Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
July, 2010
Regional Report

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Hang a brown paper bag filled with newspaper to prevent hornets from nesting.

Bugs Be Gone!

I recently made a trip up to Paradise. Not the one in heaven - the one that's up by Chico. Dear friends have a beautiful second home there and I was invited to spend the weekend with them in the mountains.

My usual stomping ground is pretty much bug free unless we take the boat up to the Delta where there are mosquitoes with teeth like machetes.

I knew right away that I wasn't in the real heavenly Paradise because the one I was visiting had buzzing bugs, and big ones. My friend Sandy is allergic to all kinds of bug bites and unfortunately, she is the person who always gets bitten first.

This year is a doozy for bugs because of all the rain we had during the spring. Expect to see clouds of mosquitoes and armies of yellow jacket wasps once the warm weather sets in.

There were big black hornets flying around the deck, searching for the perfect spot to build their nest. Sandy decided to stay indoors rather than to take a chance of being stung. I had read somewhere that if you "inflate" and hang a paper grocery bag under the eaves, hornets will assume the territory is already occupied and will move on in search of a new location to build their nest. I filled a brown paper bag with newspaper, tied the end with string and hung it up. The hornets were curious about the rival nest at first and then, eventually, disappeared all together! There are commercial versions of this same diversion you can purchase, but the simple paper bag trick worked just fine.

Getting rid of mosquitoes will take a little more work. Find and empty all sources of standing water. Mosquitoes can breed in as little a 1/4 cup of water, so do a complete search of your garden including saucers under pots. Bird baths should be cleaned and refilled daily to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

If you are planning to spend time outdoors and the mosquitoes are bad, set up a big electric fan. Mosquitoes don't like to fly where it is breezy. Another trick, if you are susceptible to bug bites, is to use Bounce Fabric Softener sheets - the kind that you put in the dryer - as a bug repellent. Simply rub the dryer sheet over exposed skin. I understand that most US Postal carriers carry a dryer sheet in their pockets.

Yellow jacket wasps can ruin an outdoor gathering. They are ground nesting wasps that are most active during their breeding season, which is late summer and fall here in the West. The best offense is a good defense, so purchase commercial wasp traps and hang them around outdoor living areas, but not too close. The wasps are attracted to the traps by pheromones, so place them far enough away from the house so that the wasps aren't "in your face." Keep the pheromone bait fresh throughout the summer. Also keep fallen fruit raked up from under trees and keep pet food indoors to prevent wasps from dining in your yard.

Honey Bees
Honey bees are another stinging insect, but please don't discourage them from visiting your garden. They are a valuable asset. Instead, try not to wear bright colors or perfume when working in the garden and don't move too quickly, which will frighten the bees into defensive action.

By using these simple tricks, both you and the insects will be able to enjoy the great outdoors this summer!

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