From the UC Blogosphere...
UC Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) staff distributed ladybugs (actually lady beetles, but when you say ladybugs, someone is sure to ask "Aren't those LADYBUGS?") at Briggs Hall during the recent UC Davis Picnic Day.
A welcome gift, indeed.
We placed our two little beneficial buddies on a yellow rose rose bush, "Sparkle and Shine," purchased last year during the Rose Weekend sponsored by the UC Davis-based California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCUH), part of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
"Eat," we said. "Eat aphids."
Ladybugs don't always do what they're told. Sometimes they fly away.
However, the yellow roses are gorgeous. They remind me of "The Yellow Rose of Texas," a song--and flower--so loved by my Texas-born mother. "So pretty," she'd say.
Which bring us to this: CCHU's 2014 Rose Weekend is set Saturday, May 3 and Sunday, May 4 at the Foundation Plant Services, 455 Hopkins Road, UC Davis. CCHU kindly hosts this fundraiser just before Mother's Day to make gift-giving easier. The two-day event includes rose sales, bus tours of the Foundation Plant Services' eight acres of roses, and informational sessions on roses--everything you've always wanted to know about roses but didn't know who to ask.
Admission is free. Also free: a rose for each guest while supplies last. In addition, CCHU will offer for sale copies of the popular UC IPM book, "Healthy Roses." The bus tours of the eight-acre rose field will take place every 30 minutes, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., both Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday, May 3:
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Rose sale
12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Rose field tours
10 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Peter Boyd, noted Rosarian
11 a.m. to noon: Christian Bedard, rose breeder
--UC Master Gardeners' booth for questions and answers
--Rose Tissue Culture Information Booth
Sunday, May 4:
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,: Rose sale
12:30 to 3:30 p.m.: Rose field tours
UC Master Gardeners' booth for questions and answers
The colors? Among them: Luscious reds, brilliant golds, and pure-as-the-driven-snow whites. You can download an online catalog to help you with your selections. Some roses are All-American Rose Selections (AARS). To be selected, a rose is evaluated for two years under no-spray conditions, and must meet strict criteria for superior disease resistance, fragrance and flower color, according to CCHU director Dave Fujino and program manager Anne Schellman.
They're also provided a handy rose dictionary on their website for those unfamiliar with roses:
English-style roses: Roses with dense petals that possess a strong fragrance. David Austin roses are English roses.
Floribunda: Medium-sized flowers in a “spray” of blossoms. Compact plants that are smaller and “bushier” than hybrid teas.
Grandiflora: Largest rose plant, has hybrid tea-style roses in small clusters of 3-5. Stems can be used for cutting.
Hybrid tea: One large flower per stem. Plant is medium to tall. Stems can be used for cutting.
Polyantha: A bushy plant with vibrant flowers
Whether they're English-style, floribundas, grandifloras, hybrid teas, or polyanthas, everything will be coming up roses on May 3 and 4.
A ladybug foraging on a yellow rose, Sparkle Shine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beekeepers and almond growers are concerned--and rightfully so--about the some 80,000 bee colonies that died this year in the San Joaquin Valley almond orchards. In monetary terms, that's a loss of about $180,000. But the loss isn't just financial. It could have long-term effects.
Beekeepers believe that pesticides killed their bees after the almond pollination season ended but just before they could move their bees to another site. This is a serious blow to both industries. Growers need the bees to pollinate their almonds. Now some beekeepers are vowing this is it; they'll never to return for another almond pollination season.
"When should the colonies be allowed to leave the orchards?" he asks. "When pollination no longer is happening. That does not mean that the bees should remain in place until the last petal falls from the last blossom."
"Why might beekeepers desire to move their hives out of the orchards 'early?' Once the almonds no longer provide nectar and pollen for the bees, the bees find replacement sources of food. Unfortunately, those sources may be contaminated with pesticides that almond growers would never use when the bees are present. Some common pests that surge right near the end of almond bloom include Egyptian alfalfa weevil larvae and aphids in alfalfa, and grape cutworms in vineyards. Delayed dormant sprays sometimes are being applied in other deciduous fruit orchards, even when the trees are in bloom. Often blooming weeds in the crops are attracting honey bees. If the year is really dry, the bees may be attracted to sugary secretions of aphids and other sucking bugs."
Mussen says it's "not difficult to see that accidental bee poisonings often happen. Despite our California regulations requiring beekeepers to be notified of applications of bee-toxic chemicals within a mile of the apiaries, bees fly up to four miles from their hives to find food and water. That is an area of 50 square miles in which they may find clean or contaminated food sources. Thus, growers whose fields are 'nowhere near' any known apiary locations may accidentally kill many bees with chemical applications."
"It seems," Mussen says, "that a combination of exposures of colonies to truly bee-toxic insecticides, followed by delayed effects of exposure to fungicide/IGR mixes during bloom, really set the bees way behind. The problem proved so severe that a number of beekeepers stated that they were never returning to California for almond pollination. That is not a good thing, since we really don't have too many colonies coming to almonds as it is."
In his newsletter, Mussen goes into depth about when and how bees pollinate the almonds and what could be causing the problem and how it can be resolved.
His take-home message? "Our honey bees cannot continue to be exposed to as many toxic agricultural products as they are, or we will not have enough bees to fill the pollination demand for our nuts, fruits, vegetable, forage and seed crops."
That's serious business.
A honey bee packing pollen as it forages on almonds. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Almond growers need bees. Without bees, there would be no almonds. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This in-depth publication provides research based information for individuals interested in adopting sustainable landscape practices. These practices include: plant selection, water conservation, pest management and providing wildlife habitats.
The free publication contains helpful figures, photos, and references for individuals looking for detailed and more complex information. “Sustainable Landscaping in California” can be a powerful tool for new volunteers working at a helpdesk or for developing workshop content or use in a presentation.
The sustainable landscaping publication is available as a free downloadable Adobe PDF from the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Catalog. Don't forget to check-out some of the other high-quality gardening publications available. Ask a local UCCE office about publication discounts for volunteers!
Could it be--a bee?
Yes, that's the metallic green sweat bee, also called an ultra green sweat bee, Agapostemon texanus. This one (below) is a female. Males and females are easily distinguishable. The female is all green, from head to thorax to abdomen, while the male (right) is green on the head and thorax but not on the abdomen.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, talked about them at the recent UC Davis Pollinator Gardening Workshop, sponsored by the California Center for Urban Horticulture.
The Agapostemon are members of the Halictinae family. They are "often called sweat bees because in hot weather they are attracted to human perspiration, which they lap up, probably for the salt it contains," according to the book, Bees of the World, by Christopher O'Toole and Christopher Raw.
Some of the family's many genera, including Agapostemon, are restricted to the New World. Halictus and Lasioglossum "are common to the Old and New Worlds," the authors write.
Coreopsis, also called tickseed or coreopsis, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae.
We spotted the female metallic green sweat bee at the Loch Lomond Marina, San Rafael. We captured the image of the male several years ago on a seaside daisy at the Mostly Natives Nursery, Tomales.
Green sweat bees will be among the bees featured in the book, "California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists," to be published in the fall of 2014 by Heyday Press. It's the work of Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley; Robbin Thorp of UC Davis; photographer Rollin Coville of the Bay Area; and Barbara Ertter of UC Berkeley. It will contain nearly 30 of the most common bee genera in California.
Frankie, Thorp, Coville and Ertter (and others) also published "Native Bees Are a Rich Natural Resource in Urban California Gardens" in California Agriculture.
Female metallic green sweat bee, Agapostemon texanus, on coreopsis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Female metallic green sweat bee peers at the photographer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fruit Tree Thinning Workshop
By Jutta Thoerner Master Gardener
I had a lot of small fruit last year and much of the fruit dropped prematurely. How can I prevent this from happening again? Robert, San Miguel
This premature fruit drop is referred to as “June drop”, which occurs in our area around May. It is a natural process that thins fruit in an attempt to prevent overbearing – or a crop load that the tree cannot successfully support.
However, this natural thinning is sometimes not enough. Signs that too much fruit is produced by the tree include broken branches laden with fruit, small fruit or alternate bearing of crop. In this extreme drought year, thinning your fruit is particularly important. Manually thinning will help your tree to get through this season less stressed, minimizing susceptibility to diseases and even sunburn. Some examples of trees that benefit from thinning include apples, Asian pears and certain European pears. These trees produce flower clusters from each bud and each flower can become a fruit. Thin these pome fruits to one or two fruit per cluster and at least 6-8 inches apart. The size of the fruit should be 0.5 inches to 1 inch in size at the time of thinning.
Stone fruits such as apricots, plums, peaches and pluots produce one fruit per bud and often, for example with apricots, on the entire length of the branch. Thin all the fruit clusters to just one fruit and leave 2-4 inches between each fruit. Thin when the fruit is ¾ to 1 inch in diameter.
If you have small trees or believe in keeping your trees small with summer pruning, hand thinning is the easiest and also produces the most accurate results. If you have a large tree and ladder climbing is no longer your hobby, attach a short rubber hose or cloth to a long pole. Strike individual fruit or clusters once or twice to break the fruit up and it will drop. Remember to clean the dropped fruit off the ground to lessen the spread of diseases. If you want to see a demonstration on “How to thin fruit”, join the Master Gardeners on April 23rd @ 1 30 pm for a one hour workshop in the Demonstration Garden (Garden Of The Seven Sisters).