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Jaci Jensen
Jaci Jensen

Home Smart Elite Group
Glendale, AZ 85308

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AZ Landscape - Conserve Water

Desert Plants and Desert Native Bees — A Potent Pollination Pairing!

Desert plants are challenged by hot and arid growing conditions. Water-wise gardening addresses their water needs and defines the best growing locations. But how can we be more confident that the timely pollination needed to set seeds, fruits, or nuts is accomplished? The answer is desert native bees, master pollinators of desert plants.

The estimated 1,00o species of native bees that call the Sonoran Desert their home have co-evolved with desert plants for eons. The specialized adaptations developed over that time provide desert native bees with advantages that assist in their food gathering and boost the associated pollination services. So, to ensure the timely pollination of our desert plantings, we need to nurture desert native bee populations.

This is best done by increasing the availability of flowering plants preferred by desert native bees and expanding their habitat. Even small (and minimal cost) changes can make big differences in desert native bee populations, so it can be done. But before we explore that topic, let’s examine a shortlist of common bees you’ll see frequenting your garden and nearby wild areas.

Western or European Honeybee

Western (also known as European) honeybees were introduced by the first Spanish colonists. These bees are social (living as colonies in hives) and can sting individually or as a swarm. Their ability to inflict pain creates, in many people, a fear of all bees. That is too bad, as most of our native desert bees you will encounter do not sting. Plus, honeybees are not aggressive when collecting food for their hive, and swarms with angry intent are rare (although wild honeybees are sensitive to hive disturbance). If you encounter a single honeybee at close range, hold still and savor the chance to watch the bee do her work. It will shortly move on to flowers further afield, as its goal is collecting food–not stinging you!


Carpenter Bee

In comparison to honeybees, desert native bees are most often stingless (no pain) and solitary (no swarms). The notable exception is bumblebees. They have a powerful sting if provoked and will aggressively defend their nest. In a close encounter with a single bumblebee, follow the rules for honeybees. Normally harmless carpenter bees are often confused with bumblebees because both are large. But bumblebees have bright yellow hair bands on their backs while carpenter bees are jet black (a small yellow fuzzy patch may be behind their head, however).

Mason Bee

Leafcutter Bee

Mason bees and leafcutter bees are widely used as commercial pollinators of orchard fruit and nut crops. But they are common in the wild, as well. Mason bees are efficient pollinators of early orchard blooms and wildflowers. Leafcutter bees follow them, actively pollinating in late spring and early summer. They are best known for the small round holes they cut in plant leaves to use in building their nests.

Miner bees (below) are common summer pollinators. They make their nests underground, often close to many others of their kind. Sweat bees (below right) are common summer pollinators, as well. They can take many colors, normally very bright and metallic. Some sweat bees will briefly land on humans, seeking water and minerals from perspiration. If that happens to you, do not disturb the bee. Just hold still and watch nature in action until she leaves.

Sweat Bee

Miner Bee

Examples of desert native bees that have co-evolved with specific native plants are common. Cactus bees (below left) are one example. They feed almost exclusively on a few cacti species, especially prickly pear and cholla. Squash bees (below right) are another example of co-evolution. They feed on gourds, squash, and pumpkins. Nests are in the ground under the leaves, taking advantage of the shade and cooler temperatures. Males often sleep in larger flowers while waiting for females to hatch.

Look for desert native bees where they are most likely to be in your garden and nearly wild spaces–among flowering plants, orchard trees, and cacti. Expand the number and diversity of bee populations in your garden and wild places by following the planting and habitat guidance below. Because desert native bees have been arid land dwellers for so long, solutions almost exclusively use water-wise plants.

Attracting Bees with Desert Plants

Cactus Bee

There are three aspects of plantings that best support desert native bees. These are (a) multiple flower colors, (b) varying bloom heights, and (c) blooms available throughout the growing season. As to flower colors, a mix of purple, blue, yellow, or white flowers is preferred. A range of flower heights, from one to five feet, speaks to the unique needs of small and large bees and those with specialized feeding habits. Continuous flowering from very early spring to late fall is needed to support differing life cycles of desert native bee species. Early spring is the most important time to ensure ample flowers because desert native bees are often the most active pollinators in that cooler time. But fall is also vital, as the supply of native flowering plants is limited.

Squash Bee

In your plantings, don’t neglect the need for supportive desert native bee habitat. Mainly this can be addressed by simply letting things grow on the wild side. A few weeds are a good idea and have a brushy area or unattended nearby wild spaces to provide shelter. Put out bee houses in later winter for tube nesting bees (e.g. mason and leafcutter bees) and provide patches of loose soil for ground-nesting bees. Providing water, as a drip-fed seep or very shallow pool, is a big help.

A select list of plants for desert native bees is provided below. But anything that flowers will be helpful including many of our native flowering trees. Don’t forget that native or acclimatized food plants, including herbs, can also provide flower food for desert native bees. Absolutely avoid pesticides or herbicides, both on general principles and because bees of all types are unusually susceptible to the ill effects of toxic chemicals.

In the Sonoran Desert, late fall and early winter are preferred times for seed sowing and setting plants that will nurture desert native bees. Prepare garden beds and identify places in wild areas suitable for bee-related enhancements and go to work when the time is right this year. Then, as the next growing season evolves, enjoy your many new flowers and their desert native bee pollinators. You deserve it!

Water – Use It Wisely is proud to feature guest bloggers who write about topics related to water and water conservation. The author of this blog is Dr. William J. McGuire, Ph.D. Bill taught Economics and Finance at the university level for 10 years and worked for five years in the banking sector. He then started his own bank consulting company, focusing on the accuracy of PC-based income simulation and valuation models. Since retiring, Bill now serves on the Board of Directors of Native Seeds/SEARCH, a Tucson-based nonprofit dedicated to preserving and sharing heritage and landrace [one that is customized to a specific growing area and thereby has its own growth habits and taste] native seeds. He is also active in other Arizona service organizations and programs. Bill is an arid lands gardener, desert native bee enthusiast, vintage British car mechanic, and a creative (if not always successful) tinkerer. 

The post Desert Plants and Desert Native Bees — A Potent Pollination Pairing! appeared first on Water Use It Wisely.

Making the Most of the Water in Your Home

Water is an important part of your daily home routine: from washing and bathing to cooking and cleaning, water plays an integral part in most homes across the country. You can take a few small measures to ensure that the water in your home is conserved, used correctly, and not damaging anything inside. From water leaks to water conservation, we’ll cover a few topics that can help you make the most of the water in your home.

What causes a water leak

There are some potential dangers or occurrences that can cause a water leak in your home, many of which you may not even be able to see. The best way to prepare for water damage of any kind in your home is to understand more about them, specifically what can cause a water leak. Here are just a few of the things that can cause a pipe to burst or a leak to spring in your home:

Natural disasters or rainstorms: If your roof is patched incorrectly or your windows weren’t installed properly, you could face water leaks coming in through these open pathways. A rainstorm or natural disaster can sometimes find its way into your home if it’s not protected adequately.

Washing machine hose breaks: Second to the bathroom, your laundry room uses the most water in the home. If your machine’s hose ruptures, you could be facing a large watery mess.

Holes in the water line: This can majorly impact your toilets, sinks, and showers. Hidden pipes are a potential danger should breakage occur. If your water line has any holes or breaks, water can leak into your bathroom through these areas.

Moisture around your HVAC equipment: Built-up moisture can cause water leaks, especially for interior AC units. Be sure to check on your HVAC and plumbing equipment annually to prevent these leaks from happening in the first place.

These possibilities and leaks in outdoor irrigation is why it is important for all family members in the household to know where the master water shut-off valve is located. Were a pipe to burst, this could save hundreds or thousands of gallons of water and prevent damage.

 How you can conserve water at home

Most importantly, you can play a large part in your water usage and safety at home by conserving water daily. The more conscious you are of your water usage and care, the more prepared you’ll be should an emergency occur. You’ll also save more money and require less maintenance when you take care of the water coming in and out of your home. Here are just a few ways to conserve water:

kids brushing teeth

Turn the sink off when brushing your teeth: You can save up to 4 gallons a minute just by turning the sink off during your teeth-brushing routine.

Shorten your showers: Avoid taking long showers by setting a timer for yourself. If you can keep your shower to 5 minutes, you’ll be saving a lot of water. Switching to a water-efficient WaterSense showerhead is another way to save water in the shower.

Reuse bath or shower water in the garden: This is a more creative solution for those who have a garden or often water their plants. Reuse your water whenever possible!

Fix your leaks: When you have leaky pipes or water damage, you’re losing a lot of water into your home. By fixing these leaks and receiving regular maintenance, you’re saving water along the way!

Use your machines on a full load: Your dishwasher and washing machine can conserve water by only being used when they have a full load. Don’t run the washing machine with only a few items of clothing inside. You’ll be saving gallons of water by using this technique!

Why water is one of the most important parts of your home

You may take water for granted and not even know it. Imagine what would happen if your home had to go without water for an entire week. Taking care of your home appliances, water features, and water pipes will ensure that they will function properly, be free of leaks, and help to maximize your water savings. Using the conservation tips will save you money and water on a daily basis. Whether you have to deal with a small faucet leak or a large pipe burst, you’ll be better prepared by using a professional team to inspect and fix your problem. Water makes the world—and your home—go round!

Knowledge is power

The more you know, the more you can encourage others to conserve water and to be prepared for any leaks or breaks. Start today by scheduling a home inspection of your water lines and amenities. Stay updated on your home maintenance and be prepared for those unexpected leaks. Your home is your place to relax, entertain, and live. Make it a place worth staying.

Want to learn more? Here are a few articles that you might enjoy:

Water – Use It Wisely is proud to feature guest bloggers who write about topics related to water and water conservation. The author of this blog post, Lauren Anderson, is the content specialist at Wagner Mechanical, a professional HVAC and plumbing company serving Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Lauren has studied Construction Management and currently enjoys writing about topics that help homeowners in taking good care of their homes. At Wagner, you can trust that we are going to guarantee not only the work we do but that our service meets your expectations.


The post Making the Most of the Water in Your Home appeared first on Water Use It Wisely.

Is 24,000 gallons of water per month too much for a family of three?

When in doubt, ask. Here are an interesting question and answer about home water use that I think all homeowners can take advantage of.

You asked …

I have a concern about high water usage. We have lots of mature landscaping, but artificial turf (no grass), a fairly large pool, hot tub, three full baths, and a 1/2 bath. There are three people in our home; I am home a lot during the day. Is 24,000 gallons of usage for the month of August something to be concerned about?  It seems like an awful lot. What can we do?

We answered … 

Thank you for your interest in saving water and concerns for your household water use.

Let’s look at your daily per person usage. If you used 24,000 gallons, we’ll divide by 3 people = 8,000 gallons per person per month. Let’s divide 8,000 by 31= 258 gallons per person per day. Yep, that’s a lot! By comparison, the photo at right shows our traveling water tower, which is made up of 120 one-gallon jugs and represents the average amount of water used per person, per day in Arizona.

Of course, August is a very hot month and I suspect that a lot of the water is being used in the landscape or swimming pool (glad to hear you don’t have grass though).

You can easily be losing 3,400 gallons in your pool alone during August due to evaporation and about 17,000 gallons would be typical water needs in August for a very large landscape of about 10,000 square feet. Add the two together and you already have over 20,000 gallons, so your outdoor use might be why your bill was so high. However, I’m just guessing on your landscape size and I’m not sure if you live in Arizona or another climate. There are always other things to check.

Check with your water provider

Another helpful tip is to see if your water provider offers a water calculator. Anyone is welcome to try ours at the City of Mesa’s Know Your H20 Water Calculator. Enter information about your household, and we’ll estimate how much water you should be using for the different months of the year. The outdoor water use calculations are adjusted for an Arizona desert climate. Some water providers also offer home water audits to help identify inefficiencies.

Good luck and I hope you’re well on your way to reducing your water use at your home.

Smart Home Water Guide to help you find and fix leaks

Find out how to Find & Fix Leaks in this booklet from our Water – Use It Wisely partner, AMWUA.


Donna DiFrancesco is a conservation coordinator with the City of Mesa, Environmental & Sustainability Division where she educates Mesa, Arizona residents about xeriscape, water conservation, living green, and sustainability. She is also a member of the Water – Use It Wisely regional campaign steering committee.

The post Is 24,000 gallons of water per month too much for a family of three? appeared first on Water Use It Wisely.

Jaci Jensen | 602-295-6797 Contact Me
17215 North 72nd Drive, Suite 115 - Glendale, AZ 85308
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