Bees in the wall? Make a call

GARDEN Q&A

August 23, 2008|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld | Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld,Special to the Sun

A bee swarm just moved into the walls of my house. I don't want to kill them because I know honeybees are threatened by disease and that mysterious colony collapse syndrome. What do I do? We need pollinators - but I can hear them buzzing through the wall!

Please call us. You're right - those honeybees are valuable (though they are not native, and we have thousands of native insects and other creatures that pollinate). Here at the Home and Garden Information Center, we have lists of beekeepers who will be glad to lure the honeybees out of your house without doing harm to you or the bees.

If the hive position in the wall makes extraction impossible, you'll have to contact an exterminator. Also, if the honeybees have been there very long, you may need to open the wall and remove the remnants of the hive.

We raised a lot of potatoes this year in the same location as last year. When we dug them up to store them, about half of them were scabby. They grew in full sun, good drainage, loam soil, fertilized with 10-20-20, sprayed with insecticide. We used a lot of wood-chip mulch. Can you give us a reason for the scabby texture?

Common scab is widespread in Maryland. This is a bacterial pathogen strongly associated with alkaline soil (high pH) and raw, un-decomposed organic matter, such as fresh animal manure.

Do a test to determine the soil's pH. Lower the pH to 5.5 to 6.0. (Fourteen pounds of iron sulfate/1,000 square feet lowers the soil pH by 1/2 unit.)

Scab resistance varies widely among cultivars. For example: Norland Red is resistant, Yukon Gold is susceptible. Plant your potatoes in a new area next year and irrigate as necessary to prevent moisture stress. Dusting seed pieces with sulfur may help. Never save potatoes for seed stock. Plant certified seed pieces each year. For more information, see our publication IPM Series: Potatoes.

Checklist

* Sign up for our e-newsletter. The next issue comes out in September.

* Hold off fertilizing ornamental plants until after leaf drop in the fall.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's help line at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.

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