"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!
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 aphids know how to plan a family reunion.
Grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, mom and pop, brothers and sisters, cousins and more cousins--they're all gathering to feed on the lush growth of the spring roses, the juicy shoots, the tender buds. And they multiply. You think rabbits multiply fast? Try aphids.
A telltale sign of their presence: Crumpled white carcasses and leaves coated with sticky honeydew.
A strong blast of water and the aphids are gone.
Well, at least some of them.
We watched a sole ladybug, aka ladybeetle, feasting on an aphid buffet on Easter Sunday. So many aphids, and so much time. All the aphids on her menu were green, but they come in yellow, brown and black, too.
The aphids crawled along the rose stems, bumping their cornicles or tubelike structures into one another, unaware of the looming red predator in their midst.
Until it was too late.
"Stop and smell the roses."
How many times have you heard that? It's usually from someone urging us to slow down, to savor life, and to pay attention to the pleasures.
Like fragrant roses.
Honey bees seem to be particularly fond of the butterfly rose, also known as the China rose (Rosa mutabilis), a deciduous shrub that can grow up to six feet high and spread five feet across. It's a long flowering plant, especially important to bees when they emerge from their hives after a long cold winter and begin to forage for food.
The butterfly rose, so named because its blossoms resemble butterflies, is cherished for its ever-changing flowers, which turn from yellowish/orange to pinkish/red to a coppery red.
Stop and smell the roses? Yes, but also look for the beauty in the bees.
(These photos were taken at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden and demonstration garden on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. The garden, located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, is open to the public from dawn to dusk for free, self-guided tours. Plans call for guided tours, for a nominal charge, starting March 1. Contact Christine Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org)
What's that? A honey bee and a male yellowjacket on the same blossom?
Honey bees and yellowjackets belong to the same order, Hymenoptera, but different families. The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is in the Apidae family, while the yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica, belongs to the family, Vespidae.
When beekeepers open the hives at the adjacent Laidlaw facility, trouble can start between the honey bees and the yellowjackets. It's no secret that female yellowjackets establish their nests near apiaries to prey upon honey bees and their brood. They need the protein for their offspring.
But here they were--the honey bee and the yellowjacket--together.
The first occupant: the honey bee. She began foraging on a rose blossom when suddenly a male western yellowjacket approached her. Seemingly unaware of his presence, she kept foraging. He poked her with his antennae. She ignored him. He crawled up next to her and took a close look at her. She kept foraging.
A few seconds later, he left.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, later commented: "I can't help but wonder why the male yellowjacket was visiting a rose flower--no nectar there, so no reward for him."
"Maybe he was just checking out the other occupant 'while searching for love in all the wrong places.' "
Indeed, the male yellowjacket may have been looking for a suitable mate.
This one? Definitely not suitable!