- Author: UC Integrated Pest Management
Have you had unexpected seeds show up in the mail? Unknown seeds could be invasive plants, contain invasive insects, or have plant disease causing agents. Here's what the United States Department of Agriculture Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) has to say about it.
USDA Investigates Packages of Unsolicited Seeds
USDA is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation.
USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their State plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director. Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.
At this time, [USDA does not] have any evidence indicating this is something other than a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.
USDA is committed to preventing the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protecting U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds. Visit the APHIS' website to learn more about USDA's efforts to stop agricultural smuggling and promote trade compliance.
Happy summer! It's time to get the barbecue grilling and the pool party started. To keep your summer healthy and fun, UC ANR offers some important safety tips.
Food poisoning is a serious health threat in the United States, especially during the hot summer months. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 6 Americans suffer from a foodborne illness each year, resulting in thousands of hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
Both the CDC and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggest four key rules to follow to stay food safe:
- Clean: Clean kitchen surfaces, utensils, and hands with soap and water while preparing food. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water.
- Separate: Separate raw meats from other foods by using different cutting boards. And be sure to keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs away from other items in your refrigerator.
- Cook: Cook foods to the right temperature; be sure to check internal temperature by using a food thermometer.
- Chill: Chill raw and prepared foods promptly.
Here are some additional tips from the USDA. Be sure to check out the CDC's comprehensive food safety website, which also has materials in both Spanish and English. For food safety tips in real time, follow USDA Food Safety on Twitter.
Summer also means more outside grilling, which can pose unique food safety concerns. Before firing up the barbecue, check out these five easy tips from UC Davis.
Handling food safety on the road
Before you take off on a road trip, camping adventure or boating excursion, don't forget to consider food safety. You'll need to plan ahead and invest in a good cooler.
Remember, warns the USDA, don't let food sit out for more than one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees F. And discard any food left out more than two hours; after only one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees F.
If there are any doubts about how long the food was out, it is best to throw it out!
Get more food safety tips for traveling from the USDA.
Avoid heat illness
“Summer can be a time for fun and relaxation, but in warm climates, we need to stay aware of the signs of heat illness and help keep our family members and co-workers safe,” says Brian Oatman, director of Risk & Safety Services at UC ANR.
“UC ANR provides comprehensive resources on our website, but it's designed around California requirements for workplace safety.” But, Oatman notes, much of the information applies.
“The training and basic guidance – drink water, take a rest when you are feeling any symptoms and having a shaded area available – are useful for anyone at any time.”
To increase your awareness of heat illness symptoms – and to learn more about prevention – Oatman suggests a few resources.
“Our Heat Illness Prevention page has many resources, including links for training, heat illness prevention plans, and links to other sites. One of the external sites for heat illness that I recommend is the Cal/OSHA site, which spells out the basic requirements for heat illness prevention in the workplace. It's also available in Spanish."
For those on the go, Oatman also recommends the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) mobile heat safety app.
- Author: Annemiek Schilder
In this blog series, Dr. Annemiek Schilder, Director, UCCE Ventura County and Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center, shares her observations about the natural world across the seasons. As she says:
"Gently observing your surroundings with curiosity will teach you some amazing things. There are so many fascinating things happening under our noses, only wanting for an observant eye."
The other day I spotted a gorgeous red dragonfly in my garden. He – yes, it was a male - cocked his head towards me several times and studied me with his big compound eyes as I inched closer to take a picture. He waited patiently while I tried to get him into focus, then eventually flew off. The flame skimmer dragonfly (Libellula saturata) is common in California and the Western US. Males have an orange-red body with orange sections on the wings, whereas the female is paler with an amber tinge along the upper edge of the wings.
Dragonflies speak to the imagination with their bright colors, transparent lacy wings and aerial acrobatics, inspiring poets and artists through the ages. They are often seen as a good omen and a source of comfort during times of loss. In Japan, the dragonfly is a symbol of strength, courage, and happiness whereas to Native Americans, dragonflies signify change, transformation and healing.
Dragonflies belong to the insect order Odonata, which means “toothed”, for their serrated mandibles − entomology-speak for jaws with teeth-like projections. Adult dragonflies feed on soft-bodied insects such as mosquitoes, flies, moths, butterflies, and flying ants, ambushing them in mid-flight. They have almost 360-degree vision due to their huge compound eyes and can see many more colors than humans can. Dragonflies are amazing flyers, achieving speeds over 30 miles per hour, and are able to fly forwards, backwards and remain stationary with the help of flight muscles that control each of the four wings separately.
The flame skimmer dragonfly is mostly found near warm ponds or slow-flowing streams. In colder regions they are a common sight around hot springs. The larvae, also called nymphs or naiads, spend 2 or more years living in shallow water where they feed on mosquito larvae and other aquatic insects, small fish and tadpoles. In order to grow, they have to molt (shed their skin) multiple times. Adult dragonflies emerge in the spring and live for about 6 months during which time they have to find a mate. As I was observing two flame skimmers chasing each other, I was reminded that dragonflies can be fiercely territorial. After mating, the female lays her eggs by dipping her abdomen repeatedly in the water while hovering above the surface.
Watch the life cycle of dragonflies in this National Geographic video.
Photo by Sensei Minimal on Unsplash
Youth ages 9-12 will have an opportunity to learn what it means to be sustainable through fun activities in a virtual summer camp. The camp will be held July 20-24th, with campers meeting online daily from 10-11:30 a.m. The camp is free of charge, but pre-registration is required.
The Sustainable You! Summer Camp is hosted by the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) 4-H Program, in partnership with the UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center (UC HAREC), and the City of Ventura Environmental Sustainability and Water departments.
UCCE Community Education Specialist Gwyn Vanoni noted that:
“The Sustainable You! Summer Camp is an engaging way for kids to think about their role in creating a sustainable future while having a lot of fun. This has been a summer day camp at UC HAREC for a number of years. While we're going virtual this year, we are working hard to ensure that the fun and focus of the camp remains true for the participants.”
The virtual camp will explore sustainability across five major theme areas: land, water, food, air and energy. A typical day will include:
An introduction to a sustainability topic with an ice breaker and simple journal questions or an art activity;
A discussion or video on the day's topic;
A demonstrated activity; and
An activity that youth can do on their own.
The virtual camp is part of the online educational programs being organized by UCCE Ventura County. Learn more here.
- What: 4-H Sustainable You! Virtual Summer Camp
- Ages: 9-12
- When: July 20th-24th (Monday-Friday)
- Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
- Cost: FREE, but pre-registration is required! Register: harec.ucanr.edu
For more information, email Susana Bruzzone Miller.
Current fire activity in Ventura County reminds us that fire season is here. It's critical to be prepared. Here are some important resources to help you get ready and stay apprised of fire activity in Ventura County.
Here are other resources we recommend:
- Fire in California This is UC ANR's comprehensive fire resources website. This site contains the latest information on fire ecology; wildfire preparation; health and safety in wildfires; wildfire recovery; and more. Useful information for homeowners, land owners and land stewards.
- CA Fire Science Consortium is a network of scientists and managers that strives to increase the awareness, understanding, and adoption of wildland fire science information.
- LUC Lab at UC-Berkeley researching land and land use change.
- ReadyForWildfire.org CalFire's fire resources website, which provides many valuable resources for preparedness.
- **NEW Wildfire Risk to Communities maps by US Forestry Service
Be sure to follow our UCCE Livestock & Range page on Facebook. Advisor Matthew Shapero helms that page and often posts fire information there. If you haven't had an opportunity to meet Matthew, you can learn more about his work in this blog post.
ICYMI, here's a #goodread about Pandemic and Wildfire: California is Preparing for a Crisis Within a Crisis