Dear MOTHER: June/July 2017

Reader letters about solar panels, carpenter bees, lambing, and more.

  • A livestock guardian dog overlooks sheep in the pasture.
    Photo by Fotolia/Daniel Meunier
  • Chuck and Shelley Guthroel of Valley Grove, West Virginia, use Mother Earth News magazines to support their solar panels before installation.
    Photo by Chuck & Shelley Guthoerl
  • Josh's daughter, Julia, holds Sherlene, one of their Shetland lambs.
    Photo by Josh Tanner
  • Dotty and her calf enjoy green pastures as part of Christine and her husband's small herd of Texas Longhorns.
    Photo by Christine Grafe
  • Donna's dairy goat watches over her cute quintuplets.
    Photo by Donna Harris

Get Rid of Carpenter Bees Naturally

Please help. I have mason bees that keep coming back to my door frames. I’ve built a house for them near my garden and another simpler one closer to my house. But they continue to drill holes into my door frames. I’ve tried various things, including plugging their holes with moth balls, painting the wood, etc. I don’t want to kill the bees; I just want them to build a house elsewhere. What can I do?

Cassandra Patton
Royal, Arizona

Cassandra, based on your description, it sounds like you may be dealing with carpenter bees rather than mason bees. Mason bees are typically quite small and use already existing holes in which to make their solitary nests, while carpenter bees are larger (think bumblebee-sized) and bore holes into wood. The good news is that you have some options. Typically, experts agree that painting exposed wood surfaces is one of the most effective means of protection against carpenter bees. Since painting hasn’t worked for you, you might try coating the door frames with citrus oil or tea tree oil as a deterrent. You can also try plugging the holes with steel wool or taping pieces of aluminum window screen over the holes for a few weeks (while the bees are out), and then fill the holes with wood putty. If you’re interested in rehoming them, you might consider the above options in addition to placing some untreated softwood logs in a dry, protected area away from your home to serve as a more attractive option for the carpenter bees to burrow into. They do, after all, help pollinate many garden crops, such as corn, beans, peppers, and blackberries. — Mother

Beneficial Pollinators and Garden Predators

I’ve been an avid reader for many years. It was Mother that really taught me the importance and productivity of good organic gardening. Regarding bugs, it took many years for a really noticeable change to take place in the garden. I never thought I’d be a part-time entomologist, but what I’ve noticed is a growing number of pollinators and predator bugs. Once my garden achieved this stage, I’ve not had to fight against the “bad” bugs. My cherry trees still need extra protection, so I buy green lacewings to take care of an aphid infestation. Thank you Mother Earth News, and keep up the fight for all of us.

Joseph Ford
Zion, Illinois

Mother Earth News Supports Solar

In August 2012, we installed our first 24 solar panels on the roof of our home in West Virginia. An engineering firm assisted us with the arrangement, placement, and ordering of materials. My husband and stepson did the actual installation. It went well and performed flawlessly. In March 2014, we added four more panels, and this year, we decided to max out the two electric circuits we have for the panels, adding another six panels. While waiting for a suitable stretch of weather this February, we stored the panels in our sunroom. We needed something to keep them off the floor, so my husband reached for the closest thing at hand. As you can see from the photo, Mother Earth News supports our solar installation. We generate more than 50 percent of what we use in our completely electric household and couldn’t be happier with our decision to install solar.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


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