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.
Ladybugs--actually, they're "lady beetles"--are garden heroes. And that's the theme of the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on Sunday, March 2 from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, University of California, Davis.
The event is free and open to the public. And, it's family oriented with lots of activities planned, said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at the Bohart Museum.
“This time of year aphids are invading our gardens,” Yang said. “Garden heroes, like lady beetles, help us out.” Other garden heroes include lacewings, bigeyed bugs, assassin bugs, damsel bugs, and soldier beetles. (See a list of natural enemies on the UC Integrated Pest Management website.)
Another key attraction at the Bohart Museum open house will be a return appearance of the Budding Biologist, creator of ecology video games. Budding Biologist is an educational publishing company owned by Kristine Callis-Duehl, who is with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Irvine. This game is loosely based on ecological research being conducted by Louie Yang, assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Walter Hsiao, the video game developer, will be on hand to answer questions about game design.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses nearly eight million specimens and is the seventh largest insect collection in North America. It is also the home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946.
The year-around gift shop (gifts are also available online) offers t-shirts, jewelry, insect nets, posters and books, including the newly published children's book, “The Story of the Dogface Butterfly,” written by UC Davis doctoral candidate Fran Keller and illustrated (watercolor and ink) by Laine Bauer, a 2012 graduate of UC Davis. The 35-page book, geared toward kindergarteners through sixth graders, also includes photos by naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, a volunteer at the Bohart.
The museum is located near the intersection of LaRue Road and Crocker Lane. The museum's regular public hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Group tours can be arranged with Tabatha Yang at email@example.com or (530) 752-0493. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and UC Davis holidays./span>
When a ladybug landed on a gaura in our bee friendly garden, it was business as usual.
The business: eating aphids.
The rose aphids sucking the plant juices from the tender shoot didn't last long.
This is why ladybugs are known as "beneficial insects."
You gotta love those ladybugs.
Lady beetles, aka ladybugs, eat lots of aphids. Did we say lots of aphids? Lots of aphids. They have no portion control.
If you watch closely, you'll see them gobble aphids like theater-goers devour buttered popcorn. Ladybugs eat so many aphids you wonder if they'll ever be able to lift off the plant.
Last Saturday we observed the usual: a ladybug chomping down aphids. But wait! What was that riding on her back? Coud it be? Was it?
It was. An aphid was riding the ladybug like a cowboy on a bucking rodeo bull. Didn't the aphid know that one little slip, and no more happy trails?
"Well," one wag said, "that's the safest place for an aphid--on the back of a ladybug."