All hail the honey bee! It's an immigrant, like almost all of us, except for the Native Americans. European colonists brought the honey bee (Apis...
A honey bee, her head and antenna covered with mustard pollen, heads for more pollen in a bed of mustard in Vacavilel, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Like a race horse, this bee seems to be bolting toward the finish line, a mustard blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Thar's gold in them thar hills--and gold pollen on her head, antennae, and thorax, not to mention the balls of pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Technology has become a part of our everyday lives. There are some fun and helpful tools available that can help with finding a plant ID. They include several Plant ID apps for your smartphone or smart device. These apps can be helpful if you are out in nature or just walking around your neighborhood and come across a plant or a tree that you would like to know its name. Although these apps cannot accurately ID every plant, every time, they can ID many thousands of different types of plants and trees. Over time their accuracy will improve. Some of these apps use artificial intelligence and some use people to determine the type of plant. Most of the apps also offer other features related to plants, such as watering schedules and fact sheets.
The two apps I have been currently using are PlantSnap and iNaturalist. You can find them on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
PlantSnap - Works on all devices - Free (Shows ads and limits to10 ID's a day)
I have been using the PlantSnap app to help me identify succulents, which are frequently not labeled or mislabeled. From my personal experience, this app has been accurate half of the time. This app is very easy to use. This app guides you through the process and gives you tips. It also puts the photos you use in a separate folder in your photo app.
iNaturalist - Works on all devices - Free
This app is a little harder to use and is very different from all of the other ID apps. It is a collaboration between the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic. It is a unique way to interact with others about your observations in nature. You can record your observations and then share them with others and talk about your findings. You can also get IDs on the plants that you observe, help create useful data, and become a citizen scientist.
Using the Apps
To begin using your app you need to take a photo of a plant or tree. Taking a correct photo, for an ID, is an important part of the process. You can take a photo through the app or use a photo that you have already taken and chosen it within the app. Here are some tips for taking an effective photo that will make it easier to identify your plant. Take a close-up photo instead of a full plant photo. If possible, include leaves, flowers, and fruit in the image area. Make sure your photo is in focus and not blurry. Consider the lighting to make sure that your photo is not too dark. For example, see the photos of the same plant below. The first set of photos shows a full-plant photo and the result of the ID from the app. The app, PlantSnap, was not able to identify this plant correctly. The next set of photos contains a close-up of the same plant and the same app came back with the correct plant name.
These tools will not replace any of the tools you currently use to identify plants. They can be helpful and fun to use when you do not have your traditional resources handy.
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend" holds true in entomology as well! The activity of natural enemies of pests (beneficial insects) is a key...
I have been doing my own gardening. I am, however, getting to the age when I can imagine not wanting to do it or actually not feeling/being able to do it. Pruning 75 roses, fertilizing, checking irrigation regularly, taking out the old and putting in the new. All these tasks seem quite manageable at this point. How to prepare for the inevitable is the question. And besides aging, sometimes it is good to be able to take time off these tasks which can get demanding.
Finding an able, willing and reliable helper is not easy. It takes a village to tend a garden. I have experienced several individuals that didn't work out. Some were just unreliable. Nothing is more frustrating than having an appointment and being stood up. Or having an appointment and having the person come whenever they want. As a former Psychologist, during the decades I worked I came to rely on regularity. I wouldn't have wanted patients to show up whenever they wanted and miss appointment times. Likewise, they wouldn't have wanted me to not show up when scheduled.
I have experienced potential helpers who were very busy and were always wanting to make last-minute reschedules. I found myself not liking surprises like calls canceling times on the spur of the moment or even during our supposed meeting time.
Sometimes I had myself to blame for not knowing Spanish or Japanese. I thought these fellows (and they were all men) were decent potential helpers, but it was difficult to communicate what I needed done and other details. A no-fault lack of connection which I couldn't bridge.
Then there were individuals who were just going into business and didn't have equipment of their own to bring. This could also be a person who had had his truck broken into or stolen and he was rebuilding. I felt bad about this situation, but what to do. I didn't see myself as a branch of the Small Business bureau. I should be more generous in my outlook but I have to admit I expected preparedness.
Then there were the prospects who felt like they were on loan from a botanical garden. They clearly knew a lot – probably more than I did – and prided themselves on telling me what to grow and how to grow them. Where to put the plants, how to fertilize them, how to prune, and how to cluster the plants. I am surely an amateur grower, but since I am paying the bill and living with the result, I want to respect my ignorance.
I have not yet had an outright personality conflict. That will no doubt come probably as I continue doing this search. I guess when it comes down to it I am realizing that this meshing is an interpersonal challenge. I can't imagine – or I don't want to think it is true – that I am the only person who runs into these issues. Patience and determination to finally get it right seems like the only choices. Staying young indefinitely is just not an option. Other ideas?
Sometimes you just have to display your sense of humor. Take the case of a huge praying mantis sculpture that anchors the Davis, Calif., front yard...
This is the coronavirus-equipped mantis that's drawing lots of smiles in the Davis front yard of entomologists Robert and Lynn Kimsey of UC Davis. (Photo by Lynn Kimsey)
A praying mantis, Mantis religiosa, watches a honey bee buzz her head in the Kate Frey Pollinator Garden, Sonoma Cornerstone, Sonoma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)