If you want to draw pollinators to your yard, think of the plants for sale at the teaching nursery maintained by the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.
A public clearance sale will take place Thursday, May 20 through Monday, May 24, with members saving 30 percent and the public, 20 percent. The online "plant store" will open at 1 p.m., May 20. Just access the Arboretum's plant sale website, and follow the directions to select, order, and pick up your plants at curbside. The site is located on Garrod Drive, near the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
The nursery looks a bit barren now, due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions (few people, but lots of plants, carts and enthusiasm). On a recent visit, nursery manager Taylor Lewis was tending to business, nurturing the plants. Honey bees buzzed, butterflies fluttered, and a California scrub jay rapped.
Some of the restrictions regarding the online plant sales:
- Before you come to the Arboretum Teaching Nursery for curbside pickup appointment, please complete the UC Davis COVID-19 Daily Symptom Survey.
- When you arrive, be sure to wear a face covering — this is mandated by UC Davis across campus.
- A staff member will take your name, ask that you stay in your vehicle and load your trunk with your order — please be sure there is enough room
Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, make your selection, plant it, and wait for the pollinators to arrive. Photographing them is a blessed bonus. Thought we'd share some images of honey bees drawn to one of our favorite plants from the nursery: Salvia "Hot Lips."
Scientists say that within several weeks, trillions of cicadas from Brood X will emerge in 15 eastern-central states of our nation, from Georgia to New York.
These periodical circadas have spent the last 17 years underground feeding and growing, and growing and feeding and soon they will tunnel out and emerge together in what some call a "synchronous emergence."
Scientists will be delighted. The cicadas will call for mates; the squeamish will recoil at the numbers and sounds; and predators will eat their fill.
"Nearly 3,400 species of cicadas exist worldwide," according to a May 10th article in Scientific American. "But periodical cicadas that emerge en masse once every 17 or 13 years are unique to the eastern U.S. The 17-year cicadas live in the North, and the 13-year cicadas are found in the South and the Mississippi Valley. The three species of 17-year cicadas—Magicicada septendecim, M. cassinii and M. septendecula—form mixed-species cohorts called broods whose members arise like clockwork on the same schedule. The broods are identified by Roman numerals. Brood X is the largest of the 12 broods of 17-year cicadas, which emerge in different years."
Nature photographer Allan Jones of Davis says he expects "to hear quite a bit about cicadas emerging back East soon."
"I do not see cicadas often around here, but one flew by me several years ago in the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden (UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden) and lit in the Ranger Sage." That was on June 7, 2011.
Community ecologist Louie Yang, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology (he goes by the name of "cicadachaser" on Twitter), commented: "I don't know the western cicadas well, but that appears to be Okanagana arboraria."
Yang recently (April 29) presented a seminar to Georgetown University's Biology Department on his research on cicada emergence as a resource pulse in local ecosystems.
California is home to some 65 species of cicadas. Worldwide, "there are more than 3,000 species of cicadas, which fall into roughly two categories: annual cicadas, which are spotted every year, and periodical cicadas, which spend most of their lives underground and only emerge once every decade or two, according to National Geographic.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis (temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic) has scores of cicada specimens, according to director Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology.
I have one. My mother, who grew up on a West Texas ranch, left one in her estate. She tucked it into a little box labeled "Texas bug." No one knows when or where she found it, but it measures two-and-a-half inches long and an inch wide.
What we do know is that the cicada is considered one of the world's loudest insects. "The chirping and clicking noises of the male cicada are actually a species-specific mating call that can be heard by females up to a mile (1.6 kilometers) away," according to LiveScience in its piece on "Why Do Cicacas Sing."
Wish we were there...
Butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, knows where they are. As mentioned in a previous Bug Squad blog, he spotted a cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae, on Jan. 16 on the UC Davis campus, just south of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, located at 254 Old Davis Road.
As you probably know, Professor Shapiro always looks for rapae as part of his scientific research; he sponsors the annual Beer-for-a-Butterfly Contest to determine its first flight of the year. COVID-19 canceled this year's contest.
But did you also know that Shapiro found FOUR other butterfly species on his Jan. 16th rounds in Davis, which included Old Davis Road on the UC Davis campus, and residential Davis?
- Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta, seen in Lot 1 landscaping
- Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, spotted in residential Davis, north central
- West Coast Lady, Vanessa annabella, seen on Old Davis Road near the campus hotel.
- Mourning Cloak, Nymphalis antiopa, spotted on Old Davis Road
The links on the species will direct you to his amazing research site, Art's Butterfly World, and the wealth of information.
Our butterfly-spotting record so far: Zero. Zilch. Nada.
But of course, what with the pandemic and all, we haven't been out much. The 100-acre UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden is a good place to stroll, observe and photograph. We remember spotting a Mourning Cloak in the Arboretum's Ruth Risdon Garden on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016 on an identification sign for the silver anniversary butterfly bush, Buddleia “Morning Mist."
It was a good place to warm its wings.
Meanwhile, here are a few images of the butterflies that Shapiro saw on Jan. 16. These images were taken in the two-county area of Yolo and Solano.
Honey bees are the first thing you notice about the sea squill (Drimiamaritima or Urginea maritima) in the 100-acre UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.
The sea squill, thriving in the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden and Gazebo, is a bee magnet, not to mention it's an incredible flowering plant in an incredible place.
As it says on the Arboretum website: "The Carolee Shields White Flower Garden and Gazebo is a theme garden based on medieval moon-viewing gardens of India and Japan. With its curving paths framing a vine-covered gazebo, the garden is a popular site for weddings and other events. Many of the plants here are fragrant, and their pale flowers are particularly luminous by moonlight. The garden is named for Carolee Shields, an avid gardener and the wife of Judge Peter J. Shields, one of the founders of the UC Davis campus."
The plant grows from a large bulb that produces a raceme of flowers. It's native to southern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. Since ancient times, it's been used as a medicinal plant. Hippocrates reportedly used it to treat jaundice, convulsions, and asthma. The main active compounds, according to Wikipedia, are cardiac glycosides.
And did you know that the plant has also been used as a poison? "It is very bitter, so most animals avoid it," Wikipedia tells us. "Rats, however, eat it readily, and then succumb to the toxic scilliroside. This has made the plant a popular rodenticide for nearly as long as it has been in use as a medicine. The bulbs are dried and cut into chips, which can then be powdered and mixed with rat bait. The plant was introduced as an experimental agricultural crop in the 20th century primarily to develop high-toxicity varieties for use as rat poison.]nterest continued to develop as rats became resistant to coumarin-based poison."
If you've ever stepped in sticky gum, it's similar to what happens when an insect steps into milkweed pollinia.
Take the wasps visiting the tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) on Thursday morning, July 16 in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.
They foraged on the colorful red, yellow and orange blossoms, and as nature intended (for reproductive reasons), flew off with that sticky pollinia from the anthers.
Basically, pollinia is a sticky packet of golden pollen grains originating from a single anther. The wishbone-shaped pollinia are in a nectar trough where insects often get trapped. Some insects manage to escape but leave body parts behind. A foot here...a wing there...an antenna over there...
One wasp exited a flower with "the golden glue" on its feet.
“Too funny with all the milkweed pollinia all over its feet,” commented Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and Nematology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, who identified the wasp as a species of Podalonia, parasitoidal wasps in the family Sphecidae. "It looks like it's wearing fluffy socks.”
We've seen honey bees on showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) struggling to free themselves, only to find the bees dead the next day--and new recruits buzzing in for their share.
These Podalonia wasps, however, managed to navigate the "traps" quite well.
They'll be back for another round.
(Reminder: Folks planting the tropical milkweed in temperate zones (like here in Davis, Calif.) must remove or cut back the tropical milkweed by winter. "A protozoan parasite of monarch butterflies, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha or OE for short, can travel with monarchs visiting the plants and become deposited on leaves," explains the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.)