- Author: Annemiek Schilder
In this blog series, Dr. Annemiek Schilder, Director, UCCE Ventura County and Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center, shares her observations about the natural world across the seasons. As she says:
"Gently observing your surroundings with curiosity will teach you some amazing things. There are so many fascinating things happening under our noses, only wanting for an observant eye."
The other day I spotted a gorgeous red dragonfly in my garden. He – yes, it was a male - cocked his head towards me several times and studied me with his big compound eyes as I inched closer to take a picture. He waited patiently while I tried to get him into focus, then eventually flew off. The flame skimmer dragonfly (Libellula saturata) is common in California and the Western US. Males have an orange-red body with orange sections on the wings, whereas the female is paler with an amber tinge along the upper edge of the wings.
Dragonflies speak to the imagination with their bright colors, transparent lacy wings and aerial acrobatics, inspiring poets and artists through the ages. They are often seen as a good omen and a source of comfort during times of loss. In Japan, the dragonfly is a symbol of strength, courage, and happiness whereas to Native Americans, dragonflies signify change, transformation and healing.
Dragonflies belong to the insect order Odonata, which means “toothed”, for their serrated mandibles − entomology-speak for jaws with teeth-like projections. Adult dragonflies feed on soft-bodied insects such as mosquitoes, flies, moths, butterflies, and flying ants, ambushing them in mid-flight. They have almost 360-degree vision due to their huge compound eyes and can see many more colors than humans can. Dragonflies are amazing flyers, achieving speeds over 30 miles per hour, and are able to fly forwards, backwards and remain stationary with the help of flight muscles that control each of the four wings separately.
The flame skimmer dragonfly is mostly found near warm ponds or slow-flowing streams. In colder regions they are a common sight around hot springs. The larvae, also called nymphs or naiads, spend 2 or more years living in shallow water where they feed on mosquito larvae and other aquatic insects, small fish and tadpoles. In order to grow, they have to molt (shed their skin) multiple times. Adult dragonflies emerge in the spring and live for about 6 months during which time they have to find a mate. As I was observing two flame skimmers chasing each other, I was reminded that dragonflies can be fiercely territorial. After mating, the female lays her eggs by dipping her abdomen repeatedly in the water while hovering above the surface.
Watch the life cycle of dragonflies in this National Geographic video.
Photo by Sensei Minimal on Unsplash
Youth ages 9-12 will have an opportunity to learn what it means to be sustainable through fun activities in a virtual summer camp. The camp will be held July 20-24th, with campers meeting online daily from 10-11:30 a.m. The camp is free of charge, but pre-registration is required.
The Sustainable You! Summer Camp is hosted by the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) 4-H Program, in partnership with the UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center (UC HAREC), and the City of Ventura Environmental Sustainability and Water departments.
UCCE Community Education Specialist Gwyn Vanoni noted that:
“The Sustainable You! Summer Camp is an engaging way for kids to think about their role in creating a sustainable future while having a lot of fun. This has been a summer day camp at UC HAREC for a number of years. While we're going virtual this year, we are working hard to ensure that the fun and focus of the camp remains true for the participants.”
The virtual camp will explore sustainability across five major theme areas: land, water, food, air and energy. A typical day will include:
An introduction to a sustainability topic with an ice breaker and simple journal questions or an art activity;
A discussion or video on the day's topic;
A demonstrated activity; and
An activity that youth can do on their own.
The virtual camp is part of the online educational programs being organized by UCCE Ventura County. Learn more here.
- What: 4-H Sustainable You! Virtual Summer Camp
- Ages: 9-12
- When: July 20th-24th (Monday-Friday)
- Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
- Cost: FREE, but pre-registration is required! Register: harec.ucanr.edu
For more information, email Susana Bruzzone Miller.
Current fire activity in Ventura County reminds us that fire season is here. It's critical to be prepared. Here are some important resources to help you get ready and stay apprised of fire activity in Ventura County.
Here are other resources we recommend:
- Fire in California This is UC ANR's comprehensive fire resources website. This site contains the latest information on fire ecology; wildfire preparation; health and safety in wildfires; wildfire recovery; and more. Useful information for homeowners, land owners and land stewards.
- CA Fire Science Consortium is a network of scientists and managers that strives to increase the awareness, understanding, and adoption of wildland fire science information.
- LUC Lab at UC-Berkeley researching land and land use change.
- ReadyForWildfire.org CalFire's fire resources website, which provides many valuable resources for preparedness.
- **NEW Wildfire Risk to Communities maps by US Forestry Service
Be sure to follow our UCCE Livestock & Range page on Facebook. Advisor Matthew Shapero helms that page and often posts fire information there. If you haven't had an opportunity to meet Matthew, you can learn more about his work in this blog post.
ICYMI, here's a #goodread about Pandemic and Wildfire: California is Preparing for a Crisis Within a Crisis
On Friday June 5th, UCCE Ventura will launch a local campaign as part of UC ANR's statewide giving day, which we're calling “Big Dig Day”...a day to “dig deep” to support the UCCE programs that you care about in Ventura County.
Ventura County Master Gardener Program
We invite you to support our mission to extend research-based knowledge about home gardening, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices to our communities. Our program is driven by 209 active volunteers who use UC science-based information to offer solutions to gardening, landscape, and pest challenges. Last year, our volunteers donated 12,561 hours of service to the program.
The Master Gardener Program helps Ventura County grow in many ways, including:
Offering water-wise workshops to help residents optimize use of a scarce resource
Staffing a helpline to answer questions for home gardeners
Working with other community organizations to maintain 9 demonstration gardens throughout Ventura County
- Delivering dozens of educational and hands-on outreach programs and talks each year
Ventura County 4-H Program
Since 1914, the Ventura County 4-H Program has served generations of youth and families. Our motto is “To Make the Best Better.” Through our volunteer-driven experiential programs, we help Ventura County youth develop life and leadership skills that enable them to succeed. In the last 100 years, Ventura County has changed. But some things never change, including our belief in the power of youth.
4-H grows here:
7,300+ youth reached across Ventura County each year
14 community and 2 military clubs providing educational opportunities in STEM, healthy living, animal husbandry, leadership, and civic engagement
Outreach programs delivered in classrooms and virtually that connect youth with one of our county's most important resources: agriculture
Efforts driven and supported by 150 motivated and highly-trained volunteers
Help us serve even more youth by donating on “Big Dig” Day.
What We're Asking
Now more than ever, we all know the value of community. In times of crisis and beyond, we are here. We live where you live.
By donating to the Master Gardener Program and the 4-H Program, you help us extend the knowledge and resources of the University to our community. Join us on 6/5 and #DigDeep to support our UCCE programs.
Mark your calendar, spread the word, and stay tuned for more details.