Everybody eats in the pollinator garden.
Maybe not at the same time, but they all eat.
We noticed a syrphid fly, aka flower fly/hover fly, heading toward a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in our pollinator garden. Alas for the fly, it was occupied. Occupied by a honey bee (Apis mellifera).
The honey bee soon buzzed off, and the syrphid claimed it.
The honey bee returned and took a turn.
Then another fly, a drone fly (Eristallis tenax), claimed it.
Interesting that all three are sometimes called "bees," much to the chagrin of entomologists and other scientists. It just goes to prove that not all floral visitors are flies.
- Honey bee: Order, Hymenoptera; Family Apidae
- Syrphid fly: Order, Diptera; Family Syrphidae
- Drone fly: Order, Diptera; Family Syrphidae
But they do have several things in common: (1) they're insects (2) they're pollinators (3) they're hungry and (4) they like nectar just as much as humans like sugar, especially on Halloween. And doesn't orange symbolize Halloween?
Orb-weaver spiders know a thing or two about web design and development.
And their skills have nothing to do with computers.
Have you ever stepped out into your garden in the early morning and seen a spiral or wheel-shaped web glistening with droplets of dew? And encountered the web developer hanging out with its prey?
Such was the case last weekend when we spotted an orb weaver or araneid with its catch, a honey bee. The bee was all wrapped up and ready to eat. Web designers and developers get hungry, too.
Why are they called orb weavers? Well, orb is an old English word meaning "circular."
"The family is cosmopolitan, including many well-known large or brightly colored garden spiders," according to Wikipedia. "With around 3,100 species in 169 genera worldwide, Araneidae is the third-largest family of spiders (behind Salticidae and Linyphiidae). Araneid webs are constructed in a stereotyped fashion. A framework of nonsticky silk is built up before the spider adds a final spiral of silk covered in sticky droplets."
So an unsuspecting honey bee flew into the sticky web, struggled to free itself and could not. And along came a spider and the rest is history. Or breakfast.
A sure-fire way to frighten arachnophobics is the very mention of "spiders"--especially on Halloween.
Spiders aren't insects but arthropods, order Araneae. They have eight legs, which according to some, are seven legs too many. They are also distinguished by their chelicerae with fangs that inject venom.
You've seen them. Black widow spiders. Jumping spiders. Crab spiders. Garden spiders.
If you fear them, there's a name for that fear: Arachnophobia. Wikipedia says that "People with arachnophobia tend to feel uneasy in any area they believe could harbor spiders or that has visible signs of their presence, such as webs. If arachnophobics see a spider, they may not enter the general vicinity until they have overcome the panic attack that is often associated with their phobia. Some people scream, cry, have trouble breathing, have excessive sweating or even heart trouble when they come in contact with an area near spiders or their webs. In some extreme cases, even a picture or a realistic drawing of a spider can also trigger fear."
The general fallacies, as listed by Rod Crawford, curator of arachnids:
- Spiders are insects.
- "Arachnid" is just a fancy name for spider.
- You can always tell a spider because it has eight legs.
- All spiders make webs.
- The orb web (round or "geometric" web) is a "normal" spider web.
- A "daddy-longlegs" is a kind of spider.
- Most spiders could not bite humans because their fangs are too small.
- Any spider species can be found anywhere.
- All spiders are male.
- Spiders are most numerous in late summer.
- You are never more than three feet from a spider.
- Spiders "suck the juices" of their prey, and do not literally eat it.
- Spiders don't stick to their own webs because their feet are oily.
Meanwhile, over at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, plans are underway for an open house themed "Insect Myths." They will focus on spider myths, too.
The event, free and open to the public, is set for Sunday, Nov. 23 from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, off LaRue Road. Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, the museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens and is the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. The museum is open to the public four days a week, Monday through Thursday (9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m.) but it sponsors special weekend open houses as well.
The remaining schedule:
- Sunday, Nov. 23: “Insect Myths,” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, Dec. 20: “Insects and Art,” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Sunday, Jan. 11: “Parasitoid Palooza,” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Sunday, Feb. 8: “Biodiversity Museum Day,” noon to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, March 14: “Pollination Nation,” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, April 18: UC Davis Picnic Day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Sunday, May 17: “Name That Bug! How About Bob?” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, July 18: “Moth Night,” 8 to 11 p.m.
When you attend the Bohart Museum open houses, you'll probably have the opportunity to hold and/or photograph "Rosie," a 24-year-old tarantula. It's one of the critters in the live "petting zoo," which also includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, millipedes and walking sticks./h3>/span>
Insects and Halloween just seem to go together.
What would Halloween be like without costumes depicting honey bees, ladybugs, butterflies, bumble bees, and just plain bugs?
And maybe a few termites, roaches, bed bugs and stink bugs tossed in for good measure?
The Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, annually hosts two pre-Halloween open houses. One, sponsored by the Bohart Museum Society, is for donors, Entomology Department affiliates, and other invited guests. The other, hosted by the museum itself, is open to all as part of its education, teaching and public service mission.
Spiders--although not insects--are wildly popular at these functions. Spider decorations dangle from the ceiling and painted images adorn faces.
Among the most interesting "bug" costumes showing up at the Bohart last week: a monarch butterfly outfit donned by Maia Lundy of Davis Senior High School, an intern at the Bohart; and a black widow spider costume worn by Tabatha Yang, the museum's outreach and education coordinator. Tabatha and her husband, Louie Yang, assistant professor of entomology at UC Davis, are expecting their first child.
Kara Handy of Davis dressed as a witch, and a beautiful witch at that, with a stunning spider web accenting one eye.
Another guest, carrying an insect net, creatively presented herself as a pinned specimen. (Back in 2010, graduate student Matan Shelomi dressed as Billy the Exterminator.)
The Bohart Museum, located at 1124 Academic Surge on Crocker Lane (formerly California Drive) will be open for more weekend open houses during the 2012-2013 academic year. These open houses are free and open to the public.
The schedule includes:
Sunday, Nov. 18, 1 to 4 p.m. Theme: "Insect Societies"
Saturday, Dec. 15, 1 to p.m. Theme: "Insects in Art"
Sunday, Jan. 13, 1 to 4 p.m. Theme: "Extreme Insects"
Saturday, Feb. 2, 1 to 4 p.m. Theme: "Biodiversity Museum Day"
Sunday, March 24, 1 to 4 p.m. Theme: "Aquatic Insects"
Saturday, April 20 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m., UC Davis Picnic Day)
Saturday, May 11, 1 to 4 p.m. Theme: "Moth-er's Day"
Sunday, June 9, 1 to 4 p.m. Theme: "How to Find Insects"
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens and is the seventh largest insect collection in North America. It is also the home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946.
The insect museum includes a gift shop and a live "petting zoo," complete with Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and a rose-haired tarantula that you can hold and photograph.
The Bohart’s regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. It is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
The "boo"--in the way of costumes and decorations--is traditional. The hiss? That's the sound emanating from the Madagascar hissing cockroaches, aka "hissers."
This all will happen from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Bohart Museum on the UC Davis campus. The museum is located in Room 1124 of Academic Surge, Crocker Lane (formerly California Drive).
The event is free and open to the public. Wear a Halloween costume! Ghouls just love to have fun---but so do ghosts and goblins.
The theme, "Insects and Death," focuses on forensic entomology. UC Davis forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the Department of Entomology will be on hand to answer questions about insects as decomposers, and why they’re important.
Bohart Museum officials also will correct myths about “deadly” insects and “creepy crawlers.”
“House flies and mosquitoes cause more human deaths than all other insects combined,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
In addition to the hissers, other live attractions at the open house will be walking sticks and a rose-haired tarantula.
Carved pumpkins, with an insect motif, will decorate the museum.
Over at the gift shop, you can purchase jewelry, T-shirts, sweatshirts, posters, and "entomological" candy. Especially popular around Halloween are scorpion-themed lollipops, chocolate-covered insects and flavored mealworms.
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), is the home of more than seven million insect specimens. More information is available on the Bohart website at or by contacting Tabatha Yang at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 752-0493.