From the UC Blogosphere...
By Jutta Thoerner UCCE Master Gardener
What can I do now to reduce damaging insect's populations in my garden prior to spring? Erika in Grover Beach
You probably heard the Master Gardeners talk about fall and winter clean up in the garden. The main reason we encourage gardeners to remove fallen leaves and other discarded plant material is to minimize the potential for insects to overwinter in your garden litter. There is a huge difference in providing “clean” mulch which is properly prepared compost versus spreading insect infested plant debris throughout the garden. Another source of spring insect trouble is the expired fruits and nuts left hanging on trees. These old and shrunken fruits are called tree “mummies”. Apple moths, walnut husk flies, and almond navel orangeworm are just a few examples of insects whose numbers can be greatly reduced by simply cleaning up on and around trees. Play it safe and dispose of all discarded plant material. Move it an operating composting system, or add it to the green waste can. Many insects can overwinter happily with our low or no frost zones.
When you lay out your vegetable plots this winter, dedicate one corner for a beneficial insectary planting and another area to attract the harmful insects. By providing a constant source of blooming plants (insect food) in your beneficial corner, you'll get a head start on developing a population of pollinating insects. You might be able to attract those tiny beneficial wasps that feed on or parasitize certain damaging insects like aphids and tomato hornworms. To attract harmful insects, think back to which plant attracted the most insect pests? In my garden, certain cabbage, some winter greens, and beans are the sacrificial plants. They get planted earlier than my main crops and I have very good luck shaking the plants and seeing many of the chewing insects drop in my soapy pale.
Lastly, invest today in row covers for your small seedlings. Garden catalogs sell several models in a range of thicknesses to best suit your climate. They completely protect your tender shoots until it is safe to uncover them and let the pollinators do their job.
For more information and photos of beneficial insects, visit http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/NE/index.html
Today is Thanksgiving.
As we give thanks and reflect on a day set aside to be grateful, we realize that not all is great in the world of haves and have-nots, the generous and the greedy, and troublemakers and peacemakers.
Miscommunications turn into misunderstandings. Agreements turn into disagreements. Harmony turns into hostility. Like an open wound, tensions bulge, crack and fester. Life saddens, disappoints and crushes us.
But today is Thanksgiving, a day to be grateful. All around us, people are giving thanks, sharing memories, shoring up the holiday spirit, and feasting on turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Among the many things we are grateful for: we are grateful that we are not a turkey.
Last summer as a praying mantis "prayed" for dinner in our bee garden, we were thankful we were not a bee.
On Thanksgiving, we're grateful we're not a bee, this bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's all the buzz.
Graduate student Danny Klittich won the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association's annual t-shirt design contest with a design depicting a honey bee and the iconic hexagonal cells.
Klittich, who is starting his third year as a doctoral student in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, studies with major professor Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the department.
The T-shirt, publicly available for purchase, with proceeds benefitting EGSA, is golden yellow with a black illustration. Graduate student and T-shirt project coordinator Margaret “Rei” Scampavia is taking orders at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sizes range from youth small to adult double X.
Klittich says he's not an artist but has always had an interest in honey bees. He was a member of the UC Davis graduate student team that won the student debate championship, Nov. 18, at the Entomological Society of America's 62nd annual meeting in Portland, Ore. The team debated neonicotinoids, defeating Auburn (Alabama) University team. UC Davis successfully argued the con side of “Neonicotinoids Are Causing the Death of Bees Essential for Pollinating our Food Crops. The Use of Neonicotinoids Should End.” The team, captained by Mohammad-Amir Aghaee of the Larry Godfrey lab, also included Jenny Carlson, Anthony Cornel lab; Ralph Washington Jr., Steve Nadler lab; and Margaret "Rei" Scampavia, Neal Williams/Edwin Lewis lab.
Klittich's research focuses on increasing plant resistance to herbivorous and improving integrated pest management (IPM) programs in horticulture and floriculture. He is currently analyzing the effects of silicate fertilizers on leafmining pests in chrysanthemum and gerbera production systems.
Klittich, from Fillmore, is a graduate of Fillmore High School and valedictorian of the Class of 2006. He grew up in the nursery business, working at his family's nursery, Otto and Sons Nursery, Inc., Fillmore. During his youth he was active in 4-H and Boy Scouts, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.
Klittich received his bachelor degree in entomology from UC Davis in 2010. Following his graduation, he worked in the Parrella laboratory, helping to maintain the greenhouses and experimental plants and assisting with pesticide efficacy trials on several crops and pests including spider mites, leafminer and mealbugs. He enrolled in the doctorate program in 2012 and continues his work in the Parrella lab.
The current president of EGSA, Klittich is active in the Pacific Branch of ESA (PBESA) and ESA, the national organization. He was a member of the UC Davis championship team that won the ESA student debate in 2013. The subject: “Using GMOs to Using GMO's to Technology is Not Universally Accepted – Con side."
Klittich plans to receive his doctorate in 2016. His career goal: to pursue a career in pesticide and IPM research either in the private sector or in the California University System as a farm advisor.
In addition to the honey bee t-shirt, EGSA is offering other T-shirts, most available for $15. Popular EGSA shirts depict a dung beetle, “They See Me Rollin'”; a “cuddling moth” for infants and toddlers; a weevil shirt, “See No Weevil, Hear No Weevil, Speak No Weevil”; and “The Beetles” shirt, of four beetles crossing Abbey Road, reminiscent of The Beatles pictured on their Abbey Road album. All can be ordered from Margaret “Rei” Scampavia at email@example.com.
Graduate student Danny Klittich with his prize-winning design. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Thanksgiving is tomorrow, so I am sure you have all the ingredients you might need for your upcoming feast. Lots of herbs make their way off the shelf and into this wonderful meal, so I thought this would be a great time to discuss some of the most popular herbs used in the traditional Thanksgiving meal, and give some tips on growing and storing them. If you don't already have any or all of these three herbs in your garden, you might consider planting some once spring rolls around.
Rosemary is always a popular herb - and a popular decorative shrub in our area as it is hearty and drought-tolerant. For Thanksgiving use, you can use a rosemary-salt blend to rub your bird, or finely chop and combine fresh rosemary with butter and rub that on your bird. Whole sprigs can also go straight into the cavity of the bird. Rosemary roasted potatoes are also a delicious side dish.
You might already have rosemary, either creeping or upright, in your landscape. If you don't, and would like to grow some, you should! Rosemary is very easy to care for. It prefers 6-8 hours of sunlight per day and thrives in our warm climate. Rosemary likes dry soil - so be sure not to overwater and let the soil dry out between waterings.
Thyme is a popular herb to combine with poultry, but this lemony herb also goes well in baked goods. You can rub some thyme on your bird, throw some sprigs inside the cavity, or even toss some thyme into your piecrust dough.
Much like rosemary, thyme can make a great decorative accent in your garden. Many gardeners believe that the flavor of thyme improves the more it is neglected - meaning poor soil and little water suit thyme just fine.
Sage complements pork very well. It also adds a savory flavor to browned butter, and who doesn't love sage stuffing?
There are many types of sage, and not all of them are edible. These varieties are all edible: garden, purple, tri-color, golden and common sage. Another giveaway for edible sage is the botanical name "salvia officinalis." Sage prefers full-sun and is drought-tolerant once established. It prefers well drained soil and does not like to have wet roots.
Harvesting and Storage
As far as harvesting goes, you can cut sprigs of rosemary, thyme and sage as needed to use fresh, or you can cut and hang sprigs to dry. Once dry I do recommend removing the needles or leaves from the stem and putting them in a jar or bag of some sort, as no one likes dusty herbs!
The drone fly, aka European hover fly, aka syrphid fly, doesn't get as much press as the other drone, the unmanned aircraft.
But the drone fly (Eristalis tenax), about the size of a honey bee and often mistaken for a honey bee, makes for great in-flight photos. It's sort of the Fat Albert of the Blue Angels.
Last weekend we watched a drone fly (distinguished by the "H" on its abdomen), hovering over an Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule). The rain-battered poppy certainly wouldn't have won any gold awards in a county fair's garden show.
But to the drone fly, bent on foraging, this was gold. It emerged with "gold dust" (pollen) on its head.
Yes, its larva are known as rat-tailed maggots and yes, they frequent manure piles, sewage drainage ditches and other water-polluted areas.
But the adults are pollinators. Significant pollinators, at that.
A drone fly, aka hover fly and syrphid fly, engaging in a little acrobatics over an Iceland poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hover fly heading for an Iceland poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This photo shows why drone flies are pollinators. Check out the pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)