Backyard Orchard News
"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)
A group of 22 produce executives and supervisors from the SaveMart Corporation - which includes Lucky and FoodMaxx grocery stores - spent a morning at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center today to experience another part of the food journey.
The visitors were the guests of Carlos Crisosto, UC Cooperative Extension postharvest physiologist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. They toured the Giannini Postharvest Laboratory, which includes 18 controlled temperature and relative humidity rooms, eight of which are capable of controlled atmospheres. Years of work in the state-of-the-art facility by Crisosto and his colleagues resulted in a completely new protocol for handling peaches, plums and nectarines as they journey from the farm, to packing sheds, in the backs of trucks to distribution centers and finally to the supermarket produce aisle.
The findings came as a surprise to the industry when they were introduced nearly 10 years ago, but they have been widely adopted. In a nutshell, fruit is now "preconditioned" before it is cooled, a process that results in better tasting fruit, and subsequently, better sales of this Central California summertime staple.
The SaveMart tour continued in the field, where the group saw research plots of kiwifruit, pistachios, stone fruit, grapes, blueberries and other crops. A highlight was the fresh fig orchard, where all the participants hopped off the tram to pick and eat the tree-ripened fruit.
Think of them as "the good guys" and "the good girls."
Insects such as lacewings, lady beetles and flower flies.
We're delighted to see that the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has just published a 250-page book on "Farming with Native Beneficial Insects."
The book advocates the use of beneficial insects to prey upon crop pests, thus "reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides," say co-authors Eric Lee-Mäder, Jennifer Hopwood, Mace Vaughan, Scott Hoffman Black, and Lora Morandin.
"This comprehensive guide describes how to recognize these insects and their habitat, and how to evaluate, design, and improve habitat for them," they write. They offer specific solutions, including native plant field borders, mass insectary plantings, hedgerows, cover crops, buffer strips, beetle banks, and brush piles.
The much-acclaimed book, available for purchase on the Xerces website, is drawing well deserved accolades, including this one from Claire Kremen, professor and co-director of the Berkeley Food Institute, University of California, Berkeley:
“If you are a grower or a backyard gardener, this is a ‘must have.' Readable and filled with gorgeous photos and handy charts, this book provides reams of information about how to get the upper hand on your pest issues with reduced or no pesticide use.”
Xerces officials say the release of Farming with Native Beneficial Insects coincides with its launch of a new nationwide workshop series on natural pest control: the Conservation Biological Control Short Course. The course, to begin in the West and Midwest, "provides farmers, crop consultants, and government farm agency staff with a comprehensive, hands-on training in the natural pest management strategies described in the book. A similar workshop model previously offered by Xerces trained tens of thousands of people in farm communities across the U.S. to conserve bees and restore pollinator habitat, and helped facilitate the restoration of more than 100,000 acres of wildflower habitat for bees."
Speaking of "the good guys" and "the good girls," be sure to read the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Project's website on beneficial insects and natural enemies. The natural enemies include assassin bugs, bigeyed bugs, brown lacewings, convergent lady beetles, damsel bugs, dustywings, syrphid flies and twicestabbed lady beetles.
What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)? "Integrated pest management uses environmentally sound, yet effective, ways to keep pests from annoying you or damaging plants. IPM programs usually combine several pest control methods for long-term prevention and management of pest problems without harming you, your family, or the environment. Successful IPM begins with correct identification of the pest. Only then can you select the appropriate IPM methods and materials."
UC IPM points out:
- Many pests can be managed without the use of pesticides.
- Use pesticides only if nonchemical controls are ineffective and pests are reaching intolerable levels.
- Use pesticides in combination with the methods described above.
- Choose pesticides carefully. Use the least toxic, most effective material to protect human health and the environment.
- Examples of least toxic insecticides include:
- Oils; and
- Microbials such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and spinosad.
The more we learn about pests and the natural enemies of pests, the oft-heard quote, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer" rings quite true. The more we learn about our enemies, the less likely they will be able to harm us.
A syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly, nectaring on a tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A lacewing glows in the afternoon sun. Larvae eat such soft-bodied insects as mealybugs, psyllids, thrips, mites, whiteflies, aphids, small caterpillars, leafhoppers, and insect eggs, according to the UC IPM website. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The lady beetle, aka ladybug, is well known for its voracious appetite of aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The result was a good one: more damselflies.
Damselflies lay their eggs in water, whether it be a pond, underwater vegetation, or in water-filled cavities in trees. If they lay their eggs in a fish pond, fish feast on the eggs and larvae.
But not this year, not in our pond. One egret. No fish. And now damselflies are no longer in distress.
On any given day, 20 to 25 damselflies flit around our bee garden, searching for food as they land on the stems of the Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), catmint (Nepata), and oregano (Origanum).
They also search for mates and occasionally collide with a bee or butterfly.
Most of the damselflies we see carry the parasitic water mites (Hydracarina), which look like red caviar.
Damselfles and dragonflies belong to the same order, Odonata. Damselflies, however, are typically much smaller than their dragonfly cousins. Wikipedia tells us that damselflies, suborder Zygoptera, can be distinguished from dragonflies "by the fact that the wings of most damselflies are held along, and parallel to, the body when at rest. Furthermore, the hindwing of the damselfly is essentially similar to the forewing, while the hindwing of the dragonfly broadens near the base.
We've never seen a damselfly eat anything or anything eat the damselfly, although our resident praying mantis seemed quite interested--or perturbed--when a damselfly bumped into him.
Damselfly with water mites (see egglike mass). The insect next to it is probably thrips, according to Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Damselfly resting in the garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A blue damsefly brightens the garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
There I was, walking across the University of California, Davis, campus to the Environmental Sciences Building for an agricultural communicators' meeting: a notebook in my hand, cell phone in my pocket, and my trusty pocket camera strapped around my neck.
Sometimes it's good not to lug around a 10-pound camera. Not this time, however.
Right inside the soybean planter box, I saw it--an assassin bug spearing what looked like a bee.
This was a predator-prey encounter between the assassin, Zelus renardii, and a bee, which native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis and an instructor of The Bee Course, identified as a male metallic sweat bee, Lasioglossum (Dialictus) sp., possibly L. tegulariforme.
I aimed the tiny camera and grabbed a couple of images before the predator, with prey attached, crawled beneath a soybean leaf.
Assassin bug are predators and don't distinguish between beneficial insects and pests. Still, we like them in our garden because they eat a lot of soft-bodied insect pests like aphids and leafhoppers.
Speaking of eating insects...the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is sponsoring a "Bugs and Beer" event on Saturday, Nov. 1 in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. It promises to be a cricket-kölsch kind of affair.
Beer expert Charlie Bamforth, Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at UC Davis, will lead a joint tasting with celebrity bug chef David George Gordon, author of "The Eat-a-Bug" cookbook.
Bamford, known as "The Pope of Foam," is an icon around campus and the beer-brewing world. He's considered one of the country's most intriguing professors, noted Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center. And David George Gordon--a fellow with three first names? He's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, and the National Georgraphic Kids.
Registration opened Monday (http://www.rmi.ucdavis.edu/events). Tickets are $50, general admission, and $25 for students. And, of course, "Bugs and Beer" is open only to those 21 and over because beer will be served.
We don't know what kind of bugs Gordon will serve, but they probably won't be assassin bugs. Bees, maybe. Specifically, maybe that "Three-Bee Salad?" on his website?
A fast-moving assassin bug spears a male metallic sweat bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Assassin bug paralyzes his prey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)