Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Garden Bee, Pollinator Aid, and Fire Ant Control Near a Pond

Honeybee sitting on some straw.

A honey bee foraging on straw mulch. Photo: Brittinie DeVille, Cenla Master Gardener, Forest Hill, LA

Garden Bee

Brittinie, a Master Gardener, shared an observation in her garden, “I was wondering if you would happen to know of what might be going on in my garden regarding some honeybees? I thought you would be the person to ask giving your bee knowledge.

When I planted my garden I laid down a layer of straw for mulching. By the next morning, I had about 15-20 honeybees flying around the straw mulch. They crawl around in it then fly to a new spot and crawl around, on repeat. I attached some photos of the bees in the straw. Do you have an idea on why they seem to be attracted to this straw or my garden beds suddenly?”

AHA consulted with some beekeepers, some of whom shared their comments. Stacy B. believed, “My thought is they are getting something out of the straw to help them make propolis, maybe? … So maybe they are using straw for that purpose.” Propolis is the equivalent of “bee caulking” to seal cracks in beehives. Bees will use natural resources to make propolis.

Gary made this observation, “Looking closely[at the picture, I see] there is moisture showing on the straw. [It] could be as simple as a convenient watering place to carry moisture back to the hive.”

Bumblebee on a flower.

A native bumblebee. Photo: David Cappaert,

Plant list for the Southeast.

A pollinator plant list for southeastern US. Source: Xerces Society.

Pollinator Aid

Harlan, a beekeeper, wanted to help native bees, “I read your article about honeybees vs. native bees and the value of each. I just began raising honeybees as a hobby (only two hives)…what can I do to improve the plight of the native bee populations? “

The Xerces Society, , has some information on conserving wild native bees:

  • Create, Restore, and Manage Habitat: “Growing the right flowers, shrubs, and trees with overlapping bloom times is the single most effective course of action to support pollinators from spring through fall.” This site provides guidance on planning, site preparation, installation, and maintenance.
  • Provide Access to Nesting Sites:” Nesting resources can take many forms - from natural to man-made.” The AgCenter has a publication, “Gardening and Landscaping Practices for Nesting Native Bees”, available online for downloading.
  • Managing Pests While Protecting Pollinators: “. It is critical that we work simultaneously to reduce use of pesticides and to minimize the risk of pesticides to pollinators where pesticides are used.” Most pesticide labels have information on protecting pollinators in a red diamond-shaped box.
  • Pick the Right Plants: “Native plants, which are adapted to local soils and climates, are usually the best sources of food and shelter for native pollinators. Incorporating native wildflowers, shrubs, trees, vines, grasses, and more into any landscape helps a diversity of wildlife, and provides benefits to soil, water, and air quality. Additionally, most native plants can flourish in poor soils and require minimal irrigation.” The Xerces Society has a regional plant list for the southeastern United States at its website.

Fire ants near a pond.

Fire ant colonies near a pond. Photo: Dr. Bart Drees, University of Florida.

Fire Ant Control Near a Pond

A homeowner wanted to treat fire ants near a pond. AHA looked at the pesticide labels of various insecticides and learned that these products will kill fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Dr. Aaron Ashbrook, an entomologist with the AgCenter, supplied his counsel on controlling fire ants near a sensitive site, “There are two products that can be used on fire ant mounds in these cases. Boric acid or D-limonene applied directly to the mounds. They will take longer to clear the mounds but are reduced risk treatments.” The products that Dr. Ashbrook suggested are readily available for purchase online.

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.”

1/17/2024 9:40:50 PM
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