At a recent visit to the UC Davis Ecological Garden at the Student Farm, we watched a honey bee, Apis mellifera, and a lygus bug nymph, Lygus hesperus, foraging on a batchelor button, Centaurea cyanus.
The bee: the beneficial insect.
The lygus bug or Western tarnished plant bug: a pest.
The lygus bug, which punctures plant tissues with its piercing mouthparts, was there first, but no matter. The bee joined in, edging closer and closer until they touched.
In photography insect circles, that's a "two-for"--two insects in one image.
The bee finally buzzed off, leaving the lygus bug to "dine" alone.
The lygus bug, distinguished by a conspicuous triangle on its back, is a very serious pest of cotton, strawberries and seed crops, including alfalfa. Scientists estimate that in California alone, the pest causes $30 million in damage to cotton plants each year, and at least $40 million in losses to the state's strawberry industry. The insect is also a pest of numerous fruits and vegetables, including apples, pears, peaches, eggplant, tomato, potato, artichoke, lettuce, sugarbeet, and beans. See what the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM), says about the pest.
What do they look like? "Adult lygus bugs are green, straw yellow, or brown with a conspicuous yellow or pale green triangle on their backs," UC IPM says. "Nymphs are light green...Lygus can move into gardens or orchards from weeds, especially when they dry up. They are a particular problem in beans, strawberries, and orchard crops, feeding on developing flower buds and fruit. Fruit may become blemished and discolored, deformed, or twisted and may develop depressions or pustules."
Cotton? "Lygus bugs," says UC IPM, "migrate to cotton from other hosts, so management of this pest begins with assessing its populations outside the field. Check for them on weeds, in nearby alfalfa, and in other crops, and keep in touch with your pest control adviser, Extension agent or Farm Advisor for area-wide information on lygus bug populations. Proper management of alfalfa harvest can reduce damaging migrations to cotton."
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, works closely with farmers in their lygus bug battles.
It's Earth Day, an event we celebrate every April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protections on our troubled planet. This year's theme: "Restore Our Earth."
Sadly, however, most college campuses are temporarily or partially closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the face-to-face "teach-ins" are primarily Zoom sessions. Who would have thought? Who could have known?
What to do on Earth Day? Watching bees forage in a pollinator garden seems appropriate to recapture some of Earth Day's magic. Honey bees, responsible for pollinating one-third of the food we eat, continue to gather pollen, nectar, water and propolis every day (weather permitting), not just Earth Day.
Today's favorite fauna and flora: honey bees, Apis mellifera, foraging on rock purslane, Calandrinia grandiflora and packing red pollen back to their colonies. Just call them "temporary occupants" on Planet Earth. But always call them "special."
Read NASA's Nine Reasons We're Grateful to Live on Earth, posted April 21, 2020 for a better grasp of what we have and what we could lose. "The promise of a better life in the mysterious beyond can be seductive. But the fact is the more we learn about out there the more we realize how special it is here. The first astronauts to look from space back at Earth, a 'pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known,' as scientist Carl Sagan once wrote, saw a beautiful, delicate world that is perfectly suited to the bounty of life it supports."
Happy Earth Day!
So here you are, a honey bee seeking nectar from an unopened citrus blossom.
And then your tongue (proboscis) becomes all sticky with pollen, nectar and other particles.
What to do: you, the worker bee, take a brief break and clean your tongue.
This "B" gets an "A" for good grooming and multi-tasking on "C" (citrus).
- The non-native honey bee, Apis mellifera, which European colonists brought to the Jamestown colony (now Virginia) in 1622
- The non-native Satsuma mandarin, Citrus unshiu, is of Chinese origin and named after Unsyu (Wenzhou), China, but introduced to the West via Japan.
What to do:
- Thank the honey bee for pollinating the citrus blossoms! Note that National Pollinator Week is June 21-27.
Did you observe World Bee Day today?
Every year on May 20, the United Nations asks us to think about this day, "to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators" and "the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development."
Some 20,000 species of bees inhabit our world, but the "poster child" is the honey bee, Apis mellifera.
"The recent COVID-19 pandemic has had an undeniable impact on the beekeeping sector affecting the production, the market and as a consequence, the livelihoods of beekeepers," the World Bee Day website tells us.
"To mark the Day, a virtual event--under the theme "Bee Engaged"--highlighted the importance of traditional knowledge related to beekeeping, the use of bee-derived products and services, and their importance in achieving the SDGs. If you missed it, you can watch it here!"
"To celebrate #WorldBeeDay, renowned actors, singers, chefs and media professionals also recorded poems related to bees and beekeeping, some recalling how the behavior of bees so often mirrors that of human beings across our planet. Listen to the poems now and bee inspired."
Meanwhile, a pollen-dusted honey bee in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif., totally engaged us as she foraged on Gaillardia, aka "blanket flower." Gaillardia, a member of the sunflower family Asteracae, resembles the colorful maroon and gold Native American blankets. It's named for 18th century French magistrate and botanist Maître Gaillard de Charentonneau.
This honey bee went about her bee-sy-ness and then, weighted with pollen, took flight. It's a wonder she could see to return home to her colony.
Happy World Bee Day!
Remember the biblical story about David and Goliath? How young David, the underdog, defeats a Philistine giant?
Sometimes you think the same kind of battle will occur in nature when a honey bee, Apis mellifera, encounters a much larger carpenter bee, the Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta.
We recently spotted a female Valley carpenter bee foraging on a mustard blossom, while her smaller cousin, the honey bee buzzed in, hoping to share. Both belong to the order Hymenoptera and the family, Apidae. The carpenter bee is a native. The honey bee is not.
What happened? The honey bee discreetly moved out of the way and let the carpenter bee claim her bounty.
California has three species of carpenter bees.
- The biggest is the Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta. It's about an inch long. The female is solid black, while the male, commonly known as "the teddy bear bee," is a green-eyed blond. Why teddy bear? It's fuzzy and does not sting--or as the late Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology, used to say: "Boy bees don't sting."
- The second largest is the California carpenter bee or Western carpenter bee, Xylocopa californica, often found in the mountain foothill areas of northern and southern California. It's known for its distinctive distinctive bluish metallic reflections on the body, Thorp says. The females have dark smoky brown wings.
- The smallest is the foothill or mountain carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex. The females are black with light smoky-colored wings. The male has bright yellow marks on the lower part of its face and some yellow hairs on the top front of its thorax.
Still my favorite carpenter bee is the male X. varipuncta, the green-eyed blond. You don't see it as much as the female of the species, but wow! Now to photograph them in the same picture...