The Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, is hosting a virtual open house dealing with alfalfa and rice.
Cooperative Extension agricultural specialist Ian Grettenberger, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and his graduate student, Madison "Madi" Hendrick, will discuss the crops, the pests, and the natural enemies or beneficials at a virtual Facebook live session from 11 a.m. to noon, Thursday, Oct 22.
Yes, this applies to you. If you're a scientist or would-be scientist, you'll want to know more about these agricultural crops and the issues. If you're a consumer and like rice and ice cream (dairy cows eat alfalfa and milk comes from ice cream, you have a stake in this.
The event, "The Good and the Bad: Insects and Other Arthropods in Agriculture, with a Focus on California Rice and Alfalfa," will be live-streamed on the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology's Facebook page. (Link to Facebook live here). Grettenberger and Hendrick will present short talks and then field questions. No personal Facebook account is required to join the session, which is free and open to the public.
"I will be discussing some of the insect (or arthropod) problems faced by growers of rice in California and some of the challenges in managing them, Grettenberger said. "In rice, some of the key arthropod pests are tadpole shrimp, which can turn what would have been a lush stand if rice into a poor stand with a lot of floating seedlings. Meanwhile, later in the year, armyworm caterpillars, the larvae of a moth, can chew on rice leaves and destroy plants. I'll discuss some of the ongoing work to better understand and manage these pests."
Grettenberg's fields of expertise include field and vegetable crops; integrated pest management; applied insect ecology, and biological control of pests. (See Spotlight on Ian Grettenberger.) Among his current grants:
- Protection of rice from invertebrate pests
- Insecticide resistant alfalfa weevils in the western United States: Quantifying the scope of resistance and implementing a plan to manage the threat
- Management of key cotton arthropod pests with insecticides and acaricides, a proactive approach to prepare for the invasion of the tomato leafminer (Tuta absoluta) into California
- Detection, biology and control of the exotic Swede midge (Contarinia nasturtii) for California cole crops
- Management of the western spotted and striped cucumber beetle in melon production
- Biological control of the bagrada bug
- Insecticide resistance monitoring and evaluation of efficacy of current chemical tactics for managing aphids and thrips in lettuce
What sparked his interest in entomology? "I had biologist parents, and was drawn into entomology at a pretty young age," Grettenberger said. "I spent plenty of time looking in flowers and turning over logs looking for insects. Once I started thinking about going to graduate school for entomology, I decided to focus on the intersection of agricultural entomology and insect ecology. I wanted to work on applied issues in entomology."
Hendrick, a second-year graduate student in the Grettenberger lab, received her bachelor's degree in iInternational studies at North Carolina State University, and also spent a semester at Nagoya University in Japan (she minored in Japanese).
"I got my start in entomology completely by chance!," Hendrick related. "I needed a science credit and happened to pick a class called 'Insects and People.”' That class really helped me to reframe the way I thought about insects and appreciate what interesting little critters they are. Through that class, I was also able to get a job as an undergraduate assistant in an entomology lab. I worked in a specialty crops lab, where I developed interests in integrated pest management and invasive species. I now study insecticide resistance in the alfalfa weevil, and I'm excited to share what I've learned through this outreach event!"
Grettenberger, Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Freeman Long and Madi Hendrick recently wrote a piece in the UC Agricultural and Natural Resources (UC ANR) blog, Alfalfa and Forage News, "A (Virtual )Update on Worms, Weevils an Aphids in Alfalfa."
"This year, the Kearney Research and Extension Center Alfalfa and Forage Field Day went virtual," Grettenberger wrote. "Attendees did not get the chance to look out over lush fields of alfalfa or towering plantings of sorghum, but they get did an update on ongoing work in alfalfa and other forages. Our team put together a rapid-fire video to discuss what are typically the key insect pests in California alfalfa: summer worms, alfalfa weevils, and aphids."
The summer worms in alfalfa include the summer worms: Western yellowstriped armyworm, beet armyworm and alfalfa caterpillar. Another key pest is the alfalfa weevil. The trio also discussed aphids and their natural enemies, including lady beetles, aka ladybugs).
Pests of rice include armyworms, aster leafhoppers, crayfish, rice leafminers, rice seed midges, rice water weevils and tadpole shrimp.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, but is temporarily closed. The museum houses nearly eight million insect specimens; a live "petting zoo" of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and taranatulas; and a gift shop stocked with insect-themed T-shirts, books, posters, jewelry, candy and insect-collecting equipment. (Gift items can now be shipped during the closure.)
- Alfalfa and Forage News: A (Virtual) Update on Worms, Weevils and Aphids in Alfalfa (By Ian Grettenberger, Rachael Freeman Long and Madi Hendrick, Sept. 20, 2020) (See video on same page)
- Alfalfa and Forage News: Natural Enemies Are Important for Control of the Aphid Complex in Alfalfa--A Case Study (By Ian Grettenberger, Rachael Freeman Long, Daniel Putnam and Rob Wilson, April 7, 2020)
- UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: How to Manage Pests of Alfalfa
- UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: Insects and Other Pests of Rice
Which one is the most popular? Initially, it was the tropical milkweed, A. curassavica. We collected the first five caterpillars there. The A. fascicularis yielded the rest.
So, the count: narrowleaf milkweed, 11; tropical, 5; and showy, a no-show.
To date this year, we have released six monarchs back into the garden. The others went for university research. Elizabeth Pringle's laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno, needed male and female monarchs to rear a colony, and the UC Davis laboratory of Louie Yang needed some tachinid flies.
Unfortunately for us--and fortunately for the Yang lab--tachinid flies infested two of our "11-piece collection." The adult flies are parasitoids that lay their eggs in immature monarchs (among other hosts). The fly larvae hatch and eat their host from the inside out. In a chrysalid, you can tell a tachnid fly infestation by the large tell-tale "dented" brown spot, it looks somewhat like a rotten spot on an apple. In a caterpillar? Think withered and discolored. Then a bungee-like white string appears, and the larvae (maggots) slide down--probably gleefully--like a kid on a Goliath Slide at the county fair.
Tachinids, however, are considered beneficial insects. They lay their eggs in or on such pests as cabbage loopers, cutworms, cabbage worms, gypsy moths, hornworms, harlequin bugs, lygus bugs, cucumber beetles, earwigs and the like. (See Bug Squad blog for close-up images of the tachinid larvae and pupae.)
2016: A Very Good Monarch Year
The year 2016 was a very good year for monarchs in our pollinator garden; we reared and released 60-plus. Sadly, the numbers fell drastically in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Last year, no eggs, no caterpillars and no chrysalids, and only a few monarchs passed through. In fact, in 2019 we did not see our first monarch until Aug. 9.
This year we're noticing a comeback of sorts. We spotted the first monarch on May 24. We now see:
- Males patrolling our yard and chasing the females--morning, noon and evening
- Females laying their eggs on the narrowleaf milkweed that's beneath the honeysuckle vine or the tropical milkweed that's beneath the roses
- Both males and females nectaring on milkweed, butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia), napping in the branches of the cherry laurels, and greeting any guests with flutter fanfare.
Life is good.
Sometimes the Gulf Fritillaries, Agraulis vanillae, that are hanging out on their host plant, the passionflower vine, mistake them for one of their own species and a pursuit begins.
Yes, the predators are out there: the California scrub jays, praying mantids, spiders, European paper wasps and yellow jackets. So are the tachinid flies and parasitoid wasps.
Would it be too much to ask them to...um....leave our monarchs alone? Yes.
Everybody eats in the garden. The menu choice is theirs.
That's what Katja Poveda, assistant professor of entomology, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., does.
Poveda is interested in "understanding these interactions at many different levels (from the plant to the landscape) to seek for more sustainable strategies to increase ecosystems services provided by insects such as pollination and natural enemies and to decrease dis-services mediated by herbivores to ultimately increase yield."
The Cornell entomologist will be at UC Davis on Wednesday, April 4 to discuss "Landscape Complexity Effects on Yield: The Importance of Arthropod-Mediated Ecosystem Services." She'll present a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, April 4. in 122 Briggs Hall, located off Kleiber Hall Drive.
"In my seminar, I will be talking about the Guatemalan tuber moth (Tecia solanivora); a variety of native pollinators that visit strawberry in upstate New York; and pests of cabbage such as flea beetles, the imported cabbageworm (Pieris rapae) and Trichoplusia ni," she says.
A Cornell Chronicle news release, spotlighting Poveda and colleagues, indicates that potato plants boost the chemical defenses in their leaves when the Guatemalan tuber moth larvae feed on their tubers. The potato's response protects against leaf-eating pests, ensuring the plant can maintain sugar production to continue growing tubers during the moth larvae infestation. The research, published in the journal Oecologia, may lead to reducing potato damage from insect pests and increase tuber yields.
The Guatelmalan tuber moth is not in the United States, but it is spreading and is difficult to control, the scientists noted.
Poveda has co-authored such publications as "Landscape Simplification Decreases Wild Bee Pollination Services to Strawberry" (Journal of Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment); "Predicting Bee Community Responses to Land-Use Changs: Effects of Geographic and Taxonomic Biases" (Scientific Reports); "Can Overcompensation Increase Crop Production” (Ecology), “Landscape Simplification Reduces Classical Biological Control and Crop Yield” (Ecological Applications); “Leaf Herbivory Imposes Fitness Costs Mediated by Hummingbied and Insect Pollinators” (PloS One) and “Costs and Tradeoffs of Resistance and Tolerance to Belowground Herbivory in Potato” (PloS One). See more on Google Scholar.
Poveda's seminar is the first in a series of departmental seminars for the spring quarter. Coordinators are assistant professor Rachel Vannette, and Ph.D candidate Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab.
Based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Mussen completed 38 years of service last June and is nationally and internationally known as "the honey bee guru."
"Most of us take pollinators for granted. That's a key reason why Gov. Jerry Brown has joined other governors throughout the country to celebrate June 15-21 as National Pollinator Week. It's a time to appreciate what bees, butterflies, beetles, bats and other pollinators do. Honey bees and native bees are especially important for the pollination of our agricultural crops. Without them, we'd be pretty much confined to a boring, unappealing and non-nutritious diet of wheat and rice."
"Many beekeepers can't keep their colonies alive, no thanks to pesticides, pests, parasites, diseases, stress and malnutrition. We humans negatively impact our bee populations by converting their natural habitat to an unnatural habit (for them): airports, highways, housing projects, shopping malls, and parking lots. Food sources and nesting habitat for pollinators continue to shrink. Use of herbicides reduces what little bee-food resources are left. In some cases, pesticides kill insect pollinators outright. In other cases, chronic exposure to sublethal doses of pesticide residues disrupts normal development of immature pollinators."
Mussen asks that we all "consider planting bee-attractive flowers that bloom well beyond late summer into fall. The colonies require good-sized populations of well-fed bees to survive through winter."
"Also, we should consider restricting the use of pesticides to those times that pollinators are not attracted to blooming flowers or weeds. This would prevent acute bee kills, contamination of stored pollens, and unnecessary use of bodily energy for detoxification of pesticide residues."
He adds: "It's good to see that the Almond Board of California--with the help of an advisory committee comprise of scientists, beekeepers and growers--generated a packet of materials: “Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds.” The impetus: a large number of colonies suffered serious pesticide damage during the 2014 almond pollination. The packets contain an 18-page pamphlet about honey bees, their management, and their protection. Included, as well, are two heavy-duty, laminated “Quick Guides” (in English and Spanish) to be taken into the fields as reminders of best management practices. You can request the free packets by contacting the Almond Board at (209) 549-8262 or downloading the document at http://www.almonds.com/growers/pollination. The information in the packets pertains equally well to most other crop situations."
"Our bees," Mussen says, "deserve the best."
That they do.
I ran into two members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Patrol this afternoon.
No, I wasn't at a border. I was merely walking the halls of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. The border patrol agents were there to meet with entomology department officials in Briggs Hall.
They handed me a pamphlet, "Don't Pack a Pest," urging vacationeers (who me? I didn't go anywhere on T-Day, honest, 'cept for an insect safari in my back yard) to bring back memories, not pests.
The pamphlet is a reprint of a news article written by Kate Campbell of the California Farm Bureau Federation and published in the May/June edition of California Country magazine.
The gist of the article: don't tuck food, seeds or plants in your luggage and try to smuggle them into California. "Although they (items) may seem harmless, discoveries like these illustrate that while California travelers are settling in after a long trip, so too are a host of damaging pests, plants and diseases that have hitchiked home with them," Campbell wrote.
At the San Francisco Airport, someone tried to sneak in a "whole shrink-wrapped piglet and a rice straw pillow from Mongolia, with potentially diseased grain still attached," Campbell wrote.
Then there are the seed smugglers, like the California executive who stuffed seeds into pouches tucked in his underwear.
Whoa! (The reason they nabbed him was because the border patrol had earlier flagged him as a high-risk seed smuggler.)
The pamphlet quoted California Food and Agriculture Secretary A. G. Kawamura: "The public has an important role to play in keeping pests out."
Here are some tips for travelers, courtesy of the pamphlet:
- When camping, check tents, tarps, ice chests and other gear for dirt and pests. Rinse and shake before stowing.
- Leave firewood behind, likewise kindling, sticks and leaves.
- Don't bring fresh fruit and vegetables back across the state boundaries, particularly from backyard or roadside trees and gardens
- Don't bring animal houses back--dog houses, poultry cages or rabbit hutches.
- Hose off bikes, motorcycles and boats.
- Check tubular equipment for dirt--hollow poles, pipes, folding chairs and rods.
- For boaters, never move live fish or other aquatic animals or plants from one body of water to antoher.
- Drain and dry all water and dry boats, equipment and gear and clean live-wells.
- Check waders and boots for caked-on dirt.
- Keep foodstuffs tightly closed to prevent bringing infestations home. If in doubt, throw it out.
- Don't dump aquarium plants and exotic fish into sewers, creeks or lakes.
- Know what you're planting in your garden by checking online at www.plantright.org. Most plants sold for use in gardens and landscaping do not invade or harm wildland areas, but a few vigorous species can--and do.
Want to report a suspective invasive plant or pest? Call the California Department of Food and Ag's Plant-Pest Hotline at (800) 491-1899.
Want to know what NOT to bring back to California? Go to www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/pe/ or call (916) 654-0312.
Aquatic invaders? Check the Department of Fish and Game's Web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/invasives.
And to report a smuggler of prohibited exotic fruits, vegetables or meat products across international borders and into the U.S. or California, call the anti-smuggling hotline at (800) 877-3835.
As Campbell said, bring back memories, not pests.
Protecting California from invasive species costs some $85 million a year, according to www.plantright.org.