The predators and their prey were all in costumes, of course:
- The queen bee: UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum
- The praying mantis: Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator of the Bohart Museum
- The green darner dragonfly: Christofer Brothers, a UC Davis doctoral candidate researching dragonflies
- The monarch: Barbara Heinsch, a Bohart Museum volunteer, who arrived with her entomologist-husband, Mike Pitcairn, retired senior environmental scientist, supervisor, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). He wore his CDFA lab coat and swung an insect net.
And the guy in the ghillie suit serving beverages (that would be forensic entomologist Robert "Bob" Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology) is keenly interested in flies, but he didn't net the fly.
UC Davis entomology alumna Ivana Li, a biology lab manager at UC Davis, catered the event and arrived with her dog, Juniper, dressed as a taco. Lynn Kimsey cut a carrot cake, decorated with tiny carrots and large googly eyes.
Some attendees, including Joanna Chiu, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology; UC Davis doctoral alumna Fran Keller, professor at Folsom Lake College; Bohart Museum associate Greg Karofelas; UC Davis doctoral alumnus Dick Meyer (who studied with the late Richard Bohart); and entomology student Kaitai Liu, arrived as themselves, sans Halloween costumes.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens, plus a live insect petting zoo and a gift shop. Founded in 1946 by the late UC Davis professor Richard Bohart, it has been directed by Kimsey, his former doctoral student, since 1990. (See more Halloween images on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website)
Next Open House on Monarchs. The Bohart's next open open house, set from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 4, is on monarchs.
The event, free and family friendly, will be held in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane. This is an opportunity for attendees to ask questions about monarchs (Danaus plexippus) and native vs. non-native milkweed, among other topics.
The scientists will include:
- UC Davis distinguished professor emeritus Art Shapiroof the Department of Evolution and Ecology, who has studied butterfly populations in central California since 1972 and maintains a research website, Art's Butterfly World.
- UC Davis emeritus professor Hugh Dingle, a worldwide authority on animal migration, including monarchs. He is the author of Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move (Oxford University Press), a sequel to the first edition published in 1996. See news story on the UC Davis Entomology and Nematology website.
- UC Davis professor Louie Yang, who does research on monarchs. Due to parental duties, he may be able to attend only the last part of the open house. See news story about his work.
- UC Davis professor Elizabeth Crone of the Department of Evolution and Ecology, formerly of Tufts University, who researches monarchs. See news story about the declining monarch population on the UC Davis Entomology and Nematology website.
- UC Davis postdoctoral fellow Aramee Diethelm of the Elizabeth Crone lab. She holds a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno. Both her Ph.D. and postdoctoral work are on monarch butterflies. As a doctoral student, she investigated the phytochemical landscape of milkweed (Asclepias) species across northern Nevada and the effects of this variation on western monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterfly performance. See her research posted on Google Scholar, and her blog on "Drought Influences Monarch Host Plant Selection."
Shapiro points out that the monarch "is NOT a focal species in my research and I am NOT a monarch expert. On the other hand, I have a unique breeding-season census data set starting in 1999. The only other census data are for the overwintering roosts on the coast. It has become apparent that the two data sets do not always agree." Shapiro said he'd talk briefly about this at the open house.
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens; a live insect petting zoo; and a gift shop. It is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane. For more information, access the website or email firstname.lastname@example.org./span>
A green bottle fly lands on a tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, in a Vacaville pollinator garden.
Houston, we have landed!
The fly, Lucilia sericata, begins to sip the nectar, unaware that a hungry praying mantis, a Stagmomantis limbata (as confirmed by mantis expert Lohit Garikipati) is watching.
The mantis slowly sneaks within striking distance, and waits for his prey to approach closer. Closer. Closer. Closer.
Whoosh! Gotcha! It wraps its spiked forelegs around it.
Houston, dinner is served! Fly à la carte.
Want to learn more about praying mantises?
The Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis is hosting an open house, themed "Praying Mantises," on Sunday, Aug. 27 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane. It is free and family friendly.
According to Kris Anderson of Las Vegas, an alumnus of Cornell University (master's degree in entomology) and author of Praying Mantises of the United States and Canada: "There are just 28 species of Mantodea found within the United States and Canada, the 7 largest of which are invasive species from other parts of the globe."
Some myths about praying mantises, as related by Anderson in his book, available on Amazon:
Myth: "Mantises sway back and forth while crawling to imitate vegetation blowing in the wind."
Truth: "The peering movement of mantises, demonstrated by the swaying back and forth of their body while ambulating or preparing to leap/take flight, is a behavioral adaptation to gain depth perception of their surroundings and has nothing to do with mimicry. Mantises blend into their environment by remaining motionless against a substrate that they morphologically resemble—not by moving. Peering movements causes the retinal images of nearby objects to be displaced more quickly than those of more distant objects, thus allowing the mantis to gain depth perception of its environment as it navigates forward."
Myth: "Mantises grab insects and immediately bite the neck/head to quickly kill their prey."
Truth: "The spinose forelegs of praying mantises are used to hold onto and prevent their prey from escaping. Once secured in their grip, the mantis will pull the prey forward and begin to meticulously chew upon whatever body part of the prey item is closest to their mouth—be it a leg, a wing, the thorax, abdomen, or head. No specific body region is exclusively targeted and the prey is always eaten alive, bit by bit, dying a slow death."
Myth: "Female mantises cannibalize the males while mating."
Truth: "With over 2,400 species of Mantodea worldwide, only a small fraction of species regularly engage in sexual cannibalism. Most do not. Of those that engage in this practice, the occurrence is not inevitable, as males typically escape and may mate with other partners."
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 and directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens, plus a live insect petting zoo (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas), and an insect-themed gift shop, stocked with t-shirts, hoodies, books, posters, jewelry and more.
The Bohart Museum is planning two other open houses this fall:
Saturday, Sept. 23: Household Vampires
Saturday, Nov. 4: Monarchs
All open houses are free and family friendly. At each event, the focus is on a special theme, but there's also a family arts-and-crafts activity, announced Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
It was a tough day for a Tettigoniid on a Tithonia.
When a katydid (Tettigoniid) encountered a crab spider on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola, in our garden, the katydid didn't last long. The spider administered a venomous bite and it was all over. The small, aggressive predator dragged its large prey beneath the Mexican sunflower to consume its meal. The cycle of life...
Do you know how katydids got their nickname?
The males have stridulating organs on their forewings and produce a shrill sound interpreted as “Katy-did, Katy-didn't."
Well, in this case the crab spider did (survive to live another day) and the katydid didn't.
Oh, the patience of a crab spider.
It lies in wait on the Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola, in the hot sun.
It scuttles back and forth, extending its legs. It's an ambush predator, ready to inject venom.
But it seems as if all the bees got the memo: "Crab spider! Beware! Don't buzz it! Don't go near it!"
And then a honey bee, seeking a little nectar and pollen, lands right beside it.
It's a moment in time between a predator and its prey.
The bee? It survived to live another day. The crab spider went hungry.
Just a morning in the life of a crab spider lying in wait on a Tithonia rotundifola.
No assassinations today! But an "assassination attempt."
There it was, a leafhopper assassin bug, Zelus renardii, waiting for prey atop a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola in a Vacaville pollinator garden. Yes, it's native to North America.
The assassin bugs, family Reduviidae, are ambush predators. When they ambush a predator, they stab it with their rostrum, inject venom, and suck out the juices. Or as UC Berkeley entomologists Jerry Powell and Charles Hogue write in their book, California Insects, "The victims, which include all kinds of insects, are snatched by quick movements of the forelegs, and immediately subdued by a powerful venom injected through the beak."
UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) says that "Assassin bug adults and nymphs (immatures) have an elongate head and body and long legs. The narrow head has rounded, beady eyes and long, hinged, needlelike mouthparts. Adults and nymphs can walk rapidly when disturbed or capturing prey. Adults tend not to fly."
"Assassin bugs can occur on almost any terrestrial plant including row and tree crops and gardens and landscapes. All species are predators of invertebrates or true parasites of vertebrates," UC IPM relates. "Most assassin bugs feed on insects including caterpillars, larvae of leaf beetles and sawflies, and adults and nymphs of other true bugs. Nymphs and adults ambush or stalk prey, impale them with their tubular mouthparts, inject venom, and suck the body contents. Zelus renardii produces a sticky material that helps it adhere to plant surfaces and ensnare prey."
Some 7000 species of assassin bugs reside throughout the world. When they feed on such agricultural pests as fleahoppers, lygus bugs, aphids, caterpillar eggs and larvae, they are considered biological control agents.
However, "assassin bugs are not considered to be important in the biological control of pests, unlike predatory groups such as bigeyed bugs and minute pirate bugs," UC IPM says. "Assassin bugs are general predators and also feed on bees, lacewings, lady beetles, and other beneficial species. Certain species feed on the blood of birds, mammals, or reptiles, including conenose bugs and kissing bugs (Reduviidae: Triatominae)."
The one we saw today?
A long-horned bee, Melissodes agilis, stopped for a sip of nectar, spotted the assassin bug, and buzzed off, leaving only its shadow behind.