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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Permanent Bee Swarms Probably Need Disposal in Las Vegas

Q. My brother and I live in California.  We inherited my mom's home in LV which is now rented. The property manager tells us there are bees in the backyard and that we should have an exterminator in. We are both opposed to this plan because of colony collapse, etc. Do you know of a beekeeper who would take them?  They say there is honey; it is not a swarm.

A. I do not know of a beekeeper that will take them. Beekeepers are very careful about “wild” bees they take into their hives. Many of them have become “Africanized” and they do not want these Africanized bees introduced to their managed hives. 

Honeybees swarming from the hives at the UNCE Orchard in North Las Vegas. The top picture they have swarmed around some fruit trees. The bottom picture they settled in on one branch of one tree. They eventually returned to their hive about 50 feet away later in the day.
Secondly, they are worried about diseases and other pest problems introduced to their bees which they spend a lot of money to protect from these types of pests. So by admitting “wild” bees into their hives they run a very big risk of having future problems that will cost them money and time to correct. Beekeepers do not make much money off of producing honey so the costs associated with management is very important to them.

Once bees have become Africanized they will be a very real threat to humans and any other animals (dogs, cats, horses, etc) nearby since they are so aggressive. You can Google Africanized bees or "killer bees" and Las Vegas and you can see what kind of problems we have had with them in the past.

I think you may have a problem if these bees are not in some way disposed of if they are in fact Africanized or become Africanized. One of the reason Italian honeybees were selected for commercial honeymaking is that they are very docile insects. They can be handled with a huge degree of safety. When a colony starts becoming Africanized, the bees will first start getting more aggressive than before (bump you if you are within 40 or 50 feet of their colony). If this perceived “threat” to their hive (YOU) does not go away, then they can get very aggressive and attack in huge numbers. In many cases they attack with no provocation and has led to death or hospitalization. Commercial beekeepers must "requeen" a hive periodically because bee hives WILL become Africanized over time.

Simple things disturb Africanized bees like it could be windy outside, machinery operating close by, etc, could set them off. They are unpredictable and very aggressive unlike docile Italian honeybees which they eventually take over after a period of a few months.

I would highly recommend you get a company to dispose of the colony and not take any chances.

Chinaberry Damage Probably Carpenter Bee, Not Borers

Q. I have a 25 year old Chinaberry tree that I like because it has aromatic flowers in the spring but I also hate it because it is messy. Parts of the tree recently broke from the wind. There were still lots of leaves on the tree but the inside was dry and dead. How long do these trees live and is what I described normal?

A. Chinaberry is also called Persian Lilac and here in the United States we sometimes call it the Texas Umbrella Tree. I like the tree because of its form, fragrant flowering and fruit clusters but many local horticulturists do not.
Carpenter bee damage to dead palm frond remnants. Note the perfectly round holes the size of a quarter or about 2cm in diameter.
            The leaves and fruit can be poisonous to humans but not to birds. It is a native to parts of Asia where the leaves and fruit have been used as a natural repellent of pests when drying food. The poisonous chemicals inside leaves and fruit are related to the natural pesticide Neem. The tree is a fairly close relative of the Neem tree.
            Just like you said, it can be messy and the wood is brittle and can break easily in the wind. For these reasons, they do not last very long in landscapes.
            The inside of any older tree is all dead wood. It is just the outside cylinder which is alive. Insects that tunnel or build homes in dead wood can cause damage to the tree if they get access to the inside. Wood rotting fungi however is seldom a problem since the wood resists decay. It is also a relative of teak and the wood is actually very pretty.
            Boring insects feed on the living parts of the tree, not the dead parts. However insects such as termites and carpenter bees can utilize the dead wood inside the tree if they can get in there. If they do get in they can weaken the tree further where it will fail in strong winds.
            I have never seen boring insects in this tree but I have seen Carpenter Bee damage to the interior dead wood. If you look closely I would suspect you'll find large holes in the interior wood about the size of a nickel. This is a good sign Carpenter Bees were actively nesting in there.
            You are probably better off replacing the tree with something else.

Pictures are Classic Rabbit Damage to Vegetables

Q. Would you help me solve what varmint has gobbled down the vegetables in my two raised vegetable gardens? I have a fence and bird net around each but the culprits keep getting in. Thought you maybe could figure it out from the way the vegetables are chewed. 

A. That sure looks like rabbit damage to me from the pictures you sent to me. I will post them on my blog so all can see them.
            They are very good at lifting fencing with their noses and pushing it up and getting in and out. Rabbit fencing has to be tacked down to the ground tightly or buried for good control.
            My experience with plastic fencing and rabbits is that they chew right through it. This is after I contacted the manufacturer years ago on plastic fencing and he reassured me that it would keep rabbits out. Wrong! They just chewed straight through it.
            Also, if there is any gap in the fencing AT ALL, they will squeeze or push their way through particularly if they are hungry or your veggies are appetizing which yours is perfect rabbit food.
            If you have not done this I would strongly suggest chicken wire surrounding the growing area. This is metal chicken wire with 1 inch hexagonal openings. You will also find that baby rabbits will be able to go through this 1 inch opening the first couple of months after they are born. After that, they are too big.
            The fencing MUST be buried a couple inches deep all around the perimeter. The fencing must have NO openings at all. If they are overlapped, overlap them about a foot and join them together with wires so they cannot be pushed open.
            The fencing needs to be at least two feet high and supported with metal stakes so that it cannot be bent to the ground. I usually use a top wire that goes from stake to stake to support the top of the fencing and keep it upright.
            I hope this helps but this is pretty classic rabbit damage. They will be there early in the morning and disappear just after sunup.

Avocado Very Iffy in Cold Desert

Q. I ordered an avocado tree online and followed the directions for care.  I understood it was compatible with the Las Vegas climate but it kept loosing leaves.  New leaves would grow but I finally gave up on it.  Just for fun, I presoaked a pit from a fresh avocado and I planted it outside and it's doing well.  Now that the weather is cooling down, should I leave it in the ground or transplant it to a pot and bring it inside? What do you recommend I do with it in the spring?  Would it ever bear fruit?
Super Avocado weighing in at over 2 lbs. (Photo courtesy Rare Fruit Society of the Philippines)
A. A lot of people would really love to grow avocados here but they are very "iffy" in our climate. For the most part, I would discourage most gardeners from planting them. If you could get it to survive here it would bear fruit.
            The usual reason for dropping leaves is a watering problem; going from dry to wet and back again. If you are going to experiment with an avocado I would suggest putting down a 4 to 6 inch layer of wood mulch around the trees but keep the mulch a foot away from the trunk in the first five years. I think you will see a big difference.
Avocados of Zimbabwe on display at local fair in Harare
            If you just HAVE to grow an avocado tree, focus on the more cold hardy types such as the variety ‘Mexicola”. Find a warm spot in the yard out of the wind. Store bought avocado fruit, such as Hass or Fuerte, are not cold hardy varieties. These would be destined as houseplants or grown in greenhouses.
            Avocados are really big trees. Another possibility is to try a dwarf avocado and put it in a container. There is one true dwarf avocado called ‘Wurtz’ or marketed sometimes as ‘Little Cado’. This variety does not tolerate any freezing temperatures at all so you must move it into a spot that will not freeze at the first hint of a frost.
            If you just want to play around and experiment then by all means do that. Just remember that avocados are typically not tolerant of our winter cold.