Backyard Orchard News
Once upon a time, there was a redhumped caterpillar gorging on the leaves of a redbud tree.
For three days, the hungry caterpillar gobbled the leaves, like an insect version of Pac-Man. It snipped, shredded and skeletonized the leaves and then went for more.
On the fourth day, it lay motionless, entangled in a spider web.
On the fifth day, the lifeless redhumped caterpillar (Schizura concinna) came back to "life," in the form of Argentine ants gorging on its carcass.
Life and death in the garden...
It was a major milestone, sequencing the genome of Culex quinquefasciatus, the so-called “southern house mosquito.”
The research, spearheaded by UC Riverside geneticists and published in the Oct. 1, 2010 edition of Science, involved scientists from 37 other institutions. The mosquito is a medically important mosquito that transmits the West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis, lymphatic filariasis and other diseases.
UC Riverside research entomologist Peter Arensburger led the bioinformatics component of the multiyear research effort, launched in 2004.
Cornel collected and established the mosquito colony that was sequenced. Cornel is an associate professor of entomology at UC Davis who directs the mosquito research lab at UC Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier.
“We have multiple sub colonies of the Johannesburg colony now established in numerous insectaries worldwide,” said Cornel.
Lanzaro, a longtime collaborator with Cornel, is a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine and former director of the UC Mosquito Research Program and the Center for Vectorborne Diseases. Both Cornel and Lanzaro serve as graduate student advisors in the UC Davis Department of Entomology. They mentor future medical entomologists.
The Hammock lab played a role in annotating and examining divergence of esterases and glutathione-S tranferases in this mosquito. Bruce Hammock is a distinguished professor of entomology. The lab of Walter Leal, professor of entomology, added expertise in chemical ecology.
Cornel hailed the research as “another milestone in mosquito genomics—we now have a full genome sequence of a third medically important mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus.”
Said Cornel: "This is the first species within the Culex genus fully sequenced and now offers many opportunities for research on comparative genomics and post genomics between three mosquito species now fully sequenced—namely the major malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae; the major dengue virus vector, Aedes aegypti; and a major vector of West Nile virus, Culex quinquefasciatus.”
The genome of Culex quinquefasciatus, Cornel said, is much larger than the other two species--52 percent more than Anopheles gambiae and 22 percent more than Aedes aegypti. “Research on these three mosquitoes--how they find their hosts and vector diseases and the mechanisms involved--will likely blossom in the near future.”
This is indeed research to watch.
Honey bees foraging on zinnias?
Yes. It's not considered a "bee plant" like the salvias, lavenders and mints, but bees do forage on it occasionally.
The genus, from the aster family (Asteraceae), derives its name from the German botanist, Johann Gottfried Zinn.
At the Hoes Down Harvest Festival last weekend at the Fully Belly Farm, an organic farm in Guinda, deep in the heart of Capay Valley, life took a celebratory twist. The annual festival, so named because folks put down their hoes to celebrate the harvest, includes educational farm tours, a children’s area, hands-on workshops, live music, and the sale of organic produce (fruits, vegetables, olive oil and honey).
This year, the 23rd annual event, weavers wove, spinners spun and a blacksmith blacksmithed just as our great-grandparents did.
And those little honey bees that make it all possible, buzzed amid the basil, mints, salvias--and yes, zinnias.
Honey Bee on Zinnia
You want to make sure that Mr. and Mrs. Yellowjacket and all their offspring--plus nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts, cousins and assorted other relatives--aren't on the invite list.
And if you're a beekeeper, you don't want them killing your honey bees. "They pull the bees off at the entrance, dismember them and fly away with the parts--generally the head--to feed to their larvae," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (right) of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Indeed, these predatory insects can be a major problem this time of the year.
When Mussen addressed the Santa Clara County Beekeeping Guild on Monday, Oct. 4, he asked the 60 attendees: "How many of you have had significant problems with yellowjackets?"
About eight hands shot up.
What to do?
"It was around a decade ago that we lost the use of flowable microencapsulated diazinon (Knox Out 2FM^® ) as a yellowjacket bait poison," Mussen said in a message he also shared today with the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "As long as the wasps did not taste it, they would take the contaminated bait back to the nests and share it with their brood and other adults. It was amazing! Often in 48 hours the colonies were out of business and the area was clear of yellowjackets."
Recently, a new microencapsulated product, Onslaught^® , containing esfenvalerate, has come on the market to be mixed into yellowjacket baits, Mussen said. Formulating the bait is the same as it was with diazinon--about 1/4 teaspoonful of the insecticide in about 12 ounces of the bait.
Yellowjackets are attracted to many odorous potential foods when their prey runs out and they turn to scavenging, said Mussen, adding that the chemical seems quite a draw when it's mixed with canned, fish-based cat food.
"Try a couple samples of cat food without insecticide to see which product is most attractive to your local yellowjacket population. Then place about three ounces of formulated bait in each trap and things should get better fast."
"You can find this product on the web as Alpine Yellowjacket Bait Station Kit. A multi-year supply (one pint) of microencapsulated esfenvalerate and four bait stations--they look like over-sized, plastic prescription bottles with a hole in the side and a string for hanging--will cost about $85 before shipping. Sounds like a lot of money for a small amount of product, but if you need to clear out the yellowjackets in a hurry--wedding reception, fair, outdoor barbecue, your own peace of mind-- this is a good investment."
And don't even think about inserting insecticidal wasp baits in that empty soda bottle lying on the ground near your picnic table. It's illegal to put pesticides, including insecticidal wasp baits, into used food and drink containers.
"The last thing you would want is for someone to accidentally eat or drink your poisoned bait," he said.
What the world needs now is "love, sweet love" and...more ladybugs.
Ladybeetles are our friends. They gobble up aphids and other pests in our garden, and then look around for more. They have insatiable appetites.
Last Friday morning, as volunteers worked in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the half-acre bee friendly garden at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, the artichoke plants stirred.
Two ladybugs were in the midst of making more ladybugs.
Yes! We need more ladybugs.
During the grand opening celebration of the haven on Sept. 11, we spotted a web-weaving spider eating a ladybug.
One ladybug gone.
But many more to come.
Volunteers interesting in tending the plants--and maybe spotting a few ladybugs, as well as honey bees, butterflies, dragonflies, sweat bees, praying mantids and a variety of other insects in the garden--can show up at the haven on Fridays at 8:30 a.m.
Melissa "Missy" Borel, program manager of the California Center for Urban Horticulture, UC Davis, and one of the key persons involved in the development of the garden, is coordinating the volunteers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 752-6642.
And oh, if you like to capture images of plant and animal life inside the garden, don't forget your camera.
Beneath a Leaf