Problems with “the birds and the bees”…any advice?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist the title!
Ok, so first the problem with the birds. I have a small orchard of apple, pear and cherry trees that I planted over the last 5 or so years, and FINALLY had an apple tree that was producing apples (I think I need to better nourish the soil to get better production, but that’s another problem for another time). I have been anxiously, happily, expectantly watching the 14 or so apples grow and mature, looking forward to finally starting to reap the rewards of all that work. But last week when I went to check on my apples, I found that almost all of them had big gaping chunks taken out of them! One had ants crawling in it, but it looked more like they were taking advantage of the situation than having caused it. I talked to my next-door neighbor, who also has an apple tree, and he said they’d seen birds in their tree, eating the apples! They had apples last year, so this was new to have the birds ruining them. Has anybody else run into this situation before, and any ideas on how to handle it? I have heard of nets that you can put over trees/berries etc to keep away birds, but I can’t imagine that is how bigger orchards keep birds away (or is it)?
Now for my problem with the bees. Maybe a month ago, I noticed a bumblebee crawling into an opening between the cement landing outside my backdoor, and the wooden walls of the old storage garage attached to my house. Then I saw another… A couple weeks later, I checked a second floor balcony (a fire-escape exit more than anything), and what do I see but a hive-ish thing protruding from the floor, right above the area outside the backdoor where I saw them crawling in. So apparently they’ve found a nice interior framework for building a hive or nest. Greeaaaaaat…. So I have talked to a couple of people and have gotten suggestions from waging “chemical warfare” to calling someone to try to remove the hive. I did some on-line research that suggests just waiting until winter, as the workers will die out. But what I don’t get about that is that if the queen(s) survive, won’t I have this problem all over again next year?
So far the bumblebees have been pretty peaceful in their co-existence, but I can’t say as I’m thrilled for us to be dodging bumblebees every time we go out the backdoor. Not to mention our dogs, who think buzzing bees are something to try to chomp mid-air. (So far no stinging incidents, as far as I know!). And I am concerned the problem could get worse if I let it go. Has anyone else ever had to deal with bumblebees making a hive in/near our house?
…done that. Had them in the attic one summer, wound up just leaving them there (given the troubles bees are having I couldn't bring myself to evict them). Turns out I don't think they cared for the heat in the attic. Haven't seem them this summer at all, they've moved on. Still lots of bumblebees out and about thought, no shortage locally here (PNW, near Seattle).
Are you sure those are not carpenter bees?
Carpenter bees can do structural damage to your house, worse than termites. If that's what you have, you need an exterminator muy pronto.
As to the birds, I always recommend a distraction of some sort. Anything from a feeder on the other side of the property–as far away from the apples as possible!–to something that fruits about when the apples do (like I distract birds from my strawberries with my simultaneously-fruiting mulberries.)
Eventually, there will be enough apples for you and the local wildlife. I don't get mad when the squirrels make off with a few strawberries now that we have such a huge crop. A few of the pears on my husband's family farm are bird-damaged but there are so darned many of the pears that you'd hardly notice. So hang in there. You can go to the trouble and expense of bird netting if you really want to, but the problem should sort itself out as the tree gets bigger and produces more fruit.
Big fat furry suckers. Thanks for the head's up though, I didn't even know there was such a thing as a carpenter bee, yikes!
The usual predator of my apples is squirrels, not birds. I hope that this is an isolated incident for you and the impact will decrease as you get a larger crop.
Carpenter bees and bumblebees among others are pollinators in my orchard. My understanding is that the bore holes that carpenter bees produce are not major problems. I could be wrong. We killed them until we realized how much work they do for us. Now we leave them alone and are experiencing great pollination in the absence of honey bees. Of course, they are not the only wild pollinators at our place…
Thanks for all the good input and advice, everybody!
Carpenter bees?? Oh no! Who knew there was such a thing?! I tried to check for the spot on the back this morning, from the ones crawling on the 2nd floor balcony, but my eyes aren't good enough! It was like trying to read a book with my reading glasses on; I kept moving in closer and closer….then I decided maybe I was getting too close! I'll try again after work today. What I can tell is that the size of the bees is smaller than what I usually associate with a bumblebee, and the abdomen is all black. Yet I don't think the abdomen is a pointy as the pictures of the carpenter bee, and they do seem fuzzy. So I'll have to get a better look for that spot on their backs.
Thanks for the advice re the birds as well… I like the idea of a distracting other food-source that matures at the same time, Wendy. I'll have to see if mulberries can grow in zone 4/5.
Oh crap!! I did another quick look before work, and they definitely have a big black circle on their backs.
Check out the Wikipedia link that Tall provided on post #5. A couple of standout takeaways are that carpenter bees generally don't sting humans, the structural damage is minimal and that carpenter bees are great pollinators.
Yes, if they aren't that bad, I might consider leaving them (I was thinking the same way as you). But other sites say that over time, the structural damage they cause can be bad. So I'm not sure what to believe right now. So I need to figure out where I can get the most reputable info, and go from there.
You could also consider smoking them out. Beekeeper supply places should have the necessary equipment, or maybe you could hire a Beekeeper to do it. Just an idea.