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Bees are looking for water this time of year

Q: My daughter has an above-ground swimming pool and she is encountering a lot of bees floating on her pool water. First, she is not happy to see them die. Second, she is not happy for them to be there as her son and daughters swim in the pool and don’t want to get stung. Any suggestions?

A: The bees are looking for water to take back to their hives. When it is hot out, bees are continuously hauling water back to the hives to keep it cool. And they drown because the pool is not shallow.

Your daughter can try putting out a shallow depression in the landscape away from the pool and see whether the bees will land there instead. The bees would prefer to haul water from a place that has a very shallow amount of water like the edge of a pond or stream.

This way, the bees can land on solid ground, take water and fly away. Once the bees find the water, they may make lots of trips to it for water and be regular visitors. There is a hive somewhere fairly close.

Q: My husband planted some gorgeous petunias in early April. At first they were all blooming and the planters were beautiful, but now there isn’t a single flower in either planter. We noticed a tiny black insect on the plants and there were many holes in the leaves so my husband sprayed them with Sevin thinking that would do the trick. All we have are two planters filled with very healthy green plants but no flowers.

A: This is most likely tobacco budworm. Tobacco budworm larvae or worms put holes in leaves and eat flower and leaf buds. The black drops you are seeing is probably budworm “poop” from eating the plant.

Spray the plants with a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide, Bt or spinosad. Sevin will probably work, but the problem with Sevin is that it kills bees, and when plants are in flower, bees are normally attracted to them. Spray plants in the evening or very early morning hours when bees are not active.

Q: Why are so many of the leaves on my locust tree turning yellow?

A: The most frequent problem with locust trees, Idaho or black locust, is borers in the trunks. This will cause exactly what you’re talking about: yellowing of leaves and leaf drop.

This is followed by branch dieback. Dieback of limbs may take a couple of seasons after the initial borer attack, but if you aren’t looking for borer damage early, you will see leaf drop a couple of years into the attack.

Borers entered the trees usually where the tree is sunburned. This is normally on the west and south facing sides of the trunk or limbs. Horizontal limbs may be damaged on the upper surfaces, too.

Check the bark on the trunk or limbs to see whether it’s loose. It may easily pull away from the trunk particularly on the south and west sides. Damage is usually on larger diameter parts of the tree.

Remove bark away from damage to areas and clean the damage down to fresh wood. You don’t need to paint it, but if you want it painted, paint it.

Use a liquid insecticide soil drench to help protect the tree and enable it to recover during early stages of an attack.

Q: Is it possible to grow kiwi in Las Vegas? I love the flowers and big leaves on the vine and am not looking for a big harvest.

A: Kiwi requires a growing season of at least 220 days, which we have, and that is one thing in our favor. What works against it are our low winter temperatures, strong sun, low humidity, strong winds and desert soils.

Kiwi can handle hot, arid conditions up to about 115 degrees Fahrenheit without too much difficulty. This will run a bit contrary to what you might read in the literature.

You can do it but you need to put it in a warm winter microclimate somewhere in your landscape. Once kiwi gets established, it can handle lower winter temperatures. Protecting it from freezing temperatures when it is young will be important.

Kiwi doesn’t like windy locations either. Wind deflectors or wind barriers will help.

Kiwi also doesn’t like our alkaline desert soils or soils with a lot of salt. Soil improvement and good drainages is a must.

Prepare the soil thoroughly with amendments and leach the soil with lots of water before planting to remove the salts. Make sure the soil drains easily so you might want to plant in a raised bed.

Plant where it gets morning and early afternoon sun but protected from late afternoon sun.

Kiwi is a vine, so you’ll need to construct some sort of trellis to support it. This is a plant that will not tolerate dry soils, so make sure the soil is kept moist during the summer months.

I would use a 3- to 4-inch layer of wood mulch on the surface. This will help kiwi a lot.

Bob Morris is a horticulture expert living in Las Vegas and professor emeritus for the University of Nevada. Visit his blog at xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com. Send questions to Extremehort@aol.com.

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