The bees thought it would be wise to offer helpful hints for you about how to avoid pesticides and chemical in your life. Here are some tricks that both improve your quality of life by reducing annoying bugs and save our environment from pesticides. If you have a question or a solution, please email us. We love both. Here are some that we have received and the answers we found. Question: My cat is using my garden for a potty. How can I discourage her from this? Answer: Sprinkle peppermint around the garden. Generally this keeps the cats away. Question: Weeds are invading my yard. Any organic suggestions? Answer: This may sound weird but pull out your vinegar and douse those weeds. It will be quite a discouragement for their continued presence. Question: I have moths flying around that seem to have come from my organic wheat flour that I had stored in a bag in a shelf. Now they are everywhere. Help! What can I do? Answer: Get fresh rosemary, basil and rosemary and crush it. Then spread it around in your cupboards. The moths will leave. Yes, it is a bit messy but it smells so refreshing. Question: This isn’t a pesticide problem but maybe you have a suggestion about what to do when you get sunburned. Answer: An old farm remedy is to swab yourself with apple cider vinegar, not white vinegar. The pain usually subsides quickly and then soak in an apple cider vinegar bath. Depending on how badly you are burned continue to wipe apple cider vinegar on your skin. Do it 3 or 4 times minimum over a period of several hours if you are really red. Although you should be able to sleep soundly, if you awaken in the night because you are hot, wipe your skin with the vinegar. By morning the red/pink skin should be diminished considerably.
If you have an old log or fallen tree that beetles have chewed holes in, you already have a pre-made home for wood nesters. Drill a variety of 3/32” to 5/16” holes along the south facing side as deep as you can. However lacking an old 4 foot log, simply get a piece of wood. No, not treated wood. And as you are going erect it like a fence post, angle the drill holes upward so when it rains the bees home is safe and dry.
Another way to provide bee residences is to plant raspberry, blackberry or elderberry bushes, dogwood or boxelder as these have pithy stems. Each spring cut back new growth here and there so the interior of the stems are available for the wood.
Carpenter bees will leave your house alone if given a nice old dead tree. If you are fortunate enough to have a wooded area, leave that old felled tree and let them find homes in it.
Up to 70% of our native bees are ground dwellers. They dig holes from 6 inches to 36 inches in the ground. For most of their lives they are developing underground and only emerge to forage for about one month. Leafcutter bees are ground dwellers. They are so named because they cut a few elliptical holes in your garden plants but reward you by pollinating all your vegetables and flowers.
Bees, like us, are fussy about where they want to live. Some bees like one kind of soil while others prefer another kind but all of them need soil that is about one third sand so it is easy to dig into. Therefore experiment creating different soil piles up to two feet high or just use a patch of land with southern exposure and that has good drainage, not a spot that turns into a puddle each time it rains. Leave the area untidy, leaves scattered about for them to hide nest holes under and to scavenge to tuck into their burrows. You will know you have ground dwellers when you see small holes in the ground with the earth slightly piled up on the edge. Sometimes ground dwellers like to nest right beside your house. It is often a place that is undisturbed.
Social Bumble Bees
One of my favorite bees. Have you ever watched one in a flower? They shake their little butts causing pollen to fly everywhere which is why they are the most effective pollinators of all the bees. Bumble bees nest in the ground in whatever abandoned burrow or cavity they can find and will even nest above ground in an abandoned bird nest. This latter nesting site in a farm field is a farmer’s nuisance when the tractor runs over the nest and 30 angry bumblebees take after him for destroying their home. (From reports I have heard you can quickly outrun them and they quickly give up the chase but the hapless farmer will have sustained several stings.) According to the USDA bumble bees often occupy the grassy area between open fields and woods or hedge rows. The grassy area should be at least five feet wide and mowed in the late fall or early spring once every two or three years. I’ve seen bumble bees come and go out of an inch and a quarter size hole in our front lawn. Like other ground nesters these bees usually prefer undisturbed ground with leaf debris littering the area.
Bumble bees live in colonies of several dozen to several hundred bees. The queen bumble bees begin nests each spring so the bees are in full force by summer, hunting for flowers to gather pollen and nectar from.
Because the managed honey bees (commercial European honey bees) are declining in numbers, it is very beneficial to create a bee garden for both native bees and feral (wild) honey bees. There are nearly 5,000 species of bees in the U.S and most of them do not swarm. They are gentle little creatures who lead solitary lives and nest underground or in dead trees or in pithy stems. The greatest need of these benevolent little beings is undisturbed nesting sites free from pesticides.
Bees also need sources of water which can be provided from a dripping faucet, pond, stream, fountain or birdbath. Some, like the blue orchard bee, require mud as a building material for their nests. Thus feral or native bees need nectar, pollen, water, nesting materials and open ground. So go ahead and tear up a bit of your lawn and plant wild flowers along the fence line, leaving an area that you do not tidy up so the ground dwelling bees have safe refuge.
Use a wide variety of native annual and perennial wildflowers which naturally grow in your region, such as Cosmos, black-eyed Susans, Echinacea and Lavender and herbs like rosemary, marjoram and mint. Honey bees love clover and it is extremely nutritious for them. Bumblebees thrive on blueberry blossoms. Select the best bee-rewarding plants and you will also attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your flower and vegetable gardens or backyard fruit orchard.