I did not save a spider yesterday.
Did not save one today, either.
Well, if I had seen one....
ESA usually focuses on insects (spiders are not insects) but ESA is all inclusive in this welcoming world of arthropod diversity.
Their online text is worth repeating:
"March 14 is Save A Spider Day in the U.S. and while Charlotte and Peter Parker have been fighting the good fight to redeem the spider's reputation, arachnophobia is still running rampant, especially in the United States. One study conducted during a freshman entomology class at Colorado State University found that "the most commonly mentioned specific factor in spider fear was bites and the perceived danger of spiders with figures indicat[ing] that spider fear levels of college students in Colorado are substantially higher than those reported from European general populations."But are spiders the nightmare they've always been portrayed to be? Do they bite? Do they carry diseases? Are brown recluse spiders everywhere just waiting to strike?
"First of all, a lot of those spider bites you've heard about weren't actually spider bites. A study in the Journal of Medical Entomology has shown that there are several medical conditions that can be commonly misdiagnosed as spider bites including "bacterial, viral, and fungal infections; vasculitis; dermatological conditions; bites and stings from other arthropods; and miscellaneous causes such as allergies or drug reactions, chemical burns, reactions to poisonous plants, or diabetic ulcers." The study also expanded on the idea that Hobo Spiders are disease-transferring which it turns out, they are not. Other common house spiders have also had their name cleared when it comes to spreading MRSA."
The ESA then turned to the brown recluse spiders, pointing out the misidentification and the false information about bites: "Take this study where an infestation of 2,055 brown recluse spiders was collected in a Kansas home that a family had been living in for many years, all without ever receiving a spider bite."
"So that spider in your cupboard?" ESA asks. "Probably not a brown recluse. It's probably not carrying a disease. And it may have just killed a tick for you. So try saving a spider today, it's worth it."
The last time I saw a spider was on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. It was a jumping spider perched on an almond tree on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis. It had crossed paths with a winter ant (Prenolepis imparis). Neither wanted to be anyone's Valentine. Neither needed saving.
But I distinctly remember the other spiders I have seen and photographed in our pollinator garden. They didn't need saving, either.
Well, perhaps the prey needed saving...but everybody has to eat!
If you've been thinking about blanketing your garden with blanketflower (Gaillardia), you're in luck.
The UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden is hosting a spring plant sale from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, March 10 at its Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive, located across from the School of Veterinary Medicine.
And Gaillardia will be available.
The one-ace nursery "has an incredible selection of Arboretum All-Stars, California natives, and thousands of other attractive, low-water plants perfect for creating a landscape alive with environmentally important pollinators," officials said.
Gaillardia is a favorite among pollinators, including honey bees, bumble bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and syrphid or hover flies. You'll see them buzz, fly or flutter over to it. It's a member of the sunflower family Asteraceae, and native to North and South America. Named for M. Gaillard de Charentonneau, an 18th-century French magistrate and botany enthusiast, the plant is commonly called "blanketflower"--probably because it's reminiscent of the colorful blankets crafted by the native American Indians.
The genus includes dozens of species. Among those available at the UC Davis plant sale are Gaillardia 'Celebration'; Gaillardia 'Red Sun'; and Gaillardia x grandiflora or 'Arizona apricot.'
The plant sale is a "Membership Only Appreciation Sale," but you can become a member online now or at the gate on Saturday. Members receive 10 percent off their purchases and an additional $10-member appreciation gift. New members will receive an additional $10-off coupon as a thank you for joining. Davis Botanical Society members also receive a 10 percent discount on their plant sale purchases.
Here's a list (PDF) of what's being offered.
Plant them and they (the pollinators) will come. And sometimes you'll see a little predator-prey interaction--like a praying mantis lying in wait--but that's okay, too. Everybody eats!
Let's hear it for the honey bees.
Right now they're scrambling to gather nectar and pollen from the blanket flower, Gaillardia. You could say they're blanketing the flower. When resources are scarce in the fall, the blanket flower, in the sunflower family Asteraceae, draws them in. The flower reminds us of Native American Indians' brightly colored and patterned blankets.
Now let's hear it for the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA). They're delivering and gathering knowledge at their annual conference, being held Tuesday, Nov. 15 through Wednesday, Nov. 17 in the Kona Kai Resort and Spa, San Diego. They'll discuss the latest research, trade ideas with fellow beekeepers (note that "beekeepers" are "keepers") and they'll explore some of the innovative products at their trade show, a spokesperson said.
Among the speakers are two UC Davis-affiliated specialists: Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, who will key in on the research underway at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, and Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen, who will offer a glimpse of the present, past and future of beekeeping.
Niño's research interests encompass basic and applied approaches to understanding and improving honey bee health and particularly honey bee queen health. Ongoing research projects include understanding the synergistic effects of pesticides on queen health and adult workers in order to improve beekeeping management practice, as well as testing novel biopesticides for efficacy against varroa mites. Keep up with the Niño lab on its Facebook page. And keep up with CSBA on its Facebook page.
Mussen, who retired in 2014 after 38 years of service--but maintains an office in Briggs Hall--is guaranteed to add some humor to his talk. How do we know? We saw his PowerPoint before he left Davis for San Diego. Hint: replace "dog" food with "bee" food. And the insect in his last slide doesn't look anything like the bee we know and love.
In a way, the CSBA is like the matched pair of honey bees below. There are four bees. If you think about the purposes of the CSBA, each bee can be matched with one of those purposes:
- to educate the public about the beneficial aspects of honey bees
- advance research beneficial to beekeeping practices
- provide a forum for cooperation among beekeepers, and
- to support the economic and political viability of the beekeeping industry.
It's all about "bee-ing" there for the bees.
It's early evening and the bees are all over the blanket flower (Gaillardia).
But wait, if you look closely, you'll see a tiny sticklike figure on top of a seed head. It's a predator on top his world, scanning the view, feeling the buzz and looking for dinner.
The praying mantis looks too diminutive to catch a honey bee. Too minuscular. Too puny. Too much of a pint-sized predator. Maybe it should set its sights on a fruit fly or a knat.
We see you, praying mantis! Come on out, with your hands up!
Will my spiked forelegs do?
He leaps off the seed head like a frog jumping off a lily pad, but instead of a kersplash, it's a kerplop.
See ya, next time!
Dear Crab Spider,
Please don't eat the pollinators. You may help yourself to a mosquito, a crane fly, a lygus bug, an aphid, and a katydid, not necessarily in that order. And more than one if you like. In fact, how about an all-you-can-eat buffet of luscious lygus bugs? So good! Yes, you may tell all your arachnid friends about the nutritious, high-protein meals available just for the taking. Please do. Just don't eat the pollinators.
Crab spiders do not listen. They will eat what they want and when they want it. And they will gorge themselves. They are not interested in joining Weight Watchers. They are Wait Watchers.
For the past several months, crab spiders have been lurking on our blanket flower (Gaillardia). Most of the time, they just sit there, waiting patiently for dinner to arrive. Sometimes it's a long wait--longer than it takes for a waiter to return to your table during a rush-hour holiday lunch.
So, Ms. or Mr. Crab Spider--not sure of the gender, but "Predator" will do--dined recently on a sweat bee, a female Halictus tripartitus. We watched Predator lunge at a honey bee (missed!) and pursue at a male long-horned bee, probably Melissodes agilis.
Our cunning little arachnid no doubt nailed a few others--the "waistline" is a dead giveaway.