Mining bees dig in for a visit to lawns

Backyard Q&A

June 07, 1998

Q. Parts of my lawn have been invaded by some kind of small bee. No one's been stung yet, but I'm worried about my pets and children. Any suggestions?

A.Your visitors are mining bees, also known as ground bees. They are small, fuzzy, solitary bees that nest in underground burrows. They fly low over the ground and make [-inch holes in loose soil. The females will lay their eggs in these holes.

The bees are not aggressive and the males have no stinger. Their presence this year does not mean you'll see them in large numbers every year. Spraying insecticides to kill them is not recommended; they are rarely a problem when turfgrass is thick and healthy.

Q. I planted my first vegetable garden and am having a problem with a small black bug that hops around. It's making lots of little holes in my eggplant, potato and tomato leaves. It's too small and fast to hand-pick. What is it and what can I do about it?

A. The potato flea beetle is the culprit here. The holes are small but the beetle can riddle a plant with them and reduce its yields significantly. It prefers eggplant to any other crop.

You can control this pest with the botanical (organic) insecticides rotenone or neem, or with Sevin (nonorganic). You can also exclude the potato flea beetle with a floating row cover, although that will block some sunlight and reduce your plant yield. Some organic gardeners ward off the beetle by dusting their plants with flour or lime.

Q. My jack-in-the-pulpit looks terrible. The leaves are turning yellow and brown and there are masses of tiny, powdery dots on the leaf undersides that I can rub off with my finger. Have I lost my plants?

A. You're describing rust, a group of fungal diseases that affects a large number of garden and landscape plants. The dots you describe are spores, which allow fungi to reproduce and spread to other plants. The particular rust on your plant will not spread to other ornamentals, however.

It's best to remove and discard the affected plants. Also, rake up and remove any plant debris; it can harbor rust and lead to infections next season.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For more information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call 800-342-2507, or visit its Web site at www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.

This Week's Checklist

* Water annual and perennial garden plants deeply and regularly. Place an organic mulch around them to conserve soil moisture.

* Head back first-year raspberry and blackberry canes to a height of 3 feet. This encourages fruiting and growth of laterals.

* Fertilize flowering shrubs that are growing too slowly and are off-color.

Pub Date: 6/07/98

tTC

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