Backyard Orchard News
So, you spot a bug crawling up and down a plant in your garden.
What is it?
Plant bug? No kidding.
The common name for certain members of the Miridae family is--you guessed it--"plant bug." Entomologist Lynn Kimsey, who directs the Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus, quickly identified this little bugger.
"It's a Hemiptera," Kimsey said. Hemiptera, the fifth largest order of insects, all have a tubular beak for piercing and sucking. They're among the seven million insects in the Bohart Museum.
"Members of the family Miridae are the commonest Hemiptera in most areas of California," write entomologists Jerry Powell and Charles Hogue of UC Berkeley in their book, California Insects. "Many species attain high population densities, and most are specific to certain plants."
They describe the critters as "small, soft-bodied, elongate or oval bugs with prominent eyes and long, thin antennae and legs."
Most mirids, they say, suck plant juices (with their long beak) but some prey on other soft-bodied insects.
In case you're wondering, California has recorded more than 150 species of miriads.
The others, as they say, "await discovery."
In their book, Powell and Hogue list some of the species of plant bugs: ornate plant bug (Closterocoris ornatus), black grass bugs (Irbisia) and tarnishesd plant bugs (Lygus).
You can't go wrong, however, by calling it a "plant bug."
Pretty in pink
Now here's something that will tick you off.
You're taking photos of bumble bees and honey bees in tall grass near a wooded area, minding your own ISO, shutter speed and aperture. All's well with the world.
When you arrive home, there's an eight-legged visitor in your hair from the genus Dermacentor. That's the bad news.
The good news: You discovered the blood-sucking parasite, aka dog tick or wood tick, before it could embed or engorge.
This tick (below) is a reddish brown female dog tick I picked up in Marin County. It took a liking to my hair. My first tick. My first tick photo.
It is not something to crave.
Dog ticks look like spiders when their belly isn't full. They are typically found in tall grasses and wooded areas. They lie in wait for an unsuspecting host, like a dog bouncing through, and then attach themselves.
Not only are dog ticks painful but some can transmit human diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. Dog ticks can also induce tick paralysis. Another tick, known as a blacklegged tick, can transmit Lyme disease.
At the Center for Vectorborne Diseases, headquartered at UC Davis, some of the scientists research tick-borne diseases.
So, how do you remove a firmly embedded tick from your dog? Take your tweezers and firmly pull it out.
Preventive measures? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers helpful tips. People are encouraged to wear light-colored clothing, long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Wearing light-colored clothing can help you detect them. Covering your skin can help avoid attachment. Some folks swear by insect repellent, too.
Key point: After a hike, check for ticks.
In your hair, too.
They're up and at it long before the honey bees.
Before dawn breaks, you'll see the tiny bees gathering nectar and pollen in squash, pumpkins and other cucurbits.
They're squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa), sometimes called the plush bee. Unlike honey bees (which European colonists brought here in the 1600s), these are native pollinators. And unlike honey bees, these are solitary bees that nest underground. You'll find them from Quebec southward into Mexico.
Entomologists say they do a better job pollinating squash than the honey bees.
We'll take their word for it. Dozens of blossoms grace our sole squash plant, a yellow straightneck summer squash.
We bought the plant for a dollar, planted it in April, and already it has produced a dozen squash, thanks primarily to the little squash bees. Later in the morning, honey bees and carpenter bees gather where the squash bees have been.
It's our "yellow blossom special."
When you look at the tiny unassuming walnut twig beetle--it's smaller than a grain of rice--you wonder how it could possibily kill a majestic black walnut tree.
By itself, it can't. But when it's associated with a specific fungus that hitchhikes on the beetle, we’re talking serious problems.
A fungus from the genus Geosmithia is hitchhiking on the walnut twig beetle and together they are killing black walnut trees in California and seven other Western states. The disease has been tabbed “Thousand Cankers Disease” because of the cankers left behind.
Entomologist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, which houses one of the largest insect collections in
It’s that serious.
The beetle, Pityophthorus juglandis, native to
When I attended the Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting last fall in
It definitely is.
Entomologist Steve Seybold of the Davis-based Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, and an affiliate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, said it's a hard time for hardwoods. Another speaker, entomologist Andrew Graves of the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology, described some of the cankers as "enormous."
"If you peel back the bark, you’ll see the well-developed beetle galleries and blotches of fungal-stained wood and bark that look like a thousand cankers,” Graves said. ”The cankers widen and girdle twigs and branches, resulting in die back of the tree crown."
Seybold and Graves are among the researchers studying the disease and the one-two punch packed by the tiny walnut twig beetle and the yet undescribed fungus from the genus Geosmithia.
So tiny, so deadly, so disconcerting./o:p>/st1:city>/st1:place>/o:p>/st1:place>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:place>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:place>/st1:state>/st1:place>/st1:place>/st1:city>/st1:city>/st1:place>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:country-region>/st1:country-region>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:state>/st1:place>/o:p>/o:p>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>/o:smarttagtype>
Tiny walnut twig beetle
Death and destruction
The Baxter House is no more.
The UC Davis Fire Department burned it down yesterday.
It's gone, along with assorted black widow spiders, scattered crane flies, munchkin termites and maybe a meandering ant or wandering fly or two. (After all, this is a "bug" blog.)
The Baxter House, built in May 1938, was an abandoned, rundown house on Bee Biology Road, on the west end of the UC Davis campus. It stood east of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, the only other building on Bee Biology Road.
Once a private residence and then an avian lab research facility, the 1200-square-foot building went up in flames and down in embers.
Just like that.
In its place will be an access road to the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden to be installed later this year next to the Laidlaw facility.
The Baxter House was not only a troubling eyesore but a massive road bump in the UC Davis Department of Entomology's development plans.
Some 15 firefighters, including trainees in the UC Davis student residential firefighter program, participated in the training exercise, led by assistant chief Nathan Trauernicht, operations and training division.
The eyesore is gone. Bring on the bees and the honey bee haven.
Up in Flames