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Based on the number of calls coming into the office, carpenter bees appear to be gearing up for another season of aggravating homeowners. Carpenter bees resemble bumblebees, but they have abdomens that are entirely black and shiny. Bumblebees have yellow hairs on their abdomens.
In the spring, carpenter bees drill holes about 3/8-inch in diameter into wood, most notably into decks, eaves and siding. Last year, many of the complaints we received indicated the bees seem to have a real liking for cedar and cypress siding.
The female carpenter bee may tunnel 18-24 inches along the grain of the wood, constructing a nesting gallery. Inside the gallery, she places a mixture of pollen and nectar upon which she deposits an egg. This portion of the gallery is then sealed and they repeat the process until the gallery is filled with these individual cells.
The eggs hatch into larvae that develop through the summer. The larvae mature into adult bees within the gallery and emerge some time in the late summer or early fall. Although the females can sting, they are rarely aggressive and almost never do. The males have a conspicuous white spot on their heads and will appear aggressive as they guard the nest. As is the case with other bees and wasps, the males do not have a stinger.
Carpenter bees may be controlled by dusting or squirting some insecticide, such as Sevin or pyrethrin into each hole, and then plugging the hole with steel wool, caulk, a dowel or similar plug. Plugging the holes may be a time-consuming job, but if it is not done, water may seep in during rains and lead to wood rot or the opening may attract other pests, such as carpenter ants and termites. Also, open nests may be reused next year by other bees.
Unless the wood is infested repeatedly, carpenter bee damage is rarely significant enough to affect the structural integrity of the wood. Unfinished wood, older painted wood, and even wood that is stained and waterproofed may be attacked.
To the best of our knowledge, there are no cost effective and environmentally sound ways of protecting every square inch of siding or decking from attack using pesticides. The best approaches to controlling carpenter bees are by treating the nest and plugging the entrance. Some people have been seen testing their forehand stroke with a tennis racket but that really isn’t necessary in most cases.
In the early spring, honeybee colonies may become overcrowded and then the bees send out a pheromone scent to alert the colony they need to move to another location. Unfortunately, they may end up somewhere inside your house or they may swarm to a nearby tree or shrub waiting for the scout bees to tell them where their next home will be.
Bees become confused when temperatures fluctuate in the early spring (warm to cool to cold to warm and back to cool, etc). As the population grows and the activities increase in the hive, the bees seek another more spacious location. That could be a tree hollow or the walls of your house.
Swarms are the result of the overcrowding conditions and they typically find a short term resting place until the colony can move to their next location. Generally speaking, when the swarms first appear the bees are gentle and are not that dangerous unless threatened. The longer the swarm stays the gentleness factor starts to decrease and the bees may become more stressed or are more easily aggravated by human activity.
The Brunswick County Cooperative Extension Office has a list of beekeepers willing to come and remove bees from your yard. Just call 253-2610 and ask for the name of one of our Coastal Carolina Beekeepers and they will be glad to help.
The list contains names of local beekeepers who will remove the bees from the landscape or you may need to contact someone who will remove them from the house. That is more difficult and only a few beekeepers are willing to do that.
Keep calm and don’t over react when bees come into your yard. After all, they are beneficial insects and should be protected as much as possible. If you do use a bee removal service, check with the person to see what all is involved and if there will be any cost for the service. You certainly don’t want to be stung twice.
Our beekeepers do a very good job and have a very active association of beekeepers trying to further enhance educating the public on bees and beekeeping in the area. We need bees to help with pollinating the crops we depend upon for food. Please give the beekeeper a chance to save the swarm before you kill the bees with a pesticide. If you have any questions, feel free to call the 253-2610 phone number and we will be glad to help.