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We depend on pollinators

The yellow-faced bumble bee (shown on foxglove), native to the west coast of North America, is an important pollinator. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Happy Pollinator Week! For 2019, it's June 17-23. Most people think of bees when they think pollination, but don't stop there. “Think the "b" alliteration: bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. But don't forget the flies, ants, mosquitoes and moths!” writes Kathy Keatley Garvey in her Bug Squad blog.

Did you know…

  • Three-fourths of the world's flowering plants depend on pollinators
  • 35% of the food we eat depends on pollination by animal pollinators
  • There are 25,000 different species of bees
  • 1.6 million colonies of honey bees are needed to pollinate California's 800,000 acres of almond trees.
  • Honey bees will fly up to 4 miles from the hive to collect water, nectar and pollens.

“Loss of a species, especially a pollinator, diminishes our global environment,” said the late bee expert Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, in a 2010 interview. “Bumble bees provide an important ecological service--pollination. This service is critical to reproduction of a huge diversity of plants that in turn provide shelter, food (seeds, fruits) to diverse wildlife. The potential cascade of effects from the removal of even one localized pollinator may affect us directly and indirectly.”

Launched 12 years ago, National Pollinator Week focuses on the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles, according to Pollinator Partnership, which manages the national celebration. Other pollinators include syrphid or hover flies, mosquitoes, moths, pollen wasps and ants. They transfer pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma.

Mexican long-tongued bat is a pollinator. Photo by Steve Buchmann

Bats are very important pollinators in tropical and desert climates. More than 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination.

UC ANR's California Naturalist Program promotes environmental literacy and stewardship through discovery and action. To become a certified California Naturalist, participants enroll in a course with one of our partner organizations. To receive certification, every UC California Naturalist completes a capstone project that benefits nature. Many California Naturalist projects benefit pollinators. For example, California Naturalist Cynthia from the USC Sea Grant SEA LAB course made houses to support native mason bee population in Palos Verdes. She made the bee houses out of repurposed scrap wood and cardboard, paper coat hanger tubes, used toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and giftwrap rolls.

To create habitat for pollinators in your garden, the UC Master Garden Program recommends planting a variety of plants to provide diverse sources of nectar and pollen. The UC Master Gardener volunteers in San Mateo and San Francisco counties have compiled a list of pollinator-friendly plants.

The UC Master Gardener volunteers also collected data on pollinator habitat in California by zip code and created an interactive map.

UC Master Gardener volunteers also collected data on pollinator habitat in California by zip code and created an interactive map.

 

Posted on Friday, June 21, 2019 at 4:46 PM
Tags: pollinators (7)
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources

California Naturalists' efforts benefit pollinators

'Attention is the beginning of devotion' --Mary Oliver

This quote resonates this month, amidst a variety of environmental holidays and celebrations including World Environment Day, World Ocean Day, California Invasive Species Action Week, and finally National Pollinator Week (this week) and Month. It seems in this increasingly digitally connected world, one day, week, or month doesn't pass us by in the calendar year without an official opportunity to observe, act, or celebrate nature.

As these official observances pop up, we can also contemplate all the unofficial ways people celebrate, protect, and educate about nature in their daily lives. There are both small and incremental and heroic acts taken every day to make this a more livable world for all creatures. There is momentum behind a movement that says “we're paying attention and the environment is worth our time and energy and devotion despite all the other worthy competing causes.”

In celebration of National Pollinator Week, we want to highlight just a few of the many California Naturalists whose efforts benefit pollinators. Every UC California Naturalist completes a capstone project of their choice to receive certification. These final projects require at least eight hours of volunteer service, and are often built upon by subsequent naturalists in following cohorts. They always benefit nature, and often benefit the recipient communities and organizations. Most California Naturalists would tell you they benefit the individual, too. Capstone projects are a culmination of service, learning, and “paying it forward.” Our community celebrates both the projects and the creativity, labor, and intentions of these naturalists.

Inspired by the intersection of science and art, California Naturalist Rose from the Hopland Research and Extension Center created this gorgeous outreach poster in both English and Spanish from her original pollinator garden painting for the Redwood Valley Outdoor Education Project. Her goal is to spread awareness of the important ecological roll our native pollinators play and to share Xerces Society resources. Animal pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, beetles, ants, bats and hummingbirds. According to Xerces Society, the ecological services that pollinators provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85% of the world's flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world's crop species. Honeybees get a lot of media attention, yet many other pollinator species like native bumblebees are in precipitous decline. The UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab is another excellent source of native bee information.

California Naturalist Cynthia from the USC Sea Grant SEA LAB course made houses to support native mason bee population in Palos Verdes, CA. The bee houses were made from repurposed scrap wood and cardboard, paper coat hanger tubes, used toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and giftwrap rolls. She reached out to a local Girl Scout troop to help make three types of houses. The Girl Scouts leveraged the new learning opportunity and service work to receive an "Outdoor Journeys" badge. Then she met with four kindergarten classes of 24 students each and together built houses to take home. The houses in the picture aren't examples of her model but were ones she found online.

California Naturalist Cynthia showed a local Girl Scout troop how to make three types of houses to support native mason bees. The bee houses were made from repurposed scrap wood and cardboard, paper coat hanger tubes, used toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and giftwrap rolls.

Mason bees are solitary bees named for their behavior of using mud in constructing their nests. Mason bees may defy some assumptions about bees. They don't sting, they don't live in a hive, and they don't make honey. They do, however pollinate flowers and fruits and vegetables and need a safe place to lay their eggs. When available, some species use hollow stems or holes in wood made by wood-boring insects which is where mason bee houses come into the picture. UC Davis Department of Entomology compiled this list of resources on where to find and how to make nesting sites for native bees.

Sue from the Tuleyome course built bat boxes for her local home owners association to hang in Arnold, Calaveras County. At least 45 species of bats inhabit the United States and Canada and there are at least 27 known species of bats in California. Bats are very important pollinators and seed dispersers, particularly in tropical and desert climates. In addition, they serve a very effective agricultural pest control purpose. Although they provide vital environmental services, bat populations are in decline globally. To make your own bat boxes, UC ANR offers a guide to build songbird, owl and bat boxes.

Bat boxes can be constructed to attract bats, which are very important pollinators and seed dispersers.
 
Hummingbirds, along with other birds, bats and insects, are pollinators.
Posted on Thursday, June 20, 2019 at 6:15 PM
  • Author: Brook Gamble
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

UC helps California dairy farmers experiment with milking robots

In dairies with milking robots, cows voluntarily walk into a sophisticated, computerized box when they are ready for milking.
Early in the 20th century, dairy operators traded their milking stools for machines to produce enough dairy products to meet growing consumer demand.

The technological developments were critical to the formation of California's enormous dairy industry, the largest in the nation. Today, more than 1.7 million cows produce 39.8 billion pounds of milk in California each year, according to the California Milk Advisory Board.

The march of progress continues. The state's dairy industry is now beginning to integrate robots and sophisticated computer software into cow barns to maintain the supply of wholesome and inexpensive dairy foods for Americans. UC Cooperative Extension scientists are poised to help them adapt to the new technologies.

On most California dairies, cows are led two or three times each day from the barn to the milking parlor by workers. They clean the cows' udders to remove bacteria and surface dirt, evaluate whether the cow has mastitis, attach the milking machines, and disinfect the cow's teats after milking before taking the cows back to their pens.

“Dairy production is automated, but it is still a very labor intensive activity,” said Fernanda Ferreira, UC Cooperative Extension dairy specialist based at the UC Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center in Tulare. “Farmers always tell us that the most challenging thing they are facing is labor – labor availability, training and cost.”

Milking robots – a technology already being used in dairies in the Midwest and Eastern U.S., Europe, South America and Canada – promises greater automation, reduced labor needs and improved animal welfare.

View a short video clip of the milking robot in action.

The machines don't resemble a stereotypical robot character, but rather are computerized boxes large enough to fit one cow, with a robot arm programmed to reach under the cow and clamp onto the teats. Cows do not need to be led to the milking machine, but rather walk into the box voluntarily when they are ready to be milked.

The machine recognizes each individual cow by a computer tag around her neck or on the ear, and provides personalized milking service. The robots do all the work: clean the teats, attach the milking machines, and disinfect the teats after the milking is done. While milking, the robot collects data on the cow's output and health.

When it comes to California and all the West, these are very new,” Ferreira said. “We're talking herds that have 1,800 cows on average. Huge herds. Since each of the robotic units, which serve 60 to 70 cows, costs about $120,000, we're also talking about a huge investment.”

Two San Joaquin Valley dairies have already installed milking robots, and many others are interested in the new technology. Ferreira and other researchers from the VMTRC in Tulare are collaborating with one of them to study how the machine and the herd's management can be adapted to better serve large-scale dairy herds like those in California.

“Our idea is to first understand the perspective of the producers who have cows being milked by robots. We want to know what they have learned so far, the challenges they have encountered, their relationship with banks,” Ferreira said. “Relationships with banks are important because most dairies will need to borrow funds to equip their facilities with enough robots for full automation.”

Future research will review issues of milk quality, mastitis management and determine what data farmers will need from the computerized system to improve dairy profitability.

“There are a lot of options available from companies that manufacture the robots. We want to fully understand how they work for our farmers and cows to be able to inform the future of California's dairy industry,” Ferreira said.

Posted on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 10:29 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Innovation

Invasive species threaten California’s economy and ecology

Invasive species threaten California's landscapes.
When insects, weeds, animals and diseases enter California from elsewhere in the nation or world, they can cause economic losses to agricultural crops and ecological damage to the state's natural areas. Ultimately, invasive species affect every resident of California.

Based on historical data, a new invertebrate species establishes itself in California about every six weeks, on average. They don't all become serious pest problems, but many evade eradication efforts, disrupt carefully balanced integrated pest management programs, hijack sensitive ecosystems, and spoil valued recreational resources and urban landscapes.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources joins the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Invasive Species Council in marking California Invasive Species Action Week, June 1-9, to raise public awareness of invasive species issues and promote public participation in the fight against California invasive species.

The UC Integrated Pest Management Program and the Center for Invasive Species Research are two UC ANR programs that monitor invasive species and coordinate responses when they become established in the state. They work closely with UC ANR advisors and specialists on eradication, management and prevention of these threats.

Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing

Huanglongbing disease, which kills citrus trees, is spreading in Southern California residential areas and threatening commercial citrus production. There is currently no cure for the huanglongbing disease. It is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid. The insect, a native of Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Asian regions, was first detected in California in 2008. Currently the only way to control the disease is to reduce the psyllid population and to remove trees that are infected or located near the infected trees. Everywhere ACP is found, the pests find and spread HLB. In California, an aggressive push to keep psyllid populations low, regulations to limit the spread of psyllids when trucking the fruit, and active scouting for and removal of HLB-infected trees in residential areas could buy time for researchers to find a solution before California suffers the fate of Florida citrus growers, whose orange production has dropped 70% lower than 20 years ago. More info: ACP/HLB distribution and management

Brown marmorated stink bug

The first reproducing population of brown marmorated stink bug was found in Los Angeles County in 2006. In 2013, a large population was detected in a midtown Sacramento. A pest of agricultural crops and a serious residential problem, it is a strong flier and also travels long distances by hitching rides in vehicles or inside furniture or other articles when they are moved, often in late summer and early fall. As a result, new infestations pop up in neighborhoods where people travel from infested areas. A native of China, Japan and Korea, BMSB was first documented in the United States in Pennsylvania in 2001. It is either established or found occasionally in about 41 states. More info: Pests in Gardens and Landscapes - Brown marmorated stink bug

South American palm weevil

The South American palm weevil is a destructive pest in its native and invaded ranges. Scientists first found it in San Diego in 2011. As the weevils feed, they drill through the heart of the palm, eventually choking off the fronds and killing the tree. UC ANR is studying the South American palm weevil's biology and life cycle, and trying to find out how they got to California. Traps for monitoring the pest have been developed and deployed. More info: South American palm weevil invasion in San Diego County




Polyphagus shot hole borer

The insect, originally from Asia, was first identified in California in 2012. Shot hole borers bore through bark carrying with them harmful fungus. The fungus attacks the tree's vascular tissue, choking off water, causing branch dieback and eventually killing the tree. Polyphagous shot hole borer and the fungus are now distributed widely in more than 110 types of trees in Los Angeles and Orange counties, and have been observed in San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties. More info: Invasive shot hole borers

Sudden oak death

Sudden oak death is caused by the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, which was inadvertently introduced to California forests on nursery stock in the 1990s. The disease has killed up to 50 million trees (primarily tanoak, coast live oak, California black oak, Shreve's oak and canyon live oak) from Big Sur to southwest Oregon. More info: http://www.suddenoakdeath.org

Dyer's woad

Dyer's woad is an invasive weed thought to have been introduced into California in the Scott Valley of Siskiyou County, where it is locally referred to as "Marlahan mustard." Until a couple of decades ago, it was primarily confined to Scott Valley, but it has subsequently spilled over into Shasta Valley. It continues to spread throughout Siskiyou County and into Modoc, Shasta and other northern California counties. During medieval times, Dyer's woad was one of the most valuable plant commodities in Europe, cultivated as a source of blue dye as early as the 13th century. Colonists first introduced it to the eastern United States for that purpose. UC ANR researchers are developing management practices for removing Dyer's woad and using solarization to kill the seeds in the field, limiting the risk of seed being spread when dead weeds are removed for disposal. More info: UC IPM Pest Note on Dyer's Woad

Yellow starthistle

Yellow starthistle is native to Eurasia and was introduced to California around 1850 via South America. Recent reports indicate that yellow starthistle infests between 10 and 15 million acres in California. It is common in open areas on roadsides, rangeland, wildlands, hay fields and pastures. Disturbances created by cultivation, poorly timed mowing, road building and maintenance, or overgrazing favor this rapid colonizer. It forms dense infestations and rapidly depletes soil moisture, preventing the establishment of other species. It is also poisonous to horses, causing a nervous disorder called “chewing disease,” which is fatal once symptoms develop. Horses are the only animal known to be affected in this manner and should not be allowed to graze on yellow starthistle. More info: UC IPM Pest Note on yellow starthistle

Saltcedar

Saltcedar is native to Eurasia and was introduced into California through the nursery industry. The weed is tolerant of high salinity. Saltcedar's dry branches and leaves can increase fire frequency. After fires, saltcedar sprouts rigorously, while native trees and shrubs generally do not, enabling saltcedar groves to push out native species. Research shows that saltcedar could impact the structure and dynamics of streams by trapping and stabilizing sediments, increasing overbank flooding following high flow events and creating permanent sand bars in rivers. This pest also contributes to the decline of wetland communities as habitat refuge for wildlife. More info: Center for Invasive Species Research

Arundo donax

Arundo donax is native to the Mediterranean and tropical Asia. In California from the late 1700s to early 1800s, giant reed was often planted for erosion control in flood channels and as wind breaks. The bamboo-like perennial can grow to 25 feet tall with thick, well-developed rhizomes. It develops dense stands that displace native vegetation, diminish wildlife habitat, increase flooding and siltation in natural areas and create a wildfire hazard. More info: Arundo donax

Egyptian broomrape

Egyptian broomrape was found in a California processing tomato field in 2015 – a first find for the U.S. It is a parasitic plant that attaches to other plant roots and lacks conspicuous leaves. Broomrape can infest about 30 broadleaf crops, including bell pepper, cabbage, carrot, celery, eggplant, melons, potato and tomato. The presence of broomrape in a field may force farmers to plant a less economical, non-host crop or to leave the field fallow. The weed causes reductions in crop yield, adversely impacts crop quality and results in the loss of cultivated land due to reduced crop alternatives. More info: Egyptian broomrape.

Japanese dodder

There are several species of dodder native to California, but they are not as difficult to manage as Japanese dodder, which was identified in Shasta and Yuba counties in 2005. This invasive plant pest has thick stems that resemble spaghetti. It grows larger and faster than native dodders and can cover entire trees or shrubs. In California, no viable seeds have been observed following Japanese dodder flowering. Instead, most spread occurs through the dissemination of small pieces of stems distributed by birds and other animals or through pruning, composting, and the improper disposal of infested plant material. This weed is has spread to more than a dozen California counties including Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Fresno, Los Angeles, Merced, Sacramento, Shasta, Solano, Sutter, Tulare, Yolo, and Yuba. Contact your county agricultural commissioner to receive proper identification and help with control. More info: UC IPM

 

 

Find more information on the UC Integrated Pest Management Program Invasive and Exotic Pests website: https://www2.ipm.ucanr.edu/Invasive-and-Exotic-Pests/

 

 

Posted on Friday, May 31, 2019 at 2:22 PM
Tags: invasive species (15)
Focus Area Tags: Pest Management

A team approach is key to conquering invasive species

UC ANR teams with other universities, government agencies, non-profit organizations, landowners and California residents in the fight to prevent, eradicate or control invasive species.
The UC Integrated Pest Management Program and the Center for Invasive Species Research are two UC Agriculture and Natural Resources programs that monitor invasive species and coordinate responses when they become established in the state. They work closely with UC ANR advisors and specialists, government agencies and nonprofit organizations on eradication, management and prevention of these threats.

At an invasive species summit last year in Sacramento, UC ANR vice president Glenda Humiston and California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary Karen Ross convened scientists, government representatives and volunteers to pool intellectual resources and plot a strategy for protecting agricultural crops, natural resources, cityscapes and residential neighborhoods from invasive species.

“We know that collectively, we have the tools and expertise to prevent invasive species from entering California, spreading and becoming established,” Humiston said.

Below are three examples of pests that entered California, and with research, collaboration and treatment, were eradicated from the state.

European grapevine moth

European grapevine moth, a native of Mediterranean Europe, was detected for the first time in the Americas in Chile in April 2008. The following year, European grapevine moth was found in California's iconic wine region, Napa Valley. From there it spread to nine other California counties, as far south as Fresno. UC ANR academics responded rapidly — working with public and private partners and international scientists — to develop a pest management program that relied on deploying pheromone dispensers to disrupt mating and application of carefully timed insecticides. UC ANR academics studied the moth's biology, life cycle, host range and proven management practices. In short order, the moth population plummeted, and eventually the state was declared free of European grapevine moth, lifting a quarantine, enhancing farmers' ability to export their agricultural products, and preserving the communities' economic wellbeing. More info: Growers, scientists and regulators collaborate on European grapevine moth program

 


European grapevine moth
 

Pink bollworm of cotton

It took 50 years, but the invasive pink bollworm of cotton was declared eradicated in California in 2018. Eradication of pink bollworm was a joint effort by UC Cooperative Extension, USDA's Agricultural Research Service, county agricultural commissioners' offices and California cotton growers. It involved the implementation of integrated pest management techniques, such as planting transgenic cotton, using insect pheromones to disrupt mating, releasing sterile insects to slow reproduction, plowing after each crop to provide host-free periods, and extensive surveying. California cotton growers funded the program by paying an assessment on cotton grown in the state. More info: Pink bollworm UC Pest Management Guidelines
 
Pink bollworm larvae

Red palm weevil

In August 2010, arborists removed a dying Canary Island date palm from the yard of a Laguna Beach home and reported finding large black and red striped beetles. The pests were confirmed to be the first record of the destructive red palm weevil in the U.S. Hormone monitoring and visual surveys of other palms in the area confirmed the presence of the pest. Rapid action was taken against the pest by applying pesticides to trees that showed feeding damage to palm fronds. Effective surveying was accomplished by combining hormone attractants and cut pieces of palm trees provided by the California date palm industry. The last live weevil was detected in Laguna in January 2012. After three years passed with no weevil detections in Laguna Beach, USDA-APHIS declared this pest to be officially eradicated in January 2015. More info: Red palm weevil successfully eradicated form California
 
Red palm weevil

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on Friday, May 31, 2019 at 2:22 PM
Tags: invasive species (15)
Focus Area Tags: Pest Management

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