Todd Finn -  RE/MAX Partners

Posted by Todd Finn on 4/30/2017

If you've read the news in the last few years you've likely heard about the alarming decline of the bee population. In our daily lives, most of us think of bees only when they're buzzing uncomfortably close to our picnic table. What we don't often realize is the vital role that bees play in pollenating our food supply.

Large farms throughout the country (and throughout the world) hire beekeepers to bring in their colonies for pollination. Without those bees there would be a drastic drop in food production. While drops in bee populations are naturally occurring and fluctuate from year to year, recent years have seen some of the worst declines to date.

Starting to feel bad about swatting at the bees in your backyard?

First you should understand that these declines aren't your fault because you've killed a few bees in your life. Among the stresses that the bee population faces are viruses, mites, climate change, and habitat reduction. It would take a massive culture shift to address all of those issues. But, there are a few things you can do right in your backyard that will lend a small hand in helping out your local bee population.

Know your bees (and what's not a bee)

Many people treat bees, wasps and hornets as interchangeable. Bees are fuzzy pollinators that can sting only once. Common bees include honey bees, bumble bees, and carpenter bees.

Wasps are not fuzzy, and therefore not as effective as pollinators. They prey on insects and can be more aggressive than bees. The only wasps that sting are females, but they can sting multiple times.

Hornets are a sub-species of wasp native to North America. They too can sting multiple times and are known for being the most aggressive of the three. Again, they are not the most effective pollinators.

Bees, wasps, and your backyard

If you've noticed an uptick in the number of bees or wasps on you property it's not necessarily a bad thing. If their numbers are low and you're not concerned about anyone's safety you may decide to leave them be. The bees and wasps will help you by pollinating your flowers, eating surplus insects, and leaving you well alone.

Some ways you can keep your backyard bees healthy include not using pesticides on your lawn or garden. You could also plant more flowers and let your wildflowers grow freely to provide an extra nectar source for the local bees.

Too much of a good thing

If the bees in your yard have grown high in number, are becoming aggressive, or you are worried for the safety of your family (bee sting allergies can be life-threatening) then it might be time to take action.

To avoid becoming part of the problem of declining populations, call in a professional. Some pest control companies still use killing the bees as a solution. But there are companies that are more proactive and attempt to coax away bees and relocate them. Seek out no-kill pest control companies for help.

Your local beekeeper is also an unexpendable resource when it comes to learning what to do about bees. Many beekeepers will even relocate the bees to commercial honey-making hives.

With a bit of research and careful behavior, cohabiting with bees can be beneficial for us and for the little bugs that make our honey.

Posted by Todd Finn on 1/1/2017

There are countless reasons you might want more privacy in your backyard. Whether you live on a busy road and have motorists gawking at you as you cut the grass, or if you live in close proximity with your neighbors and want a bit of alone time on your back patio, we'll cover all of the best ways to get more privacy out of your living space.

Planting your way to privacy

If you want more privacy but don't want to build fences around your yard, one good alternative is to use planned and structured planting to build a natural barrier. This technique is especially beneficial because of the endless variations available on what plants to use. From small shrubs to massive trees, you can determine just how much privacy you want. Similarly, you can choose to layer tress, bushes, plants, and grasses to create a garden-like wall that you and your family can enjoy looking at.

Walls and fences

The standard American household's means of privacy has long been the picket fence. There are a variety of fences on the market and their materials have been updated over the years to become sturdier and less vulnerable to wear than wood. Many old properties have rock walls surrounding their perimeter. If you have a rock wall but it doesn't provide enough privacy, one creative option is to build a small, decorative fence on top of the rock wall. They add a modern look to your wall and increase privacy at the same time.

Take indoor techniques and bring them outside

If you live in an urban area with a very small backyard or patio area one great way to add privacy is to take indoor barriers like curtains and room dividers and use them outside. This will give you the privacy you want but will also make your backyard or patio a cozier place to spend time. Use weather-resistant curtains and dividers when applicable. They will require less cleaning and will last exponentially longer.

Partial privacy options

If you want more privacy but don't want your home to seem like a closed-off fortress there are many partial privacy options to choose from. Some of them are just scaled down versions of the above. For example, you could choose to use dividers or plants only in the area around your patio table. Another great option of partial privacy is to use latticework. To make it more or less private, incorporate plants and vines in the lattice.

Audible privacy

Do you have noisy car traffic on your road? Do you live in the city where there are constant passersby having discussions on the sidewalk? If so you might want to consider some options for audible privacy. Most barriers you put up (a wall or fence, for example) will provide some amount of noise reduction. The properties of the wall will determine just how many decibels will be blocked out. However if you are more concerned with masking or distracting from the outside noise consider using water and nature as a means of audible privacy. Fountains and streams create a pleasant background noise that will drown out some of the background sounds.    

Posted by Todd Finn on 7/31/2016

When spring rolls around our backyards come alive with birds, squirrels, rabbits, and other wildlife native to your area. They're soon followed by their young offspring who they're working tirelessly to feed and raise. Many a well-intentioned homeowner has stumbled upon a baby bird or squirrel in their yard and moved them in an attempt to rescue them. Unfortunately, this often does the animal more harm than good. Whether you've just come across a lone baby animal in your yard or you want to be prepared for when it happens, this article will tell you everything you need to know to make the right decision.

Knowing when to interfere

The most important takeaway from this article is that just because a baby animal is alone does not mean they need your help. The parents of these animals have a hard job. They're trying to feed and rear their offspring while modeling behavior that will help them eventually care for themselves. If you take a baby bird or other animal from its home and attempt to care for it there are several things that could go wrong.
  1. It could die. We are not adept at raising baby animals who sometimes require very specific diets and feeding times that humans cannot provide for.
  2. It might become dependent upon you. This isn't usually a good thing. Wild, undomesticated animals aren't meant to be kept as pets. Furthermore they'll develop trust of humans which can harm them later on.
  3. It will miss out on important lessons from its mother. Birds and other animals learn through imprinting. Without gaining this vital survival knowledge from its parents a baby animal won't survive on its own for long.

When to help

There are certain instances when it is okay to interfere. Again, finding an animal alone is not sufficient cause for concern. Its mother might be away gathering food or is hiding nearby waiting for you to go away before it returns to its young. If you happen upon a baby animal alone leave it be but keep an eye on the situation from afar. If several hours pass by and the baby is still alone it might be time to step in. Depending upon the animal, babies can be alone for a range of time per how often they need to feed or drink.   In some situations it is absolutely okay to step in. Some such scenarios include:
  • the animal is bleeding
  • the animal has an obvious broken limb
  • you find the animal's parent dead nearby
  • the animal has been crying and wandering for hours
  • a featherless baby bird is on the ground alone for several minutes
  • your cat or dog brings the baby animal to you

How to help

Once you've determined that the baby animal is truly in need, it's time to carefully tend to it. Put on gloves and gently place the animal into a safe, warm, and ventilated container. Now that the animal is in a safe place, call your local animal hospital for further instruction. If they are closed, research a reputable website online that can tell you how to care for the specific species until the animal hospital opens the next day.  

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