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Everybody Loves Bugs, Right? Here Are the Top 25 Bug Blogs in the World

A flameskimmer dragonfly, Libellula saturata, perches on a bamboo stake in Vacaville, Calif. Native to western North America, it belongs to the family Libellulidae. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Everybody loves bugs, right? Well, no, they don't. Some folks scream, smash them, or sprint away from them. Other folks--including yours...

Selenium Deficiency and White Muscle Disease in California Beef Cattle

Figure 2. Selenium boluses. (Photo: Courtesy of Bret McNabb, DVM)

Selenium deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in beef cattle in California1. It can cause diarrhea, reduced weight gain/loss...

Posted on Friday, June 15, 2018 at 1:25 PM

On Flag Day, Both Flags and Monarchs Flutter

A majestic monarch butterfly, an icon, on an American flag. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Today, June 14, is Flag Day, a time when we celebrate and commemorate our American flag. Our Continental Congress adopted the "Stars and Stripes" as...

Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 4:33 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

The Skunk

As I sit here at the computer, there is a neighborhood confab going on across the street between three men and a single woman.  They are earnestly discussing the latest scourge to hit the neighborhood!  I watch as there is much gesturing here and there in the side and backyard of the house there.  What could it be?  Vandalism or trespassing at night?  What could be the reason for the 20 minute meeting?  I ask him when he returns to grab a flashlight and prepares to journey back across the street to rejoin the fray.  “It's a skunk”, he replies.  Apparently a skunk has taken up residence somewhere in the backyard and is “going off” nightly.  What will the committee do, I wonder. . .

A little lesson in skunkology is in order here.  There are 2 varieties of skunks in our area, the Spilogale gracilis or Spotted skunk and the Mephitis mephitis or Striped skunk.  Some folks in Vallejo have had the spotted variety stop by, but in Suisun City, I've only had the dubious honor of meeting the striped variety.  Both varieties are most active at dawn, dusk and at night BUT can be seen during the day especially in areas that humans use also.  They have a diverse diet which included insects, grubs (they will dig up the lawn), earthworms, small rodents, snakes, lizards, frogs, mushrooms, berries and fruit, PET FOOD, and garbage left out and about.  Unfortunately, skunks will also eat eggs from nests on the ground or in low growing shrubs.

February and March are the breeding time for the striped skunks – when the smell around my neighborhood is an almost constant!  Living quarters are burrows which have been dug and abandoned by ground squirrels, foxes or coyotes.  If a ready-made den isn't available, then culverts, brush piles or hollow logs will do quite nicely; that includes under decks, porches, or beneath buildings and houses (I had squatters under the house for several breeding seasons).  A last resort for housing will be self-dug burrows where skunks can congregate in communal dens over winter!

Okay, you say, I've got them living with me, how to make them move?  One thing you must check BEFORE trying to get rid of varmints is to check the California Fish and Game Code to see how the varmint is classified; skunks are classified as non-game animals  which basically gives permission to remove them in any legal manner.  However, note THAT THE CODE ALSO STATES THAT SKUNKS AND OTHER WILDLIFE CANNOT BE RELOCATED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION OF FISH & GAME.  Thus the best way is to hire a pest control company to do the job! 

You can however modify your living space to keep them from re-entering under decks and porches by waiting until you are sure the nesting animals are gone and block all entryways to the desired area.  Plug all spaces under fences to deny entry; use wood, big rocks that the skunks can't move, put up an electric fence at the base of your fence, or use wire screening to achieve the same purpose.  Skunks like other wild animals go where the food is, so make sure not to leave dog or cat food out as tasty snacks or even just water bowls.  Be sure to ask the neighbors to do the same and soon the skunks won't be coming for food.  Be sure to clean up spilled bird seed and fruit that have fallen from trees in the yard.  Place garbage in to containers with tight fitting lids and use the “hot” composting method instead of the “cold” method to discourage skunks. 

Remember that although skunks are cute, they are still wild animals and feeding them is a dangerous practice for them; they may be trapped and/or killed if they go to other yards looking for the treats you left out.

The upshot of the discussion today, was the neighbor is welcome to the skunk and smell – nobody else wants it! Read an old blog (poem)  Ode to a Skunk

The information I used and more on skunks is available online at -

Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 1:38 PM

UC ANR scientist debates conservation tillage practices with industry leader

Alan Wilcox of Wilcox Agri-Products and UC Cooperative Extension specialist Jeff Mitchell debated the challenges and opportunities for increased implementation of conservation tillage practices on California farms during the World Ag Expo in February, reported Alan Stenum in Farm Equipment magazine.

Wilcox said farmers are going to be resistant to anything they suspect will affect yield. Mitchell said creative innovation underway will have a big impact on some of the more challenging crops that are grown in California.

Alan Wilcox, left, and Jeff Mitchell debate the challenges and opportunities for conservation tillage. (Photo by Farm Equipment magazine, used with permission)

"This is a region where costs are high. The cost of doing business is high, and maximum yields on any crop are important to even break even," Wilcox said. "We're going to be intensely committed to water management and the maximum amount of water."

Mitchell said farmers in other parts of the U.S. started to switch to reduced disturbance no-till systems to conserve water.

"The recognition of the value of that opportunity to reduce soil water evaporation and have more water going through the crops through transpiration hasn't really sunk in here in California in large fashion," Mitchell said.

While Mitchell noted that water is essential to the discussion of conservation agriculture, there are other important aspects to consider.

"Biological cycling of nutrients in the soil, tightening up the system so there are fewer losses, either to the groundwater as some sort of pollution, or improving the overall soil function and nutrition provision capacity of the soil - that's not a small aspect of the overall system, nor are the opportunities for reducing costs," Mitchell said.

Wilcox said he would characterize the argument differently.

"The point is in all of our tillage strategies - and in every situation - we never compromise yield," he said.

Read the complete debate in Farm Equipment magazine.

More information about the use of conservation agriculture practices can be found on the UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation website.

Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 8:46 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

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