Backyard Orchard News
Call them plant lice. Call them plant suckers. Call them aphids.
The tiny, soft-bodied insects with pear-shaped bodies form denses colonies on plants.
They suck. Literally.
Their destructive feeding habits do not endear them to gardeners and farmers. No love lost. No lost love.
California has more than 450 species of aphids, according to the book, Caliifornia Insects, written by Jerry A. Powell and Charles L. Hogue.
I spotted these aphids on a friend's gaura (Gaura linheimeri). She called the guara a "desert rose."
Not everything was coming up roses.
For the aphids, this "desert" rose was an an oasis.
Aphids on Gaura
They did it.
The University of California team that developed a successful insect pest management program for almond growers, leading to significant pesticide reduction, drew praise and applause at the Entomological Society of America's 56th annual meeting, held recently in Reno
The seven-member Almond Pest Management Alliance Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Team received the Entomological Foundation’s “2008 Award for Excellence in IPM."
The team includes IPM specialist Frank Zalom, UC Davis professor of entomology, Extension entomologist, and former director of the UC Statewide IPM Program; UC IPM advisor Carolyn Pickel, UC Cooperative Extension, Sutter-Yuba counties; UC IPM advisor Walter Bentley, UC Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier; UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors Mario Viveros (emeritus), Kern County, Roger Duncan, Stanislaus County, and Joe Connell, Butte County; and scientist Barat Bisrabi, Dow AgroSciences. (Bisrabi received his doctorate from UC Davis).
The team developed and implemented a program “that has resulted in substantial reductions of organophosphate use,” said ESA spokesperson Richard Levine in announcing the award.
The annual award, Levine said, recognizes “the successful efforts of a team approach to IPM by a small collaborative group involving industry and academic scientists of no more than 10 team members.”
Zalom, who directed the UC IPM Program for 16 years (1988-2001), also received receive his ESA Fellow award at the same awards ceremony, as did UC Davis entomologist Michael Parrella.
The Pest Management Alliance (PMA), a partnership that included the Almond Board of California, UC Cooperative Extension, the UC IPM Program, the Department of Pesticide Regulation, the Almond Hullers and Processors Association, and Community Alliance with Family Farmers, was launched in 1998 while Zalom was director of UC IPM.
Team members conducted a massive research and demonstration project for six to eight years (1998-2005) in the state’s primary almond-growing areas: Stanislaus County (six years) and Kern and Butte counties (eight years). California leads the nation in almond production, with some 700,000 acres.
PMA’s findings appear in the publication, Seasonal Guide to Environmentally Responsible Pest Management Practices for Almonds. Written by Pickel, Bentley, Viveros, Duncan and Connell, the publication offers a combination of biological, cultural and reduced risk alternatives. The guide outlines monitoring techniques and economic thresholds for using reduced-risk pesticides and specifies when to use broad-spectrum insecticides.
The team “developed an excellent research and extension team to develop and deliver IPM to the almond industry of California,” wrote award nominator Peter Goodell, interim director of the UC IPM Program and a longtime UC IPM advisor. For example, PMA research showed that almond growers need not spray for peach twig borer, navel orangeworm and San Jose scale every year.
California almond production currently totals some 700,000 acres. Honey bees (see photo below) play a crucial role. Without honey bee pollination, there would be no almonds. Each acre requires two hives.
Another California agriculture success story!
ESA IPM Team Award
Bee-Line to an Almond Blossom
God in His wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.
Every time I see a fly I think of the Ogden Nash poem.
Our bee-friendly garden is attracting a few flies. I captured this one visiting sage and then preserved it for posterity: I posterized it in Photoshop./st1:city>/st1:place>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>
Folk singer Pete Seeger asked "Where have all the flowers gone?"
UC Davis butterfly expert Art Shapiro wants to know "Where are all the Monarchs?"
In the current edition of the Bohart Museum Society newsletter, Shapiro notes that California populations of the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) "are notoriously unstable, fluctuating wildly in numbers."
"Because the Monarch is just about everyone's favorite butterfly, certainly the best known, the public is interested in how it is doing," he wrote. "This year it is doing very poorly indeed, at least in the Sacramento Valley."
See, Shapiro tracks Monarchs (and other butteflies) throughout much of Northern California. He's been doing that since 1972, using "a combination of fixed study sites visited every two weeks and more casual 'at large' observations."
His permanent sites include the Suisun Marsh and Gates Canyon (near Vacaville), both in Solano County; West Sacramento, Yolo County; and North Sacramento and Rancho Cordova, Sacramento County. "Monarchs have been present at all of these sites every year, and bred at most of them nearly every year, until 2008," Shapiro wrote.
"As of Sept. 10, no Monarchs in any life stage have been seen at West Sacramento, North Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, or anywhere else in the Davis-Sacramento area. This has never happened before. I've spent just over 60 days at these three field sites this year, and my eyes have been open every day. So this is significant."
Personally, I don't see Monarchs, either. The last Monarch I spotted was along the Mendocino Coast, near Timber Cove, and that was on Oct. 19, 2007.
It looked drenched from the rain.
I photographed it. The next morning, I looked for it and it was gone.
(Note: For more information on butterflies, see Shapiro's book, "Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions.")
Close-up of Rain on Butterfly Wings
I ran into two members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Patrol this afternoon.
No, I wasn't at a border. I was merely walking the halls of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. The border patrol agents were there to meet with entomology department officials in Briggs Hall.
They handed me a pamphlet, "Don't Pack a Pest," urging vacationeers (who me? I didn't go anywhere on T-Day, honest, 'cept for an insect safari in my back yard) to bring back memories, not pests.
The pamphlet is a reprint of a news article written by Kate Campbell of the California Farm Bureau Federation and published in the May/June edition of California Country magazine.
The gist of the article: don't tuck food, seeds or plants in your luggage and try to smuggle them into California. "Although they (items) may seem harmless, discoveries like these illustrate that while California travelers are settling in after a long trip, so too are a host of damaging pests, plants and diseases that have hitchiked home with them," Campbell wrote.
At the San Francisco Airport, someone tried to sneak in a "whole shrink-wrapped piglet and a rice straw pillow from Mongolia, with potentially diseased grain still attached," Campbell wrote.
Then there are the seed smugglers, like the California executive who stuffed seeds into pouches tucked in his underwear.
Whoa! (The reason they nabbed him was because the border patrol had earlier flagged him as a high-risk seed smuggler.)
The pamphlet quoted California Food and Agriculture Secretary A. G. Kawamura: "The public has an important role to play in keeping pests out."
Here are some tips for travelers, courtesy of the pamphlet:
- When camping, check tents, tarps, ice chests and other gear for dirt and pests. Rinse and shake before stowing.
- Leave firewood behind, likewise kindling, sticks and leaves.
- Don't bring fresh fruit and vegetables back across the state boundaries, particularly from backyard or roadside trees and gardens
- Don't bring animal houses back--dog houses, poultry cages or rabbit hutches.
- Hose off bikes, motorcycles and boats.
- Check tubular equipment for dirt--hollow poles, pipes, folding chairs and rods.
- For boaters, never move live fish or other aquatic animals or plants from one body of water to antoher.
- Drain and dry all water and dry boats, equipment and gear and clean live-wells.
- Check waders and boots for caked-on dirt.
- Keep foodstuffs tightly closed to prevent bringing infestations home. If in doubt, throw it out.
- Don't dump aquarium plants and exotic fish into sewers, creeks or lakes.
- Know what you're planting in your garden by checking online at www.plantright.org. Most plants sold for use in gardens and landscaping do not invade or harm wildland areas, but a few vigorous species can--and do.
Want to report a suspective invasive plant or pest? Call the California Department of Food and Ag's Plant-Pest Hotline at (800) 491-1899.
Want to know what NOT to bring back to California? Go to www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/pe/ or call (916) 654-0312.
Aquatic invaders? Check the Department of Fish and Game's Web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/invasives.
And to report a smuggler of prohibited exotic fruits, vegetables or meat products across international borders and into the U.S. or California, call the anti-smuggling hotline at (800) 877-3835.
As Campbell said, bring back memories, not pests.
Protecting California from invasive species costs some $85 million a year, according to www.plantright.org.
Mediterranean Fruit Fly