- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Clean-shaven it's not. Yet it's a cut above.
For bees, syrphids and butterflies, the long-blooming Jupiter's Beard make the cut.
Centranthus ruber, also known as Jupiter's Beard, Red Valerian, Kiss-Me-Quick, and Keys to Heaven, is a popular drought-tolerant plant that attracts insects like a picnic draws people.
A native of the Mediterranean region, Jupiter's Beard grows wild in California and in several other states, including Arizona, Hawaii, Oregon and Utah.
Cozy up to a Jupiter's Beard, and you're likely to see foraging honey bees, native bees, syrphid flies and butterflies. (And assorted other critters like leafhoppers, lady beetles and spiders.)
The plant was one of the first residents of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. The garden, installed in the fall of 2009 and operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will be the site of a spring open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 9. The event, free and open to the public, will feature a noon tour, and other activities, including how to catch, observe and release bees; how to identify bees; and what to plant to attract bees and other pollinators. A bee observation hive is also planned where visitors can see the queen bee, workers and drones.
Then don't forget the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 16. What's a picnic without bugs?
In addition to the scores of the other fun and educational activities on campus, remember the two B's: Briggs and Bohart. You can enjoy entomological events at Briggs Hall, located on Kleiber Hall Drive, and the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located on Crocker Lane.
Among the activities at Briggs: cockroach races, pollinator pavilion, a honey tasting, fly-tying, facepainting, Bug Doctor (The Doctor Is In!), maggot art, medical entomology exhibits, and displays of ants, mosquitoes, aquatic insects and forest insects. The UC Integrated Pest Management Program will give away lady beetles (aka ladybugs) to kids, and hand out information about pests and beneficial insects.
At the Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, you can get up close and personal with the live "petting zoo," including the Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and a rose-haired tarantula named "Peaches." In keeping with the UC Davis Picnic Day's overall theme, "Cultivating Our Authenticity," the Bohart theme is "Real Insects and Their Mimics." Think bees. Think flies. Think about how to tell the difference. Syrphids, especially drone flies, are commonly mistaken for honey bees. Not all floral visitors are bees...
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Or, she might say "A fly is a fly is a fly."
That's because major corporations, news media and people-who-should-know-or-who-should-at-least-fact-check are still confusing honey bees with flies.
May Berenbaum, 2016 president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA) and a National Medal of Science recipient, recently received a solicitation letter from a well-known nature corporation asking her to help the honey bees.
All's well and good, right? Wrong. The photo on the envelope was not of her beloved honey bee. It was a photo of a fly. A syrphid fly.
Never send a fly to an ESA president, the top of the entomological chain, and claim it's a bee.
Apparently this corporation--okay, the Sierra Club, as this is all over the Internet--obtained the "bee" photo from someone who could not distinguish certain species in the order Hymenoptera (which includes honey bees) and the order Diptera (flies). The drone fly, Eristalis tenax, is often confused with the honey bee, Apis mellifera. To entomologists, it's like confusing an elephant with a giraffe.
Berenbaum, who also has a keen sense of humor, posted a blurb on her Facebook page about the fly.
"Really, Sierra Club? You send a letter asking to help save honeybees with a photo of a syrphid fly on the envelope?" (She also pointed out that "honey bee" is two words, not one.)
That drew all kinds of comments:
- Save the syrphids!!!
- Is there a syrphid that mimics a honey bee? Maybe they fell for it.
- That is so terrible it's almost wonderful.
- Personally, I'm wondering who the heck is taking all of the pictures of syrphids!! Aren't bees a lot more common?
- I may have to use this in my next lecture about mimicry and how successful it can be, even against visual-based predators.
- May and I were close friends in high school and, I'm pretty sure that she is the smartest person I've ever met.
- Well, Eristalis tenax is just such a great mimic, I am proud of that species!
- I see images of bumble bees with "Save the Honeybee" on stickers. Kind of like "Save the Cow" with a picture of a bison, or worse. How to offer professional advice/fact checking for articles/media? Would love to do it!
- That's funny and sad at the same time!
- There are so many syrphid photos that have been used as bees, I begin to wonder if most people really don't know what bees look like!
But my favorite:
So we were sitting at the dinner table and a friend said "If only someone was running for president who was worth voting for."
Without missing a beat, my daughter said "What about May Berenbaum?"
You've now been duly nominated.
What do you think?