Backyard Orchard News
They're up and at it long before the honey bees.
Before dawn breaks, you'll see the tiny bees gathering nectar and pollen in squash, pumpkins and other cucurbits.
They're squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa), sometimes called the plush bee. Unlike honey bees (which European colonists brought here in the 1600s), these are native pollinators. And unlike honey bees, these are solitary bees that nest underground. You'll find them from Quebec southward into Mexico.
Entomologists say they do a better job pollinating squash than the honey bees.
We'll take their word for it. Dozens of blossoms grace our sole squash plant, a yellow straightneck summer squash.
We bought the plant for a dollar, planted it in April, and already it has produced a dozen squash, thanks primarily to the little squash bees. Later in the morning, honey bees and carpenter bees gather where the squash bees have been.
It's our "yellow blossom special."
A squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When you look at the tiny unassuming walnut twig beetle--it's smaller than a grain of rice--you wonder how it could possibily kill a majestic black walnut tree.
By itself, it can't. But when it's associated with a specific fungus that hitchhikes on the beetle, we’re talking serious problems.
A fungus from the genus Geosmithia is hitchhiking on the walnut twig beetle and together they are killing black walnut trees in California and seven other Western states. The disease has been tabbed “Thousand Cankers Disease” because of the cankers left behind.
Entomologist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, which houses one of the largest insect collections in
It’s that serious.
The beetle, Pityophthorus juglandis, native to
When I attended the Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting last fall in
It definitely is.
Entomologist Steve Seybold of the Davis-based Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, and an affiliate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, said it's a hard time for hardwoods. Another speaker, entomologist Andrew Graves of the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology, described some of the cankers as "enormous."
"If you peel back the bark, you’ll see the well-developed beetle galleries and blotches of fungal-stained wood and bark that look like a thousand cankers,” Graves said. ”The cankers widen and girdle twigs and branches, resulting in die back of the tree crown."
Seybold and Graves are among the researchers studying the disease and the one-two punch packed by the tiny walnut twig beetle and the yet undescribed fungus from the genus Geosmithia.
So tiny, so deadly, so disconcerting./o:p>/st1:city>/st1:place>/o:p>/st1:place>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:place>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:place>/st1:state>/st1:place>/st1:place>/st1:city>/st1:city>/st1:place>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:country-region>/st1:country-region>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:place>/o:p>/o:p>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>
Tiny walnut twig beetle
Death and destruction
The Baxter House is no more.
The UC Davis Fire Department burned it down yesterday.
It's gone, along with assorted black widow spiders, scattered crane flies, munchkin termites and maybe a meandering ant or wandering fly or two. (After all, this is a "bug" blog.)
The Baxter House, built in May 1938, was an abandoned, rundown house on Bee Biology Road, on the west end of the UC Davis campus. It stood east of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, the only other building on Bee Biology Road.
Once a private residence and then an avian lab research facility, the 1200-square-foot building went up in flames and down in embers.
Just like that.
In its place will be an access road to the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden to be installed later this year next to the Laidlaw facility.
The Baxter House was not only a troubling eyesore but a massive road bump in the UC Davis Department of Entomology's development plans.
Some 15 firefighters, including trainees in the UC Davis student residential firefighter program, participated in the training exercise, led by assistant chief Nathan Trauernicht, operations and training division.
The eyesore is gone. Bring on the bees and the honey bee haven.
Up in Flames
The honey bee hive is not all sweetness.
The first virgin queen bee to emerge from her cell (each queen cell resembles a peanut shell) will rid the colony of her competition.
After emerging, the queen makes a mark on the other queen cells. That's an indication--or really, an order--for the worker bees to destroy the developing queen inside, says Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty..
There can, after all, be only one queen bee in the hive.`
"The queen bee develops from a fertilized egg that hatches three days after being laid," wrote authors Eric Mussen, Len Foote, Norman Gary, Harry Laidlaw, Robbin Thorp and Lee Watkins in the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources booklet, Beekeeping in California, published in 1987. "Nurse bees, a class of worker bee, feed developing queen larvae a special diet consisting mostly of the royal jelly that they secrete from their glands. This special diet shortens the time spent to reach maturity to 16 days, compared with 21 days for the worker bee and 24 for the drone (male). The result is a bee larger than any others, with fully developed ovaries and a very large abdomen."
"The queen," they explain, "is reared in a large cell resembling a peanut shell that hangs vertically from the comb and about 10 days after emerging, she becomes sexually mature."
Then she takes one or more mating flights, mates with 10 to 20 drones, and returns to the hive to spend the rest of her life laying eggs. In her two-to-three-year life span, she'll lay about 1000 eggs a day. In peak season, she'll lay about 2000 eggs a day.
She's queen for the day, and every day.
The bees are dropping like flies--in swimming pools all over northern California during this triple-digit heat wave.
Honey bees collect water to aircondition their hive. They sip from bird baths, dripping faucets, water-splashed plants and even wet laundry hanging on the line. They return to their colony where they release droplets of water. The buzz of hundreds of wings fanning the hive sounds like hundreds of super-charged fans or a ramped-up swamp cooler.
"This hot weather is really hard on the bees," said bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
Unfortunately, bees searching for water can fall into swimming pools and perish. Last weekend we netted about a dozen bees from our pool. All survived but one. Another looked like a goner. The water-soaked bee stood on the net--nothing but net--all night long. The next morning she raised her head, spun her wings and buzzed off.
Really, I'm not into bee-ing a "bee lifeguard" or admininistering "bee CPR."
Let Me Bee