if it's a streak of gray, you don't wash it away.
You welcome it.
The gray hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus) is common on our sedum, a good fall plant for pollinators, including butterflies, honey bees, sweat bees and syrphid flies, aka hover flies or flower flies.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, says on his website that the gray hairstreak visits "an immense variety of flowers, both wild and cultivated. They are particularly addicted to Heliotrope and white-flowered Apiaceae."
Apiaceae? That's the carrot family, which includes not only carrots but parsley, celery, Queen Ann'es lace, parsnip, cilantro, hemlock, fennel and anise. Heliotropes, which commonly yield pink-purple flowers, are good for graystreaks, but not good for horses. It's toxic and can induce liver failure, according to the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center.
You can't be too careful out there.
"If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it's probably a duck," or so the saying goes.
But if it looks like a honey bee, moves around on blossoms like a honey bee, and feeds on nectar and pollen like a honey bee, it may not be a honey bee.
It could be a flower fly or syrphid in the Syrphidae family.
The syrphids suffer from multiple cases of mistaken identity.
One of the syprhids commonly mistaken for a honey bee (Apis mellifera) is the drone fly (Eristalis tenax).
We spotted a drone fly--the first we've seen this year--on Feb. 5 in Tomales, Marin County. It was nectaring a pincushion flower (Seabiosa columbaria) at the Mostly Natives Nursery.
"There's a bee!" someone exclaimed.
It wasn't. It was a drone fly.
In its larval stage, it's known as a rat-tailed maggot. You'll see it in stagnant water, such as in ditches, ponds and drains. It feeds on stagnant rotting organic material.
In its adult stage, it moves from flower to flower, sipping nectar and pollinating flowers. Watch it hover and you know it's not a honey bee. Look at its two wings, and you know it's not a honey bee (the honey bee has four).
Lots of other differences, too.
It's a good pollinator, but a honey bee, it is not.
The crab spider didn't go away hungry.
Camouflaged in the petals of a sedum, the cunning predator waits patiently for its prey.
An unsuspecting blowfly lands inches from the crab spider, unaware of its presence, and crawls toward it.
Wham! The crab spider snatches the blowfly and bites it, paralyzing it with its venom.
I'm just glad it wasn't a honey bee.
Like a crab, the crab spider can move sideways and backwards as it stalks and ambushes its prey. It grabs the unsuspecting insect with its powerful front legs, bites it, and paralyzes it.
Dinner is served.
However, this particular spider seemed to be perusing a menu. Hmm, a blow fly, a hover fly, a sweat bee or a honey bee? It watched honey bees glide onto the sedum and sip nectar. It was touch-and-go; the spider would crawl to a bee, touch it, and the bee would buzz off.
"It must not have been hungry--otherwise the bee would have been toast," Kimsey said.
We watched the spider for half an hour. The predator and the prey.
This time the prey won. Every single bee escaped. No toast today.
It's no secret that bees like sedum.
The Autumn Joy sedum (family Crassulaceae) growing in our garden is still a tight cluster of broccoli-like buds--not ready for prime time.
But don't tell the honey bees that.
Sedum is a slow bloomer, and bees poking their heads in the dusty pink buds is a common sight.
Plant sedum and they will come. (As will the butterflies, hover flies, carpenter bees and other insects.)
We are eagerly anticipating the blooms, too, in the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, to be installed next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. It's scheduled to open to the public on Oct. 16. Nearby will be a quarter-acre wildflower walkway called "Campus Buzzway."
The gardens will be a year-around food source for bees and provide educational experiences for visitors, who can learn about honey bees and glean ideas about bee friendly plants for their own gardens.
Bring 'em on!