My annual battle with carpenter bees is in full force. The pesky devils come out during March each year, sucking on the azaleas and boring holes in my log walls, porch railings and facia boards. They stick around for several months, buzzing, boring and driving me crazy.
I’ve done a good bit of research on these pests. They bore right through bare, varnished or stained wood of any type. Fresh paint will deter them, but the best treatment is to spray wood surfaces with an insecticide beginning in March and on through August or September. But March is too windy, and the spray flies back into my face, so they usually get a foothold before I can start.
Once they’ve bored a hole, the tell-tale pile of sawdust beneath it is the first clue that they’re nesting in my wood. The momma bees bore perfectly round holes about an inch into the wood, then turn 90 degrees and make a long tunnel. Then they bore little rooms off the tunnel, and lay their eggs in those little rooms.The baby bees hatch in six to 12 months, and the cycle starts all over again. In fact, they come back to their old haunts every spring, making the tunnels longer and more intricate. If left untreated, they will tear up any board in which they nest. I haven’t figured out where they go during winter, but I’m working on it.
Spraying a liquid insecticide into the hole may kill the female bee, but the eggs are protected. Since liquids are absorbed by porous wood, they will be gone when the larvae hatch, giving them a strong chance of survival.
So I have to spray a dust called Drione into those holes and seal them with a caulking compound. Drione is a desiccant that dehydrates them. But if I don’t seal them inside their nests, the females will leave before the dust has time to settle on them.
A friend found a bee trap on the internet, ordered it and used it as a pattern to make some of his own. He’s given me several, and they really help. They look like small bird houses, but with a tiny hole on each side and a plastic peanut butter or mayonnaise jar underneath. The bees crawl into the holes thinking they are bee tunnels, gravitate downward toward the light, fall into the jars and can’t seem to fly upward to get out. To empty the jars of the bees, I simply unscrew them.
Their only known enemy is the woodpecker, who eats their larvae. Guess how he gets it? Yep, pecks around their tunnel entrance, widening the hole to a jagged maw. Great!
In some ways, they are smart. They don’t come out much during cool or rainy weather. And they prefer boring holes behind drain spouts and under eaves, where they are protected from the weather, the woodpecker and my prying eyes. Ever tried to spray into a hole behind a drain spout?
Mother Nature played a dirty trick on them, though. She made the males the guard bees, teaching them to buzz around a human’s head to scare him away. But she gave the stinger to the female, so the guard has no weapon.Serves him right.