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The Beatles vs. The Beetles: This T-Shirt Never Fails to Draw Smiles

Remember the celebrated image of George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and John Lennon crossing Abbey Road in single file...

A close up of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association's all-time best-selling T-shirt,
A close up of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association's all-time best-selling T-shirt, "The Beetles." Each image bears the family name: Phengogidae, Curculionidae, Cerambycidae and Scarabaeidae.

A close up of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association's all-time best-selling T-shirt, "The Beetles." Each image bears the family name: Phengogidae, Curculionidae, Cerambycidae and Scarabaeidae.

Posted on Monday, December 4, 2023 at 3:27 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Economic Development, Environment, Innovation, Natural Resources

Let Us Plant Lettuce

It's Fall in Sunset  Zone 9. Nights are in the low fifties, our highest day this week is 81, and day length is about is about 11 hours 28 minutes. What can we grow?

Let us grow lettuce! Sure, other things end up in salad, but right now I am talking about Lactuca sativa. Some of us can probably grow lettuce year-round, but with its cool day preference, 7-14 days germination time, as few as 45 days to harvest, and range of textures and colors, it's the perfect thing for me to grow and harvest through the holidays!

There are many cultivars, and four major varieties of lettuce:

  • Cos or Romaines. These grow upright and crisp, and handle a bit of heat. The mini Romain  Little Gem, is said to have the best qualities of romaine and butterhead .
  • Butterhead or bibb lettuces mature early into small heads with ruffled outer leaves surrounding a soft heart. They are appreciated for sweet, tender leaves.
  • Summer crisp, French crisp, or Batavian lettuce does well with cool days but they can also stand up to a little heat. 
  • Leaf lettuces include “Oakleaf”,  “Salad Bowl”, and “Black Seeded Simpson”.  They are harvested as leaves, are often included in a “Mesclun”, which means “mix”, and are often “cut and come again”.
    photos by Nanelle Jones-Sullivan

Lettuce can be grown indoors when it's too hot or cold outside. Since we are still getting days above 80 here in Vacaville, I will be starting seed inside, then moving seedlings out in to containers when it cools off. This time I am planting Little Gem, a fast maturing miniature that is said to combine the best of romaine and the best of the bibbs.  I will also grow  fast and  loose-leaf lettuces Lolla Rosa, Oakleaf,  in a mix that works as a “cut and come again “.

With root depths of around ten inches, both do really well in containers. They can be sown closely together  at first, then thinned, or harvested slowly,  by picking the outer leaves of the plant while the center leaves are left to grow.

Lettuce will grow slowly during dark, cool months, but floating row covers can protect from damaging pests like snails, slugs, and earwigs.

Here's to salad days!

lettuce 2
lettuce 2

Posted on Monday, December 4, 2023 at 12:00 AM

Honey Bee Is a True Communication Specialist

Picture yourself as a waggle-dancing honey bee.  You're dancing in the dark, on a small, crowded dance floor with lots of obstacles, and you're...

A look inside a bee hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A look inside a bee hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A look inside a bee hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, December 1, 2023 at 4:28 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Economic Development, Innovation, Natural Resources, Yard & Garden

More than 800 wildland fire professionals gather for international conference in Monterey

Fire professionals are gathering in Monterey Dec. 4-8 to discuss new and creative ways to address wildfire-related challenges. File photo by Evett Kilmartin

UC ANR among sponsors of 10th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress

Scientists, land managers, educators and students from a variety of organizations worldwide will gather from Dec. 4-8 in Monterey, California for the 10th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress. The conference is hosted by the Association for Fire Ecology in cooperation with the California Fire Science Consortium.

Major sponsors include University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, with the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County as the host tribe. There are more than 25 additional sponsors and exhibitors representing federal and state agencies, universities, nonprofits, tribal organizations and companies.

UC ANR Fire Network Director Lenya Quinn-Davidson is a conference co-chair for the 10th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress. File photo by Evett Kilmartin

“As we know from recent fire events across the globe, wildland fire issues are complex and there is an urgent need to work together in new and creative ways to address wildfire-related challenges,” said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, Fire Network director at UC ANR. “We need to identify opportunities to promote fire-resilient communities and environments.”

This event will include workshops, field trips and three full days of presentations, discussion groups and networking opportunities around the theme, “Igniting Connections: Celebrating Our Fire Family Across Generations, Cultures and Disciplines.”

On Monday, Dec. 4, the Fire Congress will kick off with 10 workshops and trainings, offering opportunities for participants to build and apply new skills in modeling, collaborative planning, risk management and more. From Tuesday morning to Thursday afternoon, the Fire Congress program is filled with innovative plenary sessions, more than 500 oral and poster presentations, and opportunities for sharing information through discussion groups and meetings.

For the first time, the conference will also feature an Indigenous Culture and Art Showcase, taking place on Tuesday, Dec. 5. The entire event concludes on Friday, Dec. 8 with field trips to explore nearby natural areas to see how the concepts discussed at the Fire Congress are being applied in California.

Participants will be encouraged to share and explore proactive solutions that apply Western science and Indigenous knowledge to meet desired management and societal outcomes.

More conference information at


Lenya Quinn-Davidson (University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources):, 707-272-0637

Morgan Varner (Tall Timbers Research Station):, 707-845-1659

Jeffrey Kane (Cal Poly Humboldt):, 928-637-4128

Posted on Friday, December 1, 2023 at 8:58 AM
Focus Area Tags: Environment, Innovation, Natural Resources

Attack of the Black Bean Aphid

Planting space is at a premium in my yard. We had our pool removed in 2020, and the backyard is still widely a construction zone. Areas not currently being worked on act as a staging zone for flagstone, bricks, wood, concrete and other construction materials. Why, after three long years, aren't we further along with this project? Well, at one point my husband and I were worn out from doing all the work ourselves, and received a quote for the installation of concrete and flagstone pathways. Just the pathways, which constitute approximately ten percent of the total job. The concrete company would have been happy to take that part of the job off our hands for a cool $77,000. So, we trudge on…

I have a small pollinator garden in the front yard, with very little space for more plantings. When the springtime planting bug hit me this year, I went through some old seeds, and started sunflowers (Helianthus annus L.), Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia diversifolia), and Coreopsis. Most of the sunflowers sprouted, and I planted a nice row of them in front of the rose climbing up the trellis at the fence line, and behind most of the garden. The sunflowers grew bold and tall, and their cheery orange flowers provided a pop of color behind the cigar plant (Cuphea ignea), Echinacea, Agastache, and Salvia ‘Pozo Blue'. After planting the sunflowers and setting up their drip irrigation, I pretty much ignored them all summer.

In the meantime, we suffered the worst ant infestation since we moved here 22 years ago. Ants everywhere, in every room in the house – it was miserable. Curating an organic and safe yard for pollinators and beneficial insects is very important to me, but I finally gave up and contracted with a pest control company to take care of the ants. They are gone from inside the house, but there are still an outrageous number of ants in our yard.

The sunflowers started looking spent a couple of weeks ago, so I pulled them out. I was shocked to see that they were absolutely infested with black bean aphids. Suddenly, the large numbers of ants made sense.

Aphids are normally not a serious problem, as long as the plants are regularly maintained and aphid populations are removed with a strong spray of water. My rose buds are highly attractive to aphids in the springtime, but daily inspection and spraying with water keeps them to a minimum. But I was not paying attention to the sunflowers. My neglect had allowed massive numbers of aphids to live underneath the leaves, suck out vital juices from the sunflowers, and potentially introduce viruses. The sticky honeydew excreted by aphids is subject to sooty mold fungus, and attracts ants, who feed on it. In order to protect their food source, the ants shield aphids from their natural predators, such as parasitic wasps and lacewings.

The sunflowers are an annual plant, so I was able to eradicate my aphid infestation by removing the plants. Large aphid infestations of perennial plants and vegetables can be mitigated by:

  • Vigilantly checking the plant for aphids. Look for ants which often “farm” aphids.
  • Shooting a strong stream of water to remove the aphids.
  • Pruning out sections with heavy infestations where plant damage is visible.
  • Obstructing ants from climbing into the plant with Tanglefoot® or other sticky material.
  • Using organic, slow-release fertilizers, as high nitrogen fertilizers encourage aphid production.
  • Using row covers to protect young, tender plants.
  • Using silver-colored reflective mulches in the vegetable garden.
  • Gardening organically and avoiding broad spectrum pesticides, which kill natural aphid predators.
  • Using insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils if you feel that insecticide is necessary.

An organic, pesticide-free garden provides innumerable benefits to our wildlife, our communities, and our planet. The flip-side to all those benefits is that our gardens need more monitoring and care. If we aren't willing to simply wipe out all living things with chemical pesticides, it's important to catch pests, fungus, and diseases as early as possible, before they are difficult to control with less harmful methods.

Aphid Leaf. photos by Melinda Nestlerode
Aphid Leaf. photos by Melinda Nestlerode

Aphids Close up.
Aphids Close up.

Posted on Friday, December 1, 2023 at 12:00 AM

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