Have you ever seen a freeloader fly trying to sneak a meal?
Since it's Friday Fly Day--and the best things in life are free, aren't they?--it's time to post an image of a freeloader fly.
So here's the story: a praying mantis was polishing off the remains of a honey bee, and uninvited dinner guests--freeloader flies (family Milichiidae, probably genus Desmometopa)--showed up. This genus includes more than 50 described species, according to Wikipedia.
Another time, a spider snagged a honey bee, and freeloaders arrived just in time to chow down. "Call me anything you like but don't call me late to dinner." They bring nothing to contribute to the meal except their appetites.
So did the predators chase away the freeloader flies? No. Absolutely not. Apparently they're too tiny a morsel to eat, and the freeloaders don't eat much. (See BugGuide.net's images of them.
Happy Friday Fly Day!
On Labor Day, a federal holiday, we celebrate the our country's labor movement, our gratitude, and our achievements.
But there is no Labor Day holiday for the worker bee, one of three castes (queen, worker and drone) in a honey bee colony. No Labor Day holiday for the queen, either. In peak season, she will lay from 1000 to 2000 eggs a day. A laborious task, to be sure.
Most will be worker bees, the most needed of the three castes. Worker bees perform such age-related duties as nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue" specialists, air conditioning and heating technicians, guards, and undertakers. The worker bees (sterile females) run the hive. They're the "you-go" girls, the "you-got-this" girls and the "go-to" girls.
No "atta boys" here. The boys, or drones, have one job to do: mate with a virgin queen (in flight) and then they die. (Or as the late Eric Mussen, UC Extension apiculturist emeritus and a longtime member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, would add "They die with a smile on their face.")
It's a matriarchal society.
But life is short for the foraging worker bees.
"Worker bees live for approximately five to six weeks in the spring and summer," writes author and retired bee scientist and bee wrangler Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, in his book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.
"Those reared in the fall live for several months--long enough for the colony to survive the winter--and are replaced by young bees in late winter or early spring," says Gary, whose entire apicultural career spans 75 years, from student to retirement 26 years ago. (He still works with bees.)
For the foragers, collecting nectar and pollen can be dangerous. Their searching expeditions and forays can take them four to five miles from their hive. Due to predators (including birds, praying mantids and spiders), pesticides and other issues, many do not return home at night.
They put the "severe" in persevere.
What's not to admire about the honey bee? All hail Apis mellifera, not just on Labor Day, but every day of the year. You go, girls! You got this!
(Editor's Note: Interested in becoming a beekeeper or learning more about beekeeping? Be sure to check out the UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program, directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.)
Some folks just despise spiders.
A Facebook post that went viral has resulted in USA Today setting the record straight today (Nov. 9) by conferring with UC Davis arachnologist Jason Bond. He's an expert on spiders; the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and the newly appointed Associate Dean for Research and Outreach for Agricultural Sciences, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
The "trouble" began Oct. 27 when a Facebook user in Nigeria posted several pictures (at 3:46 a.m., by the way!) of a gorgeous spider (well, I think it's gorgeous). She warned: "For those of you who are going to the beach. Please beware of this. Don't try to pick it up thinking it's a work of art. It's a very poisonous spider. If it stings you, you will die within five minutes."
As of today, the post drew 5,000 comments and 89,000 shares--and a new nickname for the spider: "Oreo spider." You know, the cookie?
Many expressed disbelief at the very start. Scolded one Facebook user in all caps: "THERE IS NO SPIDER BITE THAT I KNOW OF THAT WILL KILL YOU IN 5 MINUTES. TALK TO ME." (She apparently didn't.) Others found the text and images as terrifying as "murder hornets."
USA Today Fact Check disputed the post with: "Viral photos show trapdoor spider that isn't poisonous to humans."
Bond told USA Today in a Nov. 5th telephone interview: “Nearly all spiders have venom, but very few of those are toxic to humans. Cyclocosmia is one of those spider groups that has no known toxicity to humans...Most people have never seen (them) because you really have to go out and look for them. They're not incredibly common, and then, of course, you'd have to dig one out of its burrow to even get bitten by it.”
“(In) all my years of collecting and working on trapdoor spiders, the only time any of us have ever gotten bitten by one was in the lab, when we were trying to photograph them,” Bond told USA Today. “For most spiders, you have to provoke them, you've got to grab them, you have to do something to make them really defensive to get them to bite you.”
He further said: "In that rare situation when a trapdoor spider bites, you might feel the pinch of tiny fangs, but you don't really feel anything from the venom.”
Nature photographer Nicky Bay, an incredible macro photographer, took the images of the cork-lid trapdoor spider in Thailand and posted them on his Flickr account in 2019. He clarified: "The cork-lid trapdoor spider has a highly sclerotised and abruptly truncated abdominal posterior, which is used as a plug to its burrow entrance. This prevents any effective attacks from predators such as wasps."
Apparently someone "found" his copyrighted images and "borrowed" them.
Bay subsequently tweeted that the Facebook post contains "a whole bunch of falsehoods."
So, bottom line:
- You won't find these spiders on the beach. It's safe to go to the beach. Bring your towel and your dog.
- Spiders don't sting; they bite. Bees sting.
- You will probably never encounter these cork-lid trapdoor spiders anywhere (much less on the beach), but if you do, you're not likely to pick them up, thinking "Wow! What an amazing piece of art." Who does that?
- The venom of these spiders is poisonous to their prey, including grasshoppers and crickets, as well as other small critters. You are not the prey.
- You won't perish from the bite. Why the "deadline" of five minutes? You got the spider on a five-minute timer or something?
Meanwhile, arachnologists around the world must be (1) shaking their heads in unison and in disbelief (2) laughing uproariously or snickering outlandishly or (3) wondering if they can create a "Oreo spider" costume for next Halloween.
The spider failed to snag a butterfly, so it went for Plan Bee.
That would be the honey bee, Apis mellifera.
The bee is usually foraging for nectar and pollen and not that aware of her surroundings, especially a cunning and very hungry spider.
So this orbweaver lies in wait for prey to appear on its "dinner plate." A venomous bite and the bee is paralyzed. And dinner is served à la carte.
It's not what Ernest Hemingway would call a pretty sight. But then again, everything eats in the garden.
Repeat: Everything eats in the garden whether we want it to or not.
It's early morning and the spider is hungry.
It snares a honey bee foraging for pollen and nectar in a patch of Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifola) in a Vacaville pollinator garden.
The spider slides down the sticky web, kills its prey with a venomous bite, and begins to eat.
The spider is not alone. It soon has unexpected dining partners: tiny freeloader flies (family Milichiidae) who did no work but insist on their share of the free food.
Indeed, orbweavers are artists. Wrote Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) in her poem, "The Spider as an Artist":
The spider as an artist
Has never been employed
Though his surpassing merit
Is freely certified.
Today was a good day for an unemployed artist, freely certified, too--and a good day for the freeloaders, certified hungry.
Emily Dickinson? She wrote many poems with references to such arthropods as bees, spiders, butterflies, flies and gnats,
Emily Dickinson's Arthropods