Backyard Orchard News
Not just on National Honey Bee Day, which is Saturday, Aug. 16, but every day.
This year's theme is “Sustainable Gardening Begins with Honey Bees.”
Some grassroots-minded beekeepers established the day in 2009 "to build community awareness of the bee industry, through education and promotion," according to their website. "Our commitment is to continue that philosophy."
"Oh, but I'm just one person!" you say. The NHBD's response to that is a quote from Edmund Burke (1729-1797): "No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."
Here's what we did: We removed our lawn: no lawnmower, no edger, no lawn. Our garden is a bee garden. We planted lavender, artichokes (and let them flower), catmint, alyssum, cilantro, cosmos, tower of jewels, zinnias, guara, blanketflowers (Gallardia) sunflowers, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), lantana, California golden poppies, honeysuckle, salvia, oregano, African blue basil, sedum, peach, tangerine, pomegranate, lemon and other bee favorites. A drip irrigation grid system, timed to turn on at 4 in the morning, keeps the plants healthy, and the nectar and pollen flowing. It's a veritable oasis. It's a welcome mat. It's a pool of floral resources. C'mon in, the flowers are fine!
It's also important to select seasonal plants, especially for late summer and fall, when food resources are scarce. Avoid pesticides. Buy local honey. Support the bees. Support the beekeepers. Become a beekeeper or let beekeepers maintain their hives on your property, if you can.
Get involved with bees!
If you're like me, you love to photograph them. I can sit for hours in our bee garden and just watch them go about their bees-ness. Here are several of my favorite images:
Honey bee heading toward tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Golden bee (Cordovan) on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee on a California golden poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee on pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
For the past 17 years, Kevin Day, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Tulare County, and Ted DeJong, UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, have been comparing the quality of fruit on conventional peach and nectarine trees and smaller trees grown on size controlling rootstock, reported KSEE Channel 24 news and KMJ Farm Report in Fresno. The impact of plant spacing and limb training were also assessed.
The goal is to have trees below 8 to 9 feet with traditional scion cultivars on size controlling rootstock. With reduced yield per tree due to the size, the distance between rows and trees in the row can be reduced to get the same or higher yield per acre. Controller 9 is currently being planted commercially. Farmers can get some yield the second year after planting.
Shorter trees can eliminate ladder work, reducing labor costs and increasing worker safety. For more information, please see the ANR News blog.
See the video on the KSEE Channel 24 website.
Listen to a podcast of the KMJ Farm Report with the story on the peaches and nectarines on 8/12/2014 located at 44:30 minutes into the podcast./span>
Stonefruit rootstocks evaluated by UC Scientists help control tree size.
The "miel de lavande" produced by "apiculteur Marc Agnel" is creamed, as most lavender honeys are, she says. It arrived in San Francisco from France last week via my relatives (who love it).
"Honey from a specific plant doesn't always taste like the plant," Harris is saying, as she turns the wheel of the center's newly published Honey Flavor Wheel, a project benefitting bee health research at UC Davis. "Sometimes there is a bit of a surprise."
"Have the honey at room temperature, or slightly warmer, and covered," she advises. "This keeps all the volatiles inside the jar or cup."
Her observations about the honey and the procedure:
Aroma: The first scent is very floral with a touch of lilac. The next, overwhelming smell is fruit! Something very juicy.
Next: take a taste. Let the honey sit on your tongue and dissolve slowly. Try to assess all the flavors that might be occurring. floral – lilac; fruity – cherry
Primary taste: This honey is simply sweet.
Texture: This is a smooth and creamy honey. Quite unusual.
Finish: Notice how the taste lasts. This honey is delicate – that is, it has a very light and very distinct flavor. It has a short duration with a lasting aroma that is filled with a bit of cherry, lilac and the first taste of lavender!
“I have always been astonished by the range of flavors in honey. And its aromas, too. Developing the wheel has been an astonishing learning experience at all levels. I now truly pay attention as I taste many different kinds of foods. I notice flavors from beginning to end.
“I had one wonderful surprise during the tasting series," she recalled. "The sensory scientist we worked with, Sue Langstaff, had been to New Zealand and brought back several honeys. One was a wild flower called Viper's Bugloss. What an amazing aroma! Imagine sitting in a garden. The sun has just set. And the heady aromas of jasmine and orange blossom together crowd the air. This is the scent of Viper's Bugloss. An astonishing honey. Now I want more!”
The front of the colorful wheel lists the descriptors, including fruity, floral, herbaceous, woody, spicy, nutty, confectionary, caramel and earthy. No longer can you just say “sweet” when you taste honey or “sour, salty and bitter.” If it's fruity, can you determine if it's berry, citrus, dried fruit, tree fruit or tropical fruit? If it falls into the confectionary category, can you pinpoint marshmallow, vanilla, maple, butterscotch, toffee, molasses, cotton candy, crème brûlée, burnt sugar or brown sugar? There's even an “animal” category” where you may opine that your sample of honey reminds you of a barnyard.
The back of the Honey Flavor Wheel tells you how to taste honey and shares four honey profiles (Florida tupelo, California orange blossom, Northwest blackberry and Midwestern clover) “so the consumer can get an idea of how to use this innovative product,” Harris said.
(Check out the Sacramento Bee's YouTube video on Amina Harris's demonstration of the Honey Flavor Wheel.)
The Honey Flavor Wheel, measuring 8.25 inches, sells for $10 each, with all proceeds supporting bee health research at UC Davis. The product is available online and at several locations: the Honey and Pollination Center, located at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on Old Davis Road; at the UC Davis Campus Bookstore and at the downtown Davis Campus Bookstore; and online.
Jar of lavender honey rests next to the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center's Honey Flavor Wheel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The jar of lavender honey, "miel de lavande," is from France. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Amina Harris sniffs the aroma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When you're trying to rear Gulf Fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae), expect the expected: predators.
It doesn't take long for European paper wasps (Polistes dominula) to find the butterfly's host plant, the passionflower vine (Passsiflora) and prey. We've seen the wasps, with their long hind legs dangling, follow the butterflies as they flit from tendrils to leaves to lay their eggs. The wasps grab the tiny yellow eggs and squirming caterpillars and rip into chrysalids.
They'll attack adult butterflies, too, especially the crippled ones.
Then off they fly with bits of food--protein--for their colony. Wasps are carnivores (unlike their cousins, the honey bees, which are vegetarians).
The European paper wasp, so named because of its European origin, is relatively new to the United States. Scientists tell us that the P. dominula was not recorded in North America until 1981. P. dominula was first discovered in the United States in the late 1970s near Boston, Mass. This invasive species has since spread rapidly across the country. Entomologists worry that it is displacing the native species of Polistes wasps.
Have you ever seen these wasps attack other insects? Butterflies?
Last Sunday we were watching a crippled butterfly (no doubt crippled by a predator such as a bird or praying mantis) clinging to a Passiflora leaf as males tried unsuccessfully to mate with her. Eventually, the males all fluttered away and a European paper wasp patrolling the area zeroed in for the attack.
Like a hungry lion singling out a crippled gazelle from a stampeding herd, the European paper wasp knew just what to do.
European paper wasp targets a crippled Gulf Fritillary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A European paper wasp attacks a crippled Gulf Fritillary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The injured abdomen of the Gulf Fritillary. (Photo by Kathy Keatle Garvey)
European paper wasp grips the Gulf Fritillary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Birds do it," sang Ella Fitzgerald. "Bees do it..."
"Even educated" (insert "stink bugs") "do it." But she didn't sing that; that wasn't part of Cole Porter's lyrics.
But it's true. Stink bugs do it. Unfortunately.
We'd rather they NOT. These shield-shaped insects feed on such crops as tomatoes, beans, peaches, pears, apples, pistachios and almonds.
One of the most colorful stink bugs is the red-shouldered stink bug (Thyanta pallidovirens), which gets its name from the thin red band on its "shoulders."
We recently spotted two red-shouldered stink bugs in our family bee garden doing what Ella Fitzgerald called "falling in love."
We do not want a family stink bug garden. The resident praying mantis does not listen when we tell him to eat the stink bugs, not the pollinators. We suspect it's because stink bugs...well...stink. They produce a chemical meant to ward off predators.
So lately, the stink bugs have been targeting the dwarf peach tree and the cherry red tomatoes. As the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program says on its website:
"Stink bugs attack a variety of fruits and vegetables from stone fruits to pears to beans to tomatoes, often leaving blemishes, depressions, or brown drops of excrement. On green tomatoes, damage appears as dark pinpricks surrounded by a light discolored area that remains green or turns yellow when fruit ripen. Areas beneath spots on tomatoes or depressed areas on pears become white and pithy but remain firm as the fruit ripens. On peaches, fruit turns brown and corky."
Back to the birds and the bees and the stink bugs....It's not every day you see stink bugs mating. That's probably not on anyone's bucket list. And it's not every day you see a female lay her eggs on a guara (Guara lendheimeri) stem. That's definitely not on anyone's bucket list.
Indeed, the tiny white eggs are almost microscopic. But if you look closely, they're barrel-shaped.
So, how do you rid your garden of stink bugs? It has to do with a bucket. See, there is a bucket list! You fill the bucket with warm soapy water and drop in the little stinkers. (Personally, I haven't tried this at home because I'm trying to photograph them. Besides, the peach tree and tomato plants have already produced.)
However, Wikihow.com has published its how to kill a stink bug. The soapy water clogs their "pores" and they "drown within 20 to 40 seconds."
Those Wikihow.com folks sure know how to kill a sting bug. And they timed it to boot!
Red-shouldered stink bugs mating. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Stink bug laying eggs on a guara stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of stink bug eggs on a guara stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)