The recent warm spell brought out the bugs big time. That’s great news for blooming plants anxiously awaiting pollination. It’s great for birds needing protein to fortify themselves for nesting and egg laying. And there’s some unanticipated consequences … see below.
Bumblebees were out in force in the warm daytimes. They’ve been seen in small numbers for several weeks; probably the first ones were queens building their underground nests. Now we’re seeing workers. The honeybees that do most of the commercial orchard pollination are all imports from Europe. Bumblebees are the big native pollinator bugs that keep plant life going in the wilderness and in informal places like our park. The Ceanothus where this bumblebee was working grows in the Native Plant Area. The photo shows the living portion of a very old Ceanothus bush; the rest of it appears dead. This was planted in the early 1980s. The expected lifetime of Ceanothus is 25-30 years. If the Alameda County Board of Supervisors ratifies the grant awarded to the Chavez Park Conservancy by the County Fish and Game Commission (See “Pollinator Garden Gets Green Light,” Mar 17 2022), new Ceanothus will be planted and future bumblebees will have a richer source of nectar to feed on.
This Crane Fly looks like a mosquito but is completely harmless. The legs are deciduous, meaning they fall off. The female contains mature eggs when she emerges from the pupa and will mate immediately when a male is available. She will deposit her eggs on any organic matter or drop them from the air. The adult life span is 10 to 15 days. The eggs develop into larvae that eat organic matter. There are thousands of species of Crane Flies, and some species develop into agricultural pests. The larvae are important food sources for a wide variety of other creatures.
This next little bug video is unpleasant and you may want to skip it. There is a handful of people who have taken it on themselves to feed what they believe is a feral cat in the Native Plant Area. There was indeed such a cat, but I have not seen it in many months. What is currently being fed here is without a doubt a skunk or skunks living in the area. (See “Morning Skunk,” Mar 12 2021, showing a skunk heading for the cat feeding station.) A crow was also watching from a low perch as I approached; crows are experienced raiders of feral cat feeding stations. What was being fed most immediately this warm day was a swarm of flies:
Feeding feral cats in the park is against Berkeley law, as well as against the rules of the neighboring East Bay Regional Park District. I won’t rehearse here the reasons why feral cats or feral dogs don’t belong in parks. I’ll just point out that actions may have unintended consequences, such as fattening skunks, crows, and swarms of flies.