Find the green darner.
Trying to spot the green darner dragonfly, Anax junius--so named because of its resemblance to a darning needle--is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
But there it was, camouflaged in shrubbery on Sept. 23 in the Benicia Capitol State Historical Park.
This dragonfly, one of the most common and abundant species in the United States, as well as North America, is one of the few dragonflies that migrate. It migrates from the northern United States south into Texas and Mexico, according to Wikipedia. "It also occurs in the Caribbean, Tahiti, and Asia from Japan to mainland China."
The green darner is included in the Bohart Museum of Entomology's poster, "Dragonflies of California," available in its gift shop in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, UC Davis campus. The poster is the work of entomologist Fran Keller, then a Ph.D student at UC Davis and now an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College, and Bohart associate and naturalist/photographer Greg Karoefelas. (See the Bohart Museum website.)
Did you know that the green darner is the official insect of the state of Washington, the Evergreen State? And it is one of the largest dragonflies in the order, Odonata? Males grow to 76 mm (3.0 in) in length with a wingspan of up to 80 mm (3.1 in)?
Females oviposit in aquatic vegetation, laying their eggs beneath the water surface. The nymphs (naiads) are aquatic carnivores, feasting on insects, tadpoles and small fish. The adults--they catch insects on the wing. Their prey includes flies and mosquitoes.
We remember several years ago when dragonfly/damselfly expert Rosser Garrison of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) shared his knowledge of Odonata--and showcased some of his global specimens--at the Bohart Museum.
Fossil records show that they were the world's largest flying insects--some with wingspans measuring three feet--and they existed before dinosaurs. "Dragonfly relatives existed before the onset of the dinosaurs---Triassic Period, 250 to 200 million years ago,” related Garrison, a senior insect biosystematist at CDFA. “They are considered beneficial since both larvae---all aquatic--and adults are predators."
That green darner we saw in Benicia wasn't preying or sewing up people's ears (darners have been called "devil's darning needles") but it was darn camera shy.
Find the green darner!
So, here I am, an Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) perched on a rose bush in Vacaville, Calif., as dawn breaks. I'm eating aphids and minding my own beetle business, which consists of gobbling aphids and more aphids. And more aphids. Did I say more aphids? More aphids.
Wait, what's that? Something is heading straight toward me, its wings are flapping like crazy. Hey, I was here first. Go away!
Whoa, what are you doing? You've landed and you're licking me. What do you think I am, a honey stick?
That's what happened during a backyard encounter with an Asian lady beetle and a large syrphid fly. The fly, identified by senior insect biosystematist Martin Hauser of the Plant Pest Diagnostic Branch, California Department of Food and Agriculture, is a female Scaeva pyrastri.
Hauser and Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, agreed that the syrphid fly is "going after honeydew on the beetle's head." Honeydew is a sugary, sticky liquid that aphids secrete when they're feeding on plant juices.
"The beetle was full of honeydew from feasting on aphids," Hauser noted, "and that is what the fly was after."
He feuded with fellow entomologists, was a bigamist (married to two wives at the same time) and caused an uproar when a tunnel he dug in a Washington, D.C. alley collapsed in 1924 and some declared it the work of German spies.
All that will come to light on Thursday, April 28 at UC Davis when entomologist Marc E. Epstein talks about his newly published book on Dyar's eccentric life, Moths, Myths and Mosquitoes: The Eccentric Life of Harrison G. Dyar, Jr.
Epstein will present a lecture and book signing from 7:15 to 8:45 p.m., in the International House, 10 College Park, Davis.
The event, free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by Jay Rosenheim, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and by his department. Epstein is a longtime research associate and friend of Rosenheim's.
“As far as how I got into doing research on Dyar, at the onset it was related to my dissertation at University of Minnesota on Limacodidae (family of slug caterpillar moths, so called because their caterpillars bear a distinct resemblance to slugs),” Epstein said.
This led to Epstein and Henson to writing the American Entomologist article “Digging for Dyar: the Man behind the Myth.”
“Since the article appeared in 1992 I've accumulated a lot more information about Dyar, his genealogy, and even more significant connections between him and his favorite moths,” Epstein said.
The book, published by Oxford University Press, will be available for purchase at Epstein's talk.
Epstein is a senior insect biosystematist for the order Lepitopdera (butterflies, moths) with the Plant Pest Diagnostics Branch, California Department of Food and Agriculture. He is a research associate for the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Smithsonian Institution.
Harrison G. Dyar Jr. (1866-1929) was a Smithsonian entomologist of the early 20th century. He was a taxonomist who published extensively on moths and butterflies, mosquitoes, and sawflies. As a teenager, he studied insects, particularly moths. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1889 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his master's degree in biology from Columbia University in 1894. His doctoral dissertation (1895) dealt with airborne bacteria in New York City.
Oxford University offers this description of Moths, Myths and Mosquitoes:
"On September 26, 1924, the ground collapsed beneath a truck in a back alley in Washington, D.C., revealing a mysterious underground labyrinth. In spite of wild speculations, the tunnel was not the work of German spies, but rather an aging, eccentric Smithsonian scientist named Harrison Gray Dyar, Jr. While Dyar's covert tunneling habits may seem far-fetched, they were merely one of many oddities in Dyar's unbelievable life."
"For the first time, insect biosystematist Marc E. Epstein presents a complete account of Dyar's life story. Dyar, one of the most influential biologists of the twentieth century, focused his entomological career on building natural classifications of various groups of insects. His revolutionary approach to taxonomy, which examined both larval and adult stages of insects, brought about major changes in the scientific community's understanding of natural relationships and insect systematics. He was also the father of what came to be known as Dyar's Law, a pragmatic method to standardize information on insect larval stages as they grow. Over the course of his illustrious career at the U.S. National Museum, Smithsonian Institution from 1897-1929, Dyar named over 3,000 species, established the List of North American Lepidoptera, an unrivaled catalog of moths and butterflies, and built one of the nation's premier Lepidoptera and mosquito collections."
Epstein researches and writes on evolution and classification of moths and their biodiversity, and develops identification tools for moths that threaten agriculture. He served with NMNH's Department of Entomology (1988-2003), co-founding the department's Archives and Illustration Archives. He received his master's degree (1982) and doctorate (1988) from the University of Minnesota.
For more information on the April 28th event, contact Jay Rosenheim at email@example.com.
They look like shiny blue and black needles.
Make that "flying" shiny blue and black needles.
We spotted this damselfly foraging on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) this week in our family bee garden. The blue was breathtaking.
Can anything be so blue? What species is this?
"By the amount of black on the middle abdominal segments, it looks to me like a male of Enallagma carunculatum Morse," said senior insect biosystematist Rosser W. Garrison, with the California Department of Food and Agricultur'es Plant Pest Diagnostics Branch.
Its common name is "tule bluet." It's a species of damselfly in the family Coenagrionidae, found throughout North America, according to Wikipedia. It's all over the United States, "except for the southeastern quarter."
Its blue and black abdomen is usually more black than blue. It derives its common name, "tule bluet," from the stands of tule it frequents. Its habitat includes rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes and bogs. It likes to hang out in the bulrushes.
The nymphs eat such aquatic insects as mosquito and mayfly larvae, while the adults feet on a wide variety of small flying insects, including mayflies, flies, small moths and mosquitoes. Sometimes they'll grab a few aphids from plants.
Our little buddy (along with other damselflies) was hanging out in our Tithonia patch.
But the Tithonia patch is just a few feet away from our fish pond...
Check out the images of tule bluet on BugGuide.net for more of a blue fix and more information!
“The war is over—again,” wrote reporter Pat Brennan of the Orange County Register in a news article published Aug. 14.
Brennan was referring to the war against the Mediterranean fruit fly, a tiny pest that targets some 260 crops. The pest, first detected inCaliforniain 1975, prefers such hosts as peach, nectarine, apricot, avocado, grapefruit, orange and cherry. It is considered the world's worst agricultural pest.
California State Department of Agriculture had earlier announced the eradication of the medfly in three counties:Los Angeles, Solano andSanta Clara.If it were to become permanently established in California, the medflycould cost the state $1.3 to $1.8 billion in annual losses, estimated CDFA Secretary A. G. Kawamura.
I remember whenSolanoCountyag officials discovered four live medflies in a single trap in downtownDixon. The date: Monday, Sept. 10, 2007. Newspapers bannered the story. A quarantine ensued. Farmers fretted, and rightfully so. Later I attended a press conference at theNutTreeAirport, Vacaville;a pilot had just released the first of many millions of sterile male fruit flies over Dixon. He showed us the sterile medflies, dyed pink.
The sterile flies mate with wild flies and biologically force wild populations out of existence, the CDFA says.
UC Davis entomologist James Carey, who has published widely on the medfly, said the pest has been multiplying and spreading undetected--like cancer--for years in California. He says it’s never been really eliminated and he questions whether it could ever be eradicated.
CDFA and Solano County ag officials said no; that an errant tourist likely brought it to Dixon on a piece of fruit fromHawaii. The medfly lays its eggs inside fruit.
Medfly wars ensued.
Carey shared an email he sent Aug .14 to Brennan:
“The absence of medfly appearances anywhere else in the continental U.S. besides California over the past two decades strongly supports the argument that the medfly has never been completely eradicated in our state. CDFA's efforts at eradication have been successful at driving the populations back to subdetection levels for a few years. However, the reappearances of the medfly in the same cities and even in the same locations within these cities is due to a long-term established population. Although I fully acknowledge the need to respond to the medfly when it appears in the state as it did last year, I have no reason to believe that this program will have been any more successful than the previous ones which merely suppressed rather than eliminated the medfly population from the state."
“This recent declaration of eradication is around the 50th emergency response to medfly outbreaks over the past two decades by CDFA, virtually all of which have been in the same general locations. To my knowledge during this same period no other state such as Arizona, Florida or Texas has experienced any outbreaks even though these states, like California, have climates suitable for the medfly establishment and have many tourists and migrants who are capable of introducing the medfly. These states have experienced no outbreaks while California has experienced 50.”
The CDFA Web site says medflies are not established in California.
"These (medflies) and other exotic pests have not become established in California due to (1) strict federal exterior and state interior quarantines, (2) a pest detection program, and (3) aggressive eradication programs when an infestation is discovered."
Carey, who has plotted all medfly finds in California, says medfly populations “do not really get going until late summer and fall. Stay tuned for this fall.”
One thing is certain: the little bugger draws a lot of attention. That’s because, as Brennan wrote, it “attacks so many crops.”