Backyard Orchard News
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology recognized it right away. He's seen or heard of many a wood duck box taken over by honey bees looking for a suitable home.
It's enough to drive the duck enthusiasts quackers.
The question came up again this week, as it periodically does. Someone asked him: "How do you keep wood duck boxes for their intended purpose?" Mussen's observations are worth repeating.
"Years ago I spent some time with a UC Davis student trying to find ways to dissuade honey bees from nesting in wood duck boxes," Mussen recalled. "They had found one box in which the female duck refused to go, so the bees built their combs right down over and around her, killing her. We tried to prevent the bees from being able to grip the top of the box, where they connect their downward-hanging combs. The Teflon tape that we used prevented them from starting at the top and building down. But, they started on the wall at a corner, build some comb up against the Teflon--yes, beeswax sticks to Teflon--then built the combs down. The stickum on the Teflon tape wasn’t good enough to keep the combs stuck to the top, so the whole thing eventually collapsed in a heap."
"We tried Insectape strips (produced by Rainbow Technology) that were supposed to repel bees and wasps from building in electric boxes. We poured the artificial 'swarms' into the boxes to see if they would be driven out by the pesticide strip. It killed them--they didn’t leave. The strips might repel a real swarm under natural conditions, but that is not how we tested it."
"It would be pretty hard to determine where the swarms originate. Right around swarm time is when many beekeepers are looking for suitable locations to build up their colonies and make 'splits.' The bees need a good supply of food for building up, and beekeepers may be moving their bees close to wood duck nesting areas for the spring nectar and pollens."
One option is placing bee boxes near the wood duck boxes to trap honey bee swarms, "especially of the boxes contain some previously used combs."
"There also is a honey bee attractant--pheromone--that can be purchased from beekeeping supply companies to entice the bees into the trap box," Mussen says. "For whatever reason, the trap hives work best at about nine feet off the ground. Some of the beekeeping supply companies also offer what look like really large flower pots with a cover. They are made of some sort of wood pulp--so they don’t really look like bee boxes. By opening a quarter-sized hole in the narrow end, the pots can be put out as trap hives and work pretty well. Despite your best intentions, however, some of the swarms just ignore the trap hives and go somewhere else. So, some will end up in the duck boxes, anyway."
What to do? Visit the wood duck boxes frequently to remove the bees before they accomplish much. "Unfortunately, once they have built some comb in the box," Mussen says, "the odor makes the box much more attractive to the next swarm."
Another issue: some folks troubled by the declining bee population insist on letting honey bees be. "We have become 'blessed' with an increasing number of individuals who believe that honey bees should be left to their own devices, to do whatever happens," he says.
So, to all those folks wanting to retain wood duck boxes for ducks, Mussen says to engage in periodic monitoring to help out their feathered, webbed buddies. That includes removing the bees.
Mussen didn't say this, but I think he meant that you don't have to get up at the "quack of dawn" to do it.
This wood duck box is being used as a bee hive in The Bee Sanctuary on the UC Davis campus. Examining it is Derek Downey who directs The Bee Collective and The Bee Sanctuary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
An unusually cold and prolonged weather system moved into California on December 3rd, and temperatures in our area have plunged below freezing for eight consecutive nights. Citrus growers have engaged frost protection measures such as use of wind machines and extensive watering. Under certain conditions these measures have the effect of raising the air temperature at ground level to mitigate the danger of frost. Weather forecasts providing temperature and dew point are some of the tools that growers use to make decisions regarding which frost protection measures to implement. Warmer temperatures are in the forecast, and growers will continue to evaluate the extent of freeze damage to fruit and trees.
Meanwhile, harvesting is continuing in the area, as December is always a busy time for navel oranges and early mandarins such as clementines. Picking crews and forklift operators are battling icy conditions and mud from heavy irrigation in the groves to get the fruit from tree to packing house.
Lindcove REC recently installed a new weather station. Early morning low temperatures at the Center from December 4th through the 10th were 28.5, 25.2, 25.2, 29.0, 26.8, 24.2, and 25.8° F. Anyone is welcome to use our Western Weather Group login and password to access Lindcove weather data.
Application of water during freezing temperatures raises air temperature at ground level.
Wind machines raise air temperature at ground level.
It's rather troubling trying to rear subtropical butterflies, Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), in late autumn.
The string of warm sunny days in late November meant plenty of days for Gulf Frits to mate and reproduce. From eggs to larvae to chrysalids to adults--we watched the life cycle unfold on our passion flower vines (Passiflora).
Now it's freezing cold, with morning temperature dipping below 23 degrees.
No Gulf Frits flying outside.
But there is one Gulf Frit flying inside. It emerged from its chrysalis Friday. It is the sole occupant of our butterfly habitat.
"That butterfly could not have picked a worse time to come out," commented naturalist Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart Museum of Entomology volunteer who rears butterflies, including Gulf Frits.
He's so right. Freezing cold and pouring rain are not conducive to releasing butterflies back into the wild--the wild meaning the Passiflora.
On Sunday afternoon as the mercury rose a bit, I contemplated releasing my Gulf Frit. I asked Siri "How COLD is it in Vacaville, California?"
She answered "It is 49 degrees in Vacaville and I don't find that particularly cold."
What? So, now we're getting editorial comment when we ask a question about the weather?
Siri, as you know, is that "intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator" (thanks, Wikipedia) that responds to questions you ask on your iphone. Siri is Norwegian for "beautiful woman who leads you to victory."
Beautiful woman or not, Siri is neither leading ME to victory nor my boy butterfly.
Yes, my Gulf Frit is a male, according to butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.
Like many other lepidopterists, Shapiro is concerned about the high pressure from the Arctic, resulting in freezing temperatures here. "The low temperatures we have experienced may be enough to extirpate the Gulf Fritillary butterfly regionally," he said. "This subtropical invader has become very popular with local residents (Yolo, Sacrameno and Solano counties, for instance), and if it is indeed wiped out, many will be sad to see it go."
Today Shapiro visited some of the warm pockets on the UC Davis campus but saw no "Leps" (Lepidoptera) of any kind.
There is, however, one restless male Lep in my butterfly habitat. His release date depends on the outside temperatures.
It does not depend on what Siri says.
Newly emerged Gulf Fritillary butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A brief bit of sunlight, and the newly emerged Gulf Frit fluttered its wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two unique workshops on soil quality will be provided this week. One will be held on Tuesday,
December 10, 2013, on the UC Davis campus in 3001 PES (Physical and Environmental Sciences) at 11:00 am and the other will take place in Five Points on Wednesday, December 11, s013, also at 11:00 am.
The sessions will feature Brendon Rockey, a farmer from Center, CO and Jay Fuhrer, an NRCS District Conservationist from Bismarck, ND. They’ll be leading the workshop that will also include a lunch and a follow-up discussion.
For further information, please contact Jeff Mitchell, CE Cropping Systems Specialist, Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center, at (559) 303-9689 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
'Biotic farming' considers all living things, not just the crop being grown.
It's no secret that bugs often get a bad rap.
Take the negative expression, "Bah, Humbug!" uttered by Ebenezer Scrooge, a Charles Dickens character.
Now it seems that everyone who dislikes Christmas says it, with an emphasis on "bug."
Why not turn things around and say "Ah, humbug!" Think of the hum of the buzzing honey bees on a warm summer day.
Or even a cold wintry day.
Yesterday as the temperature hovered at 48 to 49 degrees on the University of California, Davis, we took a noonhour stroll behind the Lab Sciences Building to look for insects. We spotted a lone honey bee buzzing around some spiderylike red flowers, and buds that looked like tiny balls of red yarn. The plant? Calliandra californica, also known as Baja fairy duster, according to Ernesto Sandoval, director of the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory.
Now bees don't usually leave their colony until the temperature hits at least 55 degrees (although we've seen them flying at 50 in our backyard).
This bee apparently wasn't aware of the "no fly" list.
This honey bee was not aware of the "no fly" list; bees don't usually fly when the temperature is 49 degrees, but this one did. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee gathering nectar on Calliandra californica, aka Baja fairy duster. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee continues foraging on Calliandra caifornica. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)