Backyard Orchard News
Everybody loves a bumble bee.
Especially the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii.
And especially a queen.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and first-year entomology graduate student Emily Bzydk collected a few native bees to show visitors at the Bohart Museum of Entomology during UC Davis Picnic Day last Saturday.
One of the bumble bees: a regal queen.
When Picnic Day ended, they kindly let me take her home to our tower of jewels (Echium wildprettii), a biennial plant that looks somewhat like a red-jeweled Christmas tree. "Tower of jewels" is indeed a fitting name. It towers (nine-feet high) and it sparkles like rubies.
We placed the lethargic queen on a blossom and fed her honey for quick energy. She quickly sipped about an eighth of a teaspoon, buzzed me twice (Hey, I'm your friend!), returned for more honey, and then took flight.
The queen circled the plant twice and was gone.
From the Bohart Museum display to a showy tower of jewels--all in one day.
Queen Bumble Bee
Flight of the Bumble Bee
I just checked the weather. Only a few clouds in the forecast, some sunshine and temperatures in the low 70s this weekend, sunshine again next weekend. It looks just perfect for a family trip out to a farm or two to enjoy a picnic on the green grass under the blossoms. Here's a few suggestions for getting out there:
Blossoms, Bees & Barnyard Babies by
Sonoma County Farm Trails Sunday April 18, 2010
A one-day event offering the public "a behind-the-scenes peek at Sonoma County's finest food and agriculture" For $25 per vehicle or $10 per person, visitors can walk through orchards and fields in bloom, see newly-born animals, sample local honeys and learn the art of beekeeping, and a whole lot more. Reserve Your All-Farm-Pass today, available until sold out. On-line at the site above or 707-837-8896
Mariposa Agri-Nature Trail presents A Weekend in the Country - April 24 & 25, 2010 - Saturday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm ** Sunday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm ** (866) 425-3366
A full schedule of events is planned, with farmers, vintners and ranchers at 11 different beautiful foothill locations opening their gates to the public, offering tours, demonstrations, tastes and even catch-&-release fishing for the kids. Tickets are $10 per person or $25 per family, purchased in advance at the Mariposa Visitors Center, participating wineries or at the first location you visit on the day of the event. Check out the schedule of events and a very sweet video at their website
Apple Blossom Festival - April 17 and 18, 2010 presented by the Apple Hill Growers Association, El Dorado County
Experience the incradible beauty of mother nature as thousands of apple trees flaunt their spring bloom. A variety of activities are offered by many of the 55 individual ranches who are members of the assoication. There's an Apple Blossom Cross Country run for the ambitious. (register at www.applehill.com) Other adventures: complimentary wine and dessert pariehs, a train around Cider Lake, horse and pony rides, an opportunity to get inside a real bakeshop kitchen, at-the-orchard cooking classes, quilt show and quilt raffle, wine tasting, and even artists painting "in the open air" Lots to enjoy before there's even an apple in sight! (530) 644-7692
If you cotton to honey, you'll want to head over to Briggs Hall tomorrow (Saturday, April 17) during the 96th annual UC Davis Picnic Day.
You can sample cotton honey, as well as five other flavors, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty will be offering samples of these honeys: orange blossom, eucalyptus, raspberry, meadowfoam (a vernal-pool flower that is grown commercially in Oregon for oil), starthistle, and cotton.
You'll get six toothpicks, one for each container of honey. You'll taste the exquisite meadowfoam, the exotic raspberry, and then what some folks say is the "best-of-the-best" honey--starthistle. Bees make this from an invasive, exotic weed that agriculturists hate. Our tiny winged agricultural workers love it.
And then you'll taste cotton. Hint: it's a light-colored variety of honey.
If you have a question about honey bees, including colony collapse disorder, ask away.
At Mussen's booth, you can also taste "Honey Lovers," the fruit chews that Gimbal's Fine Candies makes with real honey. Gimbal's, located in San Francisco, is donating 5 percent of the proceeds from the sale of Honey Lovers to UC Davis honey bee research.
These sweet treats at Briggs Hall are free.
Here's what else the entomologists are planning at Briggs Hall and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
You'll see racing cockroaches, termite trails, Maggot Art, kissing bugs, fleas, ticks, walnut twig beetles and the like, and you can take home some free ladybugs (lady beetles) from the statewide UC Integrated Pest Management Program.
But it's the honey that makes UC Davis Picnic Day so sweet.
Honey Bee on Lavender
When some folks think of a honey bee, they immediately think of stings.
Not pollination, not honey, not colony collapse disorder, but stings.
To beekeepers, stings are a minor irritation, or perhaps not an irritation at all. It's just something that happens in an occupation. "It's like grease on a mechanic's hands," says bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility at the University of California, Davis.
Or, I imagine, like flour on a baker, dirt on a gardener or sweat on an athlete.
Yesterday, when Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty was opening a hive at the UC Davis apiary, a bee landed on his wrist.
"Bee on my wrist," he said, knowing I had my macro lens at the ready.
The bee, defending her hive, did what a good guard does--she stung him. When that happens, you scrape the stinger off with your fingernail so the barbed stinger with its attached venom sac doesn't continue to pump venom.
When a worker bee stings and pulls away from her victim, part of her anatomy pulls away, too. She dies, often within minutes.
What you usually see is only the stinger. Not this time. The camera lens caught the barbed stinger and the stretched tissue.
We're glad to see that three noted entomologists at the University of California, Davis, received distinguished awards in their fields at the 94th annual meeting of the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) on April 13 in Boise, Idaho.
Michael Parrella (top photo), professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, won the Distinguished Achievement Award in Horticultural Entomology. Frank Zalom (middle photo) professor of entomology, won the Excellence in Integrated Pest Management Award. Larry Godfrey, (bottom photo) Cooperative Extension specialist in entomology, received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension.
As regional award winners, Parrella, Zalom and Godfrey will now advance to the national ESA awards competition. The national meeting is set Dec. 12-15 in San Diego.You'll often see Michael Parrella working on administrative duties, making presentations or conducting research; you'll see Larry Godfrey chasing pests in the rice and cotton fields; and you'll see Frank Zalom working on scores of integrated pest management projects, from local to global. All three work closely with their graduate students, the next generation of entomologists.
Indeed, their accomplishments could fill multiple books.
You can read more about their accomplishments on the UC Davis Department of Entomology Web site.
Just a few of the comments they received:
“In his 30-year career, Dr. Parrella has developed an internationally recognized program focused on advancing integrated pest management and biological control for the floriculture and nursery industry,” said James Carey, professor of entomology at UC Davis and chair of the department’s awards committee.
“This industry, once dominated by chemical control strategies, now regularly uses the tenets of IPM, and many growers routinely use biological control,” said Carey, who nominated Parrella for the award. “His training of graduate students and postdoctoral scientists and the extraordinary effort to translate research into practice puts Dr. Parrella in a class by himself. He has accomplished this while shouldering an enormous administrative load.”
He focuses his program on the IPM of insect and mite pests of field crops and vegetable crops, particularly pests of cotton and rice. His work extends globally. “Given the diversity of agriculture in California, this is a vast undertaking and Dr. Godfrey has made significant contributions in approximately 15 different crops during his 19-year tenure in this position,” said Parrella, who nominated him for the award. “This incredible diversity of effort and accomplishment puts Dr. Godfrey in a class by himself..."
Godfrey works closely with the county-based UC Cooperative Extension advisors and pest control advisors, industry representatives, and growers. His expertise includes sucking insects (cotton aphids and silverleaf whiteflies) on San Joaquin Valley cotton and pests of rice, including the rice water weevil.Frank Zalom
IPM specialist Zalom is not only a professor of entomology but an Extension agronomist and an entomologist in the Agricultural Experiment Station. He's "one of the most influential scientists in the development and implementation of IPM policy and practices in the United States and the world, through his numerous and continuing contributions as a leader, director, and organizer,” said colleague Jocelyn Millar, an entomology professor at UC Riverside who nominated him for the award.
Zalom, who directed the statewide UC IPM Program for 16 years (among other responsibilities) is known for his “truly extraordinary record of achievement and service to IPM extending over several decades,” Millar said.
A tip of the insect net--or a three-insect net salute--to Michael Parrella, Frank Zalom and Larry Godfrey.