Wedge-shaped beetles live a part of their life cycle as a parasite on other insects, most commonly bees or wasps.
The beetle lays its eggs on a flower. The eggs hatch almost immediately into small larvae that lie in wait for a visiting bee. The larva crawls onto the bee and rides it back to the hive, where it dismounts and seeks a cell occupied by a bee larva. It then enters the body of the bee larva and waits until the bee larva pupates. It eats the entire pupa, then pupates in its turn and completes its metamorphosis before emerging from the hive to mate and lay eggs. Clever? Creepy? You decide.
At least eight different gull species hang out at Malibu Lagoon, and telling them apart isn’t always easy. For starters, they change their colouration every year for the first three or four years, and their summer outfits might differ from their winter ones. But setting aside the juvenile years, I’m going to try to learn how to identify the adults, even if they look very similar to a casual glance. These two, the Western and California gulls, look pretty much the same year round, so I’m starting with them. I’m honing in on the subtle differences between the two, which admittedly can only be seen close up. More pairs to come as I get around to it.
Even though Trisha is an entomologist, not an arachnologist, sometimes she treats us to a spider under the microscope.
Long-jawed orb-weavers vary in appearance, but those most commonly found are long-legged, thin-bodied spiders. When at rest, they may cling lengthwise along a twig or blade of grass, holding on with the short third pair of legs while the long pairs of legs are extended. They typically live in meadows near water, and around the banks of waterways (rivers, lakes, swamps), usually on low-hanging branches and reeds. These spiders will bite if threatened, but the bite is not harmful to humans.
I planned to hike Hondo Canyon in Topanga State Park, but the creek was swollen with last night’s rain and I didn’t fancy getting wet. So I explored in the other direction on the Backbone Trail, and was rewarded with my first currant flowers of the season.
The tarantula hawk is one of the largest parasitoid wasps, using its sting to paralyze its tarantula prey before dragging it to a brood nest as living food. A single egg is laid on the spider, hatching to a larva which eats the still-living host. They are found on all continents except Antarctica.
Tarantula hawk wasps are relatively docile and rarely sting humans without provocation. However, the sting is among the most painful of all insects’, though the intense pain only lasts about five minutes. In terms of scale, the wasp’s sting is rated near the top of the Schmidt sting pain index, second only to that of the bullet ant, and is described by Schmidt as “blinding, fierce, and shockingly electric”.
Dudleya is a relatively obscure genus of succulents. Species come in multiple divergent sizes and forms, though most readily hybridise. Ten species are on the California state list of threatened or endangered plants.
Poached plants are often shipped to East Asia, especially South Korea. In Sept 2021, California state law AB 223 was signed, making it illegal to harvest any Dudleya species in CA without a permit or landowner permission, and establishing penalties for individuals convicted of doing so. This was the first CA law specifically drafted to protect plants from poaching.
Two of the most successful weeds here at our place are mustard and mallow, which are quick to germinate after the first winter rains. There’s already a thick crop emerging on the sward, though unfortunately that area is used by the dog for relieving herself, so we won’t be harvesting any of those leaves for the soup pot.