Backyard Orchard News
The praying mantis glared at me.
It was not afraid of me, my camera, or my jockeying around to get a better position.
When I captured the image (below) last fall in a neighbor's garden, I decided that in 2009, I would get my very own praying mantis.
Or maybe dozens of them.
Praying mantises, you see, help control aphids, thrips, flies, whiteflies, mosquitoes, and grubs. They also make great portraits.
So, how do you get your very own praying mantis? You can order egg cases online (just Google "praying mantis egg cases") or buy them at a local nursery. Also, you can usually find them in the gardening section of your favorite hardware store.
You'll get a finely meshed net bag. You hang it in a tree or bush by threading a small branch through the mesh or by nailing the bag to the branch. The eggs will hatch three weeks after temperatures reach 70 degrees. The tiny mantises will exit through the holes and scatter into the nearby foliage.
We purchased our bag (well, two bags) today in the gardening section of Home Depot. The egg cases are refrigerated to avoid unwanted hatching in the store. Each bag contains one egg case, and each egg case will yield about 200 mantises, the instruction indicate. The insects will mature in 4 to 6 months. The female will deposit from one to 5 egg cases before winter. With the first freeze, the adults die. The egg cases hatch in the spring.
Then the cycle begins again.
Now, we wait. Soon, with any luck, we'll have scores of praying mantises.
Life is good!
It's in the Bag
Dianne DiBlasi is frustrated.
She’s the advisor of Team B.E.E.S. (Bergen Environmental Effort to Save Bees), a group of six high school students in Allendale, N.J. involved in a honey bee project.
Two years ago the students conducted research and interviewed locals to find a community-based environmental project. They decided on bees. They learned about bees and beekeeping, and purchased their supplies.
Today, they're heavily involved in educating the public about bees: how vital bees are and the issues they face. The youths gave a presentation at the Bronx Zoo's "Teens for Planet Earth" summit, where they won the gold award for service-based learning. Then last month, PBS traveled to Allendale to cover the team's activities. The TV show, "GreenQuest," will premiere in February.
Now for the frustration.
Bees are "prohibited animals" in the Borough of Allendale.
“We were fortunate (two years ago) to find a beekeeper in the next town over who graciously let us put our hive on his property,” DiBlasi said.
They petitioned the council to change the ordinance. The council declined.
Now they’ll be addressing council again on Feb. 2--this time with the support of Tim Schuler,
DiBlasi said some of the city council members think the bee project is a potential liability.
“It seems there is more concern over a neighbor getting stung than taking a huge green step forward,” she said.
"On Feb. 2 we will address the council at 7:30 p.m. asking them to 1) remove bees from the list of Prohibited Animals, and 2) approve guidelines for beekeeping that we have drawn up. I invite people to write letters to Mayor Vince Barra stating how important it is for Allendale to take this important step forward." DiBlasi is asking honey bee supporters to send letters to:
Allendale Borough Hall
500 West Crescent Ave
And guess what? Honey bees.
Honey bees? Right. In fact, honey bees are No. 4 on the list "to become extinct."
The author (unknown) of the piece had this to say:
Perhaps nothing on our list of disappearing
Flight of the Honey Bee
She enclosed $20 from her allowance savings.
Hannah Fisher Gray, 11, of
Hannah collected $110 at her birthday party and then contributed $110 from her own money so that both UC Davis and
The girls are the newest bee crusaders, said Lynn Kimsey, chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
“These are very generous gifts from the heart,” Kimsey said. “It’s very touching that these girls would take a special interest in helping us save the honey bees.”
Hannah, a fifth grader from
In the letter, Hannah expressed her concern “about our environment and its creatures, especially the honey bees.”
“I saw the Häagen-Dazs commercial and I instantly wanted to learn more,” she wrote. “I researched about bees and learned ways I could help, such as donating money, using honey instead of sugar, planting honeybee-friendly plants and supporting beekeepers.”
“For my birthday party, I asked my guests to make gifts of money to support honeybee research instead of giving presents for me. The total of these gifts was $110. I am making a matching gift of $110 of my own money, and splitting the gift between the
One of Hannah’s birthday gifts was a T-shirt proclaiming “Bee a Hero.” And, in keeping with her passion for bees, she dressed in a honey bee costume last Halloween.
Hannah learned of the troubling bee crisis from the national Häagen-Dazs campaign, launched Feb. 19 to create awareness for the plight of the honey bee. Nearly 40 percent of Häagen-Dazs brand ice cream flavors are linked to fruits and nuts pollinated by bees.
Katie Brown learned of the plight of the honey bees through the Häagen-Dazs Web site, www.helpthehoneybees.com.
Her mother, Molly Pont-Brown, said that Katie "gets a portion of her allowance each week for charity and had been wanting to help the bees and saving up for a long time, so we were looking online for ways to help the bees and stumbled upon their (Häagen-Dazs) program.”
In her donation letter to UC Davis, Katie drew the Häagen-Dazs symbol, “HD Loves HB,” and two smiling bees. She signed her name with three hearts.
Eager to share information with her classmates on the plight of the honey bees, Katie took photos of foods that bees pollinate and served Honey Bee Vanilla ice cream, the new flavor that Häagen-Dazs created last year as part of its bee crisis-awareness campaign.
Katie is "about to give another $40 additionally from her Star Student Week," her mother said. The six-year-old chose to donate $2 per child to the honey bee research program instead of buying the customary trinkets for them. Katie also sent each classmate a “bee-mail” from the Häagen-Dazs Web site to let them know about it.
For Christmas, Katie received a Häagen-Dazs bee shirt and bee books from her family. Her grandmother in
“What a great thing (the drive to save the bees) for Häagen-Dazs to do,” Molly Pont-Brown wrote in a letter to UC Davis. “And, of course, we appreciate all your department is doing to help the very important honeybees with your research, as well!”
When told of the
As part of its national campaign, Häagen-Dazs last February committed a total of $250,000 for bee research to UC Davis and
The Häagen-Dazs brand is also funding a design competition to create a half-acre honey bee haven garden at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. The deadline to submit entries is Jan. 30.
UC Davis Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty for 32 years, said the bee population "still has not recovered from previous losses." Some of the nation's beekeepers have reported losing one-third to 100 percent of their bees due to colony collapse disorder (CCD), in which bee mysteriously abandon their hives. He attributes CCD to multiple factors, including diseases, parasites, pesticides, malnutrition, stress and climate change.
"Bees pollinate about 100 agricultural crops, or about one-third of the food that we eat daily," Mussen said.
Those interesting in donating to the honey bee research program at UC Davis or learning more about the design competition for the honey bee haven can access the Department of Entomology home page.
Letter to bee scientists
Hannah Fisher Gray
If you meander over to the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis campus, you'll see a very tiny predator that looks for all the world like a green leaf. It's the Gambian spotted-eye flower mantis and it's one of the many live specimens housed there.
It's green with pointed eyes (it appears to have a pointy little head, too) and it grows to one-inch in length. Its scientific name is Pseudoharpax virescens (order Mantodea) and it's found in Gambia, the smallest country (in square miles) on the African continent.
And at the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Bohart public outreach coordinator Brian Turner says that flower mantises spend their time hiding in flowers, waiting to ambush prey. It dines on insects.
If threatened, the Gambian spotted-eye flower mantis will lift its wings to expose its orange and purple coloring. This, Turner says, "will likely startle potential predators and cause them to lose track of the mantis when it lowers its wings again."
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, founded in 1946, is located in 1124 Academic Surge. It is directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Dedicated to teaching, research and service, the museum houses the seventh largest insect collection in North America. The global collection totals more than seven million specimens. It also houses many live specimens, including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Vietnamese centipedes, walking sticks, assassin bugs...and....mantids.
Gambian spotted-eye flower mantis
Flower mantis on finger
If you've been around honey bee hives much, you know what a smoker is.
It's a tool that beekeepers use to inspect, manipulate or handle a hive. They smoke a hive to check the health of the colony, to add a little food, and to take a little honey.
In a way, it's a form of "blowin' smoke" or a deception.
Moses Quinby of St. Johnsville, N.Y. invented the modern-day bee smoker in 1875. He created a firepot with bellows and a nozzle. Ancient Egyptians used pottery filled with smoldering cow dung to smoke the hives.
Why smoke? Smoke calms the bees. It masks the smell of the pheromone that the guard bees release to alert other bees of "trouble in River City." The bees smell the smoke and gorge on honey in preparation for The Big Move.
Pure and simple.
The result: mass confusion. And that leaves plenty of time for the beekeepers to go about their business.
As a child, I loved the old bee smoker that my father used to tend the hives. We marveled at the contraption that bellowed like an accordion and snorted puffs of smoke. Sometimes my father would pump the bellows and teasingly blow smoke toward us.
Today, over at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, I watched bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and assistant Elizabeth Frost smoke the hives and feed pollen to the bees.
They placed the smoker on a table and it kept blowing smoke. It curled into clouds and swirled into stripes and all I could think of was one word.
Pure and simple.