Jupiter's Beard Makes the Cut

Apr 8, 2016

Clean-shaven it's not. Yet it's a cut above.

For bees, syrphids and butterflies, the long-blooming Jupiter's Beard make the cut.

Centranthus ruber, also known as Jupiter's Beard, Red Valerian, Kiss-Me-Quick, and Keys to Heaven, is a popular drought-tolerant plant that attracts insects like a picnic draws people.

A native of the Mediterranean region, Jupiter's Beard grows wild in California and in several other states, including Arizona, Hawaii, Oregon and Utah.

Cozy up to a Jupiter's Beard, and you're likely to see foraging honey bees, native bees, syrphid flies and butterflies. (And assorted other critters like leafhoppers, lady beetles and spiders.)

The plant was one of the first residents of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. The garden, installed in the fall of 2009 and operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will be the site of a spring open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 9. The event, free and open to the public, will feature a noon tour, and other activities, including how to catch, observe and release bees; how to identify bees; and what to plant to attract bees and other pollinators.  A bee observation hive is also planned where visitors can see the queen bee, workers and drones.

Then don't forget the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 16. What's a picnic without bugs?

In addition to the scores of the other fun and educational activities on campus, remember the two B's: Briggs and Bohart. You can enjoy entomological events at Briggs Hall, located on Kleiber Hall Drive, and the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located on Crocker Lane.

Among the activities at Briggs:  cockroach races, pollinator pavilion, a honey tasting, fly-tying, facepainting, Bug Doctor (The Doctor Is In!), maggot art, medical entomology exhibits,  and displays of ants, mosquitoes, aquatic insects and forest insects. The UC Integrated Pest Management Program will give away lady beetles (aka ladybugs) to kids, and hand out information about pests and beneficial insects.

At the Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, you can get up close and personal with the live "petting zoo," including the Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and a rose-haired tarantula named "Peaches." In keeping with the UC Davis Picnic Day's overall theme, "Cultivating Our Authenticity," the Bohart theme is "Real Insects and Their Mimics." Think bees. Think flies. Think about how to tell the difference. Syrphids, especially drone flies, are commonly mistaken for honey bees. Not all floral visitors are bees...