Fly­ing cord­less drills have re­turned

Walker County Messenger - - Worship Directory - By Wade Hutch­e­son

We used to try to hit them with base­ball bats. A ten­nis racket would have been a bet­ter choice, but there were no ten­nis courts on our farm.

We would also catch them go­ing into their holes, plug the hole and lis­ten to their an­gry re­ply. Carpenter bees were a lot of fun for grow­ing boys.

Home­own­ers, though, usu­ally aren’t into fun things like that. They just want to get rid of these ob­nox­ious bees. Peo­ple who live in cedar-sided homes see no hu­mor in them at all.

It’s about this time ev­ery year that peo­ple see large, black bees hov­er­ing around their heads and homes. They’re prob­a­bly carpenter bees. We get very lit­tle ben­e­fit in pol­li­na­tion from them.

Carpenter bees re­sem­ble bum­ble­bees but have a cou­ple of no­tice­able dif­fer­ences. The up­per sur­face of the carpenter bee’s ab­domen is bare, shiny and black while bum­ble­bees have a hairy ab­domen with at least some yel­low mark­ings.

The other dif­fer­ence is where they nest. Bum­ble­bees usu­ally nest in the ground. Carpenter bees build their nests in tun­nels they cre­ate in wood. They chew a per­fectly round hole about the size of a dime, and some­times larger than a nickel.

Male carpenter bees seem to be mean. But it’s all an act. They’ll hover in front of peo­ple who are near their nest, even dive-bomb­ing oc­ca­sion­ally. But the males are harm­less. They don’t have stingers.

Fe­male carpenter bees do have stingers, though, and their sting can be quite painful. Take it from me, who had to be stung sev­eral times be­fore I learned to leave them alone. The fe­males sel­dom sting un­less they are han­dled or mo­lested.

Even if they don’t sting, fe­male carpenter bees aren’t harm­less. It’s the fer­til­ized fe­males that ex­ca­vate the tun­nels and lay eggs in a series of small cells.

They pro­vi­sion each cell with a ball of pollen, on which the lar­vae feed un­til emerg­ing as adults in late sum­mer. The adults will over­win­ter in aban­doned nest tun­nels to re­turn again the next year.

Carpenter bees pre­fer bare, un­painted or weath­ered soft­woods, es­pe­cially red­wood, cedar, cy­press and pine. Painted or pres­sure-treated wood is less likely to be at­tacked.

Com­mon at­tack zones are eaves, win­dow trim, fas­cia boards and decks. Saw­dust be­neath the hole is an eas­ily rec­og­niz­able sign of at­tack. Con­trol is a com­bi­na­tion of things. A fresh coat of oil-based paint is very ef­fec­tive. They don’t like paint. Wood stains and preser­va­tives are less re­li­able, but bet­ter than bare wood.

Where the bees have al­ready at­tacked, spray­ing in­sec­ti­cide on the wood sur­face won’t work. You have to in­ject it into each bur­row to be ef­fec­tive. An aerosol spray for wasp and bee con­trol will work if you direct it into the hole.

Af­ter a cou­ple of days, go back and plug the hole with a piece of wood dowel coated with carpenter’s glue, or use wood putty. This last step pro­tects against fu­ture use of the old tun­nel and re­duces the chance of wood de­cay.

It’s best to spray at night to kill the adults and the brood. If you spray dur­ing the day, the adults may be gone. And they may just start a new colony.

Re­mem­ber, the fe­males can pop you pretty good, so treat­ing to­wards sun­set or at night, when the bees are less ac­tive, helps you, too. Or you could make it a two-per­son job and arm the other with the ten­nis racket.

Wade Hutch­e­son is a Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion agent serv­ing Spald­ing, Henry and New­ton coun­ties.

Small holes and tiny piles of saw­dust found in ran­dom spots are likely caused by large wood­drilling in­sects called carpenter bees.

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