1) leaves. 2) bees #733303 - Ask Extension

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1) leaves. 2) bees #733303

Asked November 05, 2020, 5:29 PM EST

My Norway maple and Ash trees are busily shedding leaves. I have no grass, and therefore no lawnmower to mulch them. Cordless blowers with the mulch function are fairly expensive, plus very noisy. If I pile leaves on the yard to keep weeds down, they become matted and seem to take forever to break down. If I put them in a big pile or two to eventually break down over the years, I think they will lose most/all nutrients, but at least I can use them. Any suggestions on their use or other ways to mulch them? I do not use any pesticides in my yard. Second question: I want to transplant a small bush to a specific place. Unfortunately when I pulled weeds in that specific place several months ago, I must have disturbed ground bees and I was stung multiple times. When is it safe for me to dig in that area? Do bees die out when weather gets cold? The bees were kind of gray and black as I recall. Thanks so much for any advice you can offer. Yours is a truly great service for the community.

Lane County Oregon

Expert Response

You have the beginnings of a great compost pile which can break down over the winter/early spring for your garden. The leaves are the carbon source, so you need to add nitrogen to kickstart the decomposition. The leaves and the nitrogen source (manure from herbivores or poultry or vegetable waste) will heat up, killing any pathogens and turning into a terrific soil amendment. You can also use them in a sheet mulching program. The trick is to get them started and to maintain oxygen in the pile. Here is how:
https://extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/1/ntosoils-compostingandthectonratio...
As to the ground bees, in the freezing weather they will be absent or quiescent, depending on which one you have. Ground dwelling bees are usually solitary, but sometimes have burrows next to each other. They are rarely aggressive and sting 
unless they feel under attack. Your description does not seem to fit the true digger type bees as they also prefer dry and or sandy soil or crevices. Are you sure there was no yellow on them? Yellow jackets also live in the ground and are very hostile. They occupy a nest only until winter when all but the queen die off.
Pat Patterson Replied November 06, 2020, 12:29 PM EST
Thanks very much for the response and information.  Really appreciated it.

As far as the bees, there was no yellow on them.  The soil in the area where they were was quite dry.  I reached down to pull some weeds, and got stung several times.  I raced into the house, yanked off my sweater, and kept being attacked by the 3 bees that had gotten under my sweater.  I finally managed to kill them by hitting them with the sweater, but not before getting stung 8 times.  They were extremely hostile.  I should have saved them once dead to show you. 

The Question Asker Replied November 07, 2020, 2:13 PM EST
The fact that they were so social and aggressive argues against most of the digger bees. However, without a picture of the bee, I an go no further.

Pat Patterson Replied November 07, 2020, 4:13 PM EST
Hopefully it will never happen again.  It was quite frightening.  But if it does, hopefully I will have the presence of mind to save at least one of the dead ones and bring it to the Extension for verification.

Judy
The Question Asker Replied November 07, 2020, 5:22 PM EST

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