It's always a good day when you encounter a dragonfly on Main Street USA.
Such was the case on Wednesday, July 17 when seemingly out of nowhere, a shiny Tramea lacerata "black saddlebags" appeared in front of me on the sidewalk fronting the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce.
Its habitat is near ponds, lakes, ditches, slow streams, or other bodies of water, but there it was.
"It is a freshly emerged female, probably on its maiden flight," said naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, an associate with the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis. "This is its most vulnerable time. If it gets through the next day or so, off to fast flying it will go and you will never get close to it again."
I gingerly picked it up and photographed it on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). Half an hour later, I witnessed it fly over our fish pond, never to be seen again. At least by me!
This species, found throughout North America, is included in a Bohart Museum's poster, "Dragonflies of California." Designed by Fran Keller (then a doctoral student in entomology at UC Davis and now an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College), with images by Kareofelas, the poster is available in the Bohart Museum's gift shop in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus.
The black saddlebags dragonfly belongs to the Order Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), suborder Anisoptera (dragonflies) family Libellulidae (skimmers), genus Tramea (saddlebags) and species lacerata (black saddlebags). "It flies constantly, often gliding, perches infrequently," according to BugGuide.net. The University of Michigan biokids website yields more information.
It's easily distinguishable. Says Wikipedia: "It has distinctive wings with characteristic black blotches" at its proximal ends, "which make the dragonfly look as though it is wearing saddlebags. The black saddlebags is a relatively large dragonfly at about 5 centimeters in length. The body is thin and black, and the female may have lighter spotting or mottling dorsally. The head is much wider than the rest of the body and is dark brown in color...Some populations of this dragonfly undertake migrations. Both the larvae and adult forms are efficient predators of mosquitoes so they are a helpful insect to have in wet areas where mosquito infestations occur." A wonderful predator...
Of predators, sidewalks and black saddlebags...
The gift shop is offering a selection of insect-themed T-shirts, in both adult and children's sizes, for $10, and the Bohart-produced 2019 calendars for $8.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, says that "we have adult sizes in the clubtail and pondhawk dragonfly and dog-faced butterfly designs, and a variety of children's t-shirts."
It's a fun and innovative calendar, with art by UC Davis entomology student/artist Karissa Merritt, based on sentence collections from Kimsey's classrooms. Kimsey collects puzzling or humorous sentences ("What's that again?") written by her students. The calendar is a project of the non-profit Bohart Museum Society.
The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, also maintains a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas.
The Bohart, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. (More information is available on the website or by contacting email@example.com or (530) 753-0493.)
But have you heard of the "other" bear flag that's on a hooded sweatshirt at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis? It's lettered with "Bohart Republic."
The Bohart flag features a water bear or tardigrade, the creative work of UC Davis entomologist/artist Charlotte Herbert Alberts.
Besides living on the Bohart sweatshirts, the tardigrade is a microscopic, water-dwelling animal that lives just about everywhere: "from the mountaintops to the deep sea and mud volcanoes; from tropical rain forests to the Antarctic," according to Wikipedia. German zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze, who first described them in 1773, called them "little water bears."
The name stuck. "Water bears."
"Tardigrades are among the most resilient known animals, with individual species able to survive extreme conditions that would be rapidly fatal to nearly all other known life forms, such as exposure to extreme temperatures, extreme pressures (both high and low), air deprivation, radiation, dehydration, and starvation," Wikipedia says. "Tardigrades have even survived exposure to outer space. About 1,150 known species form the phylum Tardigrada, a part of the superphylum Ecdysozoa. The group includes fossils dating from 530 million years ago, in the Cambrian period."
How did she get the idea? "I came up with the tardigrade flag idea in my sleep!" she said. "The next morning I told Lynn and she loved it."
Then Alberts and Kimsey conferred with Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, and Bohart associate Fran Keller, assistant professor at Folsom Lake College and a UC Davis alumnus (she holds a doctorate in entomology) "to figure out the details"--like the entomologist holding a net and riding the tardigrade, and the name, "Bohart Republic."
"The entomologist is no one in particular," Alberts said, "but she's a female because I think it is important to encourage more women into the field of entomology."
"So far, the reactions have all been super positive!" she commented. "My family and friends are all asking for one!"
Located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, the Bohart Museum, home of a global collection of some eight million insect specimens, is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
A bright blue stuffed animal tardigrade in the gift shop also sells well.
"I do not have a stuffed tardigrade but often gaze fondly at the ones for sale at the Bohart," Alberts commented. "I would love to adopt one... but am worried that our sweet puppy will think it is for him."
As for the real tardigrades, they have always fascinated her, especially "their ability to survive in any environment--even space!"
Tardigrade enthusiasts love them more than they can "bear."
They're featured prominently on the newly available Bohart Museum of Entomology hooded sweatshirts, the work of artist Charlotte Herbert Alberts and designer Fran Keller.
Tardigrades can survive in many extreme conditions, including space, and they're sure to survive in the Bohart--unless they're all gone soon.
Available in red, gray and black, from sizes extra small to extra extra large, they'll be offered in the Bohart Museum gift shop during the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day on Saturday, Feb. 16. Proceeds from the sales benefit the insect museum's educational activities.
The artist? Charlotte Herbert Alberts, an entomology doctoral candidate who studies Asilidae (Assassin flies) with her major professor, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and UC Davis professor of entomology. Alberts cleverly drew a "Bohart Republic" water bear flag, a take-off of the California Bear Flag, except hers features an entomologist, insect net in hand, riding a huge tardigrade.
The front features a tardigrade face inside a Bohart logo, a design by Fran Keller, an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College. She received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Kimsey and designed many of the shirts, sweatshirts and posters in the Bohart Museum's gift shop.
UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day
The Bohart is gearing up for the eighth annual UC Davis Biodiversity Day, a science-based event that's free and family friendly. Thirteen museums or collections will be open Saturday. It all begins at 9 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m. Maps are available at http://biodiversitymuseumday.ucdavis.edu/.
- Arboretum and Public Garden, Good Life Garden, next to the Robert Mondavi Institute, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
- Bohart Museum of Entomology, Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane
- California Raptor Center, 340 Equine Lane, off Old Davis Road
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, Room 1394, Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane
- Paleontology Collection, Earth and Physical Sciences Building, 434 LaRue Road
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
- Viticulture and Enology Culture Collection, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
The following will be open from noon to 4 p.m.:
- Anthropology Museum, 328 Young Hall and grounds
- Botanical Conservatory, Greenhouses along Kleiber Hall Drive
- Center for Plant Diversity, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
- Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road (take West Hutchison Drive to Hopkins)
- Nematode Collection, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
- Marine Invertebrate Collection, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
All participating museums and collections have active education and outreach programs, but the collections are not always accessible to the public.
Watching it like a hawk...
A variegated meadowhawk dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum, that is.
We look forward to breezes--even strong gusts--in our little pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif., because often we'll see dragonflies touch down.
They'll hunt, perch, and hunt again. The wind threatens to dismount them but they hang tight.
Such was the case on Sept. 28, a time between summer and fall. Clouds parted, the sun burst through, and the Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) and blue spike salvia (Savlia uliginosa) swayed in the breeze.
This dragonfly swayed, too. But the wind did not defeat it. Not this "hawk."
Variegated meadowhawks live near ponds, lakes, and swamps--and if you're lucky, they'll visit your back yard. They are largely tan or gray with a pale face that is tan in young males and females but becomes red in mature males, according to OdonataCentral.org. They're found throughout the United States and southern Canada; also Mexico south to Belize and Honduras. "This species may be seen on the ground more than other meadowhawks. It will also readily perch on the tips of grass stems and tree branches. It can be numerous flying over roads, lawns, meadows, marshes and ponds...It is largely tan or gray with a pale face that is tan in young males and females but becomes red in mature males."
Interested in dragonflies? The Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis (located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane) offers a beautiful dragonfly poster, "Dragonflies of California," in its gift shop. It's the work of entomologist Fran Keller (she received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis and is now an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College) and naturalist-photographer Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart associate whose expertise includes butterflies and dragonflies.