Nothing says National Pollinator Week more than a honey bee coated in pollen.
Make mine yellow. Yellow pollen.
There's plenty of time to prepare. National Pollinator Week is June 21-27.
You can register your activities--make that "socially distant activities" to the official Pollinator Week events map.
You can request local buildings to light up yellow and orange in support of pollinators.
You can sign and mail proclamations to your governor in support of Pollination Week.
And, you can celebrate the week by taking an image of a pollinator.
We ventured over to the UC Davis Ecological Garden, Student Farm, Agricultural Sustainability Institute, to capture these two images of a honey bee blanketed with pollen as she foraged--appropriately--on a blanket flower, Gaillardia. The plant is a member of the sunflower family, Asteraeae, and native to North and South America.
The Pollinator Partnership, which sponsors National Pollinator Week, points out that about 75 percent of all flowering plant species "need the help of animals to move their heavy pollen grains from plant to plant for fertilization."
PP also relates that:
- About 1000 of all pollinators are vertebrates such as birds, bats and small animals.
- Most pollinators (abut 200,000 species) are beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths and bees.
- Pollinators are often keystone species, meaning that they are critical to an ecosystem.
Are you ready for National Pollinator Week?
Seen any Pipevine Swallowtails lately?
The UC Davis Ecological Garden is teeming with eggs, larvae, pupa and adults. The butterflies there seem particularly fond of nectaring on Jupiter's beard, Centranthus ruber.
A visit to the Vallejo City Unified School District's Loma Vista Farm open house on May 22 resulted in "Farmer Rita" (Rita LeRoy) showing us some tiny pipevine caterpillars.
You can't miss them. The eggs are red or rust-colored. The larvae or caterpillars are black with bright orange spots on the ends of tubercles in rows along their body. The adults are black with blue iridescent upper wings and orange arrowhead-like spots on their inner wings. The chrysalids or pupae we've seen are a drab brown.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, writes about Battus philenor on his website, Art's Butterfly World:
"The signature riparian butterfly of our region, occurring along streams in foothill canyons and on the Central Valley floor, essentially everywhere where its only host plant, California Pipevine or Dutchman's Pipe, Aristolochia californica, occurs... It is unmistakeable and very conspicuous as both a larva and an adult. Only the pupa is cryptic (either brown or green, with a delicate golden filigree)."
"This species is warningly colored and inedible to vertebrate predators," he writes. "It derives its protection from the toxic aristolochic acids produced by the host, which it sequesters; females even pass these along to the eggs, which are also protected (and are brick red, laid in bunches of up to 20, and quite conspicuous). Eggs are laid only on young, tender, growing shoot tips and the larvae must begin by feeding on these. Initially they feed in groups. As they get larger they scatter and can tackle large, mature leaves. But because these react to feeding damage by becoming more toxic and unpalatable, a larva will feed on a single leaf only for a short time and then has to move on. Eventually most or all leaves end up damaged, but few are badly damaged. The larvae also feed eagerly on the immature fruits, which look like small bananas with fluted edges. In big swallowtail years little if any seed ends up being set." (See more on his website.)
If you've never seen the Pipevine Swallowtails in the nine-acre Hallberg Butterfy Gardens, a wildlife sanctuary in Sebastopol, West Sonoma County, you should. They are a delight to see. Owner Della Hallberg planted the native Dutchman's Pipe in her garden in the 1920s. It's now considered one of the oldest garden sin the country. Her daughter, Louise Hallberg (1917-2017) maintained the garden until her death, keeping meticulous records and thoroughly enjoying showing visitors around. We posted a Bug Squad blog about her and her garden in 2015 and captured an image of her on her front porch.
Pipevine Swallowtails fascinated her and now they will fascinate generations yet to come.
At a recent visit to the UC Davis Ecological Garden at the Student Farm, we watched a honey bee, Apis mellifera, and a lygus bug nymph, Lygus hesperus, foraging on a batchelor button, Centaurea cyanus.
The bee: the beneficial insect.
The lygus bug or Western tarnished plant bug: a pest.
The lygus bug, which punctures plant tissues with its piercing mouthparts, was there first, but no matter. The bee joined in, edging closer and closer until they touched.
In photography insect circles, that's a "two-for"--two insects in one image.
The bee finally buzzed off, leaving the lygus bug to "dine" alone.
The lygus bug, distinguished by a conspicuous triangle on its back, is a very serious pest of cotton, strawberries and seed crops, including alfalfa. Scientists estimate that in California alone, the pest causes $30 million in damage to cotton plants each year, and at least $40 million in losses to the state's strawberry industry. The insect is also a pest of numerous fruits and vegetables, including apples, pears, peaches, eggplant, tomato, potato, artichoke, lettuce, sugarbeet, and beans. See what the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM), says about the pest.
What do they look like? "Adult lygus bugs are green, straw yellow, or brown with a conspicuous yellow or pale green triangle on their backs," UC IPM says. "Nymphs are light green...Lygus can move into gardens or orchards from weeds, especially when they dry up. They are a particular problem in beans, strawberries, and orchard crops, feeding on developing flower buds and fruit. Fruit may become blemished and discolored, deformed, or twisted and may develop depressions or pustules."
Cotton? "Lygus bugs," says UC IPM, "migrate to cotton from other hosts, so management of this pest begins with assessing its populations outside the field. Check for them on weeds, in nearby alfalfa, and in other crops, and keep in touch with your pest control adviser, Extension agent or Farm Advisor for area-wide information on lygus bug populations. Proper management of alfalfa harvest can reduce damaging migrations to cotton."
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, works closely with farmers in their lygus bug battles.