It's a strikingly beautiful insect.
But in its larval stage, the alfalfa butterfly, Colias eurytheme--also known as the orange sulphur butterfly--is a pest.
If you grow alfalfa, you're not a fan of this butterfly, and rightfully so.
"Alfalfa caterpillars can consume entire leaves," according to the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) website. "The larger larvae are most destructive."
The butterfly lays its eggs "on the new growth of alfalfa that is less than 6 inches tall," UC IPM says. "Eggs hatch into green caterpillars in 3 to 7 days. Full-grown caterpillars are about 1.5 inches long and are distinguished from other caterpillars on alfalfa by their velvety green bodies with white lines along their sides."
"Caterpillar populations usually result from a flight of butterflies into the field when the alfalfa is less than 6 inches tall. Extremely large numbers of adults migrating between fields are often present from June to September in the Central Valley and from May to October in the southern desert."
We've been seeing lots of alfalfa butterflies sipping nectar on our African blue basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum × basilicum 'Dark Opal').
Sometimes they don't notice you and you can edge toward them, camera in hand.
Sometimes they don't even notice that a honey bee is shadowing them. Honey bees are also quite fond of African blue basil.
Butterfly meet bee. Bee meet butterfly.
In the insect photography world, that's called a "two-fer"--a bonus of two insects in one photo.
It was a good day for a crab spider.
It was NOT a good day for a honey bee.
It's early evening and here's this bee foraging on a bluebeard plant, Caryopteris x clandonensis, totally unaware of the ambush predator lying in wait.
The hunter and the hunted.
A venomous bite and it's all over.
These spiders, often called the "white death spider," are camouflage artists. They can turn colors, from yellow to white, or white to yellow. You'll often see yellow crab spiders on golden rod Solidago or a predominantly yellow plant, like blanketflower, Gallardia.
"These spiders change color by secreting a liquid yellow pigment into the outer cell layer of the body," according to Wikipedia. "On a white base, this pigment is transported into lower layers, so that inner glands, filled with white guanine, become visible. The color similarity between the spider and the flower is well matched with a white flower, in particular the Chaerophyllum temulum, compared to a yellow flower based on the spectral reflectance functions."
"If the spider dwells longer on a white plant, the yellow pigment is often excreted," Wikipedia says. "It will then take the spider much longer to change to yellow, because it will have to produce the yellow pigment first. The color change is induced by visual feedback; spiders with painted eyes were found to have lost this ability. The color change from white to yellow takes between 10 and 25 days, the reverse about six days. The yellow pigments have been identified as kynurenine and 3-hydroxykynurenine."
One thing's for sure: everybody eats in the pollinator garden.
They can't drain your bank account. They can't open up new credit cards. They can't get medical treatment on your health insurance.
But they are identity thieves, nonetheless.
Meet the drone fly (Eristalis tenax), often mistaken for a honey bee.
Indeed, it's about the size of a honey bee. In its adult form, it's a pollinator, just like the honey bee.
Unlike a honey bee, however, the drone fly "hovers" over a flower before landing. And unlike a honey bee, the drone fly has one set of wings, large eyes, stubby antennae, and a distinguishing "H" on its abdomen. Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, jokingly calls the drone fly "The H Bee."
Drone fly larvae are known as rattailed maggots. They feed off bacteria in drainage ditches, manure or cess pools, sewers and the like.
The fly belongs to the family Syrphidae (which includes insects commonly known as syrphids, flower flies, and hover flies) in the order, Diptera. The honey bee is Apis mellifera, family Apidae, order Hymenoptera.
One's a fly. One's a bee.
Lately we've been seeing scores of drone flies nectaring on our Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
Identify thievery does have its advantages. Wary people and predators often shy away from drone flies, thinking they are honey bees and might sting them.
Drone flies can't sting. They can't drain your bank, either.
Images by three UC Davis-affiliated photographers will be among those displayed at the international Insect Salon photography competition at the Entomological Society of America's meeting, Nov. 11-14 in Vancouver, B.C.
The insect photographers: Alexander Nguyen, who submitted an image of a syprhid fly--a wasp mimic, Ceriana tridens, ovipositing in the fissures of a tree; Allan Jones, a photo of a female leafcutter bee, Megachile fidelis, carrying a leaf petal back to her nest; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, an image of a pollen-drenched honey bee, Apis mellifera, nectaring on mustard.
The images were among 122 accepted for the Insect Salon from a total of 333 images submitted by 84 photographers from 22 countries (a 37 percent acceptance rate).
Nguyen, who received his bachelor of science degree in entomology from UC Davis, is a biologist for the Solano County Department of Agriculture. He captured the image of the wasp mimic at Spanish Flat on the west bank of Lake Berryessa, Napa County. "After larvae hatch they will feed on sap from the tree," said Nguyen, who maintains a photography website at https://alexandernguyen.smugmug.com. Senior insect biosystematist Martin Hauser of the California Department of Food and Agriculture identified the syrphid.
Jones, who holds bachelor's degrees in English and German and a master's degree in English from UC Davis, is a California Department of Agriculture (CDFA) retiree who now resides in Davis. He captured his winning image of the leafcutter bee in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee garden, operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. It shows the bee carrying a Clarkia petal back to her nest.
Kathy Keatley Garvey
Garvey, who holds degrees in communications and journalism from Washington State University, Pullman, is a communications specialist with the Department of Entomology and Nematology. She captured her winning image of the pollen-packing honey bee in a Vacaville (Calif.) mustard patch. In her leisure time, Garvey writes a Bug Squad blog, about insects and entomologists, on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website, a blog she has written every night, Monday through Friday, for the past 10 years.
Joseph Virbickis of the Peoria (Ill.) Camera Club, coordinator of Insect Salon, announced the medal winners, which included "best of show" and "best of Entomological Society of America photographers" and "best of Peoira Camera Club photographers":
- Medal, Best of Show: Soon Seng Leong of Malaysia, for his image, "Share Together 084."
- Medal, Best of ESA Members: Thomas Myers of Lexington, Ky., for his "Saddleback Caterpillars"
- Medal, Best by Peoria Camera Club: Carl Close of Hopewell, Ill., "Hornworm Caterpillar"
- Medal, Best Storytelling: Say Boon Foo of Malyasia, for "Ant 3"
- Medal, Most Unusual, Jenni Horsnell of Australia for "Wolf Spider with Young"
The winning entries will be displayed both on the Peoria Camera Club website and on screens at the annual meeting of ESA, a global organization of some 7000 members that serves the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. This year's theme is "Sharing Insect Science Globally."
All photographers are invited to submit up to four entries in the annual Insect Salon competition, Virbickis said. This is a Photographic Society of America-sanctioned nature competition.
The two-day fair, downsized from years past, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 30 and Sunday, July 1. Admission is free; parking is $5 per vehicle. (See schedule.)
At McCormack Hall, youth and adult exhibitors are displaying such projects as an insect-themed afghan, photographs of insects; a photograph of a "spider girl"; and a wall hanging of a dragonfly crafted from fan blades and furniture legs.
McCormack Hall superintendent Gloria Gonzalez, a community leader of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, marveled at a bumble bee and other patterns on a Minnesota sampler crocheted afghan, the work of Debra Holter of San Pablo.
The wall hanging of the dragonfly, the work of Tina Saravia of Suisun City, is also drawing interest. Using her imagination and recyclables, Saravia crafted it primarily with fan blades and furniture legs. It's entered in the adult recycling class,
Gary Cullen of Vallejo entered a photo that he titled "Spider Girl," of a smiling girl with a spiderish facial costume.
Ryan Anenson of the Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon, who is enrolled in a beekeeping project, submitted a close-up image of a honey bee. Maya Prunty of Sacramento 4-H submitted an image of a moth.
Those are just a few of the arthropod-related exhibits at the fair. Some of the items are available for purchase in the fair's Competitive Exhibits Program. The highest bidder in the silent auction takes home the exhibit.
That will include the honey bee image by teenage beekeeper Ryan Anenson.