Backyard Orchard News
Last summer we spent many hours capturing images of male long-horned bees, Melissodes aegils, sleeping in clusters on the stems of our guara at night and early morning. (Sometimes they slept inches away from a praying mantis.) Then during the day the boys chased the girls, all the while protecting their turf from prospective suitors and pollinators.
We captured our last seasonal image of a long-horned bee on Sept. 28. It was a Melissodes, all right, but it was Melissodes robustior, a male, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis and one of the authors of California Bees and Blooms.
The book, the work of Gordon Frankie, Thorp, Rollin Coville, and Barbara Ertter, all affiliated with UC Berkeley (Thorp received his doctorate there), is a wealth of information about not only bees, but the flowers they visit. (See the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website.)
Want to know about Melissodes? There are 130 species of Melissodes in the New World, and about 100 of them live in North America. Of that number, 50 species live in California. Who knew? And only three Melissodes species are widespread and common in California, including our robust buddy, Melissodes robustior.
Last summer we watched at least two species of Melissodes attempt to claim all the guara, catmint, oregano, rosemary, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), Cosmos, and African blue basil, much to the "bee-wilderment" of honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees and other pollinators.
The long-horned bees are all gone now, but next year a whole new generation will take their place.
A long-horned male bee, Melissodes robustior, on the leaf of a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's cool how honey bees and syrphid flies gravitate toward the Iceland Poppy.
It's a winter plant, and frankly, there isn't much to eat out there.
The Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule), a bowl-shaped, papery flower, fills the bill.
The name is a misnomer. It's not native to Iceland. It's from the cooler regions of Europe, Asia and North America, and the mountains of Central Asia. Botanists first described it in 1759.
Like all poppies, they're poisonous. In fact, scientists tell us that all parts of poppies are poisonous. That's because they contain toxic alkaloids. This one, P. nudicaule, contains a benzophenanthidine alkaloid, chelidonine.
Nevertheless, it's a unique, delightful plant. Each flower bursts forth from a hairy, leafless stem that curves like a question mark. When a strong gust of wind further punctuates the plant, the petals drop to the ground. Spent. How fragile are the flowers!
Cultivars can be yellow, salmon, pink, orange, rose, cream and white, as well as tri-colored. The ones in our bee garden are Champagne Bubbles, 15-inch plants in yellow, orange, pink, scarlet, apricot and cream.
Some of the other cultivars bear equally enticing names like Flamenco, Wonderland, Party Fun, Illumination, Meadow Pastels, Victory Giants, Oregon Rainbows and Matador.
Today the honey bees and syrphid flies (aka hover flies or flower flies) jockeyed for position, almost engaging in critter combat in a swirl of autumn color, a veritable kaleidoscope of activity.
Matadors in the Champagne Bubbles...
A syrphid fly, aka hover fly or flower fly, on an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A green bottle fly soaking up sunshine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee gathering pollen. In the foreground: a freeloader fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two syrphids sharing an Iceland Poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's cricket to eat Cambodian crickets.
And how wouldn't want a plate of teriyaki grasshopper kebobs paired with Rubicon Angus Scottish Ale?
"Don't worry, be hoppy," said celebrity bug chef David George Gordon, author of the award-winning “Eat-a-Bug” cookbook.
The occasion: the first-ever bugs-and-beer event at the UC Davis Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science's Silverado Vineyards Sensory Theatre.
Bring 'em on!
It was a pairing of bugs and beer--bugs selected by Chef Gordon and beer selected by The Pope of Foam” Charlie Bamforth--the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences in the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology.
Together they entertained, informed and educated the capacity crowd at the event, titled "Bugs and Beer—Why Crickets and Kölsch Might Be Matches Made in Heaven." The mood was jovial, the insects savory, and the beer delightful.
Which bugs did they pair with beer?
- Flavored mealworms with Ruhstaller Gilt Edge Lager
- Wasabi sago worms with Lagunitas Pils
- Baked European house crickets with Sudwerk Hefeweizen
- Cambodian crickets with Gordon Biersch Winterbock
- Ant and pear salad with Sierra Nevada Boomerang IPA
- Teriyaki grasshopper kebobs with Rubicon Angus Scottish Ale
- Cricket flour cookies with Heretic Chocolate Hazelnut Porter
- Chocolate-dipped chapulines (grasshoppers) with Berryessa Whippersnapper English Mild
All bugs must be cooked; no bugs should not be eaten raw, cautioned Chef Gordon. Why? "Due to the possibility of parasites." He also warned the participants not to catch and eat that cockroach that crawled under your refrigerator or grab a pesticide-sprayed bug in the field. Bugs should be raised in hygienic conditions or purchased from reliable companies.
Chef Gordon said that 80 percent of the world's culture eat bugs, and two-thirds of all animal species are insects. "Bug-eating is good for the planet. Bugs are nutritious, delicious, cheap and plentiful.”
“John the Baptist was the most famous bug eater,” Gordon said. “The Bible tells us he ate locusts and honey. Angelina Jolie is the second most famous bug-eater. And I'm third, the godfather of insect cuisine.”
"Pope of Foam" Professor Bamforth kept the audience laughing with his references to beer preferences, which he boiled down to what people love and what people loathe. Bamforth likened some beers (not served at the event) as reminding him of “cat's breath, newly filled baby diapers, and wet horse blanket with mouse pee.” At one beer tasting, a beer reminded him of “a wet dog urinating in a telephone booth.”
The beer-bug fest was the brainchild of Elizabeth Luu, a UC Davis student-employee at RMI, who told the crowd that she entomophagy. "The more disgusting the bug, the more I want to eat it."
Gordon drew laughter when he said many Americans consider eating bugs "weird" or a novelty but look at the "weird things" that we eat, such as "an egg that comes out of a chicken butt."
RMI program representative Evan White said he especially loved two dishes: the pear-spinach-ant salad “with the crunchy weaver ants” and the dessert, the chocolate-dipped chapuline grasshoppers. “But then anything with chocolate is delicious,” White said.
Anne Schellman, manager of the UC Davis California Center for Urban Horticulture who attended with friend Javier Miramontes, a community education specialist for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in Fresno, said her favorites were the European house crickets and grasshopper kebobs. “They were both chewy but crunchy and had good flavor,” she said.
She wasn't so sure about the Cambodian crickets. “I ate the head and part of the body--after I pulled off the legs and played with the wings,” Schellman said. “It was just too darned big and intimidating to eat it (all).”
Gordon said it's only right that we humans eat the pests that eat our food in our garden. Tomato hornworms, for one. One of his recipes calls for tomato green hornworms, lavished with olive oil, green tomatoes, pepper, white cornmeal and basil.
Gordon mentioned that his “Orthopteran Orzo,” sprinkled with the tasty crunch of three-week old cricket nymphs, is quite popular. At one event, a pre-teen boy kept returning for more. “Don't they ever feed you at home?” Gordon asked him after the fourth helping.
“But this is way better than anything my mom makes,” the boy said.
Flavored meal worms were first on the menu. (Photos by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Pope of Foam" Charlie Bamfroth talked about why he paired certain beers with bugs.
Javier Miramontes and Anne Schellman played with their food, a Cambodian cricket.
His daughter-in-law, Mary Louise “Mary Lou” Flint, a longtime leader of the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Program and a newly retired Extension entomologist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will be honored at a dinner on Dec. 1 as the recipient of the 2014 James H. Meyer Distinguished Achievement Award for her outstanding contributions to the university.
The event will take place at 6 p.m., in Ballrooms B and C of the UC Davis Conference Center. Reservations may be made by contacting UC Davis Special Events at (530) 754-2262 by Nov. 24.
Flint, UC IPM's associate director for Urban and Community IPM, and who retired at the end of June, is the third entomologist (Frank Zalom, 2004, and Thomas Leigh, 1988) to receive the Academic Federation award, first presented in 1971.
Her father-in-law, who served as chancellor from 1969 to 1987, during the university's greatest period of growth and change, strongly supported the Academic Federation and the Cooperative Extension Specialists, Agricultural Experiment Station researchers and other non-Senate academics it represents, Flint said.
Parrella said that Flint “has been heavily involved in the leadership, creativity and the success of UC IPM Program since 1983 and is UC IPM's longest-tenured employee. Also since 1983, she has served as an Extension entomologist in our department and we are proud of her innovative ideas, dedication, commitment and accomplishments. Dr. Flint is truly an outstanding leader and visionary who has initiated, conducted and established research, educational and outreach programs that we sometimes take for granted. She advances IPM practices that are economical, environmentally friendly and health conscious.”
Wrote UC IPM Director Kassim Al-Khatib: “Dr. Flint has initiated, conducted, and established an outstanding and well respected IPM research and outreach program for urban and community. Many of her programs and findings have significant impact on pest management in California. She is a talented, capable specialist and good communicator to the IPM end-user.” Globally, the UC IPM program is considered the gold standard of IPM.
Flint received her bachelor's degree in plant sciences in 1972 from UC Davis, and her doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1979. “We are fortunate that she chose to spend her career here at UC Davis,” Parrella said.
Among her accomplishments:
- Created, wrote or edited and oversaw the development of the UC IPM's IPM Manual series of books from 1980-2007; this series includes IPM manuals on 15 different agricultural crops or crop groups. More than 100,000 copies of these books have been sold worldwide.
- Oversaw the development and creation of the online UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines from 1987-2007. This series included 43-crop specific PMGs featuring hundreds of pests and thousands of photographs and authored by UC experts around the state and updated regularly. Flint served as technical editor. She developed many online tools associated with the PMGs such as the Natural Enemies Gallery and the Weed Galleries.
- Established the UC IPM Pest Note series for home, garden, landscape and urban audiences. This series covers more than 165 pests. About 12,000 people a day access these publications on the UC IPM Home and Garden website.
- Authored several important books on IPM including Pests of the Garden and Small Farm, IPM in Practice: Principles and Methods of IPM and The Natural Enemies Handbook. She developed the Pesticide Compendium series along with Patrick O'Connor Marer.
- Created some of the earliest interactive learning tools of IPM, including the 1996 CD-ROM Solving Garden Problems: A University of California Interactive Guide and The UC Interactive Tutorial for Biological Control of Insects and Mites (an interactive CD-ROM, Publication 3412). She and her colleagues also created some of the first online training materials for IPM with online training programs for retail nursery and garden center personnel. The UC Guide to Healthy Lawns on the UC IPM website is another key accomplishment. UC IPM takes its 16 portable UC IPM Touch Screen IPM kiosks to hundreds of retail stores and community events. More recently, Flint has been heavily involved in creating YouTube videos on the UC IPM channel and disseminating information through other electronic and social media.
- Developed hands-on, train-the-trainer programs for UC Master Gardeners, retail nursery personnel and landscape professionals that have resulted in the delivery of information to far more people than would be possible through conventional training meetings. Among the topics: biological control, pesticides and landscape pest identificatio
Lately Flint has been involved with the thousand cankers disease, caused by the walnut twig beetle, Pityophthorus juglandis, in association with the fungus, Geosmithia morbida. The disease kills walnut trees, especially black walnuts. She continues to work on the project with research entomologist Steven J. Seybold of the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Davis, and other scientists.
Seybold, an affiliate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, said that on a national level, Flint was "instrumental in facilitating the rapid processing and release of the national trapping guidelines for the walnut twig beetle."
"Once our team had discovered the aggregation pheromone of this beetle and had demonstrated its value in trapping the insect in California, Mary Louise assisted us with the preparation and dissemination of useful trapping guidelines, which have been employed by state pest regulatory officials and detection entomologists throughout the country.”
Widely honored by her peers, Flint received the 2002 Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award for Integrated Pest Management from the Association of Applied IPM Ecologists; a 2003 IPM Innovator Award from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation as part of the Sacramento Water Wise Pest Control Program; a 2003 resolution from the Sacramento City Council honoring her for contributions to the Sacramento Water Wise Program; a 2004 Environmental Services Award from the San Francisco Department of the Environment; and an international IPM Award of Recognition, “Grower Incentives Team Project,” at the 2009 International IPM Symposium in Portland, Ore.
Flint is not only the third entomologist to receive the award, but the third IPM specialist. Frank Zalom, a distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, directed the UC IPM Program for 16 years (1988-2001). He is currently serving as president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America. Thomas Leigh (1923-1993) stood at the forefront of integrated pest management of cotton pests, according to an article in the summer 1994 edition of American Entomologist. He taught courses on cotton IPM and host plant resistance.
Mary Lou Flint outside her new office at Briggs Hall. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Here's a good reason why you should not clean the fixtures around your porch lights--if you need a reason.
The lights attract all kinds of nocturnal flying insects. It's like the proverbial draw of a moth to a flame.
Spiders weave their webs on the light fixtures to trap their prey. If you remove the webs, you'll remove the insect smorgasbord.
Recently we saw an insect we'd never seen before on the light fixture: a praying mantis lying in wait, maybe to snare a moth or share the spider's bounty.
The porch light screams '"science project!" We remember our son's science projects in elementary school, including "Can a Plant Grow Upside Down?" and "How Fast Can a Yo-Yo Spin?" Somewhere the curious mind of a science student will look at the light on his or her front porch and ask: What insects are flying toward the night light and how many? How many predators are lying in wait? What do they eat? And, what roles do these lights and predators play in luring the insects to their death?
Meanwhile, the praying mantis has vanished. It's end of the season. Next year there will be many more praying mantids. One deposited an egg case beneath a table on the back porch. After they emerge and eat their brothers and sisters (no sibling love there!), one or more may hang out on the light fixture next year.
Porch lights attract predators and prey, including this predator, a praying mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)