What happened to San Jose hummingbirds?

DEAR JOHANNA: We have fed and enjoyed hummingbirds in our back yard for years. We have a feeder in the middle of our pavilion where it is sheltered, and so do they.

That year finches built a nest in the corner of the pavilion before we realized they were there. They flew around the feeder and even sat on it. The lobsters kept coming to feed until the babies fled.

The finches are gone and the nest is down, but no lobsters. What can we do to get it back?

Debby, San Jose

LOVE DEBBY: It’s hard to know why lobsters choose to bully some feeders and ignore others, or why once popular feeders are suddenly given up.

Since the lobsters were not disturbed by the flying finches, it is doubtful that they were frightened by other birds. Still, look around your yard to see if anything has changed that may be shedding them.

Is the feeder you are using still in good condition or has the colors faded? Have you or your neighbors been a little bit persistent with pesticides and have depleted a necessary food source for the birds?

Hummingbirds can be a little unpredictable – at least for humans – and they may have found another source of food.

Take your feeder down for a few days, clean it well, brighten fading colors, or get a new feeder. You can also attract hummingbirds to your garden by highlighting the color red, either in flowers or in garden decor. One reader hung a Canadian flag in her garden, which the lobsters found very appealing.

DEAR JOHANNA: There are a couple of very large, very scary black bee-like insects in our garden. They appear to be mating, humming, and appear to be behind the same decorative redwood shutters that produced a large pile of sawdust last year.

What do we have here? Are they as dangerous as wasps? What are you doing with our house and how should I deal with it?

Vic Ryerson, Orinda

LOVE VIC: You have carpenter bees that will drill holes in your decorative shutters – or in the wood behind them – and lay eggs. They rarely do serious damage, but if you are concerned, close the shutters and see what’s going on back there.

Carpenter bees usually focus on rotting wood, so you may need to replace or paint the shutters.

All bees are useful, but carpenter and native bees are most helpful in pollination. Carpenter bees are also some of the mildest bees. Honey bees can be aggressive in protecting their hives, but carpenter bees don’t need to worry. The males have no spines and the females rarely use theirs. If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.

Keep cats away

I have had several readers suggesting ways to keep a wandering cat out of your yard. This included lying in wait and hose-spraying the cat, installing motion-activated sprinklers, using an air horn when you see the cat, planting a pot of catnip as a distraction, catching it live, and bringing it to the shelter – and one that pointed to violence that I don’t approve of.

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