Access Wikipedia, and you'll learn they have eight legs, a pair of grasping pincers, and generally, a narrow, segemented tail that's curved over the back and ends with a stinger. They prey primarily on insects and other invertebrates. Their ancestors date back some 435 million years ago.
Scorpions now live on all continents except Antarctica. Scientists have described more than 2,500 described species in 22 families. The most venomous scorpion? That's considered to be "the deathstalker," Leiurus quinquestriatus, belonging to the Buthidae family.
What makes the deathstalker's venom so lethal is a potent cocktail of neurotoxins including chlorotoxin, agitoxin and scyllatoxin. While extremely dangerous, the unique chemical composition and scarcity of its venom also makes it the most valuable liquid (by volume) in the world with an estimated cost of $39 million per gallon. It is prized by the medical community because its properties have been found to be effective in the treatment of cancer, malaria and against bacteria such as tuberculosis.--Guinness Book of World Records.
Most people have never seen a scorpion up close, but visitors did at the Bohart Museum of Entomology display in the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, during the 12th annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day.
Live scorpions, as well as specimens, drew curious looks and scores of questions.
Kat Taylor, a UC Davis freshman majoring in entomology, helped with a display coordinated by the Jason Bond arachnology lab. Bond, an authority on spiders, tarantulas and scorpions (among other arachnids) serves as the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and the associate dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Senior insect biosystematist Martin Hauser of the Plant Pest Diagnostics Branch, California Department of Food and Agriculture, and a traditional part of Biodiversity Museum Day, displayed Asian forest scorpions (genus Heterometrus) and two walking sticks (order Phasmida): Extatosoma tiaratum, the Australian spiny walking stick, and Ramulus artemis, a giant Vietnamese stick insect known as "a great thin walking stick."
Visitors marveled when Martin fluoresced a scorpion under ultraviolet light, turning it from an obscure brown to a glowing blue-green.
Scientists have known for more than 60 years that fluorescent compounds in the exoskeletons glow when exposed to UV light.
The 12th annual Biodiversity Museum Day showcased 11 museums and collections: the Anthropology Museum, Arboretum and Public Garden, Bohart Museum of Entomology, Botanical Conservatory, California Raptor Center, Center for Plant Diversity, Nematode Collection, Marine Invertebrate Collection, Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, Paleontology Collection and the Phaff Yeast Culture Collection.
BioDiv Day, founded by the Bohart Museum, is traditionally held on Presidents' Day weekend. This year's event, held Feb. 18, drew an estimated 3000, according to chair Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator of the Bohart Museum. The "Super Science Day" is free and family friendly.
The Bohart Museum and the Jason Bond lab are both located in the Academic Surge Building. The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 and directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, houses a worldwide collection of eight million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" and a gift shop. The Bohart Museum is open to the public Monday through Thursday, from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m.
The next event to see insects and arachnids in the Academic Surge Building? That would Saturday, April 15 during the 109th annual UC Davis Picnic Day. It is free and open to the public.
It's Friday Fly Day--and time to post images of a syrphid fly.
Syrphid flies, often mistaken for honey bees, are pollinators, too.
Also known as flower flies and hover flies, syrphids hover over a flower before touching down. "Most species are predaceous, most commonly on aphids or mealybugs," according to the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program. "Some syrphids prey on ants, caterpillars, froghoppers, psyllids, scales, other insects, or mites. About 100 to 400 aphids can be fed upon by each aphid-feeding larva before it pupates, but this varies by the mature size of the syrphid relative to the aphids' size."
They are easily distinguished from honey bees because (1) bees don't hover, and (2) syrphids have only one pair of wings, while bees have two. "Their large eyes and short antenna also give them away, notes Kelly Rourke in a U.S. Forest Service article on "Syrphid Fly (Sphaerophoria philanthus). The absence of pollinium, or pollen sacs, is more difficult to see, but is another difference from a bee. Of the nearly 900 species of flower flies (family Syrphidae) in North America, most have yellow and black stripes."
Several years ago we captured images of a syrphid fly and an Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) on a rose bush in our Vacaville pollinator garden.
The scenario: Aphids were sucking plant juice on one end and secreting honey dew on the other end. The lady beetle was feasting on the aphids and getting sticky from all that honey dew.
Then along came a syrphid, a female Scaeva pyrastri, as identified by senior insect biosystematist Martin Hauser of the Plant Pest Diagnostic Branch, California Department of Food and Agriculture. It hovered over the lady beetle and then dropped down to lick the honey dew from the beetle's head.
'Twas a happy day for the lady beetle and the syrphid fly, but not so much for the aphids.
At first glance, you may think the insect is a carpenter bee or bumble bee.
Then you see it hovering. Then you see its head. Then you see its stubby antennae.
It's a large black syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly.
The genus Copestylum includes more than 350 species in the new world, according to Martin Hauser, senior insect biosystematist with the Plant Pest Diagnostics Branch of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, says the female Mexican cactus fly lays its eggs in rotting or dying cactus tissue.
This fly, about 3/4 of an inch long, was a few inches short of a neighboring cactus, a torch cactus, Echinopsis spachiana.
The cactus is neither dying nor rotten.
The Mexican cactus fly simply stopped to sip some nectar from the Mexican sunflower.
Isn't it illegal to import stingless bees in the United States? It is.
So what's going on?
Members of the Pacific Coast Entomological Society and guests will find out when Martin Hauser, senior insect biosystematist with the Plant Pest Diagnostics Center, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), speaks on “The Curious Case of the Stingless Bees of Palo Alto” on Thursday night, Feb. 27 on the UC Davis campus.
The society will meet at 7:30 p.m. in the conference room of the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, Room 1371 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.
“In 2013 we found a stingless bee colony in Palo Alto in a tree,” Hauser said, “and I had a very hard time identifying the species—the genus is Plebeia—and I had no idea how they made it into California and where they came from. Many years later and many strange events later, I figured all these things out.”
Hauser will discuss his research and also reveal how long stingless bees have been recorded in California.
The 7:30 p.m. meeting begins with a general business session, followed by Hauser's talk.
A pre-meeting dinner will begin at 6 p.m. at the KetMoRee restaurant in downtown Davis. Members and entomology associates interested in joining the group for dinner should e-mail Catherine "Kady" Tauber at email@example.com before Tuesday, Feb. 25.
The society meets six to eight times a year, usually at the California Academy of Sciences, UC Berkeley, or at the CDFA's Plant Pest Diagnostics Center. Membership in the society, organized in 1901, is open to everyone--amateurs and professionals alike. The annual membership fee is $25, and $12.50 for students. The society publishes the quarterly journal, The Pan-Pacific Entomologist. and the Bits and PES Newsletter for members residing within commuting distance of San Francisco.
A fly, oh, my!
On the approval scale, they don't rank nearly as high as honey bees, but some are often mistaken for them.
Take the Eristalis stipator, which belongs to the family Syrphidae, the hover flies.
It's about the same size as a honey bee and it's a pollinator.
We recently spotted this one--a female Eristalis stipator, as identified by senior insect biosystematist Martin Hauser of the California Department of Food and Agriculture--nectaring on tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica. The colors are striking--both the colors of the fly and the flowers. It's a striped fly, with black and white bands, one superimposed gold band, and buff-colored hairs piled on the thorax. And the showy flower, aka "blood flower," is red-orange with a yellow hood.
Eristalis is a large genus of approximately 99 species. The Eristalis stipator has no common name, so we just call it Eristalis stipator.
Or a fly.