Q: We have carpenter bees in our deck. Are they harmful to the deck and do you have any suggestions on how to get rid of them?

A: Carpenter bees make holes in untreated, weathered wood, including decks. However, while the bees can be annoying, they are not immediately detrimental to the structure in which they have bored holes. Carpenter bees do not consume wood as food as termites do, but simply create tunnels for nesting sites. More damage comes from the other predators these bees attract. Woodpeckers may be drawn to your infested deck, and will cause damage as they look for the bees and other insects. If the bees continue to infest the same wood structure year after year, after a long period there may also be some structural damage.

One of the best ways to prevent carpenter bees from invading would be to coat your deck with an oil-based polyurethane or stain, or paint. There are paints with insecticides added to them that may also be helpful. If there are nail holes or exposed saw cuts in the wood, fill them with wood putty or painted dowels. There are pesticides available that you can spray into the holes, but you may want to try some of the preventive measures first and leave the chemicals as your last resort.

Q: What makes a rainbow?

A: To understand what makes a rainbow, you need to understand that sunlight is a mixture of many colors. Thanks to the Earth’s atmosphere, which bounces light waves around, the sun looks yellow and the sky looks blue. The colors in sunlight can be separated by using a prism; the simplest being a triangular bar of glass. Light waves going into it are bent. Each color in sunlight has a slightly different wavelength, and each wavelength or color bends at a slightly different angle. Sunlight shining into a prism comes out as bands of colors ranging from red through all the colors to violet. This is called the spectrum.

Glass prisms aren’t the only things that bend light. Diamonds cut for jewelry break light up in such a way that colors flash out of the stones. Even drops of water can bend the light that falls on them in the right way. In nature, this happens frequently and creates rainbows. When sunlight passes through air that is full of water droplets, each of the billions of droplets acts as tiny prisms, bending the light into its separate colors.

Colorful rainbows can also be seen when the sun’s rays are passing through a waterfall. You can make your own rainbow with a garden hose. Stand with your back to the sun at a time of the day when the sun is low in the sky. Point the nozzle of the hose upward and turn on the fine spray. Rainbows can happen anywhere there is light and water droplets to bend the light.

Q: My cucumbers are bitter this year. Do you have any suggestions?

A: A cucumber that grows in dry, hot weather can turn bitter. Cucumbers do best when harvested often, so try to harvest them as many times as possible. Know the size of the variety you grew. Pickling cucumbers are, of course, smaller than other varieties. Let the vegetable grow to a good size and then pick. Before eating one, you may want to chop a piece off the stem end and taste.

Write to Farmers’ Almanac, P.O. Box 1609, Lewiston, ME 04241 or e-mail: [email protected]

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