A sneak peak at a couple of Solano County Fair entries...think insects!
The COVID-19 pandemic derailed fairs and festivals, but now they're back on track.
Take the 73rd annual Solano County Fair, themed "Bales of Fun." Located at 900 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo, it opens June Thursday through Sunday, June 16-19, and gate admission is free. Headed by president Lee Williams of Rio Vista, the board of directors includes Valerie Williams of Vacaville, better known as "Mrs. Solano County 4-H." In fact, Valerie has served tirelessly for some 25 years as the Solano County 4-H program representative. The 4-H program is part of the University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources or UC ANR.
Our favorite part of the fair? The exhibits at McCormack Hall, particularly those that are insect-themed.
One entry, by talented photographer Matthew Agbayani, 17, of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, shows a syrphid fly and a honey bee sharing a sunflower. It takes a special kind of patience to be able to capture two species on the same flower.
Many folks mistake syrphid flies, aka hover flies or hover flies, for honey bees. They're both pollinators.
Three of the easiest ways to differentiate a fly from a bee:
- A fly has one set of wings. A bee has two sets.
- A fly has short, stubby antennae. A honey bee doesn't.
- A fly has no corbicula or pollen basket. A honey bee (worker bee) does.
Among the other insect-themed displays: Rio Vista resident Richard Laswell's exquisite watercolor depicting three dragonflies that he entered in the amateur art division; and Vallejo resident Ashley Workman's colorful blue butterfly (oils and acrylics) that she entered in open art division.
Art by Iris Mayhew of American Canyon also caught our eye. She drew inspiration from a safari in Kenya. "I love animals," she said. That includes monarchs and Gulf Fritillaries. She'll be depicting them next.
- Members-Only Online Plant Sales with Curbside Pick-Up. You shop at the online plant store Tuesday, Oct. 19 through Thursday, Oct. 21, starting at 10 a.m. and then schedule a pick-up at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery. Members of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden and the Davis Botanical Society gain early access to the online plant sales, get the best selections, and save 10 percent. This is for members only, but you can become a member anytime. Sign up here. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (530)-752-4880. See more information here.
- Public Online Plant Sales with Curbside Pick-Up. You shop at the online plant store Friday, Oct. 22 through Monday, Oct. 25, starting at 10 a.m., and then schedule a pick-up at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery. To gain access to the online plant sale store, you need to subscribe to the Arboretum's online e-newsletter, The Leaflet. Sign up here. (A link to access the online store will be emailed to current subscribers the morning of Oct. 22.) See more information here.
Curbside pickup dates are Oct. 26 through Nov. 13, excluding Sundays, Mondays and Veterans' Day. As earlier mentioned, when you place youronline order, you will receive a confirmation with a link to schedule your pickup time. Check out more questions and answers here or contact email@example.com.
COVID-19 Pandemic Rules. To keep everybody safe, there are important COVID-19 pandemic rules posted on the Arboretum plant sales website:
- "Before you come to the Arboretum Teaching Nursery for curbside pickup appointment, please complete the UC Davis COVID-19 Daily Symptom Survey for visitors."
- "Our nursery staff will be wearing masks. We encourage you to do the same."
- "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."
- "If you have any COVID-19 symptoms on the day of your appointment, you will be able to reschedule."
Meanwhile, here are a few photos of pollinators and past plant sales to help inspire you to "go green" and "think pollinators," while helping the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery.
You want to let Big Red to stay in.
This male flameskimmer hung out in our pollinator garden in Vacaville on July 3 for a little over five hours. He perched on a bamboo stake, periodically circled to grab a few bees, and then returned to his post to eat them.
Flameskimmers, Libellula saturata, are a joy to watch as they circle, curve and dip to snatch their prey in flight. When they perch, they sometimes look like a biplane.
If you love dragonflies, note that the Bohart Museum of Entomology created an educational poster, "Dragonflies of California," the work of then doctoral candidate Fran Keller (now a professor at Folsom Lake College) and naturalist/photographer Greg Kareofelas of Davis. It focuses on 18 dragonflies commonly found in the Golden State. Keller is now a professor at Folsom Lake College. The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, is temporarily closed to the public due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions but the gift shop is online.
Kareofelas identified this flameskimmer as a male.
After an afternoon sunning and dining in our garden, Big Red left for parts unknown.
He was back today to stake out his claim and snatch a few more bees (in this case, Melissodes agilis and Svastra obliqua expurgata). Table for one? He needs no reservations, no menu and no wait staff.
Step into your garden, walk over to a community park, or hike in the wilderness and see what's out there.
And take along the newly published, newly revised "The Field Guide to California Insects."
It includes more than 600 insect species. Not sure what species of butterfly that is? Want to know if that's a Valley carpenter bee? What's that species of praying mantis you just found? Take a look at the text and photos. Chances are you'll find them in this handy book.
It's a California Natural History Guide and published by the University of California Press. If you're into entomology, you'll probably recognize the names of the four authors:
- Kip Will, entomologist, insect systematist, and former director of the Essig Museum of Entomology at UC Berkeley
- Joyce Gross, noted insect photographer (she works as a computer programmer with the Berkeley Natural History Museums at UC Berkeley)
- Dan Rubinoff, who grew up chasing insects in California and is now a professor of entomology and director of the University of Hawaii Insect Museum
- Jerry Powell, emeritus professor, UC Berkeley, and former director of the Essig Museum of Entomology
We remember reading the first edition, California Insects, published in September 1980 and authored by Professor Powell and (the late) Charles Hogue.
So this revision is 40 years in the making.
It's billed as the only California-specific, statewide book devoted to all groups of insects:
"Engaging accounts focus on distinguishing features, remarkable aspects of biology, and geographical distribution in the state. An accessible and compact introduction to identifying, understanding, and appreciating these often unfamiliar and fascinating creatures, this guide covers insects that readers are likely to encounter in homes and natural areas, cities and suburbs, rural lands and wilderness. It also addresses exotic and invasive species and their impact on native plants and animals. Field Guide to California Insects remains the definitive portable reference and a captivating read for beginners as well as avid naturalists."
The authors point out that worldwide, there are only a million described insects, and that's "more than five times the number of all animals combined." They also note that "estimates of the number remaining to be described and named vary between three million to 30 million or more."
Thirty million! Can you imagine?
The authors define what makes an insect, expanding on growth and reproduction, breathing and circulation, feeding and stinging. They write about the distribution and diversity of the California insect fauna; how insects are classified, and even how to make an insect collection, something most high schoolers will be asked to do.
The book offers you information on dragonflies and damselflies, mantises, stick insects, beetles, fleas, flies, mosquitoes, earwigs, moths and butterflies, and booklice--and more.
It's a fantastic book--well-researched, well-written, well-illustrated, and an opportunity for you to become not a Big Game Hunter, but a Little Game Hunter.
By the end of the book, you may even decide to study entomology. (And there's plenty of opportunities in California, including at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology)
You may also want to become an insect photographer: plant a pollinator garden and they will come. Below are some of the backyard or household images you can capture.
The three "F's" win hands-down: family, friends and food.
But "insects" should definitely added to that list. They are among the tiniest of critters on this planet, but think of their importance in our lives and in our ecosystems.
As British entomologist-zoologist George McGavin, author, academician, explorer and television presenter wrote in an article published in 2004 in The Guardian: "They are the most successful multi-cellular life form on the planet...Insects have endured for hundreds of millions of years. They have survived the numerous global upheavals and catastrophes that spelled the end for much greater and grander creatures and they will continue to be a major part of the Earth's fauna for many more millennia."
McGavin, an honorary research associate at both the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Oxford Department of Zoology, points out that insects are "the food of the world."
"Most of the higher animal species on Earth eat insect--they are the food of the world," he writes in his piece on Why I Love Insects. "All of the blue tit chicks in the British Isles alone consume 35bn caterpillars before they become adult. A single pipistrelle bat, the smallest bat species in the UK, has to eat between 2,000 and 3,000 insects most nights to stay alive."
McGavin also emphasizes the importance of pollinators and recyclers, that "we depend on bees for perhaps as much as a third of the food we eat....As recyclers, flies and beetles devour carcasses and clear prodigious quantities of dung every day."
We met George McGavin in July 2012 at a sunflower field in Winters. He and his crew were there to film a documentary on ultimate swarms, featuring Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Gary, an author, scientist and now a retired professional bee wrangler, clued him in on bee behavior.
Like many scientists, McGavin loves to share his enthusiasm for insects, something we all need to appreciate more and to support as much as we can. For example, the Entomological Society of America launched a Chrysalis Fund to bring insect education into the classroom. According to the website, it's "supported by donors dedicated to the mission of enhancing insect education for K-12 students. Teachers and educators with creative ideas for insect-themed programs or projects are encouraged to apply for funding." (On a side note, UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal donated his $1000 honorarium from the recent ESA Founders' Memorial Award Lecture to the Chrysalis Fund. See YouTube video.)
So, what are we thankful for? Family, friends and food, for sure.
And the list also includes...insects.