Purple martins eat carpenter bees, not mosquitoes

Seen here is a collection of purple martin gourds. Natural gourds are often referred to as the original bird house. Today, they continue to be highly attractive to birds like martins. Their design makes them safe from common predators.

Combined ShapeCaption
Seen here is a collection of purple martin gourds. Natural gourds are often referred to as the original bird house. Today, they continue to be highly attractive to birds like martins. Their design makes them safe from common predators.

Q: I have lots of wood-boring bees eating my barn. I was wondering about farms I see with martin houses and hanging gourds. Are these predators of the bees?

-- Mitch Braddon, Roswell

A: According to experts, purple martins eat only flying insects, and they take them only on the wing, not off the ground. Martins eat beetles, flies, dragonflies, mayflies, bees, stink bugs, cicadas, flying ants, damselflies, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers and wasps. Purple martins do not eat huge quantities of mosquitoes. You can buy martin houses or build your own from a kit or from gourds. Another option for gaining a bit of carpenter bee control is to build a trap for them. Details at xrl.us/carpenterbeetrap.

ExploreMore gardening advice from Walter Reeves

Q: I am simply ate up with Chinese privet. I plan to run it through a wood chipper. Is it safe to use or will I still have to worry about it sprouting wherever I use it?

-- Glenn Brannon, Pickens County

A: There's no problem with privet sprouting from the chips. By the time a plant has been reduced to small pieces, the buds are no longer viable.

Q: I am being plagued by little green caterpillars raining down from oak trees on silk strands. The past two weeks, literally thousands have descended onto my cars, home and driveway. They leave copious amounts of tiny black pellet waste.

-- Alecia Bradley, e-mail

A: It's spring cankerworm. The caterpillars mostly feed in trees, but I've heard reports of damage to roses, too. Whatever their origin, they drop down from the plant on a silk thread before pupating in the soil. There is not much to be done when they are in a tree. You could spray the organic Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t., Dipel, Caterpillar Attack, etc.), but getting it high enough to be effective would be difficult. I have more information, plus a recipe for cankerworm sorbet, at xrl.us/cankerworm.

Q: We have a Bermuda lawn, and we would like to put our grass clippings in an island out front. There are azaleas and trees in the island. Is there any disadvantage to us doing this?

-- Nancy Hightower, e-mail

A: You can spread a layer of grass clippings an inch thick with no problems. When a layer has pretty much disappeared, add another layer. Do not allow a thick layer of clippings to accumulate. It will prevent moisture from getting down to the roots of your plants.

Q: I have a nice stand of a curly leaf English ivy mixed with wild honeysuckle. Is there a way to kill the honeysuckle but not the ivy?

-- Vic Hill, e-mail

A: An easy method is to put on a rubber glove and then pull an old cotton sock over it. Spray the sock with glyphosate (Killzall, Roundup, etc.), then wipe the herbicide onto the honeysuckle leaves.

Q: This spring, my wife cut a tulip and put it in a small vase of water. The stem was 3 inches long. After a week, the stem was over 5 inches long. Is it normal for a tulip to continue growing after being cut?

-- Buddy Collins, Mineral Bluff

A: I don't believe the stem is growing from additional cells. My bet is it's growing from the existing cells absorbing water and elongating.

Listen to Walter Reeves 6-10 a.m. Saturdays on AM 750 and 95.5 FM News-Talk WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook fan page at xrl.us/wrfacebook for more garden tips.