Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Feeding Bees, Using Soapy Water, and Treating Bagworms

A homemade bee feeder.

A homemade bee feeder. Photo: Eilish Bongiovanni.

Feeding Bees

A concerned birdwatcher sent this email, “These bees have been swarming/feeding on my hummingbird feeders for more than a week. I made a mason jar feeder with wicks through the lid with the same hummingbird nectar.

Question: is this good for the bees, or should I remove these feeders and let nature take its course? (That mason jar was filled to the top this morning.)”

Yes, it is ok because the recipe for hummingbird nectar is the same as the sugar syrup that beekeepers use to feed their bees during the winter when there is very little for honeybees to forage.

Our Extension friend from Iowa State University share some information about preventing bees from foraging at hummingbird feeders, “Bee guards’ are available for most current hummingbird feeders and can be purchased at bird feeder retail outlets. Bee guards are small red or yellow perforated plastic caps that fit over or into each feeding tube like a grate. Hummingbirds are able to feed from grated feeders by reaching their slender beaks through the square holes of the grate to the solution deeper within. Insect mouth parts are generally too short to reach the solution. Bee guards do help keep bees away to some extent. However, wasps are not so easily discouraged and may persist in trying to feed on the sugar water.”

Spots on a flower.

Aphids infesting a hibiscus flower. Photo: LSU AgCenter

Using Soapy Water

Ed asked thoughtful question about using soapy water to treat insects, “When [you were] talking about soapy water solution [in our Master Gardener class], what is a good ratio or mix rate. [Let’s] say I was to use a quart spray bottle or gallon sprayer, how many ounces of Dawn™ would I use in either one? Probably too simple a question but one that begs an answer.”

The answer to Ed’s question is to mix 2.5 oz per gallon of Dawn™ or other liquid soap for soft-bodied insects. The AgCenter recommends, “When needed, control aphids [and mealybugs] with sprays of light horticultural oils (Year-Round Spray Oil™ or All Seasons Oil™) or insecticidal soap.”

A bagworm.

A bagworm under an eave. Photo: Ruth Jones.

Treating Bagworms

Ruth is helped a friend with this email, “My friend has these critters hanging under the eve of her house. They are very difficult to pull loose. Can you tell us what they are?”

AHA thought that this insect was a bagworm but was unsure. Dr. James Villegas, an AgCenter entomologist, helped with this ID, “I think you're right. Those look like cocoons of plaster bagworm. They can be found on trees but also in exterior walls and ceilings, garages, and sometimes inside homes.

Ms. Carol Pinnell-Alison, an Area Horticulture Agent in Franklin Parish provided these comments for treating bagworms, “Parasitic wasps can reduce the numbers of bagworms. Hand picking and destroying the bags can be affective when there are low numbers. A foliage spray with an insecticide in early June applied in the late afternoon when the bags are small can be effective. Bacillus thuringiensis, ([Bt] a biological [insecticide such as Dipel™ or Thuricide™), Orthene TTO™, Malathion™ and Carbaryl [such as Sevin™] are some recommended insecticides. Always check the front of the label to make sure you are purchasing the correct active ingredient. Read the product label for mixing instructions and handling precautions.”

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits, and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337.284.5188 or

“Before you buy or use an insecticide product, first read the label, and strictly follow label recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

2/28/2023 9:19:14 PM
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