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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 (39)
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources

Designing Urban Farms

Note: This post is first of a series in which we will recap our UC ANR Urban Agriculture Workshops. We'll share key points, as well as links to videos and handouts. Even if you couldn't make it in person, you can still access the content.

Edendale Grove Urban Farm in Los Angeles

Finding land is one of the key challenges for aspiring urban farmers. Identifying an appropriate site, working out an agreement with the landowner, and signing a lease are huge milestones. But once the land is secured, how should the new farm be set up?

Design of urban farms and community gardens was the topic of Dr. David de la Peña's workshop conducted for urban farmers in Sacramento. De la Peña, an Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design at UC Davis, specializes in sustainable architecture and community-based design.

His 30-minute presentation is valuable for anyone planning an urban farm, regardless of their geographic location. You can also access his slide set here

Some of his key points:

  • Sustainable Living and Learning Communities – UC Davis Draft Vision Plan, April 13 2018
    Think about the physical elements you want on your farm. Will you have raised beds, structures such as a greenhouse, fruit trees, a meeting area? These are just a few of the elements to consider for your plan.

  • Will the community be involved in the urban farm? If so, engage the community in planning and design.

  • Site design should match the purpose of the project. For example, an urban farm focused exclusively on production for market may look very different than a farm designed primarily as a community gathering place. 

  • Use renewable and recycled materials when possible.

  • Don't forget aesthetics. It's important for urban farm sites to be attractive. For example, consider including handmade art in the form of signs and mosaics.

  • Make a site map. It can begin as a simple sketch. Ultimately, you want your map to be to scale. De la Peña offers a design exercise to get you started.

De la Peña's talk was part of a day-long workshop on production in urban agriculture. To see the other presentations, which covered pest management, soil management, and more, visit our workshop site.  Additional resources on site design can be found on UC ANR's Urban Agriculture website

Posted on Friday, June 21, 2019 at 10:21 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Environment Food

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

Golden Orbweavers Ignore Biological Rules

A female Trichonephila clavipes (formerly Nephila clavipes) is a giant compared to her small male (below). The research covers a complex pattern of sexual size dimorphism in this group of spiders, family Nephilidae. (Image copyright by Chris Hamilton, University of Idaho)

Size does matter. Have you ever wondered about sexual size dimorphism in the tropical spiders, the golden orbweavers? The females are sometimes 10 times larger and 100 times heavier than their male counterparts. And the webs that the females ...

A female Trichonephila clavipes (formerly Nephila clavipes) is a giant compared to her small male (below). The research covers a complex pattern of sexual size dimorphism in this group of spiders, family Nephilidae. (Image copyright by Chris Hamilton, University of Idaho)
A female Trichonephila clavipes (formerly Nephila clavipes) is a giant compared to her small male (below). The research covers a complex pattern of sexual size dimorphism in this group of spiders, family Nephilidae. (Image copyright by Chris Hamilton, University of Idaho)

A female Trichonephila clavipes (formerly Nephila clavipes) is a giant compared to her small male (below). The research covers a complex pattern of sexual size dimorphism in this group of spiders, family Nephilidae. (Image copyright by Chris Hamilton, University of Idaho)

Californians agree: Don’t build in wildfire-prone areas

a man looks at the remains of a burned home

A man helps friends recover after the 2007 Witch Fire in San Diego County destroyed their home. Californians agree that new homes should not be built in wildfire-prone areas, according to a new Berkeley IGS Poll. (FEMA Photo by Andrea Booher via Wikimedia Commons)

Almost three-quarters of California voters think limits should be imposed on new housing developments in high-risk wildfire areas, according to a new Berkeley IGS Poll.

The survey showed that 74% of voters thought building in risky areas, often called the wildland-urban interface, was a bad idea. Twenty-five percent said there should be no restrictions.

Opinions were strong across the state. Almost 80% of voters in Los Angeles County thought new, high-risk development should be limited, while 74% of San Diego-area voters and 77% of San Francisco Bay Area residents agreed.

Even in the conservative, rural areas of Northern California and the Central Valley, roughly two-thirds of voters agreed there should be limits on new buildings.

The poll comes after a series of destructive wildfires in California destroyed thousands of homes, killed more than 100 people and burned millions of acres across the state. Estimates suggest California's 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons cost $21.5 billion.

“Support is bipartisan and includes large majorities of voters across all major regions in the state,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley IGS Poll, which is affiliated with UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies.

The poll, however, did not define areas where new development might be limited, which could change how voters feel about the issue.

A recent study by the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection estimates that nearly a quarter of Californians live in areas that could be considered high-risk for wildfires, including several areas in suburban Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

The poll also asked Californian's opinions about the housing crisis, but found no clear consensus on the issue.

Thirty-four percent of those surveyed thought offering subsidies for low- or middle-income homebuyers was a solution, while 24% agreed building new housing along transit lines in urban areas was a good idea.

Just 17% thought increasing the scope of rent control would help. Twenty-four percent said none of those ideas were good ways to make housing more affordable.

Just a bare majority—51%—said the state government “should assume a bigger role and require local communities to build more housing.” Forty-seven percent said the issue should remain in local hands.

The survey queried 4,435 registered voters in English and Spanish via email from June 4 to 10. The poll's margin of error was 2.5 percentage points.

Posted on Thursday, June 20, 2019 at 10:24 AM
  • Author: Public Affairs

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