybugs stalking, capturing, killing and eating aphids--not necessarily in that order.
What's unique about this film is the amazing photography. "All recordings were made with a special stereomicroscope and camera, magnified to a high degree," Wyss says.
We first saw the film on May 16 at the UC Davis Entomology Club meeting. Michael Parrella, entomology professor and associate dean of the Division of Agricultural Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, narrated it.
You'll never forget the sucking and slurping noises as predators devour their prey!
If you spot a ladybug, don't just start reciting "Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home."
Aim, click and shoot.
With a camera, that is.
Agricultural Research Service scientists and entomologists at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and South Dakota State University, Brookings, are surveying the country's ladybug species.
They want you to photograph every ladybug you see and send the photos to them so they can inventory them. They are specificially seeking rare species, such as the nine-spotted, two-spotted and transverse ladybeetles, but any and all ladybugs will do.
Ladybugs, also known as ladybeetles (family Coccinellidae and beetle order Coleoptera) are the "good guys" and "good gals." They prey on insects that eat our agricultural crops. They also help protect our nation's forests.
The good folks at The Lost Ladybug Project also offer some photo hints. They know that the bugs may not sit still for a photo shoot (let alone "smile") so they recommend you pop them in the freezer to slow them down. "You can do this in a freezer at home or in a cooler in the field," they say on their Web site. "Lady beetles can be chilled in a freezer safely for 5 minutes (over six may kill them) and this will quiet them for 2-4 minutes. Coolers are not as cold as freezers so it will take 30+ minutes to get 1-6 minutes of quiet time. They will survive for days in a chilled cooler."
Nope, I did not "chill" my ladybugs. No ladybugs were harmed or "chilled" in the making of these photographs. I popped the 60mm macro lens on my Nikon and stealthily waited amongst the Russian sage.