The first day of spring--Tuesday, March 20--yielded a diversity of insects in the fava beans planted in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden adjacent to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California,Davis.
A flurry of insects joined the honey bees: ladybugs, a blow fly, a stink bug, an alfalfa butterfly, European paper wasp and scores of aphids.
Fava beans (Vicia faba), one of the world's oldest cultivated crops and native to the Mediterranean region, are also known as broad beans, horse beans, pigeon beans, and the like.
"In North America, Canada is perhaps the largest producer of fava beans since they produce best in cool summer areas," write San Joaquin County Farm Advisors Gary Hickman and Mick Canevari in a Family Farm Series publication of the UC Davis Small Farm Center. "Minnesota and the lake states produce small acreages. In California, fava beans are grown as seed crops along the coast from Lompoc to Salinas and in the Northern Sacramento Valley, but in other areas of the state they are grown mostly as a cover crop or for green manure."
You can learn more about fava beans in the UC Davis Small Farm Center publication. Meanwhile, the insects hanging out in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven are definitely favoring the fava beans.
When you see the blow fly (below), what do you think?
Well, that depends on who you are and what you do--or maybe your earliest negative/positive insect recollections.
If you hate flies, particularly blow flies, and you despise their larvae (maggots), your response is probably "Yecch!"
If you're an artist, you might think, "Look at that metallic green sheen and those red eyes!"
If you're a photographer: "What kind of camera and macro lens did you use?" (Nikon D700, 60mm)
If you're into flowers, you might say "Ah, a New Zealand tea tree--Leptospermum scoparium. Fly? What fly? Is there a fly there?"
If you're a beekeeper and see only the Leptospermum scoparium: "Manuka honey!"
If you're a medical doctor and treat wounds: "Maggot therapy!"
If you're an entomologist, particularly a forensic entomologist: "Nice!"
And if you've ever visited the UC Davis Department of Entomology displays at Briggs Hall during the annual campuswide Picnic Day, you''re probably thinking "Maggot Art!" and "When's Picnic Day?" (Note: this year's Picnic Day is April 21, and yes, you can create Maggot Art (take a bow, Rebecca O'Flaherty).
However, if you're an entomologist with a keen interest in insect ecology and insect/plant interactions, the blow fly will bring out the "P" word in you: "Pollinator!"
Honey bees, native bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, bats and the like are all pollinators. But so are flies, including syprhid flies and yes, blow flies.
The eyes have it.
Look at the compound eyes of an insect. Some are colorful, some are drab. But they are all organs that detect light.
Most insects "have some sight and many possess highly developed visual systems," write UC Davis entomology professors Penny Gullan and Pete Cranston in the fourth edition of their textbook, The Insects: An Outline of Entomology, published by Wiley-Blackwell earlier this year.
"Virtually all adult insects and nymphs have a pair of large, prominent compound eyes, which often cover nearly 360 degrees of visual space," they point out.
If you're studying to be an entomologist--or thinking about entomology as a career--you can learn more about how "the basic components needed for vision are a lens to focus light onto photoreceptors--cells containing light-sensitive molecules--and a nervous system complex enough to process visual information."
If you're photographing insects, you know how quickly they detect movement. Cast your shadow on them and off they go. Move closer and off they go.
Sometimes it's a challenge, but in the end, the eyes have it.
God in His wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.
Every time I see a fly I think of the Ogden Nash poem.
Our bee-friendly garden is attracting a few flies. I captured this one visiting sage and then preserved it for posterity: I posterized it in Photoshop./st1:city>/st1:place>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>