Monday, May 03, 2010

The Carpenters

They build their homes all day, during warm daylight hours, maybe at night--I am not sure. But in daylight, I observe their industriousness. Their devotion to duty remind me of ants. Their professional weapons of choice are mandible drills.

Yet these tireless hummers are a different insect species, commonly called Carpenter Bees. For a quick description of these wood-drilling, borer bees trot over to the link.

Largely non-aggressive insofar as stinging, the Carpenters mainly bore holes in wood structures for nests, and of course, their activity is more evident in the spring.

Our first encounter with them was in April at husband's (H) sister-in-law's (SIL) home, the exterior of which is cedar, a soft wood. The carpenters don't have to work as hard with soft wood, smart or lazy--I'm not sure. Maybe it is the BIG BAD WOLF syndrome, "better to eat (bore) you with."

The lovely home was surrounded by huge azalea bushes in many colors, dogwoods and a variety of spring growth, multiple pollen sources. This Spring initiated the heaviest pine (and total pollen) spring in several years, according to local news reports. See blog post, Golden Smog.

Considered a nuisance, rather than a threat, the airborne bees cause major superficial damage to structures, usually without compromising the structure itself, as opposed to termites, a subterranean pest, whose damage is disasterous before discovery.
To amuse himself, (H) decided to plug the holes with spackle compound or caulk. Seemingly in open revolution, or spite, the persistent bees immediately bore holes next to the plugged hole, in less time that it took H to eat a sandwich.

After talking to SIL's in-law neighbors, he opened combat on the population by swatting at the buzz-bombers with a leaf rake. The fallen comrades were crunched by H's shoe. However, I did not see a dent in the population swarming around the house.
Most of the exterior walls of the house are permanently marred and scarred by this hefty sized bug-eyed bee.

Upon return home we discovered carpenter bees have visited and left their trademark at my best friend's home in past years.

Extermination is an option by professionals. One solution is to paint or finish the wood with an impermeable surface, and keep the finish in good repair. This may be the most expensive option but the bees won't hang around, looking for a convenient season to build their home in yours!

PHOTOS: (# from the top)
1. Carpenter Bee in flight- how about that shadow? [Nitwit1]
2. Carpenter Bee mandible work: perfectly circular bore [NitWit1]
3. Bottoms Up Carpenter Bee, with castings- sawdust [Husband]
4. Bug-Eyed Carpenter Bee, Wikipedia link reference in text
5. Carpenter Bee more examples of mandible work [NitWit1]


Arkansas Patti said...

For some reason, this morning there was no "comments" link. Glad to see it is now available.
They really do drill a perfect hole don't they? Too bad we can't get them to drill where we need them.
I had one when I first got here but none since. Kind of glad of that.

Liz said...

I can just imagine your husband swatting them with a leaf rake!

lakeviewer said...

I never knew about these bees. Live and learn! I guess they have to survive too, and boring into wood seems smart and efficient. Hope you are doing well.

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

I haven't seen many carpenter bees around here. We have quite a few honey bees, however.

Pat - Arkansas said...

The carpenter bees are busy around Gardening Daughter's home; I observed quite a few during my last visit. GD hired professional exterminators to deal with them several years ago, and that eliminated them for a while, but they are back. Love the photos!

Side note: love my word verification this morning -- reminds me of sweet Luckie -- "dogsheda!"

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Wow! I didn't know what kind of bees those were...I see them around here occasionally. Wonder if they are finding places in our home...not much room for that as we are brick and plaster...but I wonder. Will have to have a look about...they certainly make nuisances of themselves! Terrific photos, Carol!! You are incredible with your camera! Love, Janine XO