Thursday, November 24, 2016

Industrial Agriculture: A Runaway Domino Effect Freight Train of Unintended Ecological Consequences

Don't worry, Science will invent another chemical to kill those nasty Mites. Dare to criticize us and we'll expose you as an Anti-Science Luddite!

Image - IPM Innovation Labs

Ever see those cute little neat looking bright red mites out in the field somewhere when hiking ? They look so harmless and they normally are under the right ecological conditions when other beneficial critters working within any ecosystem to keep that "Goldielocks Principle" intact. But leave it to industrial science to provide a nasty twist in our natural world's ecological mutualism mechanisms. Remember the alarming news reports of the Emerald Ash Borer wreaking havoc on the North American Ash Trees ? In 2005 Asian Long Horn Beetles & these Emerald Ash Bores were found in the landscape of  New York city's Central Park and therefore as per the conventional training, the Park Landscape employees begain spraying insecticdes known as Neonicotinoids on 10s of 1000s of trees. The result of course was that the science-based synthetic chemicals killed lots of Asian Long Horn Beetles & Emerald Ash Borers. Hooray! But wait a minute, back up the Union Pacific chemical tank car train for a moment. It appears that there were unintended consequences. They apparently obliterated many non-target beneficial predatory insects (not exactly a surprise here), created an increase in Spider Mite populations and made the plants they wanted to save become tastier and more paletable to pest insects. So what happened ?
Neonicotinoid Insecticides Alter Induced Defenses and Increase Susceptibility to Spider Mites in Distantly Related Crop Plants  (journals.plos.org)
Chemical suppression of arthropod herbivores is the most common approach to plant protection. Insecticides, however, can cause unintended, adverse consequences for non-target organisms. Previous studies focused on the effects of pesticides on target and non-target pests, predatory arthropods, and concomitant ecological disruptions. Little research, however, has focused on the direct effects of insecticides on plants. Here we demonstrate that applications of neonicotinoid insecticides, one of the most important insecticide classes worldwide, suppress expression of important plant defense genes, alter levels of phytohormones involved in plant defense, and decrease plant resistance to unsusceptible herbivores, spider mites Tetranychus urticae (Acari: Tetranychidae), in multiple, distantly related crop plants.
Conclusions/Significance
Our findings are important because applications of neonicotinoid insecticides have been associated with outbreaks of spider mites in several unrelated plant species. More importantly, this is the first study to document insecticide-mediated disruption of plant defenses and link it to increased population growth of a non-target herbivore. This study adds to growing evidence that bioactive agrochemicals can have unanticipated ecological effects and suggests that the direct effects of insecticides on plant defenses should be considered when the ecological costs of insecticides are evaluated. 
This serious ecological disaster in the making has been studied and researched by Texas A&M University agricultural entomologist Adrianna Szczepaniec who was part of that study quoted above. She was curious as to why the neonicotinoid pesticides such as clothianidin and imidacloprid, which can kill a wide range of insects in general, would turn out to be boom in the spider mite populations. As the studied & link I posted above here showed, these elm trees treated with the neonicotinoids to kill target pest insects, are also host to populations of smaller beneficial critters that attack spider mites and keep them in balance. But the other important finding was that these Mites that fed on treated elm leaves had 40 percent more offspring than those that fed on regular Elm trees with untreated leaves. That would suggest that this insecticide was having an epigenetic effect on the trees immune system response which was shut down, which allows the trees leaves to be more palatable to the mites. Take this animated picture below.

Anyone remember many of the recent articles which have been published on the ability of plants to talk and communicate with each other ? Of course plants do not think, reason and articulate speech as we do, yet clearly there is some type of sophistcated communication which goes on which is beyond the comprehension of sceptical human scientists. But many are coming around. Frankly they are forced to acknowledge there is something more going on because the dangerous unhealthy state of our planet demands they dump old failed industrial dogmatic worldviews and accept a more ecological practical application approach to things. Epigenetics is one of the most beautiful discoveries about the natural biological world. It provides us with a visual of the actual mechanisms for change as opposed to the religious dogma of random mutation copying errors and blind dumb luck natural selection. Ignorance of just how the mechansisms of DNA and Cell biology work and function are killing we humans and the natural world around us. Remember David Suzuki's plant documentary "Smarty Plants" ?

Link Below from the BBC

Plants Talk to each other using a Fungus Internet


This Spider Mite problem is bigger and much scarier than people think. Adrianna Szczepaniec also found that these irresponsible pesticides used within today's Industrial Agriculture, also created the same indentical epigenetic problems with Cotton, Corn & Tomatoes which has led to increased Spider Mite population booms. The short sighted profit driven solution response from the Agro-Chemical companies was to invent more chemicals to spray on crops to kill Spider Mites. The researchers found that the neonic insecticide, "Imidacloprid," actually alters the activity of more than 600 genes involved in the production of cell walls and defense against pests. The immune system response of many of these genes was greatly reduced if not completely shut down. They evidently suspect that this  reduced activity leads to more palatable leaves and lower levels of hormones involved in pest resistance. This could explain why these spider mite populations thrive in the presence of these neonicotinoid pesticides. I've also previously written about how many species of mycorrhizal fungi trigger immune system responses to their hosts where they kickstart host plant immune systems into overdrive  which is good for the Mycorrhizal Fungi as well from a survival standpoint. But unfortunately, it gets even worse folks. So as not to bog down in too many examples, here is a list of further references on this subject:
Credible Research References:
Fecundity in twospotted spider mite (Acari: Tetranychidae) is increased by direct and systemic exposure to imidacloprid.
Michigan State University: Molecular and Biochemical Basis of Plant-Insect Interactions
Journal of Applied Ecology: Neonicotinoid insecticide travels through a soil food chain, disrupting biological control of non-target pests and decreasing soya bean yield
And Unfortunately, other mites like the Varroa destructor Mites which are responsible for killing Honey Bee Hives, also are increasing as a result of Neonics

Image . The Wildlife News

 Photo by S. Bauer, ARS/USDA
We've often heard about how these Neonicotinoid pesticides are detrimental to honey bee colonies. After all, Neonics are an insecticide and honey bees are insects. It's clear that target insects directly sprayed with the Neonics are killed by the lethal doses of this pesticide, but Honey Bees who come in later contact with sprayed flowers are effected by sub-lethal doses by the residual presence of these Neonics. It's effect on the honey bee is to make it sickly and lethargic with no energy to groom itself of Mites or for that matter feed itself. This causes the bee to rapidly die. But while these Spider Mites and Varroa Destructor Mites are also insects, they appear to be uneffected in a negative way by the Neonics. In fact, oddly enough they appear to have more successful in egg hatchings and young Mite survival rates. Of course a big part of that is that predatory beneficial insects who normally control the mite populations are now gone. But the other odd anomaly is that the mites find the plant juices much tastier as a result of the Neonic pesticide's ability to influence epigenetic switches in immune system genes by turning them off. Normally this properly functional immune system in plants would manufacture chemical compounds which make the plant unpaletable or bitter to pest insect, but that's been shut down here. Big Science's answer to the mite problem is to invent new Miticides to eliminate to correct the problem. But we don't need more chemicals which may also cause other unknown consequences. This is just becoming more and more insane. Rather than type any further, below here are some excellent links addressing the effects of Neonics on Honey Bee population decline:
http://www.buzzaboutbees.net/neonicotinoids-and-varroa-mite.html
http://www.buzzaboutbees.net/varroa-mite.html 
http://www.voanews.com/a/light-therapy-and-bees/3596838.html
https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef608
=======================================
Are there any real world viable solutions ? Well sorta - It's Called ThermoTherapy


credit: Heather Grab

Andrena nasonii bees
Unfortunately, this new technological innovation above only deals with the symptoms of the ecosystem disfunction. While commendable and certainly a necessary product which would avoid  using more chemicals like Miticides, it is not the complete answer for the permanent solution to removing the cause. Industrial Agriculture is taking a massive toll on biodiversity in multiple ways. Monoculture not only provides a poor unhealthy diet for humans, but also for the beneficial insects assoicated along the margins of agricultural fields which are mostly sterile in the biodiverse flower pollen sense. This creates nutritional deficiencies on both the pollinator and predator diet which is causing smaller versions of offspring in these insects as the photo here of healthy ground bee versus unhealthy specimen. (Read the findings from Cornell University)  Industrial Agriculture deliberately turns a blind eye to these ecological findings by creating their own opposing research papers from bought and paid for corporate scientists which attempt to refute and smokescreen the evidence against their destructive business model. The religious affirmation we often hear chanted from the hallowed halls of science that it is self-correcting are nothing more than a farce. Science is only good at self-correcting if the caliber of moral character and bioethics are present in the human beings employed by the system. How well has that been working out for us ? I've previously written about some of the good research work being done with Chaparral hedges incorporated within the agricultural infrastructure as a means of biological pest management at UC Berkeley. There are also a plethora of such good viable research work done worldwide, but sadly, this type of research does not really see the public light of day because they do not have the power, influence and funding behind it to make any difference.


“Nature is not competitive. It is ruthlessly collaborative” - Spencer Smith
California Coffeeberry: Biodiverse Insect Magnet for Pollinators & Predators (Think Hedgerows)
Update: November 24, 2016 Reuters:
Canada may ban farm pesticide imidacloprid because it harms midges, mayflies
Don't count on any forthcoming solutions any time soon
=======================================
Los Angeles Times (November 22, 2016)
"Court's rejection of a lawsuit over pesticides in seed coatings is a setback to beekeepers" 

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pesticide-seeds-20161122-story.html
Oddly enough, this court position totally ignores what the EPA itself stated about the ineffectiveness of seed treatments with Neonicotaqinoids:
"EPA concludes that these seed treatments provide little or no overall benefits to soybean production in most situations. Published data indicate that in most cases there is no difference in soybean yield when soybean seed was treated with neonicotinoids versus not receiving any insect control treatment."
EPA: Benefits of Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments to Soybean Production
Unintended Consequences on the Human body
National Pesticide Information Center - Imidacloprid - General Fact Sheet
=======================================
Eco-Activism thus far has been a major disappointment in the self-correction goal
There seems to be very little hope in counting on many of these modern day militant EcoActivist groups to influence any type of bioethical self-correction within science. Many within their own leadership ranks are deathly affraid to criticize the Biotechs & other industrial entities because they cloak themselves with the cleric robe of the Scientific Orthodoxy's consensus. To do so would be considered by their leadership a sort of religious sacrilege or heresy. Instead of educating the public on how nature really works and providing the common man, woman and child with practical viable applications which work, the public is treated to their incessant ongoing public vitriol of an acerbic tongue, foul language, insults, lawsuits, and violent protests that destroy private property (not that of their enemy, but of their own people). How can such behaviour truthfully be a reflection of Nature if the ultimate goal is to education and instill deep appreciation within the hearts of their fellow man ? It's not. It's a repugnant turn off. In nature, beauty and mutual cooperation are the rule, not the exception. Their behaviour does not mirror anything about Nature.

Now we hear word from the Dakota Pipeline protest front that all is not well within the "We shall overcome" movement. The party animal house atmosphere has clouded the real reasons for being there according to this CBC News Reporter:
(please read: Reporter's notebook: Standing Rock is not the new Woodstock)                

Apparently the Non-Indigenous peoples (mostly white folk from the big cities) have turned the protester camps into a sort of new Woodstock or decadant Burning Man Festival on steroids with loud hip hop and rock music. This has offended the Indigenous Native Americans who were actually very serious about this Standing Rock pipeline cause. There appears to be now a cultural divide. The Native Americans want an atmosphere of comtemplative reflection and prayer ceremonies about the seriousness of their reasons for being there in the first place, while the non-indigenous white Eco-Activists have long since lost any admiration, appreciation or respect for anything of a spiritual nature in decades. Gus Speth's words are more illustrative than ever before as to how far down in the cesspit mankind's leadership has brought down our planet health with no real hope for any viable solution. At least many of the Native Americans still understand what is really missing. But will anyone listen ?


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

More designs in Nature translate into awesome Urban Landscapes thru Biomimicry

Most of my inspiration when I designed layouts for landscaping came from natural scenarios I observed in Nature. For example, this picture below from Baja California.
Image - Klaus Komoss

photo is mine (June 2016)
I've previously written about both the native Baja California and Sonora Mexico Rock Figs, Rock figs (tescalama): Ficus palmeri and Ficus petiolaris. We saw examples of Rock Figs at the Arizona-Sonoran Deset Museum which we visited this past June 2016. They make great patio trees in large pottery containers or planter focal points with boulders as a center piece. Mainly, when we create such landscape art, we are merely doing biomimicry of what already takes place in the wild. For example the massive wild Rock Fig above taken by Klaus Kommoss on one of his many winter adventure trips with his wife and friends down in Baja California. I'll post the link below to he and his wife's travel adventure blog and also my post link below of what I wrote about recreating these rock fig and boulder art images below. I also stumbled upon recently something else that has captured my attenton in the plant/rock art theme where I saw these incredible boulder plant creations where holes were drilled and hollowed out through  a fire process in the huge rock and trees planted in them at the Living Holocaust Memorial at the Jewish Heritage Museum.

Image - Cornell Plantations
"Boulders harvested for Andy Goldsworthy's Garden of Stones, Permanent installation, The Museum of Jewish Heritage A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York, New York These granite boulders and chestnut oak trees supplement the permanent installation in New York. They were installed at Cornell Plantations in 2004, and dedicated in 2005."
http://www.cornellplantations.org

Image - Cornell Plantations

The first time I saw this planting design technique from the layout at the "Garden of Stones" display at the Living Memorial to the Holocaust, it made me think of potential for not only Desert Rock Figs, but also the major contribution potential of selected plants that the California Chaparral community could provide. California Oaks would be ideal like the example above, especially smaller scrub oaks. Manzanita would also be ideal. Can you just imagine. Really we've already seen such examples in the form of Bonsai plants created by rocky shallow soils of a California mountainside on a south facing slope. Boulders strewn hillsides themselves have already provided such blueprints for creative imaginations.

Image - Cornell Plantations

Image - Laura Allen in Modern Farmer
Many examples of chaparral bonsai exist in the mountains and foothills of San Diego County especially those rich in giant granite boulders. Mount Woodson near Ramona comes to minds as does the mountain passes along Interstate 8 in eastern San Diego county between Boulevard and Jacumba. Further north and east in Arizona in the Sedona red rock country, there are plenty of examples as evidenced by this photo on the right. Even further north up into the state of Utah and the Canyonlands would provide another excellent library for imaginative blueprints to any talented landscape designer. The point is, while we can admire the creativity of those who laid out the theme for the Holocaust Memorial, it must be acknowledged that such amazing designs are in fact existing somewhere out in Nature first. 

image from Goldsworthy "Garden of Stones"

So exactly how do these Landscape architects and construction planners do this ?
I'll provide a link to a gallery of photographs here below which will explain far more than I could even hope to do in text. But there are a few points where I will interject some personal thoughts and/or quotes from the "About the Process" page. Further on down I'll provide a couple of links on how the process works, but here are some planting examples. Interestingly their favourite plant specimens are dwarf type oaks like Quercus prinoides. For me I would choose both Emory Oak (Quercus emoryii) and/or  Engelmann Oak (Quercus engelmannii). I love the overall sillhouette and branching form of both species of oak. The leaf patterns and the fact that both are a tough survivor species of oak. 

Image - Cornell Plantation

Image - Goldsworthy
The Oak saplings were grown at Cornell under the guidance of Professor Tom Whitlow from the Department of Horticulture. His tree species recommendation was the dwarf Chestnut Oak (Quercus prinoides) and he advised on the optimum conditions needed for growth and nourishment. The Oak & other saplings were nurtured at Cornell by both faculty and students. Often the actual planting was done by holocaust survivors themselves, their children or even grandchildren. The point of all this of course is that humans can move away from the formal structural traditions of the English Garden design, etc and develop purely naturalistic scenes within their personal urban or commercial landscapes.
How the actual Stone Hollowing Process works
Andy Goldsworthy's Stone Hollowing Process
About the Company and Artists who created these landscape boulder planters
Image - Richard Avedon
Edward Monti and artist Andy Goldsworthy are pictured with one of the granite sculptures (in its early stages) that make up the Garden of Stones installation at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. 
ABOUT EDWARD MONTI The History of Edward Monti Stone Sculpture
About the couple who took the photograph at the top of this post and their Adventures in Baja California

The photo on the right and at the top of this post was taken by Klaus Kommoss with his wife, Parvin, on one of their adventures every Winter to Baja California. I'll post their blog link down below at the bottom of this paragraph. Klaus was from Germany and his wife Parvin was from Iran. They lived in the state of Wshington in the Pacific Northwest. An unfortunate accident took place in 2012 where Klaus died in a freak accident when the SUV he was working on fell off the scissor jacks. I stumbled by accident upon their blog back in August while looking up information on Rock Figs of Baja California. Read and loved his blog, but then later found out the sad news. Still, they had some great adventures to places most of us only imagine seeing one day. I think you'll enjoy reading their blog adventures from the link below.
Photographs & Adventure Blog References
https://kommoss.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/last-canyon
Man crushed to death by SUV was inventor, adventurer
Creating Little Desert Trees as Ornamentals for Indoors & Patios
Now for a fun tutorial on how Phenotypic Plasticity works on all biological organisms, but especially here with our subject of PLANTS

Genotype-Environment Interaction and Phenotypic Plasticity

Here is an awesome video explaining things in simple terms and with illustrations from familiar situations that teach. So can you understand and graps the concept of biomimicry in developing plants within an urban landscape to replication patterns and forms found in Nature ??? The video is from Study.com and is about 7:00 minutes long. But as you watch this, please think about how you can experiment and tinker with various physical environmental factors and recreate natural designs in your backyard or where ever. Keep in mind that this video deals with the science of both genotypic and phenotypic change, and this can be repeatable if we can set up just the right artifical environmental factors in our landscape. And still somewhere there is the role of something called epigenetics in shaping the patterns of your plant subjects. But that's another subject.
Real Life "Garden's of Stone" you can visit out in Nature

Photographer - Phil Douglis - Apache Stronghold


Image -  globetrottingcouple.com
This place is Apache Stronghold, otherwise known as Chiricahua National Monument. When you visit, you can understand how tough it was for the US Cavalry to evict the resilient Chiricahua Apache. I've been to this place and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made as far as an adventure. Believe it or not it was the unique plant and animal (Parrot & Koatimundi) life that brought me here in the beginning, apart from the outstanding ancient volcanic geological formations. This is one of those classic Arizona "Sky Islands" as you can see from the top photo which looks down at the lower surrounding elevation. But the main draw for me was the Arizona Madrone, Chiricahua & Apache Pines, Alligator Juniper and some of the most humungous examples of Arizona Cypress I've ever seen. Again, it's the various features of rock (niches, slots, etc) which provide a phenotypic paradise for unique plant form and natural design.

Image - NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Gardens-of-Stone-National-Park-Australia
http://www.carstenpeter.com
This is Gardens of Stone National Park in Australia. The landscape here is a labyrinth of pagoda rocks with beehive-shaped formations sculpted by erosion along sandstone scarpments. This type of geological landscape not only presents a treacherous and challenging obstacle of slot canyons for both hikers and expert canyoneer exploreers, but it also provides an outdoor educational lab for those who choose to view this as a learning journey into how the environments (all of it's components) sculpts biological life (in this case plant life) into various beautiful and intriguing forms. All of which can and should be replicated into the modern urban landscape.



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

“Nature is not competitive. It is ruthlessly collaborative” - Spencer Smith

How can responsible land stewards teach people how much more complex and sophisticated the designs found in Nature are compared to our own ?
Kew Royal Bontanic Gardens - Rhizotron Tree Museum

(Project grade 11)
Unfortunately, it's tough teaching new things to adults who have already been through an educational system where the green revolution industrial complex as mandated by the State has indoctrinated & moulded them into obedient little Soylent cracker eaters. Let's be honest, as you watch adults worldwide, they are having a tough time with the idea of "Multiculturalism" [even from it's supporters] let along understanding the true concept of biodiversity in Nature. You have to start with youth, who surprisingly grasp far more than adults give them credit for. I mean seriously, look how expert almost every child is using a computer as compared to adults ? Who are best at hacking these days ? Indeed, one of the biggest obstacles may well come from detaching kids from their electronic gadgets. But Children do love and thrive off challenges. So approaching things from a technological innovation viewpoint should help them visualize just how biological mechanisms found in the natural world actually work. Hopefully instead of hacking computer code, they won't try a hand at cracking the genetic code to find out what kind of mutated critters they can come up with. I can almost visualize the next #1 popular gift showing up under Christmas trees being a Bio-Rad GMO Starter kit. Ah yes, but I'm sure it'll be something that'll be fun for the whole family.

Image - Bio-Rad
If we look at things from a agricultural  standpoint with older generation farmers, they are old school and the saying which goes, "cannot teach an old Dog new tricks" is certainly accurate for the most part. Not too many older farmers around like Joel Salatin or Gabe Brown who actually get to change later in life and become successful. Something else came out recently about how imperative it is to pursue biodiversity with regards to agriculture as compared to monoculture. Both the University of Californa Davis and Michigan State University came out yesterday with research on how crops grown as a monoculture attract a plethora of all kinds of pests. More pests mean more synthetic inputs into the farm field system. The only winners in that are Agro-Chemical companies. But I truly believe kids would all grasp the concepts of ecology and biodiversity if exposed to the right kind of education at a young age. Now both articles were extremely interesting and informative, aside from being logical. But how do parents and teachers communicate these important grownup things to kids ? Aside from dumping the usual intellect speak, use illustrations from familar situations common in every day life that can teach. Also, absolutely use Animation and videos

Animation - Mother Earth News

Braconid Wasp -- Caterpillar

Image - Julie Johnsen
Most of what nature does goes unseen to most people. Not just kids, but adults too. Take this Braconid Wasp in the animation above. These are not the common every day better known larger wasps we see building those paper or mud nests in the rafters of our cover porches or eaves of our homes. No, these wasp are so tiny, many of them would barely would fit on a U.S. dime. This tiny wasp at left is a Mason or Potter Wasp. Most of the beneficial work they do also goes unseen. Mason wasps are a predatory insect whose young feed on the larva of other pest insects and build nest with mud but at times will dwell in holes of wood for nesting purposes. They may capture and paralyze as many at 15+ caterpillars just to feed their egg or larva before they seal the chamber inside the wooden post or tree snag. They probably use preexisting holes for their nests, but they are not particularly harmful. Teach kids that they are beneficial as they prey on critters like tent caterpillars/army worms, and other problematic larva on your garden plants. Teach your kids how important it is for you to plant a variety of flowering plants to feed these tiny wasps. Explain that though the adults capture and sting other insects, they do not eat these as food, only their babies do that. Teach the kids that adult wasps need pollen or nectar from flowers to feed upon and benefit from a good diversity of wildflowers or flowering shrubs. Here is an excellent example by insct photographer, Marc Kummel, who photographed a mating pair of beneficial parasitic wasps on a California Fuschia (Epilobium canum aka Zauschneria californica)

Image - Marc Kummel (San Marcos Pass - Oct 2016)

Here is a mating pair of tiny "parasitic wasps" (Hymenoptera) on a new
flower of California Fuschia (Epilobium canum aka Zauschneria californica)
in the Onagraceae plant family.
Chaparral hedgerows are ideal in attracting all sorts of beneficial insect pollinators & predators. Replacing disturbed invasive non-native weedy fields with the original chaparral plant community will increase predators and decrease habitat for pests who thrive on weedy areas. Now let's focus on one particular chaparral shrub, California Coffeeberry, which is plant number one at beneficial insect attraction.

Image - Pete Veilleux (2008)

One of my native favourites for attracting beneficial insects is California Coffeeberry (Rhamnus [or Frangula - whatever] californica). Favourite cultivars are "eve Case" or "Mound San Bruno." In my personal experience, from a shrub satandpoint, this is the earliest bloomer of all the native california shrubs and mostly it goes unnoticed. Why ? Well, look below.

Image - Greg a. Monroe

Flowers of California Coffeeberry are admittedly not the most showy as compared to other well known popular garden variety flowers. So how does a parent or teacher instill appreciation for something considered, perhaps, even ugly (by flawed human standards) ? I've never considered these flowers ugly, just sort of neutral from an outward appearance standpoint. Humans by nature judge almost entirely by outward appearances first. They do this to each other starting as kids in school. But the teacher and parent has to counter this by demonstrating the Coffeeberry flower's main virtues. Unseen to us, these flowers manufacture a potent powerful cologne or perfume that only insects can sense. It's a pity that back in the late 1980s, I didn't document this more with photography.

image - Brian Marlow
 Insect Paparazzi
Of course, there were no digital cameras back then, everything was expernsive and old school compared to now. But gardeners planting and documenting this most beautiful feature of Coffeeberry's usefulness in Nature could be a fun thing when it comes to gardening photos. Planting a chaparral hedgerow, then documenting just how effective these coffeeberry flowers are at attracting mostly beneficial pollinators/predators into your landscape would not only be fun, but also provide something that even the researchers have yet to provide us with. Seriously, do a google and most references to this Coffeeberry insect relationship come from Master Gardener blogs or other private individuals. They do mention the chaparral plant's importance to wildlife & domestic animal browsing, but the importance of it as a pest control component is referenced only by a few. Usage in farm field hedgerows for pest control is being more researched, but it's not the kind of good science getting as much publicity as genetic engineering or other industrial versions of  agro-chemical advances in science.

Image- Town Mouse & Country Mouse

California Coffeeberry: Biodiverse Insect Magnet for Pollinators & Predators (Think Hedgerows)
I've created this link above to an article I finished yesterday which further illuminates California Coffeeberry's insect magnet attracting  abilities.. I've taken time to research as many beneficial insect photographs as possible linked to California Coffeeberry. I've also included some research being done by researchers from California State Berkerley's Kremen Lab Group on the potential for pest control by beneficial insects on a commercial farming scale by the creation of California Chaparral Hedgerows along all farm fields. Much like the one in the photo below.

Image - University of California - Agricultural Division & Natural Resources

This post and information above should go along well with the latest research news below on using biodiversity as an insect pest control. Children and all youth in general need to understand just how successful Nature has been for 10s of 1000s of years prior to humans coming along. Biomimicry should be considered a normal scientific pursuit. The articifical industrial conventional way of practicing agriculture with it's chemicals and genetic engineering should be the view as it truly is, abnormal. None of this junk was ever needed in the first place. Kids need to understand that and will with parent's and teacher's guidance.
BioDiversity as a Natural Pesticide
“Farm fields can create monocultures where pests may find the perfect nutrition to be healthy and reproduce,” said Wetzel, who conducted the research during his doctoral work at the University of California, Davis. “Planting fields with higher plant nutrient variability could contribute to sustainable pest control.”
Rather than my further elaborating on this subject at length, these two links below should be enough to get you started. Then in your mind's eye, simplfy the language to a point where a child would understand the biodiversity concept. It may be a challenge for you as most adults globally are often unaware themselves. If the majority were aware, our planet would look totally different.
Michigan State University: Plant Diversity could provide natural repellent for crop pests
UC Davis: Why Insect Pests Love Monocultures, and How Plant Diversity Could Change That
Teaching kids these days is always easiest with video animation. Seriously, since I was a kid in the 1960s, cartoons and animated films shown at elementary school always captured my attention. So such  animated video instructive technology can and should be used when teaching kids about the importance of biodiversity over the ecologically failed choice mankind's failed leadership has been mandating for over the past 50 years. Take a look below.



Actually photographs are yet another venue to provide good teaching points and should also be used. I've written about these Chaparral Hedgerow and Biodiverse pollinator/predator strategies previously in these three posts below. This first one deals with the reasons why planting a biodiverse flower presence is so important to honey bee health. All plants create different types of pollen with unique chemical properties. These differing pollens are used by specialized nurse bees in the hive who apparently have a built sense of what pollen medicine to feed the sick worker bees with specific illnesses. Can kids really comprehend such scientific findings ? Absolutely, if you make the right real world illustrative comparisons that we humans can relate to:
Diversity of Flowering Plants Imperative to Pollinator & Predator Health
This next link deals with actual planning, designs and construction of Chaparral Hedgerows along California's agricultural fields to provide habitat living quarters and variety of important food sources for pollinators/predators which would act an an important insurance policy against crop pests. The potential here is for greatly reduced or total elimination of synthetic (or so-called Organic) chemical pesticides. Could kids really grasp this reality ? Absolutely, especially with the beautiful colour photographs provided by the Xerces Society:

Image - Xerces Society
How to construct the best Insurance Policy for your Agricultural Business Venture
This final link deals with strategies in attracting good pollinators/predators to the landscape and commercial farming and how such strategies are not only a good business model, but also a good insurance policy. Can kids graps this concept of bugs being something good ? Absolutely, but then need adult attitudes to change and lead by example. Again the photos from the Xerces Society are very helpful in this learning process:

Image - Xerces Society
Attracting Wild Bees & Wasps to Landscapes & Farms is the best Insurance Policy

Aside from planting a diverse variety of  native shrubs & wildflowers, here is a project parents or teachers can do with kids. 
(This kind of stuff gets burned into young memories)

photo credit - Donald C. Drife (2016)
June 20-26, 2016 has been designated National Pollinator Week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Our yard is pollinator friendly. We use no insecticides. We provide plants that produce pollen and attract pollinators to our vegetable garden.   
This year, we put up a bee hotel now called the “Buzz Inn.”  Our plans came from a helpful guide, Managing Alternative Pollinators: A Handbook for Beekeepers, Growers and Conservationists, SARE Handbook 11, NRAES-186 by Eric Mader, Marla Spivak, and Elaine Evans.
Donald C. Drife

Michigan Nature Guy's Blog: National Pollinator Week

"No one will protect what they don't care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced."
David Attenborough, conservationist 
One final teaching point from your friendly neighbourhood Home Depot
Image - Susan Harris of  Garden Rant

Home Depot front door display as you enter Garden Center

If you aren't teaching and illustrating at a hands on level with your children, then someone else will. The photograph above was take by Master Gardener author, Susan Harris, from the journal Garden Rant. The visual teaching going on here is their marketing strategy for indoctrinating their customers that for a beautiful successful garden, you need synthetic Chemical weed and insect killers to eliminate Nature's flaws. Here is what Susan Harris wrote about Home Depot's front entrance killer chemical display:
"The other day I walked into the Home Depot near me and noticed this enticement to enter the gardening part of the store – Kill, kill, kill those plants and bugs!  Not a plant in sight but plenty of plant-killers.  And this photo hardly conveys the impressive array of killing products extending as far as the eye could see."
(Source - Garden Rant) 
Pollinators - Beneficial Insects - Native Plants
Michigan State University: Native Plants and Ecosystem Services
Mother Earth News: Enlist Beneficial Insects for Natural Pest Control
University of Minnesota: Scholars team up to show forest biodiversity is green in more ways than one
See Google Images of Mason & Potter Wasps
http://bugoftheweek.com/mason-wasps-imonobiai-and-ipseudodynerusi

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

California Coffeeberry: Biodiverse Insect Magnet for Pollinators & Predators (Think Hedgerows)

Image - Susan Leahy (Oct 2013)
I've been waiting for an opportunity to highlight the pollinator/predator attracting abilities of California Coffeeberry for a very long time. I have a sense of photographer's remorse for not documenting my own California Coffeeberry ("Eve Case" & "San Bruno") shrubs all those years in Anza California for their pollinator/predator attracting abilities. As reported previously, these plants do not have anything close to a showy display when it comes to flowering. Yet, it was always as if my California Coffeeberries had a sort of potent pheromone infused nectar for which every winged insect couldn't resist. There is almost nothing in the scientific literature about this important ability of Coffeeberry. As we understand with most of the science stories out there on many flowers, it's always the showy display, colour, fragrance etc that has some evolutionary advantage. The problem with their description is that the storytelling is done from a human perspective on what a human thinks, sees or smells. Do insects and other critters really think and feel about something as we do ? What about all those night pollinators ? Surely colour and looks don't come into play. California Coffeeberry breaks all the rules here. From a human perspective, there is nobody would ever  plant a California Coffeeberry for it's showy beautiful fragrant flowers. Because from a human viewpoint, none of those good qualities exist. In the photo above and below, take a real close look at those flower clusters. 

Image - Mother Nature's Backyard
Clearly we cannot simply judge which shrubs would be ideal for attracting beneficial insects to take control of pests based on mere outward appearance of flowers. The California Coffeeberry, while having gorgeous foliage and variability in fruit colour throughout the year, is definitely not high on anyone's list for it's flowering beauty contest awards. Judging by mere outward appearance would be a mistaken viewpoint with regards this plant and one based on ignorance of just what it's true potential really is and why. I'm not the only one to have noticed Coffeeberry's subtle unseen ability to cause a plethora of insects to go insane when it blooms. Actually, at my old place up in the San Jacinto Mountains, I would often see insects huddling around even immature flower clusters long before they opened. Two quotes below prove what I've been saying all this time. The first one is from a San Diego artist, photographer & garden enthusiast, James Soe Nyun. The second one comes from the University of California's Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources' author, Harold McDonald, avid native plant gardener. 
"The coffeeberry’s flowers are much more nondescript to humans. On the recent garden tour I spoke to a homeowner who was wishing that she hadn’t planted her coffeeberries so close to paths because the bugs seem to go crazy over its blooms, more so than just about any other native plant. Here we have the humble blooms of Frangula (Rhamnus) californica ‘Eve Case.’ "
(Source)
"Coffeeberry is like some of the best kind of people: not particularly flashy, but always handsome, dependable and low maintenance. We appreciate the green it provides throughout the year. All manner of flies and bees appreciate the tiny white flowers (I hear a quiet roar each time I pass the ones by my back steps), and the berries all seem to disappear, so I assume the birds are enjoying them surreptitiously!"
(Source)
My own personal experience with California Coffeeberry in Anza California
Image Mine (May 2013)

In the foreground below the Jeffrey Pine which was transplanted
from Garner Valley back in 1986, this Coffeeberry cultivator is
"Mound San Bruno" which was planted back in 1994. 

My own personal experience with the Coffeeberry's pollinator qualities came quite by accident. I selected California Coffeeberry for it's bright green foliage and multicoloured berries. I never gave a thought about the flowers. In the photograph above is a "Mound San Bruno" which is a lower growing small cultivator under that Jeffrey Pine. Up on the hill behind the Jeffrey is a California Holly (or Toyon) and behind that is my "Eve Case" cultivator of California Coffeeberry. That was the larger shrub and from it volunteers spread by means of Scrub Jays planting seeds were a common occurrence. But what caught my attention one day while I walked past the shrub in bloom (always the first shrub to bloom), was a fairly load humming or roaring sound as Harold McDonald made mention of in the second paragraph above. And as James Soe Nyun mention in his story, the bugs insects go crazy over the blooms. I had never seen so many diversified groups of insects scampering over each other for a fix of whatever it was making everyone high.
Bees, Wasps, Flies, Mosquitoes & Gnats, oh my
Of course the obvious critters that come to mind when you mention bees and wasps are Honey Bees and Yellow Jackets. But there are 100s or maybe 1000s of these types of creatures, the majority of which we've probably never seen, or if we do, we've never given a second thought other than, well it's just some other little bug. But these are the type of beneficial predators we want to attract. While the large ones will also often hunt prey and provide pollinator services, it's those smaller ones that really attack and kill the herbivore pest bugs which eat our garden and farm crops. This is where the plant's true purpose shine through.
Photo: Megan O’Donald

Honey Bees on California Coffeeberry
 (Frangula californica/Rhamnus californica)

Image - Marc Kummel (Oct 2013)

Tachinid Fly (Cylindromyia, Tachinidae, Diptera)
on native Coyote Bush (Baccharis pilularis, Asteraceae)

Image - Marc Kummel (July 2015)

Small bristly Tachinid Fly (Tachinidae, Diptera)
ovipositing on Coffeeberry
Adult Tachinid Flies visit flowers, but their larvae are parasitic on other insects out in the wilds like Scorpions, Centipedes many spiders and especially herbivore insects like caterpillars and help control them. They are beneficial insects - except for the insects they parasitize! Here is a good resource for Techinid Flies:
Overview of the Tachinidae (Diptera)
Image Marc Kummel (June 2015)

Bee Fly (Thevenetimyia, Bombyliidae, Diptera)

 on a flower of native Coffeeberry

Image - Marc Kummel (April 2015)

Crane Fly (Tipulidae, Diptera) 

 California Coffeeberry (Frangula californica, Rhamnaceae)
Butterflies & California Coffeeberry
The next group that were always obsessedly attracted to my California Coffeeberry shrubs were members of the butterfly family (Both Butterlies & Moths). Mostly they hovered and rarely landed. You could always tell that they wanted to though, but were intimidated by the mass of tiny flies, wasps, bees, mosquitoes, gnats and other things crawling all over each other on these flower clusters. Pale yellow Swallowtails were also a big draw to Coffeeberry, but they too didn't like the party animal house gang who showed up at the Flower Festival.
Image - Marc Kummel (May 2015)

American Lady and Lorquin's Admiral butterflies
 on Coffeeberry flowers

Image - Marc Kummel (May 2013)

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) butterfly on native
Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica, Rhamnaceae)

Image - Marc Kummel (May 2014)

Gold-Hunter's Hairstreak (Satyrium auretorum) butterfly
 on Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica, Frangula californica)

Other Critters who visit California Coffeeberry
Image Marc Kummel (July 2014)

Ants (Formicidae) tending aphids (Aphididae) on
 Coffeeberry (Frangula californica, Rhamnaceae)
One comment to note here on Aphids. I also had some Aphids and Ants on the Coffeeberry, but mainly on the tips of new leaf buds. Interestingly, my Coffeeberry "Eve Case," always had it's entire leaf canopy loaded with so many droplets of sticky honeydew that the leaves looked glossy wet. They were very sticky and many of the insects were as much attracted to the leaves as flowers. My smaller "Mound San Bruno" variety didn't have as much of a sticky leaf problem, but they still loved the blooms. In all those 20+ years of gardening, not once did I ever employ the use of synthetic science-based pesticides on my 3+ acres. Between all my chaparral hedges (Coffeeberry, Ceanothus, California Holly & Flannel Bush or Fremontodrendron), the insect pest control balanced the rest of the property. Oddly, numerous different kinds of beetles also climbed into the mixed orgy of insects climbing over one another on the flower clusters. 
Image - Marc Kummel (May 2015)

Lots of beautiful beetle butts on this native
Coffeeberry (Frangula californica, Rhamnaceae)

Image - Marc Kummel (June 2015)
Metallic Wood Boring Beetle (Acmaeodera, Buprestidae, Coleoptera)
 on native California Coffeeberry

“Nature is not competitive. It is ruthlessly collaborative” - Spencer Smith (rancher)
It's sad when you realize that it's mostly the common people who actually work & reside outside of mainstream Academia & the Scientific community who are the ones who have to pushed for a more biomimetic approach to caring for this planet. Spencer Smith is one of those as are Joel Salatin and Gabe Brown. But there are also many well known institutions who have taken the bold step of rejecting mainstream science-based methodologies with regards the usage of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Unfortunately for all of us, their's is not the science that rules our world. At times many of these people who have chosen to pursue a course of holistic biomimicry have been criticized for their supposedly pseudoscientific course of action by the Scientific Orthodoxy of Academics who have prior industrial commitments. Nothing about biomimicry is anti-science, rather the so-called "Green Revolution" we have all been force fed since Elementary School is just plain bad science which is based on ignorance of how nature really works. But not all Academics and Scientific Researchers have bought into the conventional line of thought. One group I have followed is the Entomology Department at UC Berkeley along with the Kremen Lab Group. For me personally, I have a strong interest in California's Chaparral Plant Community and the potential for beneficial usage of such plants in attracting beneficial insects for pest control by means of hedgerows. I've written about this before with info from the Xerces Society. This group has achieved excellent results through real world plantings of chaparral hedgerows adjacent to agricultural farm fields in California's Central Valley. Yet very little discussion is found in mainstream Media journals. The group has also selected predetermined chaparral species which been proven to be the most effective in attracting the beneficial predators, along with providing the proper nesting habitat for their young. Consider this chart below which provides a list of the best chaparral species they have used along with the times of year they are most effective bloomers. 


Well, those are some of the most popular and I must say easiest shrubs to maintain. Many of the sites I have visited on this subject are recommending drip irrigation, but for me in the short term & long haul, it's initially expensive, needs maintenance of the head fittings because of poor water quality or insects invading looking for water and then wildlife in general (Coyotes, Rabbits, Ground Squirrels, etc) will chew into the soft pipe looking for water. So rather than wasting money on an expensive drip system which will need various replacements parts from damage and wear (not to mention keeping the shrubs on life-support forever, instead of maturing), I would recommend establishing the chaparral hedgerow by means of the Groasis Waterboxx Technology planting system which directs water downwards, encourages root growth straight down into subsoil layers and mycorrhizal blended mix within the soil at time of planting the seedlings. This has already been successfully done in numerous desert areas for windbreaks around the globe.

Image - designrevolution.org

Image - groasis.com
Take note of the photo on the right. Every 5 minutes a giant truck from Minera Cupa, Spain passes loaded with rocks that are replanted with biodegradable waterboxxes. These waterboxxes are being used all over the world for mine site reclamation projects and vegetative programs to green deserts around the Earth. This is where water savings comes into play, plus these boxes can be used over and over if they are not the biodegradable type. Mexico has purchase one million of these planting boxes with 80,000 going to desert restoration projects in Baja California. This would be the cheapest and most inefficient way of establishing chaparral hedgerows. Prior to planting however, farmers could install an underground out of sight simple deep pipe irrigation system infrastructure to be used maybe once or twice a year, perhaps not at all if rainfall totals ever normalize or chaparral root systems reached valley floor water tables. But it would always be available as a back up system.

Image - University California Davis

Can you identify some of the chaparral plants being used in the hedgerow above ? Mexican Elderberry, California Holly or Toyon, California Coffeeberry, Coyote Brush, California Buckwheat and California lilac or Ceanothus. Even a few native bunch grasses. Their purpose in the hedgerow as in the wild is to provide not only valuable food sources, but also a habitat for all beneficial pollinators and predators. Much like the larvae of this adult syrphid fly on the right, called hover fly, which will feed on aphids. The other important factor is maintaining a good soil and gravel mix which will provide good ground nesting habitat for many of these critters who dig burrows, capture and paralyze pest prey and stuff them down the hole for their young to feed on until they hatch.

Image - University California Davis

One of the more interesting facts I found in their research was that not just any plants will do for attracting those good pollinator/predator insects. In fact the wrong plants will be a magnet for the pest insects. Farm fields with weedy margins loaded with non-native annuals or ruderals are a haven for the bad bugs. This makes sense to me as most of those types of ruderal plants have no real defense mechanisms. Most of their resources go into offensive strategies. Like putting all energies into seed production to make more of themselves. Ever notice that many of these weeds are quite often loaded with pests ? They have no defenses. These Stinkbugs in the photo here on the right are some of the major pests that damage crops. Take a look at the weedy field margin above. Notice any familiar plants ? Black Mustard, Malva or Cheeseweed, Sow Thistle & Wild Radish all host plants to not only Stinkbugs, but also cucumber beetle, Lygus and Flea Beetles. Clearly another reason to plant chaparral hedgerows (which create mycorrhizal soil systems which outcompete weeds for nutrients) and removal of weedy margins. 
Other Hedgerow Components of Note: Baja Fairy Dusters, Gold Finches & other predator birds
Image - Horticulture Limited

Baja Fairy Duster (
Calliandra californica)

One important plant of note for many of the agricultural areas in the southwest's desert areas where much of the agriculture is performed. Baja Fairy Duster is an excellent pollinator and predator attractant shrub. Being a desert plant with deeper root systems and it's tolerance for high heat, it should make an excellent addition to a Hedgerow in desert environments. My mum's place in El Cajon California where I planted one in her front yard has a continuous 3 or 4 months long period of blooming during the hottest times of the year and attracts almost as many beneficial insects as California Coffeeberry. The other side benefits are all the predatory birds like finches and sparrows, etc. Don't forget many Hedgerow folks have also placed Owl & Kestrel nesting boxes on posts in Hedgerows. These birds are predators to rodents which are also crop pests. Pest birds on field crops were found to do the same amount of damage irrespective of type of plant communities or none at all. Hedgerows do not increase bird pests. I've provided a link below.
Chaparral Hedgerow establishment, Maintenace, & Irrigation
Hedgerow Establishment with Groasis Waterboxx
Maintaining Hedgerows with Deep Pipe Irrigation
Hedgerows enhance bird abundance and diversity on farms
Chaparral Hedgerows for Commercial Agriculture
California Agriculture: Hedgerows enhance beneficial insects on farms in California's Central Valley
https://nativebeeresearch.wordpress.com
http://www.hedgerowfarms.com
Hedgerows for California Agriculture
Xerces Society: Conservation of Native Plant Pollinators in Organic Farm Systems
http://www.wildfarmalliance.org
NATURE: Nature Doesn’t Hurt Farmers, It Helps
Further Reading & Photography References  
Marc Kummel's (Treebeard) Flickr Photostream