Backyard Orchard News
Imagine a pesticide sprayer smart enough to only hit the target crop. What would that mean for the farmer's wallet and the cost of fresh produce? What would it mean for the rivers and streams near your orchard? View On Target, a video that shows how smart sprayer technology is helping farmers manage orchard pests with the benefits of:
- Substantially reduced pesticide use and cost
- Less pesticide movement to rivers and streams
- Full tree coverage
- Same efficacy as conventional sprayers
- Ease of use
- Valuable application data
Smart sprayer technology is based on the use of high frequency sound waves. An onboard computer directs sound waves toward trees. When sound waves are returned, a target is detected and the computer triggers nozzles to spray. When sound waves are not returned, a gap is identified, prompting the program to turn off the nozzles. This is one technology that can help farmers to use sustainable agricultural practices.
Walt Bentley, retired UC IPM Advisor, narrating a video of a smart sprayer in action.
Mine--well, it's not exactly mine!--is on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
It's spectacular in bloom. You can hear the buzz of honey bees, the tweeting of birds, and occasionally, an airplane droning over the field or a hog squealing from the nearby UC Davis hog farm.
But the sounds of the bees empower us and assure us that spring is coming. This particular almond tree, with its low hanging branches, is an addiction and a good place to get "a fix."
Meanwhile, 1.6 million honey bee colonies, trucked in from all over the United States, are pollinating California's 810,000 acres of almonds. Each acre requires two bee hives.
California growers produced 1.88 billion pounds of almonds for the 2012-13 crop year, according to Christine Souza's Dec. 11, 2013 article in Ag Alert. The 2013-14 crop is estimated at 1.85 billion pounds.
A little less than last year but that's a lot of almonds! And a lot of buzz in the almonds...
Springlike scene--a honey bee foraging in almond blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Golden is her color and white is her aim. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of honey bee pollinating an almond blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Cobey, former manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, and now with Washington State University (WSU), is an international authority on instrumental insemination. She's perfected and taught the specialized technique of instrumental insemination for more than three decades.
Based on Whidbey Island, Wash., Cobey maintains the New World Carniolan Closed Population Breeding Program, now in its 32rd generation. Her independent research program focuses on the post-insemination maintenance of queens and the selection of behavioral traits at the colony level.
Cobey currently coordinates the WSU collaborative stock improvement and maintenance program, partnering with California queen producers. A focus is the incorporation of germplasm (sperm) collected from Old World European honey bees into domestic breeding stocks to enhance U.S. honey bees. Much has been written about the germplasm repository established at WSU.
The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Cobey presents her work nationally and internationally at numerous conferences and seminars, and publishes extensively in trade journals and professional peer-reviewed publications. Her credentials include the former management of several bee research labs, including those at UC Davis and Ohio State University. She has also worked at the USDA Honey Bee Lab, Baton Rouge, and in commercial queen production in Florida and California. Cobey studied with Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., for whom the UC Davis research facility is named. She founded and operated a queen production business, Vaca Valley Apiaries, in northern California (Vacaville, Solano County).
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey (kneeling at right) at one of her queen bee-rearing classes at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Susan Cobey (right) adding bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A healthy frame of bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Historians agree that the infamous story about George Washington cutting down his father's favorite cherry tree and then admitting it ("I cannot tell a lie") is probably just that--a story. A myth. Didn't happen.
At age 6, George Washington reportedly got a little hatchet-happy and started chopping down every thing in sight. At least that's what biographer Parson Weems wrote in telling a story supposedly related to him by an elderly woman, maybe a cousin, maybe a neighbor, maybe not. Historians say there's no proof young George did that; and that Weems made up the story, later printed in a McGuffey Reader, to encourage children to always tell the truth.
So there you have it: Weems made up the story to get young children to always tell the truth.
As we all know, young George Washington (Feb. 22, 1732-Dec. 14, 1799) went on to become the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, 1775–1783, and then the founding president of the United States, serving from 1789 until 1797.
We don't know much about George Washington's early life, but we do know that as an adult, he kept bees--bees that pollinated his fruit trees, including apples, pears, plums, and cherries. We do know that honey bees were here 110 years before young George was born; European colonists brought the honey bee to America (to the Jamestown colony, Virginia) in 1622.
Some tall tales also exist about bees during the American Revolutionary War. According to a fictional story first published in the Sunday School Advocate and then reprinted in the September 1917 in the American Bee Journal, 12-year-old beekeeper Charity Crabtree was tending her father's bees when she encountered a wounded soldier who told her to ride his horse to Gen. Washington's camp, just outside Philadelphia, and warn him about the impending attack by Gen. Charles Cornwallis.
However, before she could ride off, the British surrounded her and yelled “Ho, there! Stop, girl, or by heaven we'll make you!”
The story continues: "Suddenly, with the entrance of the soldiers, the bees began to buzz with a cannon's roar, as if to say, 'Here we are, Charity! Didn't Washington say we were patriots, too? Just give us a chance to defend our country!'
"Like lightning, now, Charity bent from her saddle, and seizing a stout stick, she wheeled around to the outer side of the hedge that protected the hives like a low wall. Then, with a smart blow, she beat each hive until the bees clouded the air. Realizing from experience that bees always follow the thing that hits them rather than the person who directs it, she threw the stick full force at her pursuers.
"As Charity galloped off at high speed she heard the shouts of fury from the soldiers, who fought madly against the bees. And, of course, the harder they fought, the harder they were stung. If they had been armed with swords the brave bees could not have kept the enemy more magnificently at bay.
"While Charity was riding furiously miles away, down the pike, past the bridge, over the hill, right into Washington's camp, her would-be pursuers lay limply in the dust—their noses swollen like powder horns. When the little maid finally gained admission to Washington's tent, for to none other would she trust her secret, the great general stared at her gray dress torn to ribbons, her kerchief draggled with mud and her gold hair loosened by the wind. But Charity had no time for ceremony."
Charity delivered the message about the the two attacks: the pending British attack and the bee attack. At that point, George Washington praised Charity's bees for saving the country.
Said George: "It is well done, Little Miss Crabtree...Neither you nor your bees shall be forgotten when our country is at peace again. It was the cackling geese that saved Rome, but the bees saved America.”
George Washington never said that, either.
He did, however, go on to rear bees at his Mount Vernon estate.
A young honey bee foraging on a cherry blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee deep inside a cherry blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Happy Valentine's Day!
While everyone else hands out little pink candy conversation hearts proclaiming "Bee Mine," "Miss You," "Call Me," "Kiss Me," and "I Love You," insect enthusiasts post photos of bugs "keeping busy."
We spotted an unforgettable scene recently in a flower patch behind the UC Davis Lab Sciences Building. The ladybugs (actually they're "lady beetles" because they're not bugs) were devouring aphids on the brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), a desert shrub we see throughout California, northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States.
Quite contentedly, we might add. And doing a great job, we might also add.
But that's not all they were doing.
Brittlebush makes a good dining room, living room and bedroom.
Soon the flower patch will turn into a nursery.
Ladybugs (lady beetles) "keeping busy" on brittlebush. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)