Backyard Orchard News
How's your front yard looking?
A little bit brown due to the drought? Thinking of replacing some of your plants with drought-tolerant ones? And hoping to attract some bees, butterflies and other wildlife?
You're in luck. The UC Davis Arboretum is planning its next public plant sale this Saturday, Oct. 11. The theme is, appropriately enough, "The New Front Yard."
The plant sale will take place in the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive. It's open to members only from 9 to 11 a.m. (but if you're not a member, you can join at the door), and it's open to the general public from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
UC Davis Arboretum officials point out that many homeowners want to replace "high-water use plants with low-water alternatives" and they're going to help you. "We are going to have the area's largest selection of attractive, drought-tolerant, easy-care, region-appropriate plants including lots of California natives and Arboretum All-Stars."
They've published a list of some "attractive, region-appropriate plants that save water and support wildlife," complete with botanical names and photos. (Download PDF)
They include California buckeye, manzanitas, California pipevine, narrow leaf milkweed, Frikart's aster, Caliifornia aster, coyote brush, creeping Oregon grape, Blonde ambition blue grama grass, western spicebush, concha Ceanothus, Ray Hartman's California lilac, western red bud, Island mountain mahogany, California fuchsia, California buckwheat, St. Catherine's lace, coast silktassel, salt heliotrope, toyon, purple lantana, Goodwin Creek lavender, cape weed, monkey flower, deergrass, Hopley's purple oregano, Santa Margarita foothill penstemon, hollyleaf cherry, blue oak, California coffeeberry, pink chaparral currant, flowering currant, Santa Catalina Island currant, white sage, Cleveland sage, autumn sage, Santa Barbara sage, Cascade Creek California goldenrod, alkali sacaton, yellow autumn crocus and Roger's red grape.
Those are just a few of the plants they're offering for the plant sale.
Ah, so many choices, so little space. And one of the best parts? The bees and butterflies and other pollinators they attract.
A Gulf Fritillary butterfly on purple lantana. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee on pink chaparral current. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Sweat bees (Halictus ligatus) on goldenrod. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A syrphid fly, aka hover fly and flower fly, on Russian sage. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's something you don't see every day.
I'm used to seeing Gulf Fritillary chrysalids hanging from our passionflower vine (Passiflora) but this thing hanging from our African blue basil was not a chrysalid.
"It's a dead caterpillar killed by an infectious virus disease (polyhedrosis)," said butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.
Naturalist Greg Kareofelas, an associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, figured it could be the remains of a noctuid (moth). "It kind of looks like it," he said. "It is definitely dead."
Those who rear butterflies see polyhedrosis quite often, I'm told. All I've reared are a few Gulf Frits. Scientific name, Agraulis vanillae. They're beautiful reddish-orange butterflies with iridescent silver or "spangled" undersides.
"A dead insect like this, hanging from the upper foliage, is very classical of a NPV-infected caterpillar," said researcher Shizuo "George" Kamita of the Bruce Hammock lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. "Nucleopolyhedrovirus (previously called nuclear polyhedrons virus) is a type of baculovirus that is commonly found in the environment. Baculoviruses are used as a biological insecticide against caterpillars. Twenty years ago Bruce's lab was involved in genetically modifying the wild type baculovirus to improve its ability to reduce feeding damage."
Professor Shapiro pointed out that "Polyhedroses are extremely infectious. Dispose of the cadaver and wash off the areas vertically below it with a forceful spray, if you don't mind wasting the water. The dying larva drips infectious liquid. Kind of like Ebola!"
So we bagged the dead caterpillar and turned the hose on the leaves. As we did, we noticed life as usual: honey bees nectaring the African blue basil blossoms, and a tiny white crab spider lurking.
Life and death in the garden...
This is a dead caterpillar killed by an infectious virus disease (Polyhedrosis), as identified by UC Davis butterfly expert Art Shapiro. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
For years, uninformed folks have declared that honey is "bee vomit."
These things are inequitably false.
1. The world is flat.
2. Einstein said that "if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left."
3. Honey is bee vomit.
Yet people gleefully insist that honey is bee vomit. Why do they say that? Who knows? To make people stop eating it? To deter them from consuming honey as they eagerly spread it on their waffles, toast or English muffin? To make fun of people who love honey, a wonderful treat that's sometimes called "the soul of a field of flowers?" Sensational or junk "news," the kind that tabloids print without checking?
Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who retired this June after 38 years of service, says: "I make the distinction between honey bee regurgitation and mammalian vomit based on the fact that the nectar and honey being processed by the bees never have direct contact with food being processed, or expected to be processed, 'digestively' as is the food in a mammalian stomach."
"Although many sources refer to the honey bee crop as the 'honey stomach,' it is not a place where consumed foods are being digested in honey bees."
In their book, Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping, authors Dewey Caron and Lawrence John "Larry" Connor define the honey stomach as a a "honey sac."
It's "an enlargement of the posterior end of the esophagus in the bee abdomen in which the bee carries the nectar from flower to hive."
Bee vomit? No way. It's where nectar is stored. It's not a stomach as we know it.
Honey is not bee vomit. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Entomologist Jeff Smith, an associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, showed everyone from pre-schoolers to adults how to do just that at the Bohart's recent open house.
It was all hands-on.
Smith provided the dried insects and spreading boards. Each participant took home a pinned butterfly on a spreading board for later removal and display. Smith also contributed the labels.
Cassidy Hansen of Rio Vista, a 2012 graduate of Rio Vista High School, was among the participants. She said she may decide to major in entomology.
Smith asked a group of participants why the proboscis (tongue) of a white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata), commonly known as the hummingbird moth, is so long. Some looked puzzled. "To reach the nectar of tubed flowers," he answered. Smith then pulled out the proboscis to show them the length.
The participants also admired the research collection, held exotic insects and arthropods, viewed a bee observation hive, and collected insects on the lawn behind the building.
This was the first in a series of open houses planned during the academic year.All open houses are free and open to the public.
- Sunday, Nov. 23: “Insect Myths,” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, Dec. 20: “Insects and Art,” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Sunday, Jan. 11: “Parasitoid Palooza,” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Sunday, Feb. 8: “Biodiversity Museum Day,” noon to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, March 14: “Pollination Nation,” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, April 18: UC Davis Picnic Day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Sunday, May 17: “Name That Bug! How About Bob?” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, July 18: “Moth Night,” 8 to 11 p.m.
The Bohart Museum is located in Room 1124 of Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, off LaRue Road. Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, the Bohart Museum houses nearly eight million insect specimens, a live “petting zoo” and a gift shop.
More information on the open houses are available from Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, at (530) 752-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to learn how make an insect collection? An award-winning collection of short videos on "How to Make an Insect Collection" is posted on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website and on YouTube. These student-produced videos, directed by Professor James Carey, are short and concise. The project won an award from the Entomological Society of America. It is considered the best of its kind on the web./span>
Entomologist Jeff Smith shows Cassidy Hansen fof Rio Vista how to pin a butterly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Cassidy Hansen works on a butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of the project. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A white-lined sphinx moth, Hyles lineata. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The white-lined sphinx moth has a long proboscis (tongue). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
That's the question PBS Newshour asked Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology for its "Just Ask" feature.
Mussen, who retired in June after 38 years of service but continues to maintain an office in Briggs Hall on the UC Davis campus, has been stung plenty of times. And the whole world knew it when this photo of "The Sting" (below) went viral.
When a bee stings, it cannot remove its barbed stinger without yanking out its abdominal tissue, aka "guts." It's basically a suicide mission in defense of its hive. Of the three castes in the colony, only the female worker bee dies when it stings. The queen can sting multiple times. The drone (male) has no stinger.
The stinger is hollow and pointed, like a hypodermic needle, Mussen told PBS Newshour reporter Anna Christiansen. The stinger, he explained, contains two rows of lancets, or saw-toothed blades.
Christianson also quoted Mark Winston, biologist and author of Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive (Harvard University Press) as saying that the blades alternate, “scissoring together into your flesh."
"It looks — and works — like a screw anchor, meaning that once in, the stinger can't retract," Christianson wrote. "Muscles connect the stinger to a venom sac, from which a cell-destroying toxin is pumped into the hole."
Mussen further explains bee stings in a UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Pest Note, Bee and Wasp Stings.
"Stingers are effective weapons because they deliver a venom that causes pain when injected into the skin," Mussen wrote. "The major chemical responsible for this is melittin; it stimulates the nerve endings of pain receptors in the skin. The result is a very uncomfortable sensation, which begins as a sharp pain that lasts a few minutes and then becomes a dull ache. Even up to a few days later, the tissue may still be sensitive to the touch."
"The body responds to stings by liberating fluid from the blood to flush venom components from the area. This causes redness and swelling at the sting site. If this isn't the first time the person has been stung by that species of insect, it is likely that the immune system will recognize the venom and enhance the disposal procedure. This can lead to very large swelling around the sting site or in a whole portion of the body. The area is quite likely to itch. Oral and topical antihistamines should help prevent or reduce the itching and swelling. Try not to rub or scratch the sting site, because microbes from the surface of the skin could be introduced into the wound, resulting in an infection."
Mussen says that nearly everyone has been stung by an insect at one time or another., and for beekeepers, it comes with the occupation. "It's an unpleasant experience that people hope not to repeat, but for most people the damage inflicted is only temporary pain," Mussen wrote. "Only a very limited portion of the population—one to two people out of 1,000—is allergic or hypersensitive to bee or wasp stings. Although this publication is about stings from bees and wasps, the information pertains to stings from fire ants as well."
He warns that it is important to remove the stinger immediately because the venom will continue to pump for 45 to 60 seconds following a sting. Mussen usually scrapes and removes the stinger with a fingernail. "Much has been written about the proper way to remove a bee stinger, but new information indicates it doesn't matter how you get it out as long as it is removed as soon as possible. Fingernails or the edge of a credit card are both effective tools. If a stinger is removed within 15 seconds of the sting, the severity of the sting is reduced."
A honey bee embeds its stinger in the wrist of Eric Mussen and then tries to pull away. Note the abdominal tissue trailing. (This is an actual photo of a bee sting; it was not posed.) (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The bee has pulled away to die, leaving the stinger and abdominal tissue behind. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)