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MSU Extension Service

Home Grown is an educational, entertaining, question-answer column seen weekly in "News from the Genesee MSUE Office," a weekly newsletter for Genesee County Master Gardeners. Special thanks to the Genesee, Oakland and Livingston county MSU Extension offices for providing this service.

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HOME GROWN 416

I have some black and yellow things that I think are bees and they are going through the little cracks in my deck. When we go out there, we get stung. I spray the cracks but they don't die. Then, a distance from my house there is this paper football thing hanging on the lower branch of a big shrub. There are more bees there but they don't bother us. I thought all the bees were dead or ran away. Then why are they all at our house?

They're not all at your house. And they aren't even bees. These are guys that belong to the wasp family. And as we all know, it's a big and confusing family. Included in the wasp family are paper wasps, mud daubers, cicada killers, hornets and yellow jackets, to name a few. None are bees. Wasps have the ability to sting you and pull the stinger out and whack you again and again. Bees sting once and pull their stinger out of you and die. In the wasp family, some are highly aggressive and others are mild and pleasant. But if you have family members who have violent reactions to wasp stings, friendly or not, they have to go. Your combat tactics on the deck wasps is flawed. That's why they are still there. Sprays don't get to the nest. Buy a can or bag of five percent Sevin Garden Dust. The chemical ingredient is carbaryl. You only want the powdered form. Sevin is very deadly to bees and wasp. Tonight, when it's dark, slip silently out to the deck with your weapon of mass destruction, the Sevin. Dust it liberally over those little cracks were you have seen them. Don't be stingy. You want the wasps squeezing through those cracks tomorrow morning to get a liberal coating. Some will drag it back to the nest. If you got the right place on the deck, everyone will be dead in several hours. Watch carefully to make sure there is no more activity before declaring victory. If there are still a few wasps, give that area an additional coating that night. Wasps have no night vision and you can be very close to their home territory and they won't know it if you are quiet and use no lights. If house lights illuminate the deck, shut them off. Since the paper football wasps are peaceful, they are probably bald-faced hornets. You can leave them or if you need to kill them, here's what to do. Check during the day from a safe distance and look for the hole near the bottom of the nest. Buy wasp and hornet spray that will shoot 12 to 20 feet. After dark, spay the hole until you empty the can. There is going to be a lot of pesticide misted into the interior. If there is no activity the next day, it's over. If there is activity, repeat. And the bees are still missing in action.

I have some small white pines that have been planted for three years. Most of them are suddenly turning yellow or brown. I let the rain take care of their moisture needs. They are Michigan's state tree; they're native. So why are they dying?

We aren't having native weather. This is great weather if you live in Mississippi or Alabama. It's hot and very dry for Michigan and Michigan trees. Your choice is either to interfere with nature's dry broil summer or loose the trees. The brown ones are dead and the yellow ones are right behind them. If there are others not tap dancing on the coffin lid, water them and save them. By the time you see the color change to yellow, they have departed for the great compost pile in the sky. If you don't want to water, cold-hardy cactus would be a better landscaping choice.

Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture
Agent 517/546-3950

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