Gotta love those spiders.
We recently saw an adorable jumping spider (aren't all jumping spiders adorable?) huddled or cuddled (your preference) within a layer of yellow rose petals. It didn't look like a poster child for Halloween. It looked right at home.
It's still there.
In a March 2019 Bug Squad blog, we posted five good reasons to like spiders, compliments of Professor Jason Bond of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He's the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and a newly selected co-editor-in-chief of the journal Insect Systematics and Diversity (ISD), published by the Entomological Society of America (ESA).
“Spiders have been around for 400 million years and are cunning, skillful predators," Professor Bond says. They are "an incredibly diverse group with more than 50,000 species described with probably another 200,000 remaining to yet be discovered."
The five good reasons to like spiders?
- Spiders consume 400-800 million tons of prey, mostly insects, each year. Humans consume somewhere around 400 million tons of meat and fish each year.
- Spider silk is one of the strongest naturally occurring materials. Spider silk is stronger than steel, stronger and more stretchy than Kevlar; a pencil thick strand of spider silk could be used to stop a Boeing 747 in flight.
- Some spiders are incredibly fast – able to run up to 70 body lengths per second (10X faster than Usain Bolt).
- Although nearly all 47,000-plus spider species have venom used to kill their insect prey, very few actually have venom that is harmful to humans.
- Some spiders are really good parents –wolf spider moms carry their young on their backs until they are ready to strike out on their own; female trapdoor spiders keep their broods safe inside their burrows often longer than one year, and some female jumping spiders even nurse their spiderlings with a protein rich substance comparable to milk.
When Professor Bond spoke at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, “Eight-Legged Wonders,” on March 9, 2019, showcasing spiders, he drew scores of questions. Following his talk, the visitors participated in interactive activities, including “How to Eat Like a Spider,” “How to Assemble an Arachnid,” "How to Catch a Moth," "Create a Chelicerate" and others. So educational and entertaining and let's hope another one will be on the calendar in the near future! The Bohart Museum, currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 precautions, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It is the home of nearly 8 million insect specimens, and also a live "petting zoo" (think Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and an online insect-themed gift shop, stocked with t-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, posters, and collecting equipment.
Meanwhile, Herman or Hermanina, is basking in the sun, getting ready to substantiate Professor Bond's excellent description: "a cunning, skillful predator."
The katydid, as green as the leaves around it, is feeding on a yellow rose. It is paying no attention to the circling honey bees.
The bees want nectar, not an encounter with a critter far bigger than they are.
The katydid slowly moves from one devastated blossom to a bud.
The honey bees head off for other blossoms.
Such was the scene in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif. last weekend with a fork-tailed bush katydid claiming a yellow rose.
According to the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM), the fork-tailed bush katydid, Scudderia furcata, is a pest of fruit such as citrus, pear, nectarine, apricots, plums, blueberries and the like.
It also seems to like our yellow rose, "Sparkle and Shine," a variety related to the "Julia Child Rose." We purchased it back in 2013 at the annual May rose sale hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCUH) at Foundation Plant Services, on Hopkins Road, west of the central campus.
Honey bees generally don't like commercial roses (they prefer nectar-rich plants like lavender, African blue basil, sedum, sunflowers, bee balm and salvia), but they do this one.
So does the katydid.
It's a dog-eat-dog world out there.
It's also a 'cat-eat-'cat world, that is, when a caterpillar eats another caterpillar. Or in this case, when larva eats larva.
We recently spotted this lady beetle larva eating a syrphid fly larva on our yellow rose bush, "Sparkle and Shine." Both eat aphids, and that's exactly what they were doing until the lady beetle larva attacked--and began eating--the syrphid larva.
These insects are beneficial. The lady beetle, as an adult, continues to consume those pesky aphids. The syrphid fly adult, aka hover fly or flower fly, is a pollinator.
The hungry larva reminded us of Eric Carle's award-winning children's picture book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, first published in 1969.
The synopsis (Wikipedia):
"One Sunday morning, a red-faced caterpillar hatches from an egg, and begins to look for some food. He eats through increasing quantities of fruit on the following five days, one apple on Monday, two pears on Tuesday, three plums on Wednesday, four strawberries on Thursday, and five oranges on Friday, and then, on Saturday, he has an enormous feast. By the end of Saturday, the inevitable happens and he is ill. After recovering from a stomach-ache, he returns to a more sensible diet by eating through a large green leaf before spinning a cocoon in which he remains for the following 2 weeks. Later, the 'big fat caterpillar' emerges as a beautiful butterfly with large, gorgeous, multi-coloured wings."
Well, in this case, the menu differed. Our lady beetle larva didn't eat an apple, pear, plum, strawberry or orange.
He/she ate its competitor.
Stop and smell the roses.
Yes, we should all do that. We should take time out of our busy schedules to appreciate the beauty of nature, the beauty of roses, the beauty of a single yellow rose.
But sometimes there's a bonus in those roses, depending on whether you like jumping spiders or honey bees.
We spotted this little jumping spider (about the size of our little fingernail) on a yellow rose, "Sparkle and Shine," this morning. Tucked within the folds of the rose petals, the jumper looked like a tiny black spot, a period at the end of a sentence.
Nearby, honey bees foraged on other roses. They sparkled and they shined.
No arthropods were harmed in the making of these photos.
"Stop and smell the roses!"
It's a good way to savor the moment, of living in the present instead of the past or future.
We delight in the aroma of the "Sparkle and Shine" yellow rose that we purchased several years ago at the California Center for Urban Horticulture's annual Rose Day on the UC Davis campus.
Sometimes there's an added bonus--a praying mantis, a honey bee, a longhorned bee, European wool carder bee, carpenter bee, a hover fly, a butterfly, or another insect. They do not all get along. Like beginners in an elementary school band, they do not play well together. Some of the territorial bees want to claim ownership ("Mine! mine! mine!"). The honey bees linger longer than they should. The butterflies don't. The hover flies hover. And the praying mantis? It just wants dinner.
Today, it was not an insect but an arthropod that caught our attention: a jumping spider. We pointed the Canon MPE-65mm lens directly in its eyes. It just looked back at us, figuring we were no threat.
If you like to "look back" at insects or arthropods, then you should head over to the UC Davis open house this Saturday, Sept. 27 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane. It's off LaRue Road. The open house is free and open to the public.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses some eight million specimens, plus a live "petting zoo," filled with critters you can hold, such as walking sticks, millipedes, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and tarantulas.
It's a day when entomologists will be there to show you how to collect insects, pin a butterfly, and how to look through a microscope. You'll also see a bee observation hive provided by the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
And, if you have a mind to, you can visit the gift shop and purchase such items as nets, T-shirts, jewelry, posters and books.
You'll even find books on spiders.