Backyard Orchard News
Fact is, bugs bug people. Birds bug bugs. Bugs bug bugs. If you've ever seen a praying mantis lying in wait for a bee or a ladybug snatching an aphid, or a dragonfly grabbing a hover fly, you know they do. Bugs bug bugs.
In the insect world, people seem to love only butterflies, bees, ladybugs and dragonflies, as evidenced by bug-inspired clothing, jewelry or tattooes. They do not like bed bugs, knats and mosquitoes.
When you think about it, there are about a million described species of insects in the world, "more than five times the number of all animals combined," according to emeritus professor Jerry Powell in his book, California Insects. "Estimates of the number remaining to be discovered and named vary from 1.5 to 5 million or more."
We all talk about the good, the bad and the bugly. The good: the honey bee. The bad: the mosquito. The bugly: the praying mantis.
So it was interesting today that Organic Pest Control of New York City named the world's top 50 bug blogs/pest control blogs. You can see the list here. Geographically, they range from California to Singapore to the UK. "These sites were shown to have valuable, fresh and frequently updated content that is helpful in both entomology and the pest control industry," according to the website.
At least two blogs have UC Davis connections. Biologist and noted insect photographer Alex Wild of the University of Illinois, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis with major professor/ant specialist Phil Ward, is listed for his Myrmecos (that means ant) blog.
The other blog with the UC Davis connection: yours truly with Bug Squad.
Here's what the website said about about the first 10 on the list:
Bug Girl's Blog (Charismatic Minifauna)
This blogger has a PhD in entomology (insect study) and is not afraid to share her fascination through the blog. Another standout feature of the blog is her knowledge of how to control insect populations without the use of pesticides. Top posts include “How to Inspect Your Hotel Room for Bed Bugs” and “Ask an Entomologist.” (Note: this is by Gwen Pearson, who for a long time, never revealed her true identity, not even at an Entomological Society of America meeting.)
Visit here for a blog by Illinois-based biologist and photographer Alex Wild. The blog's name is derived from the Greek word for ant and contains Alex's musings on the little creatures that share our planet. The galleries are a must see given Alex's love of both insects and his talent with a camera.
Insects in the City
Mike Merchant has served as entomology specialist for Texas AgriLife Extension since 1989. His areas of specialty involve research on the insects that effect people including spiders, scorpions, fire ants, termites, and others. Get pest control from an academic point of view by stopping at his blog.
This blog is named after a quote from Joseph Krutch on the human standpoint on insects. Alison also fills her blog with other discoveries on insects and closer looks at them. Everything from ants to wolf spiders are featured.
Butterflies of Singapore
Because some bugs can be downright beautiful, there is this blog. Get a look at “nature's flying jewels” without ever leaving your home. With entries dating back to 2007, there are loads of butterflies to see.
Living With Insects Blog
Jonathan Neal also has a Ph.D in entomology and teaches at Purdue University. His blog is devoted to the intersection of people and insects. Subjects such as fire ants, bees, and many more are often discussed.
Beetles In The Bush
Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. With entries on loads of common and uncommon household pests, his focus is of course the beetle. However, you can also find entries on items such as spiders, reptiles, and most recently, Bichos Argentinos.
Urban Dragon Hunters
These bloggers standout for targeting their insect research and blog towards the largely ignored urban areas. Located in Wayne County, Michigan, they have recorded 50 new species of odonata, or dragonflies. Stop by to see which and learn more about them.
Bug Squad is the blog of Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. This blog, launched in 2008, is part of the University of California's Agricultural and Natural Resources website. Check for the latest research and other information.
What's That Bug?
Also known as The Bugman, Daniel Marlos is the author of “The Curious World of Bugs.” With a healthy pest-free garden in Los Angeles, he is free to explore his love of bugs, as well as share useful pest control tips. Be sure not to miss specialty posts on just about every insect in the U.S.
And, be sure to check out the other winning blogs on the company's site.
Back to the ladybug. It's not really a bug. It's a beetle. That's why scientists want us to call it "lady beetle." You can read all about the lady beetle in UC IPM's Natural Enemies Gallery. UC IPM defines natural enemies as "organisms that kill, decrease the reproductive potential of, or otherwise reduce the numbers of another organism. Natural enemies that limit pests are key components of integrated pest management programs. Important natural enemies of insect and mite pests include predators, parasites, and pathogens."
Sometimes it's good to have an enemy, a natural enemy.
Ladybug drying its wings after falling into a swimming pool. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fly away, little ladybug! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ladybug resting on a leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is the time of year when scores of prospective beekeepers contact Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology for advice on beginning beekeeping.
Many want to keep a hive or two in their backyards but don't know where to start.
It's not as simple as purchasing a queen bee off the Internet. You have to buy packaged bees or collect a swarm to start a colony.
"If you haven't started (beginning beekeeping) yet, purchasing a honey bee queen won't do it," Mussen advised a Northern California woman today. "You need 2-3 pounds (6-9,000 bees) of worker bees to get things going. So, the new beekeeper usually either buys 'packaged bees' or collects a swarm."
"Individual queens are purchased to replace queens in colonies that already are going, or to add to frames of bees and brood--not including the old queen--that are removed from a strong colony, later in the season. That is called 'splitting' or 'dividing' the colony to get a total of two.
Mussen, who joined UC Davis in 1976 and will be retiring in June, always advises newcomers to join a local beekeeping association and read magazines and books.
"As for textbooks, it depends on how the bees are going to be kept. In what I refer to as 'normal' Langstroth hives, the book Beekeeping for Dummies is relatively good," Mussen told her. "If the bees are headed for a top-bar hive, then Les Crowder's book on that subject is reasonably priced. Smaller 'backyard' texts have recently been published by UC Davis emeritus professor Norman Gary (Honey Bee Hobbyist: the Care and Keeping of Bees); Bee Culture magazine editor Kim Flottum (The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden), and University of Florida emeritus professor Malcolm Sanford, who is the co-author with Richard E Bonney of Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees: Honey Production, Pollination, Bee Health.
Mussen also pointed out that a newly revised rendition of the beekeeping bible, The Hive and the Honey Bee will soon replace the 1992 edition. "It is one of the most comprehensive texts out there," he said.
What about keeping bees along a busy street?
"Having a busy thoroughfare over your back fence will be problematic only if most of the bee-attractive water and flowers producing nectar and pollen are on the other side of the road," Mussen noted. "Then a bunch of the bees will become hood ornaments or windshield smudges. Be sure to have a good bee-watering set-up in place before the bees are moved in."
Prospective beekeepers also need to contact their local Cooperative Extension office for rules and regulations.
One very enduring part of being a first-year beekeeper: "The first year should be the smoothest," he said. "After that, pests and diseases become a concern."
Musssen writes a bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Davis apiaries, which can be downloaded free from his website. He also writes the periodic Bee Briefs and one includes Getting Started in Beekeeping.
This photo of beekeeper Billy Synk, manager and staff research associate of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, appears on the cover of the February edition of the American Bee Journal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A number of Tulare County PCAs have observed a very dark thrips infesting the calyx and areas of the rind where fruit touch in mandarins this year. Samples were collected and identified by Dr. Mark Hoddle (Dept of Entomology, UC Riverside) as western flower thrips. We don't normally consider this thrips a pest of the rind of citrus. However, in some cases, a circular scarring was associated with the thrips feeding on the rind of the fruit. It is likely this is a rare event, precipitated by freeze and drought conditions. Should growers treat for this thrips? This decision has to be made based on each individual situation. The thrips have likely already done the damage and will be difficult to control with insecticides because they are tucked away. In addition, they will readily move to flowers when they become available.
Western Flower Thrips
Circular rind damage in mandarins
Experiments by Mary Lu Arpaia (University of California Riverside) and David Obenland (USDA-ARS Parlier) at the Lindcove Research and Extension Center using near infrared (NIR) technology show promise for detecting freeze damage in citrus fruit. Staff members of LREC sorted Washington navel and Tango mandarin fruit using NIR (in this case Taste Technologies equipment) and Drs. Arpaia and Obenland cut and evaluated the fruit and determined the ability of the software to differentiate undamaged, slightly damaged, and severely damaged fruit. NIR technology will help packing houses sort out the damaged fruit and increase sales in a freeze year such as this. For Lindcove researchers, this technology will help them measure freeze damage in citrus fruit in their experiments.
David Obenland, Jamie Nemecek, Mary Lu Arpaia evaluate fruit
Freeze damage to a navel orange 6 weeks after the freeze event
The event, hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCHU), based at UC Davis, will take place at Giedt Hall, UC Davis campus, with a side trip to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden, just west of the campus, on Bee Biology Road.
Registration is underway at on the CCHU website.
CCHU program manager Anne Schellman says that this will be an informative workshop where participants will learn:
- How to identify common bee pollinators
- How to make a landscape pollinator-friendly
- Which plants pollinators prefer
- The latest research about honey bee health and pollinator habitat
- How UC Davis helps honey bees at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden
Honey bee and native pollinator specialists with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will be among the speakers.
Please pick up materials and enjoy coffee and a light breakfast
Dave Fujino, director of the California Center for Urban Horticulture, UC Davis
Edwin Lewis, professor and vice chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis
8 to 8:40
The Buzz about Bees: Attracting and Observing Bees in Your Garden
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis
Habitat Enhancements to Support Bees: Agriculture to Urban Research
Pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis
Honey Bee Health: Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, Department of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis
Plants for Pollinators: Ellen Zagory, director of horticulture, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, UC Davis
Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven Garden Update: What's New in the Garden?
Christine Casey, manager of Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Department of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis
11:30 Pick up box lunch
Open house at Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Bee Biology Road (It's located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility)
Questions and answers with Robbin Thorp and Christine Casey
1 to 2
Special plant sale for Pollinator Workshop attendees
Arboretum Teaching Nursery, Garrod Drive
This is a great opportunity to learn more about the pollinators we see in our garden, ranging from honey bees and bumble bees to long-horned bees and metallic green sweat bees--and what to plant to attract them. Three of the speakers (Eric Mussen, Neal Williams and Robbin Thorp) were members of the "UC Davis Bee Team" that won the outstanding team award last year from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America. The other team members were assistant professor Brian Johnson and professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
See website for registration and more information, or contact Anne Schellman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Honey bee foraging on flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)