Monday, April 14, 2008

The return of the carpenter bees

Spring is here, and with that is the inevitable return of the carpenter bees emerging from hibernation. If you've never experienced carpenter bees before, consider yourself lucky. I on the other hand, have considerable experience with them and have made myself a bit of an expert over the years. I actually don't mind snakes, lizards, frogs, and many other creepy things that would make people many jump. But carpenter bees? No thank you.

I took a few pictures of the bees yesterday. To the untrained eye, one might think this is a bumble bee. Look again, my friend. See the shiny black abdomens? Those are carpenter bees. Bumble bees would have hairy abdomens and some kind of yellow markings on it. Of course Reagan thinks they are bumble bees. Every time she sees one she makes the "squishing" motion with her hands and starts singing (while skipping about every other word), "I'm squishing up my baby bumble bee. Won't my mommy be so proud of me."
So how do I know this odd bit of trivia and why would one care? Well, carpenter bees can be quite a nuisance. I've been plagued with them at several houses now. Our latest house is no exception. Carpenter bees make their nests in the wood of fences, decks, rails, or any bit of wood that suits them. Once they have taken residence in your house, beware. They can be quite tricky to get rid of and can actually do pretty extensive damage if left to nest year after year. I had rented one house where the bees were literally taking down the car port. I would come out to my car in the morning with little mounds of sawdust all over my car where they had burrowed new holes above. There were so many bees they would swarm me when I got out of the car. I got to the point where I parked the car as far back to the street in the driveway as I could. I hate those things!
Female carpenter bees are the ones that make the nests. They dig the holes in the wood and lay their eggs with a nice deposit of pollen for the larvae to eat off of when they hatch. Female carpenter bees have stingers, but are rarely seen since they are usually in the wood. Male carpenter bees on the other hand, are usually the ones that you see. They hang out around the nests doing their best pickup lines for mating to occur. Males bees can be very territorial and can swarm the heck out of you. The good news though is they have no stingers. The bad news is they are very big and loud and the buzzing can be enough to psych you out to the point that you don't care that they don't have stingers. You convince yourself somehow these things will cause harm to you.
So how do you get rid of these things should you be faced with an infestation? The easy answer is to call an expert. But even they can't guarantee that the bees will forever be gone. They guarantee more like three months and charge a pretty steep price. Nice, huh? Because of that, I've often taken carpenter bee removal into my own hands.
One day I sat out on my front porch with a tennis racquet. As the bees buzzed by I swatted them with a force that I'm certain would have given Chris Everett a run for her money. Instead of dropping dead to the ground as I expected, they instead bounced off the racquet with a rather satisfying and amusing "boing" sound. The racquet merely tossed them a few feet. They then regained their composure and came back to tell me "what for" in the fiercest buzzing and swarming they could muster. Yeah, that was a failure. No bees were harmed during that experiment, most unfortunately.
Another day I went out there with an industrial strength can of wasp spray that a friend had given me. He was also plagued with the bees and bought an entire case of the heavy duty stuff that if given the proper spray and arc, would shoot a stream of the poison thirty feet. Apparently my aim isn't so good. I did manage to take down a few bees, but mostly I killed the plants, grass, and trees that got caught in the line of fire. I think I also killed quite a few of my own brain cells that I really didn't have to spare from inhaling the fumes. I also managed to take a bit of paint of the house and shutters. Good thing it was a rental.
Another time I got a ladder and plugged their perfectly round nest holes with little dowels and wood glue. While this seemed to be more effective than my first two attempts, most of the bees just dug new holes and went on their merry way. It also looked a bit unsightly as I had uneven nubs sticking out of the holes everywhere. Not to mention it was very nerve wracking to be up on that ladder with a bunch of angry bees nearly forcing me off it it.
So my final assessment for the most effective method to rid yourself of pesky carpenter bees? Pack up and move.


Anonymous said...

I know too well about these nasty creatures. They drill perfect holes in our deck. Grrrrrr. Good luck with your war - you can win!!

MrsMoma said...

LOL! I know that it can't be funny, but your post made it funny. I haven't ever taken the time to look at the ginormous bees we have to see what kind they are, but i HATE them!!!

Fullerton Family said...

I hate those bees! Nasty, noisy, annoying little creatures! (And I love your experiences w/ them!!!)

GracieBird said...

Ooh, I have those bees! I did think they were bumble bees, ya learn something new every day.