Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tiger Bee Fly

A guest brought in a dead branch from a mulberry tree that had large tunnels bored into it. I recognized these tunnels as Carpenter bee galleries. Carpenter bees usually attack already dead wood so I wasn't too concerned until I saw this monster flying out of the gallery (luckily the whole thing was in a plastic bag). 
Tiger Bee Fly, about an inch and a half wide -he's a big boy.  
This was a Tiger bee fly. A very pretty and non-disgusting member of the fly family. And it east Carpenter bee larvae, in fact their was a Carpenter bee larvae mummy, probably the victim of the Tiger bee's own bee eating larvae, located just inside one of the tunnels (see below) 
Carpenter bee larvae mummy, a probable victim of the Tiger bee fly.
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Details on September Plant Information Class

This month’s plant information class is a tour of Nuccio’s Nurseries located at 3555 Chainy Trail in Altadena. Nuccio’s specializes in all kinds of Camellias and Azaleas and if you think these plants are heavy water users then you will be pleasantly surprised as you find out otherwise from Nuccio’s staff as they will tour us around the facility and tell us things about these plants that you might not already know.
Plant Identification Class Coming in October
Don’t forget to register for Plant ID class in October –we’ll be covering a lot of new families including several conifer families like Pines and Araucarias.

Friday, August 2, 2013

An Evil Looking Seed from Yonkers

Trapa natans L. the Eurasian water chestnut

I love a good mystery and sometimes this job delivers. A visitor who had been to New York a week before superstorm 'Sandy' found this on the shore of the Hudson river near Yonkers. This is one of the strangest seedpods I've seen in a while (I was assuming it was the seed or seedpod of something that had floated to its final resting place there on the shores of the Hudson). Now I've had strange floaty seeds brought into my office before but this one took the cake. It had a distinctly evil looking appearance (at least by Disney villain standards where most villains have a pointy chin and ears). After typing in such esoteric terms as 'litoral trigonal capsule' and many other permutations of the same into Google with no luck at all I typed 'seeds washed up on a shore' and there it was, the third picture in the image results from Google.  Sometimes it pays to keep it simple, even in botany. Turns out it was Trapa natans, also known as the Eurasian water chestnut, a plant that is an invasive water weed that ranges from Virginia to Vermont.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bugs and Fungus Come Into My Office


These were brought in by a woman who was worried about mushrooms poisoning her dog. Previously she had brought in some Conocybe mushrooms that were poisonous but may or may not have been responsible for her dog getting sick (they are known to contain toxins like the ones in the 'Death Cap' mushrooms but the chemistry of the ones in the Conocybe is such that they have to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream to be harmfull). These turned out to be Collybia fuscopurperea (also called Gymnopis villosypes) an indedible but not known to be poisonous mushroom that is classed by many as a 'LBM' (a 'little brown mushroom' so minute and inedible that its toxicity is inconsequential),

Collybia fuscopurperea

A Beetle Responsible for the Death of An Oak Tree?

 The below beetle and larvae was brought into my office to find out if it was the cause of death of live oak (Quercus agrifolia) here in Arcadia. Turns out this little bugger, called a Nautical borer, chows down on dying and dead oaks but is not responsible for the initial demise of the tree.

Nautical beetle.

Nautical beetle larvae
 What is most probably the cause of the trees demise was evidenced by signs of another, more insidious beetle on an oak tree located nearby. Both branches and trunk of the tree showed the exudate and white sawdust halo of the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB), a fairly new pest that is decimating trees in the area. 
Oak tree branch showing the soaking spot with small sawdust halo inside that is the hallmark of the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer(PSHB). 

Soaking area on oak tree -a sign of PSHB. 
More on the Nautical borer can be found here: A Field Guide to Insects and Diseases of California Oaks
More on the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer can be found here:

Sunflower Leaf Problems

I got the below sunflower leaf from a patron who was worried about weather these symptoms were a death sentence for the sunflower they were found on. This is the sunflower leaf miner, and like most leaf-miners it can be controlled by removing the infested leaves from the plant and cleaning the fallen ones out from underneath the plant. Chemical control is really not necessary unless you are entering the entire plant in a contest and the prize is over $10,000. One good way of keeping damage levels down (besides the above) is to keep fertilization to a minimum. High levels of nitrogen not only make the leaf soft and easy to feed on, but directly feed the leaf-miner with a nutrient that lack of otherwise limits its growth and reproduction. 
Sunflower leaf miner
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