This is an insect that looks as if it were assembled by a dysfunctional committee: long angular legs, long antennae, and beady eyes on a thin green body.
All hail the katydid.
It's usually camouflaged, disguised as a leaf in the vegetation--Nature's gift.
But in our pollinator garden, we see them. Two of them. One is tucked beneath red rose petals, and another is nestled inside a white cosmos.
Katydids feed on leaves, flowers, fruit and plant seeds, and often will take just a bite of fruit, such as apricot, pear, peach, plum, blueberry and citrus, but enough to cause considerable damage. If they're agricultural pests, check out the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) website and learn how to manage them.
These katydids proved to be photogenic.
The vibrant colors of Cosmos, an annual flower with the same common name as its genus, are spectacular. But we especially like the showstopping pink Cosmos with its bright yellow center.
Well, sometimes, they have a green center--that's when an ultra green sweat bee is foraging.
The female Agapostemon texanus is solid green, from head to thorax to abdomen, while the male of the species has a solid green head and thorax. It begs to differ with its abdomen; it's striped yellow and black, as if an artist ran out of green paint.
Agapostemon texanus is one of the bees featured in California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, the work of UC Berkeley-affiliated scientists Gordon W. Frankie, Robbin W. Thorp, Rollin E. Coville, and Barbara Ertter. Thorp, a distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley, so there's the Berkeley angle!
If you want to learn more about native bees, check out Native Bees Are a Rich Natural Resource in Urban California Gardens, published by Frankie, Thorp, Coville and Ertter (and others) in California Agriculture.
Another good source is the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab, directed by Professor Frankie. It has an easy to remember URL: http://www.helpabee.org/.
Meanwhile, how green is your Cosmos?
Give me an "A" (for excellence).
Give me a "B" (for bee).
Give me a "C" (for Cosmos).
Watching honey bees collect nectar and pollen on the showy Cosmos (Cosmos bipannatus) is not to be missed.
As if performing a ballet, the enchanting bees enter stage left and are such show-stoppers that you want to erupt with applause at every precise move. Bravo!
Cosmos is a spectacular annual with saucer-shaped floral heads, ranging in color from white and pink to lavender and crimson. It's a relatively late bloomer. In our family bee garden, they began blooming in late summer and are continuing into fall.
In their newly published book, California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, entomologists Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley and Robbin Thorp of UC Davis teamed with photographer Rollin Coville (UC Berkeley-trained entomologist) and botanist Barbara Ertter (UC Berkeley) to offer interesting information on bee species and advice for growing and managing bee friendly plants. It's a "must-have" for every gardener and naturalist or would-be gardeners and naturalists. Did you know there are more than 1600 different species of bees in California alone, and some 4000 throughout the country?
One section goes into depth about plants, including Cosmos. You'll learn its description, origin and natural habitat, range and use in urban California, flowering season, resource for bees (nectar and pollen), most frequent bee visitors, and bee ecology and behavior. It's not surprising that the book, by Heyday, is published in collaboration with the California Native Plant Society.
And what are the most frequent bee visitors? "A wide variety of bee species, especially Melissodes robustior, Melissodes species, and Halictus ligatus. In the Central Valley, it attracts honey bees, Agapostemon texanus, Anthophora urbana, Xeromelecta californica, and Svastra obiqua expurgata."
The authors describe all those species--and more. Some we know generally as longhorned bees, sweat bees, metallic green sweat bees, digger bees, and sunflower bees.
Blooms. Bees. Beautiful.
We've trained puppies to "come," "sit" and "heel."
We've trained an African grey parrot to say "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty! Meow!"
We've trained the kitty to ignore the parrot.
But how do you train a praying mantis?
Our resident praying mantis, the lean green machine, conceals himself in the African blue basil. That's been home, sweet home for the past week. Before that, it was the lantana, catmint, Mexican sunflower and cosmos. He goes where the bees are and the bees are now all over the African blue basil.
We cannot create a "No fly zone." We cannot ban the bees from traveling. And we cannot ban the praying mantis from doing what he does best: ambushing prey and eating them.
Lately, however, he's allowed us to photograph him in the early morning, before his bee breakfast.
He does not respond to "Say cheese!"
Nor does he respond to "Say bee!" Or "Say Apis mellifera!"
You cannot train a praying mantis.
As fall fades and winter beckons, we're still seeing skipper butterflies foraging in cosmos, lantana and other flowers.
Lepidopterans study 'em but we just admire 'em.
Distinguishing characteristics of skippers include "clubs" on the tips of their antennae, and those huge, compound eyes.
The skippers (family Hesperiidae) "are a worldwide family of about 3500 species that appear to be 'sister' to the rest of the 'true butterflies,'" says butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, on his website. "The clubs on the tips of the antennae are usually hooked. Our California skippers fall into two or three subfamilies: the spread-wing skippers (Pyrginae), the folded-wing skippers (Hesperiinae), and the Heteropterinae."
The butterfly is one of the most popular of tattoes. Odds are, however, you'll see a graceful monarch or a striking western tiger swallowtail inked on someone's skin, not a common skipper.
Ask.com, when asked "What is the meaning of a butterfly tattoo?", replied (British version): "The butterfly tattoo symbolises grace and beauty. The beautiful patterns and colours on the wings of the butterflies are undeniably attractive. The connotation and symbolism of butterfly tattoo designs is as well related to psych and spirituality."
"Butterfly" means "psyche" or "soul" in Greek.
Next time you see a skipper, think of it as a "soul" on a flower. A clubbed soul.