"The Redcoats are coming! The Redcoats are coming!"
So shouted American Revolutionary patriot Paul Revere during his historical ride. Those who responded to the colonial revolt included my immigrant ancestors: the Keatleys, Laughlins and Agees.
They left their farms and took up arms.
Today, July 4, we celebrate Independence Day, remembering the American patriots from the 13 colonies that defeated the British during the American Revolutionary War, 1775-1783.
Wonder what life was like back during that time?
They grew vegetables and other crops; raised chickens, pigs, dairy and beef cattle and animals; hunted deer, elk and other game; and fished the nearby rivers and oceans. Their menu included eggs, milk, venison, bacon, bread, potatoes, fish, and rice.
And honey. Yes, they raised bees.
European colonists brought the honey bee (Apis mellifera) to the Jamestown colony (Virginia) in 1622. The native American Indians called it "the white man's fly." In 1853--231 years later--honey bees reached California. A beekeeper brought the insects here in the middle of the California Gold Rush, 1848-1858. A plaque outside the San Jose Airport heralds their arrival.
In looking through my images of honey bees for this traditional Fourth of July Bug Squad blog, I found two that are especially suitable: Four bees sharing a single blossom.
- Four on a rose
- Four on a pomegranate
May the Fourth Be With You!
It was definitely a hot spot.
Honey bees foraging last week on a pomegranate tree on Hopkins Road, west of the UC Davis main campus, competed for food on hundreds of blossoms.
We counted five honey bees on one blossom alone in what amounted to a pushing/shoving match.
Most of the bees probably came from the nearby apiary at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road.
The pomegranate is an ancient fruit and the honey bee is an ancient insect. Millions of years ago, they grew up together in the Mediterranean region of southern Europe. European colonists brought the honey bee to our Eastern coast (Jamestown colony) in 1622; honey bees finally arrived in California in 1853. The pomegranate trees were introduced to California in 1769.
When you first see the leaffooted bug, you know immediately how it got its name.
The appendages on its feet look like leaves!
This morning we saw one in our catmint (Nepeta) patch. It crawled beneath the tiny leaves, sharing space with honey bees, European wool carder bees, butterflies and assorted spiders.
Tonight scores of them stormed our pomegranate tree. In fact, they made the immature fruit their kitchen, living room and bedroom.
Although the leaffooted bug (Leptoglossus clypealis) is a pest of pistachios and almonds, we've never seen it on our pomegranate tree until today. Our tree, planted in 1927--back when Herbert Hoover was the U.S. president--has few pests. One year white flies attacked it mercilessly. Tonight leaffooted bugs claimed squatters' rights.
The adult bug is about an inch long with a white or yellow zigzag across its back. Shades of Zorro! Its most distinctive feature, however, are the leaflike appendages on its feet.
Back in 2009, integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, co-authored UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines on the leaffooted bug as it pertains to almonds. Zalom and his colleagues called attention to their needlelike mouthparts. The adults feed on young nuts "before the shell hardens." And after the nut is developed, "leaffooted bug feeding can still cause black spots on the kernel or wrinkled, misshapen nutmeats."
As for our pomegranate tree, we're not sure how well these leaffooted bugs can probe the tough, leathery fruit.
We open the pomegranates with a serrated knife...
As a child growing up in Washington state, I received an entomological nickname.
My father, in a take-off of the name, Kate, affectionately called me "Katydid."
Katy did. Katy didn't.
Maybe Katy did. Maybe Katy didn't.
Whatever, I've always loved the sounds of katydids performing their nighttime concerts, or rather, their mating calls. (Listen to the sounds; lean back, close your eyes, and you can almost hear "Katy did. Katy didn't.")
Scientists classify katydids in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Orthoptera, and family Tettigoniidae.
Agriculturists consider them pests; stone fruit growers try to eradicate them from their orchards.
So, was I surprised last week to see a katydid tucked inside one of our pomegranate blossoms. Honey bees, yes. Leafcutter bees, yes. Sweat bees, yes.
But a katydid?
At first glance, the green critter resembled an exotic Walt Disney cartoon character: long, awkward-looking hind legs; long, threadlike antennae; and beady eyes.
Yes, a katydid. A juvenile.
Maybe, just maybe, we'll someday hear the sounds of "Katy did. Katy didn't."
Maybe Katy will. Maybe Katy won't.
You'll be hearing more about the CP2C.
The first-ever Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus.
In keeping with 4th Annual National Pollinator Week, June 21-27, the Pollinator Partnership announced today that both parties of the U.S. House of Representatives have agreed to form the first Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus (CP2C). Co-chairs are Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL).
Hastings and Johnson said they will be sending a “Dear Colleague” letter to fellow members of Congress to encourage their participation in the caucus.
As Hastings so accurately stated: “With one out of every third bite of food we humans consume dependent on bees and other animals for their pollination services, legislators need accurate information to help inform their positions."
“The caucus," Johnson added, "will seek out the best of pollinator science, economics and best practices."
Said Laurie Davies Adams, executive director of the Pollinator Partnership (P2): "This bi-partisan effort aims to support legislators’ understanding of the needs of their constituents with respect to pollinators, and we salute their cooperative drive to ensure that this issue gets the attention it deserves."
Kudos to Hastings, Johnson and the Pollinator Partnership.
Meanwhile, in conjunction with the CP2C launch, the Pollinator Partnership will host a briefing for members of Congress, staff, and the public on Thursday, June 24 at 3:30 p.m, at Longworth House Office Building, Room 1302.
Häagen-Dazs ice cream and Burt’s Bees will provide ice cream and lip balm for attendees. Häagen-Dazs, a strong supporter of UC Davis honey bee research at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, is committed to strengthening the health of the honey bees. (On Sept. 11, the public will celebrate the grand opening of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a bee friendly garden planted last fall next to the Laidlaw facility.)
Burt's Bees is also a strong pollinator-supportive business.
Through research, public awareness, and concerted actions, we can all help preserve and protect our pollinators, especially honey bees.