What’s ABuzz

JH, JO, and I led a bee hike on 5/16/09 at Skyline Ridge OSP. The weather was pleasant at around 10:00 a.m., and got very warm by 2:30 p.m. (enough to give me a heat headache). We had five participants including another docent. There was another hike going on at the same trailhead. Sadly, in the last part of the driveway was an Alligator Lizard that had gotten hurt and was writhing around. I moved it to the ground cover on the side, and it seemed to be expiring pretty fast.

Heading up the hill, there were flower beetles in the California Poppies. There were some small insects that were too difficult to catch, including what looked like a tiny bright green metallic bee. At the poison oak-covered elderberry, a wasp checked out the vegetation. There were quite a few mining bees (Andrena). We caught two separately and were able to see the pollen packed in the corbiculae, up to the bee’s “armpits”.

At the seep just before the woods, the good-sized blue-black mason bees (Osmia) were still active in the holes above the ditch, presumably gathering mud. A few bee flies also hovered around. The Osmia were very energetic in the container.

Mason bee (Osmia) at mud patch over ditch

Mason bee (Osmia) showing mandibles

We got a bee fly (probably Bombylius Major) in the tube, and it played dead several times while we had it contained.

In the woods, there were a few red cuckoo bees (Nomada), but they were also difficult to catch. Some tiny cuckoo bees (Sphecoda) with red abdomens were numerous in spots. A few sheet web spiders kept the group busy.

Cuckoo bee (Sphecode)

Cuckoo bee (Sphecode)

The flowers we had seen on our prehike were still there, with the addition of Clarkia and Windmill Pink: Chinese Houses, Tomcat Clover, Owl’s Clover, Lupine, Woodland Star, Pacific Star, Madia, California Buttercup, Blue-eyed Grass, Plectritis, many Blow-wives, and Iris.

Birds: Black-headed Grosbeak, Purple Finch, Northern Flicker, Oak Titmouse, Red-winged Blackbird, and various warblers sang away during the hike.

There were many juvenile Western Fence Lizards along the way. Ladybird beetles were around throughout the hike.

We had lunch under the oak by the Rattlesnake sign, and after we’d eaten, went over a few more bee quiz questions.

Along the trail was a micromoth on a dandelion-type plant; it turned out to be a fairy moth (Adela, probably Flammeusella) with long antennae. On a different stem next to that moth was a crab spider (one of a few) which had caught another Adela. A large queen Yellow-faced Bumble Bee flew by, and a black and red assasin bug made itself available after a little chase. Either there was more than one, or that bug hung around in that area, as we also saw it on the return trip. There were a few bumble bees, but those too were surprisingly difficult to catch.

In the chaparral, Yerba Santa was blooming. There was some kind of caterpillar in a silk wrapper, next to a small spider. JO caught a snakefly, and the group got a good look at that. There was another small bee in another dandelion-type plant (a male Andrena), and another tiny bee, a small carpenter bee (Ceratina, subgenus Zadontomerus).

Small carpenter bee (Ceratina)

Small carpenter bee (Ceratina)

It was a little after 1:00 by then, so we turned around and headed back to the intersection. Turning right, we headed to the lake. A grasshopper was relatively easy to catch by dropping the net over it. It also was relatively easy to get in hand from the tube, to show the yellow wing color with matching tibia.

Butterflies:CA Ringlet, Variable Checkerspot, Propertius Duskywing, Western Brown Elfin up in the chaparral, some identified blues, an unidentified lady.

At the lake, we checked the area and observed the odonates (and grebes from the bridge. I walked to the bench to get something out of my pack, and found a big tick on my shoulder. It went into a bug box for the group to look at.

We took the lakeside trail back. At one spot, there were small insects fluttering around the buttercups. In the sun, their wings looked bronze. They had long, stick-like bodies, and would stick their heads deep into the flowers with their rear ends up. The larger ones were marked in yellow and black, and had yellow on their legs. These turned out to be stem sawflies, something new.

The last participant was entranced by the dragonflies and damselflies: Cardinal Meadowhawk, Pacific Forktail, Western Forktail, Blue Dasher, Western Pondhawk, a spotted Skimmer. A wasp or two visited the mud next to the water.

We got back to the lot around 2:40. A very satisfying bug day. (All insects were released after capture.)

See the better photos at: What’s Abuzz

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