Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Edible Seeds of Common L.A. Area Ornamental Tree May Be Attracting Rats

I received an email about branches and leaves coming off of a Chinese elm. Turns out that the branches that were coming down were laden with the seeds of the tree (it had recently flowered and was now going to seed). A little web-jogging turned up an "Eat the Weeds" blog page  that states that Chinese elm tree seeds (called samaras) are edible.  So why were these seed covered branches falling?  Either rodents looking for an elm tree seed meal were causing them to fall as they greedily chomped down on the seeds, or maybe even the local parrot flock -as parrots love edible seeds.

Edible winged seeds of the Chinese elm. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Discovering a New Bug

Turns out the pest is called the 'Golden Mealybug', it's a type of mealybug that attacks only Australian members of the Araucaria family (Norfolk Island Pines, Bunya Bunya trees, Queensland Karis etc.) and as such is not considered an important pest by the state of California. A volunteer for another Arboretum (Fullerton?) wrote about this bug in her blog. Apparently it's been around for a while.
Golden Mealybug on Araucaria bidwillii (Bunya Bumya tree).

A few weeks ago I was wandering through the Australian section looking for that perfect shot and getting ready for a talk I was going to give on Australian trees ideal for our gardens. Halfway through the trek I noticed the trunk of a Lophostemon conferta just covered in what looked like very active uber mealy bugs (see below). I took pictures of it with both my Nikon D5000 and my iPhone. I then sent pictures and a video of the pest via an app called 'Report A Pest' from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. It was a Saturday and I didn't think much of it because the last time I used it several weeks went by before I was contacted back, besides I planned to send the info to Gevork Arakelian as soon as I got back in the office on Tuesday but...

Here's one of the pix I sent to the California State Dept. of Agriculture vie the 'Report a Pest' app. 

Here's the video I sent. I've since added some cool music to it.

...monday roles around and I get an urgent message from Jerry Turney over at the County Ag Commissioner's office -seems the state thought my little insect was a big deal. The next day I was back at work and Gevork comes over first thing and we go out to look at the pest. As both Jerry and Gevork previously guessed from the images it was not a mealybug at all but a mealybug and scale predator beetle larvae know as the "Mealybug Destroyer". 
While we were out there Gevork noticed that the mealybug destroyer was feeding on a previously unknown (to Southern California) pest that was feeding on the Bunya-bunya trees located next to the Lophostemon tree-trunk that the mealybug destroyer was first found on.