In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
September, 2006
Regional Report

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2237

Bees always work the hibiscus, but this one stayed at least 3 minutes buried in one flower.

Busy Bees

Are creatures behaving differently lately, or is it just in my garden? Usually shy, both doves and possums have come out of the shadows, and bees that usually work an assortment of flowers are concentrating only on one hibiscus. What can we learn from their behavior?

The Buzz
Recent reports from Alabama surprised entomologists and stunned many gardeners. There are no superlatives to describe yellow jacket nests the size of buildings. Huge numbers of yellow jacket drones, multiple queens, and remarkably docile behavior set these colonies apart from the norm. While it's unlikely you'll have a close encounter with such a nest, it is crucial to understand yellow jacket behavior to control them in your garden.

At this time of year, the insects are very active and often angry. Stumble onto them and you will get stung, painfully and sometimes dangerously. Look for small, yellow- and black-striped insects hovering over the mulch or under a plant. Yellow jackets are usually no more than half an inch long and dart quickly. Even so, their coloration makes them easy to spot. When you locate the scene of their activity, wait until dark and arm yourself with solution of liquid insecticide and pour it on the area. The stinging bad boys go home before dark, so control is more effective, and safer for you.

Squirrel Stash
Lots of people watch the squirrels to predict a coming winter's severity. My grandfather said that if it's a good year for acorns, it'll be a bad year for people. He gauged it by both the number that fell and the zest with which the squirrels gathered them. A few years back, the squirrels set up acorn caches around my property, and the winter was colder than most. Their leftovers sprouted nicely among my daylilies and iris, giving me weeds to pull and squirrels to curse. This year, the squirrels are still racing through the trees, dancing like the grasshopper in the old fable instead of stockpiling food. I hope they're right and we have a mild winter ahead.

Gardeners tell me there have been more pesky insects than ever before this year, and reports about pines damaged by borers are widespread. But I have also noticed more lizards and ladybug beetles along with the nasty canna leaf rollers.

If "the times are a changin,' " another of my gardening grandfather's sayings may help. He was offering advice to a young job-seeker: "Pay attention, change what you do if you have to, but not who you are." We may adopt new strategies as the populations and habits of the critters around us change, but we'll still be gardeners.


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