Solitary bees won’t sting and help with pollination

  • Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 12:50 a.m.
    UPDATED: Friday, May 3, 2013 12:55 a.m.
These mounds were likely made by solitary bees that do not live in social hives. These bees make good pollinators and usually don’t sting.
These mounds were likely made by solitary bees that do not live in social hives. These bees make good pollinators and usually don’t sting.

SALISBURY — The weather has been less than perfect for work outdoors, but with the cooler-than-normal temperatures and excessive moisture, many continue to call with questions about their landscapes. Below are a few gardening questions I received earlier this week that may be of interest to other home gardeners.

Question: There are mini-volcanos starting to pop up in sections around our property. Can you tell me if these are cicada killer mounds, or solitary bees? There are very small, fuzzy, dark bees that don’t sting. The mounds are popping up every foot or two in 20-foot by 20-foot sections.

Answer: These are most likely solitary bees, which are primitive without the social order of honeybees, yellow jackets or hornets. Ground nesting bees generally prefer nesting in areas with morning sun exposure and well drained soils containing little organic matter. Solitary bees are excellent pollinators. These bees are not aggressive and they rarely sting. Avoid the nesting area for four to six weeks if possible. Once the nesting is complete, the insects leave and continue pollinating. However, general use insecticides will control them. Go online to for more detailed information.

Question: The cedar trees along my property are covered with orange sticky growths that I have never seen before. It looks like a ball with sticky, orange tentacles growing out of the mass. What are these strange growths and will they kill my trees?

Answer: Cedar-apple rust is a pervasive fungus that is generally not this widespread in our area. Cool, wet conditions this spring have produced a perfect environment for the disease to occur. The fungus requires an alternate host, red cedars (Juniperus sp.) to complete its life cycle on apple trees. The fungus is a major problem on apple trees, producing yellowish-orange spots in the summer. It’s less of a problem on cedar trees. Go online at for more detailed information.

Question: My bearded irises are blooming and spreading. However, they are spreading fast and I need to move them to another location. When is the best time of year to relocate irises?

Answer: The best time to plant bearded iris is July through September. This will allow them to become well established before winter. In a well-prepared bed, dig a shallow hole large enough to accommodate the rhizome or clump of rhizomes. Form a mound of soil in the center for the planting base. Make the mound high enough so the top of the rhizome is slightly above soil level. Spread the roots around the mound; fill with soil, and water them thoroughly. Irises usually have a high success rate when transplanting. Go online to for more detailed information.

Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Call 704-216-8970.

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