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What bees are swarming around the pussy willow?

DEAR JOAN: I grew a pussy willow tree from a stalk I got at Safeway maybe three years ago. It is nearly finished with its catkins for this season, but there have been little swarms of tiny golden bees around them. Would you know what they are?
Jayne, Bay Area
DEAR JAYNE: They probably are native bees, but I can’t tell you exactly what type without seeing the bee. Actually, I probably couldn’t tell you even after seeing the bee — there are more than 1,000 species of native bees, and they come in a variety of sizes, so it would take a bee expert to identify the species.
It’s a little too early for honeybees, but the native bees are out. I’m not surprised the pussy willow has been covered with them. It is a great plant for bees, as it provides nectar at time when not too many other plants are blooming.
My guess is that the bees on your plant are mining or sand bees (Andrena). There are about 100 different species of this bee, and they are responsible for a lot of pollination of crops and plants. This species also provides pollination for both early and late-blooming plants.
There’s no need to worry about them. Most of the aggression we see in honeybees stems from their determination to protect the hive, but native bees don’t live in hives and are much more mellow. Enjoy the show while it lasts.
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DEAR JOAN:  Since last weekend I have been finding flies in my house when no windows or doors have been open. So far I have killed about 10.
They are very lethargic flies — not too much movement. The first one I caught in my spider jar, thinking he was a spider. He was the lucky one because I let him go outside like I do with the spiders I catch.
Would you have any clues as to where these flies are coming from and when will they go away?
Peggy, Alamo 
DEAR PEGGY: You probably have blow flies, which I’m sorry to tell you means that you’ve got something dead in or under your house. They’ll go away when whatever is dead is found and removed, or dries out.
You might also have cluster flies, named because they tend to cluster around windows and doors. They overwinter in your walls and attic.
Bet you’ve never said “Oh, I hope they’re cluster flies.”
Steve Schutz, scientific programs manager with Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District, doesn’t hold out much chance for cluster flies, as it’s not really the right time of year for them.
The good news is, no matter what flies you have, they eventually will disappear. Meanwhile, you can work on figuring out how they got in and seal up the openings.
DEAR JOAN:  Years ago, our middle-aged standard poodle had episodes of standing staring at blank walls. A marvelous local vet put the pieces together to diagnose pancreatitis, which interferes with the digestion of fat and causes brain abnormalities.
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Medication and she returned to normal.  So that’s another explanation for staring into space.
Cathy Moran, Bay Area
DEAR CATHY: Thanks so much for the good-news story.
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