Question: I want to have more bees visit my yard and garden. I made a bee house out of straws and a piece of PVC pipe, but the bees must have died because nothing came out of the straws last spring. What can I do to get more bees?

Answer: Give the bees what they need. Putting a few bee houses in your landscape is one way to invite bees to your yard and garden, but there are also other things bees look for.

Avoid insecticides. The most important bee-friendly feature in a landscape is low, or no, chemical use, especially insecticides. There are many effective ways to manage pests and weeds without relying on broad spectrum insecticides.

A bonus for reducing your chemical use will be an increase in insect predators and parasitoids that will help to keep pest population in check.

There are many ways to deal with pests without using insecticides but if you must use one, choose a product that is less toxic to bees. Read the label carefully and follow any bee safety precautions.

Target the problem area and spot spray, instead of spraying the entire landscape. Apply the insecticide in the evening when bees aren’t as active, don’t spray plants that are in bloom and avoid using insecticidal dusts, as they can easily drift onto blossoms.

Dusts are also more likely to cling to bees’ bodies and be carried back to their nests. If you accidentally do spray flowering plants, prune or mow off the blossoms to protect your bees.

Bees also need food. That means you need to plant a variety of flowering plants so that there are pollen and nectar sources throughout the spring, summer and fall. Leave some of the blossoms on your herbs and vegetables if they bolt and flower, plant ornamental annuals like sunflowers, alyssum, zinnias, cosmos and include flowering shrubs like Blue mist (Caryopteris), Rose of Sharon, or Ninebark.

A water source will also encourage bees to stick around. Try a shallow birdbath or dish with some pebbles or marbles that the bees can stand on while they drink. Don’t forget to change the water at least once a week.

Most bee species are ground nesting bees. If you’re serious about increasing the number of bees that forage in your yard and garden, you’ll leave some patches of undisturbed bare soil in your flower and shrub beds. You don’t have to give up the bark nuggets or other mulches that you’re used to using, just leave a little bit of real estate here and there that ground nesting bees can call home.

If you could see that bees did nest in your bee house, but didn’t survive the winter, the problem may have been with the materials you used to make their house. Plastic materials aren’t an ideal choice because moisture can build up in the straws, making it easier for diseases to affect the health and vigor of the larvae and pupating bees.

Try setting up a few bee houses again this year but use breathable materials instead of plastic. You can make tubes from thin cardboard, hollow bamboo or reeds, old hollow plant stems, or even bundles of small twigs.

You could also simply drill holes in a block of untreated wood. The tubes or holes should be between four and eight inches long or deep. Varying diameters will help you attract a variety of bees.

Secure your bee house at about eye height in a stable location where it will be protected from splashing rain and intense afternoon sun. Direct morning sunlight on the front of the house will help your bees to wake up and get busy in the morning, but afternoon sun during our hot summers can overheat your bee house and kill developing bees.

Question: I started some rose cuttings in a mix of mulch and perlite in the fall, and they seemed to be doing well. They even started to grow a little, but a few weeks ago they stopped growing. What can I do?

Answer: Are you sure the cuttings have rooted? Sometimes cuttings can show small signs of new growth when they aren’t really rooted yet. Tug very gently on the cuttings; if there is any resistance, the cuttings are rooted.

If there is no resistance, tip the pot on its side and very gently scoot the perlite mix and cuttings out to examine the stems for signs of rooting. If the cuttings look healthy tuck them back into the pot.

Cuttings need warmth to root well. Put the pot in a warm spot and give the cuttings more time. Then check again in a few more weeks.

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