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California's three-part drought survival plan

Anglers hike down to the water's edge at the San Luis Reservoir. The reservoir is at 30 percent of capacity.
National Public Radio reporter Kurt Siegler spoke to the director of the UC California Institute for Water Resources, Doug Parker, to set the stage for a five-minute report on the California drought for All Things Considered. (The story is embedded below.)

In California, Siegler reported, water is moved through a network of dams, canals and pipes from the places where it rains and snows, to places where it is needed, like farms and cities.

"The system that we have was designed back in the 1930s through 1950s to meet population and land use needs of the time," Parker said. "Now things have changed in the state and that system really hasn't evolved to keep up with the times in California."

The system was designed when the California population was about 10 million. Now the population is 38 million. It was also designed during an unusually wet period of history.

"And the question is, how is that system going to perform in 2050?" Parker said.

The story outlines three ways the state is coping with the drought:

  • A $7 billion water bond to upgrade that massive infrastructure system is on the Nov. 4 ballot. The measure would pay for building two new large reservoirs and the expansion of dozens more. There is also tens of millions of dollars earmarked for water recycling and reuse.
  • Efficiency, such as capturing urban waste water, treating it and using it on farms. Passage of the water bond will allow for this strategy to expand.
  • Water conservation. The example Siegler gave was an executive order by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, which aims to cut freshwater use in his city by 20 percent in the next three years.

Listen to the NPR story here:

 

 

Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 8:50 AM

A Gathering of Beekeepers: Follow That Buzz!

Bill Lewis, CSBA president
Follow that buzz!

When the California State Beekeepers' Association, founded in 1889, meets Nov. 18-20 in Valencia for its 2014 convention, it will mark a milestone: 125 years of beekeeping. Not so coincidentally, the theme is "Celebrating 125 Years of California Beekeeping."

And to think that California's first honey bees are "fairly new" newcomers: they didn't arrive in the Golden State (San Jose area) until 1853.

The conference promises to be educational, informative, timely and fun. "We will hear about things going on in the world of beekeeping on the local, state, and national levels," said CSBA president Bill Lewis, who lives in the San Fernando Valley and maintains 650 colonies of bees (Bill's Bees) with his wife, Liane, and business partner, Clyde Steese.

Topics range from “Keeping Bees Safe in Almonds" and “Land Trusts Working with Beekeepers," to "Mead Making" and "Urban Beekeeping, Beginner to Advanced."

Among the hot topics: Entomologist Reed Johnson of The Ohio State University will speak on  “The Effects of Bee Safe Insecticide" on Wednesday, Nov. 19.

Biologist Thomas Seeley of Cornell University will speak on "Survivor Population of European Honey Bees Living Wild in New York State” at the research luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 20. He is also scheduled for two other talks, "Honeybee Democracy" (the title of one of his books) and "The Bee Hive as a Honey Factory," both on Nov. 20. In addition, speakers will address such topics as forage, land management, queen health, genetic diversity, and pests and diseases.

One of the featured presentations will be the richly illustrated documentary, "Almond Odyssey," a look at California's almond pollination season, the world's largest managed pollination event. The state's 900,000 acres of almonds draw beekeepers and their bees from all over the country.

The gathering of beekeepers will include multiple generations of family-owned commercial beekeeping operations, bee hobbyists, and those hoping to start their very first bee hive, Lewis says. They're there to learn the latest about beekeeping from world-renowned researchers and industry authorities. 

The University of California, Davis, is expected to be well represented. Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, UC Davis, will speak Wednesday, Nov. 19 on  “Honey Wheel” and “California Master Beekeeper." Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology serves as the organization's current apiculturist and parliamentarian (as well as a frequent speaker). He will introduce the new Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Nino in a Nov. 20th presentation titled "California Extension Apiculturist--Passing the Torch." (For a complete list of sessions and speaker biographies and to register for the conferene,  access the CSBA website.)
 
CSBA's mission is to support and promote commercial beekeepers and pollination services in California's agricultural farmlands. Each year funds raised at the CSBA convention go to research. Researchers attend the conference and provide updates. They are in "the front lines of the bee health battle," Lewis noted.  

The conference (as well as membership in CSBA) is open to all interested persons.

CSBA President Bill Lewis of the San Fernando Valley talks bees with Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) at the California Agriculture Day, State Capitol, in March. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
CSBA President Bill Lewis of the San Fernando Valley talks bees with Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) at the California Agriculture Day, State Capitol, in March. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

CSBA President Bill Lewis of the San Fernando Valley talks bees with Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) at the California Agriculture Day, State Capitol, in March. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees pollinating almonds.  (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees pollinating almonds. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees pollinating almonds. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 9:23 PM

Bees 'n Blooms

Co-author Gordon Frankie (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bees 'n blooms. Blooms 'n bees.

Add "California" to it and you have California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.

It's a book that's well-planned, well-executed, well-written and well-photographed.

Bees are hungry. What plants will attract them? How can you entice them to your garden and encourage them not only to visit but to live there?

The book, the first of its kind, profiles some of the most common bee genera found in California gardens; their preferred plants, both native and non-native; and how to attract them.

Most folks are familiar with honey bees and bumble bees. But what about the other bees, such as mining, leafcutting, sweat, carpenter, digger, masked, longhorned, mason and polyester bees?

Co-author Barbara Ertter
The authors point out that of the 20,000 bee species identified worldwide, some 4000 are found in the United States, and 1600 in California.

Published by the nonprofit Heyday Books in collaboration with the California Native Plant Society, the book is the work of four scientists closely linked to UC Berkeley: urban entomologist Gordon Frankie, a professor and research entomologist at UC Berkeley; native pollinator specialist and emeritus professor Robbin Thorp of UC Davis (he received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley); insect photographer and entomologist Rollin Coville, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley; and botanist/curator Barbara Ertter of UC Berkeley. 

“This book is about urban California's bees: what they are, how and where they live, their relationships with ornamental flowers, and how to attract them to urban gardens,” they wrote. “It was written in the urgency of knowing that bees are critical to the health of our natural, ornamental and agricultural landscapes and that populations of some, perhaps many are in rapid decline.”

Co-author Rollin Coville
Frankie, who has researched bees in urban gardens in California for 13 years, says: “While the book is specific to California, larger insights can be gathered about the role of native bees in developed landscapes (such as agriculture), and native bee conservation."

Frankie studies behavioral ecology of solitary bees in wildland, agricultural and urban environments of California and Costa Rica.  He teaches conservation and environmental issues. He is involved in how people relate to bees and their plants and how to raise human awareness about bee-plant relationships.

Co-author Robbin Thorp, who retired in 1994 after 30 years of teaching, research and mentoring graduate students, continues to conduct research on pollination biology and ecology, systematics, biodiversity and conservation of bees, especially bumble bees. He is one of the instructors at the The Bee Course, affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and held annually at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. The course is geared for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who seek greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees.

“The book is profusely illustrated with photos and drawings of bees and flowers, especially notable are the magnificent close-up images of bees by co-author Rollin Coville,” Thorp said.

Ertter thoroughly explores the anatomy of a flower. Bees and flowers constitute what the authors delightfully describe as "a love affair."

California's bees differ in size, shape and color, as do the flowers they visit. “The tiniest bees are ant-sized; the largest rival small birds,” the authors wrote. “Some are iridescent green or blue, some are decked out with bright stripes, some are covered with fuzzy-looking hairs.”

“Nature has programmed bees to build nests and supply their young with nutritious pollen and nectar, and their unique methods for collecting these resources are fascinating to observe. Their lives are dictated by season, weather and access to preferred flower types and nesting habitat.”

California Bees and Blooms lists 53 of urban California's best bee attractors identified through the Urban California Native Bee Survey. Among them:  aster, bluebeard, catmint, California lilac or Ceanothus, cosmos, California sunflower, red buckwheat, California poppy, blanket flower, oregano, rosemary, lavender, gum plant, and salvia (sage). With each plant, they provide a description; origin and natural habitat, range and use in California; flowering season; resource for bees (such as pollen and nectar), most frequent bee visitors, bee ecology and behavior and gardening tips.

The book offers tips on how readers can “think like a bee.” It devotes one chapter to “Beyond Bee Gardening: Taking Action on Behalf of Native Bees.” In addition, the book provides quotes on bees and/or bee gardens from Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (retired) of UC Davis: Ellen Zagory, horticulture director of the UC Davis Arboretum; and Kate Frey of Hopland, a designer of sustainable, insect-friendly gardens throughout California and in some parts of the world.

For more data on the book, the authors, and purchase information, access the publisher's website at  https://heydaybooks.com/book/california-bees-and-blooms/.

And for ongoing research on California's bees and blooms, be sure to check out the UC Berkeley website, appropriately named www.helpabee.org..

A honey bee and yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenski, share a coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee and yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenski, share a coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee and yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenski, share a coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp with a copy of the book. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp with a copy of the book. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp with a copy of the book. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 5:42 PM

Reporter ponders UC Cooperative Extension pepper research

Capsaicin, the yellow line of fluid, gives jalapeƱo peppers their heat.
A column in the Salinas Californian playfully reflected on UC Cooperative Extension research that aims to turn up the heat in the mighty jalapeño pepper.

Writer Dennis Taylor reported that Aziz Baameur, UCCE farm advisor in Santa Clara and San Benito counties, is trying to increase the Scoville units in hot peppers by adjusting on-farm practices.

"The trend lately is toward hotter items," said Jeff Sanders of George Chiala Farms in Morgan Hill, the site of the research project.

Taylor waxes on about super hot peppers that are being grown around the world - including the current record holder, according to Guinness, the Carolina Reaper, which is 900 times hotter than the jalapeño.

He wrote that he asked a newsroom colleague, UCCE Master Gardener Laramie Trevino, whether she would prefer more heat in jalapeños, and he mentioned a plan to call Baameur and Sanders to learn more about the motives behind their research work.

For more information about the hot pepper research, see: Some like it hotter: UC Cooperative Extension tries to grow a spicier jalapeño.

Posted on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 4:39 PM

A Fly Is a Fly Is a Fly

Honey bee nectaring on Spanish lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A bee is a bee is a bee is a bee.

'Cept when it's a fly.

Lately we've been seeing lots of images on social media (including Facebook and Twitter), news media websites, and stock photo sites of "honey bees." 

But they're actually flies. 

Will the real flies come forth?

Today we saw several drone flies, Eristalis tenax, sipping nectar from our Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, jokingly calls this drone fly "the H bee." Why? There's an "H" pattern on its abdomen.

The drone fly and honey bee are similar in size and both are floral visitors in their adult stages. However, the drone fly is quite distinguishable from a honey bee. The fly has large eyes, stubby antennae and one pair of wings.

The larvae of the drone fly is a rat-tailed maggot that lives in drainage ditches, pooled manure piles and other polluted water.

Unlike a honey bee, the drone fly "hovers" over a flower before landing. The  fly belongs to the family Syrphidae (which includes insects commonly known as flower flies, hover flies and syrphids) and the order, Diptera. The honey bee is Apis mellifera, family Apidae, order Hymenoptera.

The case of mistaken identity can cause excruciating pain.  A journalist will spend half a day interviewing bee experts about bee health--investigating colony collapse disorder, malnutrition and Varroa mites--only to have a copy editor illustrate the prized bee story with a fly.  It's more horrific than Halloween.

Likewise, Facebook editors have been known to turn a fly into a bee faster than the beat of a wing. And photographers who know more about "F" stops than "H bees" post misindentified photos on Flickr or sell their mislabeled images to stock photo businesses.

The old saying, "If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's probably a duck" doesn't ring true in "the drone bee vs. the honey bee" identity crisis.

If it looks like a bee, acts like a bee and buzzes like a bee, it may be...a drone fly.

Drone fly, Eristalis tenax, sipping nectar from a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Drone fly, Eristalis tenax, sipping nectar from a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Drone fly, Eristalis tenax, sipping nectar from a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The
The "H" is easily seen on the drone fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The "H" is easily seen on the drone fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Drone fly heads for another blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Drone fly heads for another blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Drone fly heads for another blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, October 20, 2014 at 9:03 PM

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