Editor’s note: Kelly R. Jackson takes questions called into his phone recently at the Christian County Extension Office and answers them in the Garden Corner column.
Question. I have a bird in my yard that keeps attacking my home windows. What’s going on?
Answer. Some birds are territorial, and during the spring mating season they may defend and aggressively attack anything they perceive as competition. This may include their own reflection in your home windows. This behavior is limited to the breeding season, which can extend into July.
In home lawns, the birds most often seen exhibiting this behavior are American robins, northern cardinals and, sometimes, mockingbirds and goldfinches.
Territorial birds are very persistent. Placing fake owls and rubber snakes are ineffective management tools. The only real option is to cover reflective surfaces. You can use a plastic dropcloth to cover windows. Also remember that this behavior is temporary, so you can also be patient and just wait for mating season to end. Most birds are protected by federal law so don’t attempt any practice to eliminate the bird.
Question. I found a swarm of bees in my yard. Now what?
Answer. It is not uncommon for honey bees to swarm once a colony becomes overcrowded. When weather has been good and food plentiful, the population of a honey bee hive can greatly increase.
To balance the hive size, the bees will begin to raise a new queen bee. When the new queen is nearly mature, the old queen will leave the hive, followed by about one half or two-thirds of the worker bees and drones. The queen will land on a tree, bush, or pretty much anything, and the worker bees will cluster around her to keep her warm.
While they wait, scout bees are sent out to search for a new suitable home to move their colony. Once its located, the swarm will move from the tree or shrub to the new home. Back at the old hive, the new queen begins rebuilding her colony until the day their numbers are so many that she will also leave to start a new hive.
Although swarming is a normal and natural phenomenon, a sudden appearance of a large number of honey bees is frightening to many people. However, because there is no honey or brood to protect, a swarm is typically gentle in temperament, they rarely sting and are usually quite harmless. Unless a swarm is an inconvenience to people, they can be left alone for a few days until the scouts find a new home and they fly away.
If you must have the honey bees removed, some beekeepers in our area are more than willing to come collect the bees. You can find a list of available beekeepers on our website at ChristianCountyExtension.com. Keep in mind if bees are high in a tree, inside a wall or some other inaccessible place, the beekeeper may not be physically able to remove the swarm.
Kelly R. Jackson is the Christian County Extension Agent for horticulture. He can be reached at 270-886-6328 or visit Christian County Horticulture online at www.christiancountyextension.com.