"Birds do it," sang Ella Fitzgerald. "Bees do it..."
"Even educated" (insert "stink bugs") "do it." But she didn't sing that; that wasn't part of Cole Porter's lyrics.
But it's true. Stink bugs do it. Unfortunately.
We'd rather they NOT. These shield-shaped insects feed on such crops as tomatoes, beans, peaches, pears, apples, pistachios and almonds.
One of the most colorful stink bugs is the red-shouldered stink bug (Thyanta pallidovirens), which gets its name from the thin red band on its "shoulders."
We recently spotted two red-shouldered stink bugs in our family bee garden doing what Ella Fitzgerald called "falling in love."
We do not want a family stink bug garden. The resident praying mantis does not listen when we tell him to eat the stink bugs, not the pollinators. We suspect it's because stink bugs...well...stink. They produce a chemical meant to ward off predators.
So lately, the stink bugs have been targeting the dwarf peach tree and the cherry red tomatoes. As the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program says on its website:
"Stink bugs attack a variety of fruits and vegetables from stone fruits to pears to beans to tomatoes, often leaving blemishes, depressions, or brown drops of excrement. On green tomatoes, damage appears as dark pinpricks surrounded by a light discolored area that remains green or turns yellow when fruit ripen. Areas beneath spots on tomatoes or depressed areas on pears become white and pithy but remain firm as the fruit ripens. On peaches, fruit turns brown and corky."
Back to the birds and the bees and the stink bugs....It's not every day you see stink bugs mating. That's probably not on anyone's bucket list. And it's not every day you see a female lay her eggs on a guara (Guara lendheimeri) stem. That's definitely not on anyone's bucket list.
Indeed, the tiny white eggs are almost microscopic. But if you look closely, they're barrel-shaped.
So, how do you rid your garden of stink bugs? It has to do with a bucket. See, there is a bucket list! You fill the bucket with warm soapy water and drop in the little stinkers. (Personally, I haven't tried this at home because I'm trying to photograph them. Besides, the peach tree and tomato plants have already produced.)
However, Wikihow.com has published its how to kill a stink bug. The soapy water clogs their "pores" and they "drown within 20 to 40 seconds."
Those Wikihow.com folks sure know how to kill a sting bug. And they timed it to boot!
Think of them as "the good guys" and "the good girls."
Insects such as lacewings, lady beetles and flower flies.
We're delighted to see that the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has just published a 250-page book on "Farming with Native Beneficial Insects."
The book advocates the use of beneficial insects to prey upon crop pests, thus "reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides," say co-authors Eric Lee-Mäder, Jennifer Hopwood, Mace Vaughan, Scott Hoffman Black, and Lora Morandin.
"This comprehensive guide describes how to recognize these insects and their habitat, and how to evaluate, design, and improve habitat for them," they write. They offer specific solutions, including native plant field borders, mass insectary plantings, hedgerows, cover crops, buffer strips, beetle banks, and brush piles.
The much-acclaimed book, available for purchase on the Xerces website, is drawing well deserved accolades, including this one from Claire Kremen, professor and co-director of the Berkeley Food Institute, University of California, Berkeley:
“If you are a grower or a backyard gardener, this is a ‘must have.' Readable and filled with gorgeous photos and handy charts, this book provides reams of information about how to get the upper hand on your pest issues with reduced or no pesticide use.”
Xerces officials say the release of Farming with Native Beneficial Insects coincides with its launch of a new nationwide workshop series on natural pest control: the Conservation Biological Control Short Course. The course, to begin in the West and Midwest, "provides farmers, crop consultants, and government farm agency staff with a comprehensive, hands-on training in the natural pest management strategies described in the book. A similar workshop model previously offered by Xerces trained tens of thousands of people in farm communities across the U.S. to conserve bees and restore pollinator habitat, and helped facilitate the restoration of more than 100,000 acres of wildflower habitat for bees."
Speaking of "the good guys" and "the good girls," be sure to read the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Project's website on beneficial insects and natural enemies. The natural enemies include assassin bugs, bigeyed bugs, brown lacewings, convergent lady beetles, damsel bugs, dustywings, syrphid flies and twicestabbed lady beetles.
What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)? "Integrated pest management uses environmentally sound, yet effective, ways to keep pests from annoying you or damaging plants. IPM programs usually combine several pest control methods for long-term prevention and management of pest problems without harming you, your family, or the environment. Successful IPM begins with correct identification of the pest. Only then can you select the appropriate IPM methods and materials."
UC IPM points out:
- Many pests can be managed without the use of pesticides.
- Use pesticides only if nonchemical controls are ineffective and pests are reaching intolerable levels.
- Use pesticides in combination with the methods described above.
- Choose pesticides carefully. Use the least toxic, most effective material to protect human health and the environment.
- Examples of least toxic insecticides include:
- Oils; and
- Microbials such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and spinosad.
The more we learn about pests and the natural enemies of pests, the oft-heard quote, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer" rings quite true. The more we learn about our enemies, the less likely they will be able to harm us.
Once you've seen a leaffooted bug (genus Leptoglossus), you'll never forget it.
If you look closely, you'll see a leaflike structure on each hind leg.
It's especially noticeable when the bug is on a brightly colored tomato or pomegranate.
Lately we've been seeing a lot of leaffooted bugs on our tomatoes. They're Leptoglossus phyllopus, as identified by senior museum scientist Steve Heydon of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis. The bugs emerge in the early morning for a few hours and then, moving quite sluggishly, disappear among the leaves, only to make their presence known late in the evening and early the next morning.
They're pests of many fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and ornamentals, but they're so unusual looking that they draw the attention of photographers and other curious folks. It's camouflage at its best--except when they're on ripe red tomatoes and pomegranates. Then it's as if they're wearing neon.
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Program has this to say about leaffooted bugs on almonds:
"The leaffooted bug is an infrequent pest in almonds that gets its name from the small, leaflike enlargements found on the hind legs of the large nymphs and adults. Adult bugs are about 1 inch long and have a narrow brown body with a yellow or white zigzag line across its flattened back. Adult females lay eggs in strands of usually 10 to 15 eggs that are often found on the sides of nuts in almonds. Eggs hatch into small nymphs that resemble newly hatched assassin bugs."
Also read what UC IPM has to say about leaffooted bugs on pomegranates and several species: Leptoglossus clypealis, L. occidentalis, and L. zonatus.
As the guests dined on seafood, yellowjackets dined on bits of protein left behind.
The half-filled glasses were there to draw the yellowjackets away from the picnic tables. Don't know what was in the plastic glasses, but whatever it was, it did not kill them. It just slowed them down. A little. They jumped in, swam around, and climbed out.
Yellowjackets (genera Vespula) are pests.
"Defensive behavior increases as the season progresses and colony populations become larger while food becomes scarcer," wrote authors Eric Mussen of Uc Davis and Michael Rust of UC Riverside in the newly updated UC IPM Pest Note, Yellowjackets and Other Social Wasps.
"In fall, foraging yellowjackets are primarily scavengers, and they start to show up at picnics and barbecues, around garbage cans, at dishes of dog or cat food placed outside, and where ripe or overripe fruit are accessible. At certain times and places, the number of scavenger wasps can be quite large."
Yes, indeed. Uninvited guests are likely to join your picnic.
The ones we observed were Vespula pensylvanica, commonly referred to as "meat bees" because they like meat, including the hamburgers, hot dogs and other protein you serve at your picnic and at other outdoor outings. They also like sugary drinks.
An excerpt from the Pest Note:
"Usually stinging behavior is encountered at nesting sites, but sometimes scavenging yellowjackets will sting if someone tries to swat them away from a potential food source. When scavenging at picnics or other outdoor meals, wasps will crawl into soda cans and can sting your lips or the inside of your mouth or throat."
Want to know more about yellowjackets and other social wasps? Access or download the Pest Note.
Where's the best spot for the new residents of my garden?
I acquired two ladybugs last Saturday during the 99th annual UC Davis Picnic Day. Background: as part of the campuswide celebration, the Department of Entomology annually hosts an all-out bugfest at the Bohart Museum of Entomology and at Briggs Hall. And keeping with the Briggs Hall tradition, the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program gifted picnickers with the treasured ladybugs.
Now ladybugs aren't really "bugs"; they're beetles. Neither are they all "ladies"; some have manly qualities. (Gender issues may confuse us, but not the lady and gentlemen beetles.)
A ladybug is a good beneficial insect. It can devour an estimated 5000 aphids in its lifetime (three to six weeks).
So, every year for the past several years, I've adopted two ladybugs, chauffered them home, and tucked them in our garden. "Please eat the aphids," I tell them.
And they do.
They're good at following instructions.
Last year they took up residence in a bed of red roses. This year, they're coming up in the world--a high rise. A tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii) is "home sweet home."
Life doesn't get any better than this if you're a ladybug (and any worse if you're an aphid).