Backyard Orchard News
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
When UC Davis chemical ecologist Walter Leal received a major award from the Entomological Society of America at its 56th annual meeting, held in Reno, DEET has something to do with it.
Leal, who received the Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology from ESA president Michael Gray, has amassed an amazing record of productivity. Most recently: his lab discovered the mode of action for the mosquito repellent, DEET.
Contrary to previous hypotheses, DEET doesn't jam a mosquto's sense of smell or mask the smell of the host. The reason why mosquitoes avoid DEET is they don't like the smell and avoid it.
Leal, professor of entomology and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, was one of seven professionals receiving distinguished awards at the ESA meeting. The other categories were extension, entomology, horticultural entomology, teaching, the certification program, and early career innovation.
A pioneer in the field of insect olfaction, Leal is best known for his research on the mode of action of odorant–binding proteins and odorant-degrading enzymes on the identification and synthesis of insect sex pheromones and on insect chemical communication.
As colleague Ring Cardé, chair of the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside, said: "Dr. Leal is one of the leading scientists worldwide studying the chemistry of pheromone communication in insects and related arthropods.”
Michael Gray and Walter Leal
Happy Turkey Day!
The last Thursday of November is Thanksgiving Day, but it really should be Honey Bee Day.
Without the bees, we’d have no Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving as we know it. They are our unstung heroes. They pollinate more than 90 agricultural crops in California. One third of the American diet is pollinated by bees.
So, as we sit around the dining room table giving thanks, we should also consider the insect that makes it all happen.
The honey bee.
Happy Honey Bee Day!
Bee and Nectarine Blossom
One of the highlights of the Entomological Society of America's 56th annual meeting, held Nov. 16-19 in Reno, was the presentation of the Fellow awards.
This year two of the 10 recipients came from the University of California faculty--or more specifically, from UC Davis.
Entomology professor Michael Parrella, associate dean of the Division of Agricultural Sciences, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and professor Frank Zalom, an integrated pest manageament specialist, former director of the UC Integrated Pest Management Program (16 years), and a former vice chair of the Department of Entomology, received the honors.
Fellows are selected for their outstanding contributions in entomological research, teaching, extension or administration, said ESA spokesperson Richard Levine. Up to 10 entomologists from among the 6000-member organization are singled out for the annual award.
President Michael Gray presented the awards.
As Lynn Kimsey, chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, said: "These are highly prestigious awards, granted only to 10 or fewer entomologists every year. Michael Parrella and Frank Zalom are carrying on our department’s tradition of excellence and commitment." Eight other UC Davis entomologists have received the honor since 1947.
The Zalom and Parrella accomplishments are many. The agricultural community and the academic world are quite appreciative of their work.
This was a highlight not only of the ESA meeting, but of their outstanding careers.
A toast to professors Parrella and Zalom!
ESA President Michael Gray and Michael Parrella
ESA President Michael Gray and Fellow Frank Zalom
Those dratted mites.
UC Davis entomologist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor and a native bee pollinator specialist, sent us a BBC report linking a varroa mite infestation to a devastating honey production loss in the UK. It's the worst honey crisis ever to hit the UK.
In short: beekeepers are concerned that by Christmas, there may be no more domestically produced honey left on the supermarket shelves.
The mite infestation has already killed off an estimated quarter of the UK's honey bees, according to BBC correspondent Jeremy Cooke, who said about "one in three colonies has been wiped out."
The varroa mite, or the Varroa destructor, is a nasty pest. Now found in most countries (Australia is an exception), it's an external parasite initially discovered on the Asian honey bee, Apis cerana. Over the last few decades, however, it has spread to the Western honey bee (also known as the European honey bee), Apis mellifera.
The varroa mite entered the UK in 1992, reports show. It has since spread throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The blood-sucking parasite feeds on both adults and the brood (immature larvae). It weakens the bees, opening them up to all sorts of diseases. And eventually, if not controlled, it will destroy the colonies.
The bad news is that the varroa mite cannot be completely eradicated, but with proper control methods, the mite population can be kept at a low level.
When California State Secretary of Agriculture A. G. Kawamura visited the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis last month, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey showed him dead mites on a hive floor. (See story on UC Davis Department of Entomology site.)
Kawamura is no stranger to bees or bee pests. As a youth, he reared bees--until the infectious bee disease, American foulbrood, upset his plans.
To control the mite, beekeepers usually use a combination of management methods. They use biotechnical methods and chemical controls. Unfortunately, in some areas, the varroa mite is developing resistance to miticides--another worry for beekeepers.
Said Cobey: "You need to reduce mite levels in colonies by late summer--August/September--to have healthy bees in spring."
Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of UC Davis says that in California, the Department of Pesticide Regulation "is close to approving another chemical treatment" to help control the mite problem.
It may be ready by next spring.
The mites will be waiting.
Mite on Drone
Mites on Hive Floor