Thom Smith | NatureWatch: How do I get rid of carpenter bees safely? | archive

Q: There could be carpenter bees again damaging our homes. We sprayed them last season and before, but with little success. Any idea you can give will be appreciated. We generally don’t like spraying bees because they are so important to our environment by pollinating flowers for vegetables, fruits and beauty in the garden. But what can you do?

– Michael, Pittsfield

A: True, they damage wood and, in some cases, weaken timbers, joists and joists over time. On the other hand, like many other bees, they pollinate. This is likely to offer little salvation to the insects if they damage your home. Although I have mentioned in the past that they are not aggressive, I am referring to the males who stay on guard and buzz around anyone who invades “their territory”; they have no sting and are therefore harmless. Female carpenter bees can sting, but are docile and very rarely sting unless caught in the hand or stepped on barefoot.

Carpenter bees (of which there are around 500 species worldwide) build their nests by tunnels in wood, preferably unpainted. The entrance is a perfectly circular hole just over 1/2 inch (16 mm). They don’t eat wood and throw the pieces away or sometimes reuse them to build partitions inside cells or tunnels. The tunnel, or more commonly the side tunnel, can serve as a breeding ground for the brood and as a repository for pollen that feeds the developing insects. If you see a woodpecker digging holes next to the tunnels or on the wood paneling of your house, shed, etc., it has been drawn in by the sounds of the bee larvae. There are a few species of flies that lay their eggs at the entrance to the bee nest and their maggots live from eating the helpless bee larvae.

I hate to mention poison and bees in the same paragraph. Blocking or poisoning nests is sometimes ineffective because the bees from the previous year will return to the nests they came from, and if the bees are constipated or poisoned, the bees will plant a new hole. The most effective means of destroying the nest and its inhabitants is to put an insecticidal dust directly into the opening. The best way to do this is to carefully read all of the directions and precautions and use a feather duster to blow the dust into the tunnel and cover the sides. And of course wear a mask, goggles and gloves. To be on the safe side, do this at night if this is not dangerous in itself. If you need to treat in daylight, use a pyrethrum spray or a dangerous wasp and hornet spray to knock down flying bees. Or better yet, apply the powder and forget about the sprays, hoping not to get stung. It is recommended to wear protective clothing and other protective measures mentioned above.

It is best to block the holes with steel wool and later apply waterproof sealant to touch up the area. Keep all wood surfaces well painted.

Q: We have many shrubs on the edge of our garden and for several years we have had small sparrows and robins nesting in them. For a year we also had a mourning dove nest in one. Our yard is large and the bushes are scattered. We have some big evergreens too, pine I think. We have never seen abandoned nests with small birds and a few crows that may nest in one of the evergreen plants. Could this be a coincidence? I read in your column not long ago that you blame crows for disrupting or killing the nests on the roof. Could this pair of crows kill the breeding birds, namely the offspring of the robins?

– Charles, North Adams

A: Being the crows’ opportunist, she has made many enemies, some justified and some not. Studies have been conducted of the damage crows do to what we might call desirable wildlife, and their removal has resulted in little, if any, change in the number of eggs or baby birds destroyed. Remove the crow and another predator may take its place. Young robins and eggs are hunted next to crows and ravens by snakes, squirrels, grackles and blue jays. For robins taken by a crow, it should be known that most robins die before adulthood (crow or no crow). And the American robin population has increased almost identically to the crow population. The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology states on its All About Birds website: “On average, however, only 40 percent of nests successfully produce young. Only 25 percent of these fledglings survive by November. Robins that live each year will make it into the next. “It’s almost as if the American robin is expendable and probably only survives in sufficient numbers because it has three broods with it in the summer raises three to five eggs per nesting site.

Crows are not “all bad”, they help the farmer by eating a lot of insects that attack their crops. True, they also have a taste for corn and seedlings. They are omnivores and will eat almost anything from seeds, fruits, and nuts to insects, mollusks, eggs, and nestlings. They also feed on carrion and on landfills. Crows are also known to ingest cat and dog food from outer bowls. Finally, crows are intelligent birds that are known to have limited tool use. Crows in our neighborhood carry dried bread that a neighbor threw in our bird bath to soften it – or at least when we had a bird bath. It is native, migratory (though not far away), and a songbird (although it may not sing very well by our standards) so it falls under protection even though it has a hunting season.


June 23, 1:52 a.m.

Around 1am I heard various noises on the porch and looked out in time to see a rather tall person eating my sunflower seeds. He must have felt cold because he was wearing a fur coat. I couldn’t invite him because he had already eaten and I thought the hour was too late for a polite conversation. I have to find my pipe so that I can greet him more properly when he comes back. The early settlers on Williams Street had [Native Americans] for guests, but we have to be content with the Ursines.

– Norma about Patricia

June 28, 7:35 p.m.

Two jet black squirrels together near Pecks and Old Ore Bed Roads.

– George

June 29, 9:05 a.m.

When I checked the garden after 2 inches (so the rain gauge says) I found a beaten up and dead butterfly with one wing missing. I don’t know what it was, but it was yellow and black. I think it was the storm yesterday afternoon.

– Ken, Pittsfield

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