Backyard Orchard News
The lady beetle, aka ladybug, was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
We don't know how she managed to get tangled in the cellar spider's web or why the cellar spider opted to have her for dinner instead waiting for a tasty honey bee, a nutritious leafcutter bee or a plump bumble bee.
Nevertheless, we came upon this predator-prey attack in our backyard. It was too late to save the ladybug.
Ordinarily, the ladybug's bright red coloration serves as a "warning" to predators. Plus, ladybugs are known to ooze a foul-tasting chemical that tastes so bad that predators leave them alone.
"The bright colors of many coccinellids discourage some potential predators from making a meal of them," according to Wikipedia. "This phenomenon is called aposematism and works because predators learn by experience to associate certain prey phenotypes with a bad taste. A further defense known as 'Reflex bleeding' exists in which an alkaloid toxin is exuded through the joints of the exoskeleton, triggered by mechanical stimulation (such as by predator attack) in both larval and adult beetles, deterring feeding."
So why the cellar spider's unusual menu choice? "The spider's 'taste buds' probably weren't very good," quipped a UC Davis scientist.
Cellar spider traps and wraps a ladybug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Cellar spider proceeds to eat the ladybug, an insect that scientists agree is "foul-tasting" to predators. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Consider the lady beetle, aka ladybug.
It's not a bug, but a beetle. It belong to the family Coccinellidae, and scientists have described about 5000 species worldwide, and about 450 in North America.
Some quick facts...
Ladybugs are not always red with black spots. The colors can be red, yellow, orange, gray, black, brown and pink. And, not all ladybugs have spots. Some have stripes and some have neither spots nor stripes.
Coccinellid are omnivores, dining on soft-bodied insects such as aphids, as well as plants. Aphids? A single ladybug can eat some 5000 aphids during its short life span of three to six weeks.
Ladybugs are considered good luck. If a ladybug lands on you, Lady Luck is supposed to smile on you.
This ladybug (below) landed on me on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
I'm still waiting for Lady Luck.
When a ladybug lands on you, it's considered good luck. A gentle push and this one took flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"For many years, beekeepers and environmentally interested individuals have expressed the opinion that the use of neonicotinoid insecticides ("neonics") have interfered with the ability of honey bees and native bees to conduct their life activities properly," begins Extension apicuturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology in his latest edition of his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries.
"Since laboratory studies have detailed the disruptive effect on those insects, it was suggested that the same things were happening in the field. Unanticipated losses of formerly strong honey bee colonies, and easily observable decreases in bumble bee sightings, correlated well with increased use of neonics."
Mussen goes on to talk about the neonic situation in Europe and what the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) has to say about the controversial issue. EFSA concluded that the neonicotinoid pesticides posed a “high acute risk” to pollinators, including honey bees, but that a definitive connection between the chemicals and loss of colonies in the field remained to be established, Mussen wrote.
Mussen, California's only Cooperative Extension apiculturist and a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976, says the situation is not that simple. Read why. His newsletter is available free on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website. Access his web page and then click on "March/April 2013."
Honey bee heading for a catmint (Nepeta) patch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Don't ever call the European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) a slow poke. It's not "as fast as a speeding bullet" (Superman), but close.
The males, quite territorial, chase away other pollinators, including honey bees, sweat bees and butterflies.
The European wool carder bee gets it name from the fact that females collect or "card" leaf fuzz for their nests. Today we watched the bees sip nectar from our catmint blossoms and mate.
If you've never seen them in California, that's because they haven't been here that long. Originating from Europe, these bees became established in New York in 1963, and began spreading west. Bee scientists first recorded them in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
Like to attract them to your yard? Plant lamb's ear (Stachys byzantia) and catmint (Nepeta).
European wool carder bee darts through catmint. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Mating European wool carder bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
After mating, these European wool carder bees broke away at lightning speed. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
(Editor's Note: This luncheon has been postponed until October 2013. Details forthcoming)
The buzz around the UC Davis campus is a June luncheon.
Not just any luncheon, but "A Luncheon in the Garden."
The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, directed by Amina Harris, is gearing up for the event, to be held Saturday, June 2 from noon to 3 p.m. in the UC Davis Good Life Garden, by the Robert Mondavi Center for Institute for Wine and Food Science.
Its purpose is to introduce and support the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center to the community. As Harris describes it: "A dazzling five-course meal will be served, from appetizers to cheese and desserts. Each course features honeys from around the globe. Food and drink created by chefs, apiaries, wineries and meaderies and the farmers of California."
Sponsorship of this event supports the mission of the Honey and Pollination Center. It will:
- Promote the use of high quality honey in the California market, help ensure the sustainability of honey production in California, and showcase the importance of honey and pollination to the well-being of Californians.
- Spearhead efforts to gain support and assemble teams for research, education and outreach programs for various stakeholder groups including:
--The beekeeping industry
--Agricultural interests who depend on bee pollination
Tickets are $125 per person. A limited number of tickets is available. "A Luncheon in the Garden" promises not only to usher in June, but provide honey and mead enthusiasts and food connoisseurs with a day to remember. The last day to register is May 24. For more information, contact events manager Tracy Diesslin at (530) 752-5233 or at email@example.com.
Matched pair: Honey bees on blanket flower (Gaillardia). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)