Lawn and garden questions bloom as spring weather rolls in

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2014

The unusual weather this spring has many people asking questions about lawns, gardens and insect pests. Cooperative Extension has received many inquiries over the past few weeks that may be of interest.

Question: I have bees boring into the soil around my house. These look much like a honeybee, but are much darker. Are they any benefit or should I try to eliminate them?

Answer: These are solitary bees. These are insects boring into clay soils. They look much like honey bees hovering over the soil. Unlike honeybees or hornets, they are solitary and live by themselves. They are excellent pollinators and not aggressive like yellow jackets or hornets, so if you can live with them they are quite beneficial. However, in some instances, they can be a nuisance to homeowners, especially those with severe allergic reactions or small children. Lawn insecticides will control the insect if necessary. Go to for more detailed information.

Question: I have a fig bush that still has not leafed out this spring. Is the plant dead?
Answer: The unusually cold weather this winter killed many figs back to the ground. Figs are half hardy in our area and with colder than normal weather many plants succumbed to cold weather. Wait a few more weeks; your fig bush may come back and sprout from the ground. If the fig has not sprouted by mid-June, the plant should be presumed dead, killed by colder than normal winter weather.

Question: There are little red bugs that look like mites all over my plants, window sills and on the deck. Are these harmful? What can I do to get rid of them?
Answer: The bugs are actually clover mites. Clover mites come out early in the spring and are more a nuisance than a threat to plant or man. They usually go away as it gets warmer. Go to for more detailed information.

Question: I found a snake in my yard. I’m really afraid of snakes. How do I keep them away?
Answer: The best way to control snakes of all types is to keep your lawn mowed and clean up any debris primarily where snakes and their food (mice) can hide (The snake was identified as a black rat snake.) There are some products on the market that claim to repel snakes.

Darrell Blackwelder is the county extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970 or online at