Friday, April 26, 2019

Protecting Your Pets From Summer’s Flying, Biting Insects

Brown dog with his muzzle under his front paw lying in green grass. Photo by Lucie Hosova on UnsplashIn recent weeks, I have written about how to create an enjoyable outdoor space and how to plant to attract pollinators, now it’s time to take our animal companions into consideration. You can have a beautiful yard and a pollinator-friendly garden, but none of it can be properly enjoyed if mosquitoes and flies are making themselves at home there. And if insects are making you uncomfortable, your pets are also miserable out there.

Closeup of a white alpaca looking into the camera with another behind it. Photo by Grep Lippert on UnsplashAs we move into summer (some of us already there – it will be 98°F here today), biting insects are coming out. Mosquitoes and flies are annoying pests that go beyond merely being pesky into being hazardous to health and even, in some cases, deadly. Mosquitos are especially dangerous to humans; in fact, they are considered the world’s deadliest animal. You can combine deaths by lions, sharks, snakes, wolves, crocodiles, bears, tigers and humans and not even come close to the number of people killed by mosquitoes. It is not the insect itself that kills, but the diseases that it carries. Many of these mosquito-borne diseases can have calamitous effects on our dogs, horses and other warm-blooded pets.

Closeup of a brown mosquito on a blue background. Photo by Ekamelev on UnsplashFlies are especially troublesome to pet owners. They are drawn to the animals manure and bodily fluids. Since our pets don’t have hands to swat them away, the poor creatures suffer greatly from flies. Not only are they on the high end of the annoying spectrum, they also carry a myriad of devastating diseases. All of the many fly species have the capability of transmitting diseases, with some of these affecting humans and other directly aimed at other animals. By some accounts, house flies are credited with transmitting at least 65 diseases to humans.

Now that I’ve provided the gloom and doom, I’d like to offer some effective solutions to the problem bugs of summer. ARBICO Organics offers a carefully curated selection of products that can be used in, around and on your pets and yard to keep mosquitoes and flies away. If you have horses or livestock, we have you covered there as well. Luckily, much of what you can do to keep biting insects away from your animals will work to keep them from the people in the family as well.

A blue-tinged picture of a little girl in a white dress lying across the back of a white horsePhoto by Mean Shadows on Unsplash.Repellents, beneficial insects, traps and insecticides all have their place in keeping your garden pet-pest free, but there are other steps you can take to discourage pest insects from coming over to begin with:

Management, management, management: Since mosquitoes breed in standing water (in as little as a bottle cap, see how that works here) and most of the flies you are troubled by breed in manure, it is important to keep things emptied out and cleaned up. Trash, junk piles, tires, flower pots, gutters, lawn ornaments and toys in the yard– all are able to host a mosquito nursery. Walk around, pick things up or turn them over. Responsible animal owners understand manure management and daily pickup may not be feasible, but it bears noting that the cleaner you keep it, the better.

Clip it, cut it, groom it down: While pollinators like tall grass, shrubbery and other “wild” spaces to gather, unfortunately, so do pest insects. There is no right answer on this; you will simply have to decide which insect is your priority. A possible solution would be to groom the areas where you usually gather and create an unkempt area on the opposite end of your space.

Many cats lying on the ground beside a row of catnip plants.
Let's plant catnip, what could happen?
Cool it down: Mosquitoes and flies are disrupted by fan-blown air. Not only does it break up the scent trails they use to get to us, it makes it more difficult for them to fly. If you have a way to hang it, put a fan up over your patio. Or a simply set an oscillating fan where it will hit you. And either option works well in stables or barns.

Plant enemies of mosquitoes: The effort to reduce mosquito numbers can begin as simply as adding plants that repel mosquitoes to your garden. Many of these same plants also repel flies. Repellent plants include Eucalyptus, Marigolds, Basil, Catnip, Lavender, Peppermint, Citronella, Lemon Balm, Rosemary and Pennyroyal. Some of these plants serve a double duty as delicious additions to your table, so planting them is a definite win-win. Scientific studies have shown Catnip to be 10 times as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes. Of course, you may have to deal with additional cats in your yard.

Lights out: Many, if not most, insects are drawn to light. But not all light is equal to them. Fluorescent lights are less attractive than incandescent. So, keep lights off near or in kennels, barns or stables. Or light up an area with incandescent light that is far away from you and your animals.

Closeup picture of a zebras rear end. Photo by Karim Manjra on UnsplashZebra camouflage:  Recent research has concluded that a zebra’s signature black and white stripes are actually an evolutionary adaptation to keep flies off them. The stripes mess with the fly’s vison and interrupt their ability to land. Apparently, this also works if you put a horse in a black and white coat. You can buy these here, along with fashionable zebra accessories. So, although your horse may feel like a fool in his new suit, he will have fewer flies bothering him.

None of these pest control suggestions will work if you have neighbors who do not have the same commitment to the fight as you do. The best solution to that problem is to befriend (or stay friendly to) them and encourage a dialogue around working together on this. Lend a hand to fix the problem; not only can you feel good about that, your own problem will be reduced. And that is all just good karma.

Submitted by Pam

Monday, April 22, 2019

Earth Day and The Sonoran Institute

For this year’s Earth Day, ARBICO is donating to The Sonoran Institute. This is a non-profit located here in Tucson, with a reach that encompasses large areas of the West and into Mexico. Their focus is on protecting and restoring waterways and other natural resources while building and nurturing the communities that depend on them. We feel this mission fits well with how we see ourselves here at ARBICO – we have our roots  in the Sonoran desert but our environmental concerns and responsibilities branch out much further.

Their work on restoring the Colorado River estuary perfectly exemplifies what they do. It’s a cross-border initiative whose goal is to revive the natural runoff of the river and recreate the delta’s ecosystem, including those towns that dried up along with the river. Learn more here.

 I encourage everyone to find a way, great or small, to support these environmental warriors.

Submitted by Pam

Friday, April 19, 2019

Bring All The Pollinators To Your Yard

Close-up pf a Blue Thistle flower with 2 bees on it - photo by Ron Whitaker on Unsplash

We have all heard about the decline in pollinators and the real-world implications are truly frightening. But what can one person do? Plenty, as it turns out. Make the commitment to support pollinators in your own small part of the world – your yard or garden. It only takes a few thoughtfully considered steps to turn your space in a pollinators’ haven.

Close-up of a green and pink hummingbird at rest sitting on a white branch with purple flowers in the background. Photo by Joshua Wilking on Unsplash.
A hummer at rest - a rare site
When thinking of pollinators, it is important to remember that not all pollinators are honeybees. In North America, it is estimated that honey bees make up about 1/3 of active pollinators, with native bees providing slightly more than that and non-bees rounding it out. There are eye-opening 4,000 species of native bees (honey bees are native of Asia) out there doing their pollinating duty. Other insect pollinators include flies, dragonflies, wasps, ants, mosquitoes, butterflies, moths and flower beetles. And then there are the birds, reptiles and small mammals like bats and mice. There are also human pollinators (although they don’t rank a percentage). For instance, the vast majority of vanilla beans being grown these days are hand-pollinated, a result of the decline of the specific bee that pollinates them. Read more here about this interesting cautionary tale. With all these possible pollinators, there are many different avenues to consider when planning a pollinator-friendly space.

Close-up of a dragonfly perched on one flower in a field of purple flowers - Photo by Hisanari Kunimoto on Unsplash
Go Native: Native species are incredibly important to any healthy pollinator habitat; let’s encourage them.
Seek plants that are native to your area. This does not mean that you need to research the botanical roots of each plant you have and then rip up and replace the ones that have origins elsewhere. Many plants have been here long enough for the local pollinators to have adapted to them. The Camelia is a good example of this. This flower was first introduced to North America in 1797, but is now fully accepted and loved by our native insects.
Avoid flowers that have been bred to have double blooms. These varieties are undoubtedly beautiful but have less pollen and what they do have is harder to access.
Don’t forget night-blooming flowers for those nocturnal pollinators - moths and bats.
Plant Milkweed for the Monarchs. This native plant is crucial to the survival of these beautiful butterflies and it is quickly disappearing in the wild. Many other pollinators appreciate it as well. Two good reasons to plant it.
Monarch Butterfly on a purple flower• Still not sure what to choose? There are excellent lists available to help you choose the perfect pollinator-friendly plant to add to your garden.

Two metal buckets filled with a variety of multi-colored flowers. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.Think Long Term:
To attract and keep pollinators in your yard, you need to create a constant source of pollen and nectar.
Native bees need to feed for months; plants that bloom just once (no matter how spectacularly) offer very little for these insects.
Throughout the growing season (spring to late fall), aim to have something bloom every week.Think variety to make your garden more attractive to a larger number of pollinators and more interesting visually.

Look Up: When considering planting for pollinators, look at trees.
Not all pollinators are found close to the ground, many trees harbor and nurture butterflies and other pollinators.

Looking up the trunk of a tree into the branches and the sky beyond. Photo by Edan Cohen. Oak trees can support 500 different species of butterflies and moths; for most common flowering perennials that number would be in the dozens at most.

Herbs Are Great: Herb gardens are especially attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Many popular herbs (dill, parsley, basil) are imports, but they are closely related to native herbs. This genetic similarity makes them eminently acceptable for our native bugs.
For maximum pollinator effect, only snip off half your plants. Allow the other half to flower. In otherwise, share the goodness.
Planting an herb garden is a no-brainer; even if you can’t lure pollinators to it you can enjoy its bounty yourself.

A mass of purple blooming trees and bushes surrounding a curved brown bridge. Photo by Cosmic Timetraveler on Unsplash
Don’t Over-groom: What you see as messy-looking is appealing to the creatures that fly and crawl.
Let plants wander and bloom at will. All the nooks and crannies create habitat or hiding places for our helpful insect partners.
Re-think weeds. Blooming weeds and wildflowers are the natural lifeline for native pollinators in the months following spring blossoms. Weeds may be unsightly to you, but they are highly desirous to a hungry insect. One option is to simply allow some weeds to flourish on the edge of your carefully cultivated space.
Leave some debris around to give native bees a place to nest. One dead limb is an excellent bee condo.

View of a person's legs in knee-high black boots lying on a field of clover - Photo by Sydney Rae on UnsplashLet’s Look At Lawns:
Lawns are the number one irrigated crop in America, which is problematic.
Lawns don’t provide food and offer very little to pollinators and wildlife in general. All good reasons to reduce our attachment to them.
If you are not ready to give up your lawn completely, try giving up a little bit around the edges and see how that feels. A slightly larger flower bed or a border around a sidewalk or driveway can be filled with lovely flowers. You’ll use less water and make our pollinators happy.
You could also transition some of your lawn to a cover crop. There are a number that make a lovely mat of low lying foliage and many (like the clovers) are flower-filled and beloved by pollinators.

There are many other things that can be helpful in building a pollinator friendly garden, such as providing water or a salt lick. Providing water can be as easy as finding plants that capture rainfall. Or build something; here are instructions for an easy water feature and here is a short video on salt licks.

Close-up of an orange and pink tulip getting doused with water. Photo by Michael Podger on Unsplash
In my research for this article, I came across the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. They are doing some really cool stuff and I encourage everyone to join their movement. Or start your own movement right at home.

Paul Stametts, an American mycologist and author, has an interesting theory on how certain fungi can help bring our bees back to a healthy population. Here is a 10 minute clip that explains this further.

On another note: The big news this week was the fire at Notre Dame cathedral. From what I’ve read, they were able to save many (if not most) of the treasures that were inside. Another form of treasure also managed to make it out of the fire – their bees. It seems that there were three hives on the roof that miraculously survived. Read all about it here. Enjoy – it’s heartwarming.

Submitted by Pam

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Pyrethrins, Pollinators and other Beneficials

Close up of a purple flower with the sun in the background and a bee approaching. Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash.
When there is an infestation in a garden, often the first thing a person does is reach for the insecticide. While this is a totally understandable reaction, that insecticide will not differentiate between pest insects and beneficial ones. Not to mention the extremely important pollinators. In order to maintain a healthy ecosystem in a garden, there needs to be insects doing their jobs, so spraying insecticides needs to be
done cautiously.

Pyrethrin insecticides offer a reasonable solution for the environmentally conscious gardener. Derived from Chrysanthemum cinerarifolium (a flower genus that includes both the Chrysanthemum and the Daisy), these extracts have been used since ancient times to fight insect pests on both people and plants. Pyrethrin insecticides have been around for so long because they work so well. But, before you spray this power to kill should be taken into consideration.

Close up of a black and red wasp on a yellow flower. Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on UnsplashFor the purposes of this blog, I am going to focus on bees. Although Honey Bees are the number one pollinator in the world and their existence is currently threatened, they are by no means the only pollinators. However, the efforts one can take to reduce harm to bees will also work to protect beneficial insects, other pollinating insects and even non-insect pollinators.

The dangers to bees from pyrethrins are the same as the danger from any other insecticide, but pyrethrins do not persist in the environment as other more toxic insecticides will. They will, instead, break down rapidly, especially when exposed to natural sunlight. This makes them by far the superior choice for putting in your garden or grow.

Close-up of a bee on white, pink and yellow flowers. Photo by Janosch Digglemann on UnsplashBee deaths from insecticides come from a combination of events; a perfect storm of pollinator danger. Most fatalities happen when pesticides are applied to flowering crops and then allowed to drift at a time when bees are actively foraging. To address and lessen these hazards, we can break them down to several things you should be aware of: temperature, drift/distance from treated area and timing of application.

Temperature: Bees forage only in sunlight and love high temperatures, so they are out and about on bright summer days. Additionally, sprays are more likely to vaporize under high temp and this vapor can be an even greater threat than the spray itself. Which means you should only apply insecticides in the late evening or night. Early morning applications can be done as long as you are sure that the insecticide will have dried before bees can get to it.

Drift/Distance from treated area:  
Pesticide drift is caused by multiple factors: weather, application method, equipment settings and spray formulation. Often, spraying will occur on flowering crops like fruits and vegetables and drift onto flowering plants like weeds and wildflowers, effectively stopping insect activities in both areas.

Close-up of a dandelion blowing in the wind in silhouette against an orange sky. Photo by Dawid Zawila on Unsplash Insecticides applied in one area can affect insects and wildlife more than a mile away. Create a buffer zone around your spray area. Most bees forage 1-2 miles from their hive, but can travel much farther; so the larger the buffer the better.

Be aware of the weather when you spray. Even light wind can enable drift and low humidity with high temperatures are optimal conditions for drift. Conversely, moderate temperatures with some humidity decrease the potential for drift.

Carefully calibrate your equipment (smaller droplets drift more) and avoid aerial applications and mist blowers.

Close-up of a bee on a long-stemmed white flower. Photo by William Warby on UnsplashHere are some more tips to manage your drift.

Timing of application: If possible, never apply pesticides to flowering plants. Insect control should take place either before or after flowering. If application is unavoidable, a pesticide with a short residual rate (pyrethrins are perfect!) can be applied in the evening when temperatures are under 60 degrees.

Here are a few other things to bear in mind before applying a pyrethrin (or any other) insecticide:

Before spraying, remove any flowering weeds around the area you will be spraying. This will reduce the temptation for pollinators and help form your buffer zone.

Avoid spraying any favorites of pollinators.

If possible, use pyrethrin insecticides in liquid formulations. Products with dusts or granules can easily stick to bee’s hairs and be taken back to the hive and cause damage there.

Always read the manufacturer’s label and apply insecticide at the minimum recommended rate. Never exceed the recommended amount.

If you would like more information on how to look out for pollinators, I highly recommend you check out the Xerces Society. They have been in the forefront of invertebrate conservation since 1971 and really know their stuff.
MGK logo

Looking for an effective, organic garden pest control spray? Check out the great organic pyrethrin-based liquid insecticides from our partner MGK Gardening - a proud producer of botanical pest control solutions for 100 years!


Submitted by Pam

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Growing up on a Bug Farm

Sun coming through the branches of a spiny cactus plant. Photo by Billy Cox on Unsplash.

This year, ARBICO Organics is celebrating 40 years growing bugs (and more) in the beautiful Arizona desert. ARBICO has always been a family business and the children of the founders of ARBICO, Rick and Sheri Frey, have spent their lives in this unique world. The following is from their daughter, Aurora:

I remember being very young, maybe in kindergarten, talking with my friends about what jobs our parents had. My friends’ parents were teachers, construction workers, dentists and so on. When it was my turn to talk about my family, I nonchalantly said, “My parents grow bugs and we live on a bug farm”. I was met by the wide-eye look of confusion from my friends,“you live where?” I thought living in a house next to an insectary where millions of live insects of various kinds were growing was totally normal. Looking back, I feel lucky to have had such a unique upbringing and experience. My parents started growing and selling insects years before I was born, so ARBICO has always been a huge part of my life. Being in the bug business continues to play a large role in defining what family is to me.

A young girl in a green outfit standing in a garden holding a long yellow cylindrical insect trap.
Aurora with an Insect-A-Peel trap
Some of my earliest memories are of spending time with my parents at ARBICO. I loved tagging along with my dad at the end of the day to “check the bugs”. We would do a walk-through of the insectary and check the temperatures of the various rooms where insects were in different stages of their development. The “fly room” was off limits for me though. My dad said that it was too intense for a four-year-old to handle being in a room filled with hundreds of thousands of flies. I disagreed but obeyed, hoping for his mind to change. Later in childhood, I looked forward to playing in the offices with the Xerox machine and computers, selling lemonade to the ARBICO staff, helping my parents when kids visited on field trips and spending time in the ARBICO garden. It doesn’t snow much here in Tucson, but we learned that we could jump in an empty tray used to grow bugs in and slide down ARBICO’s giant compost pile (an added bonus of being a bug farmer’s kid).

Close-up of a orange and black butterfly.It is sitting on someone's white high top sneaker. Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash. Throughout the years,  many of my extended family worked at ARBICO, including my grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins and many family friends. I remember feeling so much excitement when I was old enough to help alphabetize invoices for my Aunt Gloria.

 When we weren’t at the bug farm, we would still spent a lot of time doing insect-related things. I remember my parents taking my younger brother and me up to Mount Lemmon to see the ladybugs that hibernate in the bark of the pine trees. Bugs were our life!

A young boy in a blue shirt and white hat digging with a shovel in a garden.
Clayton in the ARBICO garden
 As we got older, my younger brother, Clayton, and I got more invested in our own interests, but still spent time in the summers in the office or working at the bug farm. One of my first summer ARBICO jobs was working in Shipping, where we jammed out to classic rock music while packing bugs to ship out all around the United  States. When visiting home, I always looked forward to spending time at the office especially helping my mother with her projects. I’ve worked in all areas of ARBICO, including accounting and sales. I continued to work for ARBICO over the years, even when I lived outside of Arizona. I would jump at an opportunity to help with projects like editing our catalogs or attending an event. It was inspiring to be at events and meet our customers (especially those customers who have been with us from the beginning) and hear first-hand how happy they were with the results from our products!

Right now, I am back in Tucson and spend my days helping our Marketing team, which includes my brother. I have loved watching this company grow and I value the friendships and learning opportunities I have come to have here. After all this time, I am so proud of what ARBICO has become and am thankful for everyone who has played a role in this company that holds such a special place in my heart. I can’t imagine a way to describe the way family feels to me without ARBICO. In case you are curious, I did finally get to go into the “Fly Room” and my dad was right. I immediately freaked out, swallowed a fly and ran out crying. I haven’t been back since.

A blonde man with a brunette boy (in a blue shirt) and girl (in a a red shirt)sitting in a field of red flowers.
Clayton, Rick and Aurora Frey

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