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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Wood bees: Carpenters at work

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The 80-degree temperatures earlier this week brought out the insects!

Bumble bees buzzing around the heads of individuals particularly near buildings or other wood structures became very common. While they seem threatening, they are most likely carpenter bees or commonly called wood bees.

Bumble bees do not nest in wood and have bodies that are very hairy with bright white, yellow and/or orange hair contrasting greatly with the black hair.

Carpenter bees may have yellow markings, which are much duller and in some cases are not even present.

Carpenter bees are not likely to sting anyone. The males are not capable of stinging. Females do not defend their nests and these bees are not social bees or wasps like the honey bee, hornet or yellow jacket, meaning that they do not live in groups or colonies. Hence, carpenter bees are referred to as a solitary bee along with cicada killers and mud daubers.

Female carpenter bees will only sting if they are mishandled, for example, when one would hold a female carpenter bee in the hand or kids try to catch female bees or dogs biting at the female bees.

The name for carpenter bees comes from the fact that they bore tunnels into untreated wood of structures. Entry holes created by the bees are nearly a perfect circle of about a half-inch in diameter. Holes typically go straight into the wood for about one or two inches and then makes a 90-degree turn that runs with the grain of the wood for an additional four-six inches. Female bees fill 6-8 cells separated from one another by partitions of wood pulp with pollen and nectar. Each cell contains one bee larva. After the cells are completed, the female seals the tunnel and soon dies. The bee larva mature by late August and the new adults emerge by early September. These new adults need to survive the upcoming winter and forage for nectar and will eventually go back to the tunnel or one nearby that they will clean out and live until spring when the cycle begins anew.

Though carpenter bees pose minimal threat from stinging, they can weaken structures, especially when left uncontrolled over a number of years. They also defecate around their tunnels, producing unsightly wood stains. Controlling the bees is relatively simple compared to social bees.

Individuals can safely and effectively dust Sevin (5 percent carbaryl) into the tunnels. Tunnels should be left open for a day or two and then plugged with a dowel or wood putty to prevent future use. One of the most difficult areas to access for treatment from personal experience is the underside of backyard sheds. These can be virtually impossible to reach without digging or using a tube and air to blow the dust into the holes that can be seen from the perimeter.

Just make sure when it comes to blowing the dust into the holes that the mechanism used does not cause one to inhale dust either nasally or orally.

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