Here’s an interesting tidbit for Memorial Day weekend from our Columbia County correspondent, Lee Jamison.
A neighbor in Stuyvesant asked for a recommendation of an exterminator to get rid of carpenter bees in his soffits. Ned Depew (the handyman guy from WAMC “Vox Pop,” lives in Stuyv) wrote in an interesting alternative response with links. Remember, there are always choices! Perhaps your BlueinGreene harried-homeowner readers might be interested. Endocrine-disrupting pesticides do more harm to us humans than the carpenter bees, box elder bugs or locust-hawks that many think we have to spray.
Begin forwarded message:
Don’t be hasty. Although these insects are largely harmless, they are far from useless. They’re champion pollinators—something of which we are in sore need between the honeybee colony collapse and the bat population problems.
The males, who are the more active and aggressive have no sting—they are just trying to drive away a creature thousands of times their own size through sheer bravery and display. The females, who do have a sting—no more than an ordinary bee sting—have a yellow triangle in the middle of their foreheads. Sometimes the males will butt their heads against the stamens of a flower to put a false yellow pollen mark there and imitate the females!
They are amazing flyers—like hummingbirds capable of hovering and flying backwards, while at the same time, like the bumblebee, an aerodynamic impossiblity.
They are amazing and very useful animals – to the ecosystem. They do very little damage to buildings – their nests go in less than an inch and then take a right angle bend to a chamber or sometimes a few chambers where they lay their eggs. Because their penetration is shallow, they generally only damage trim and facing boards, which are relatively easy to repair and/or replace. Because they nest singly rather than in colonies, the amount of damage done in a single year tends to be minimal.
If these small holes bother you, you can fill them in the fall with wood putty and paint over them. It takes many, many years for a group of carpenter bees to do any real damage. The species found in this area are not social,(although they do pair-bond and the males help protect the females and young) so if you have one active nest per 2-3′ that is a “heavy infestation.”
Any household insecticide designed for wasps and hornets will kill them—but I urge you to read up on these fascinating creatures and learn to appreciate and co-exist with them. There’s information here and here.
I’ve worked in the construction industry off of ladders around soffits and fascias—their favorite nesting sites—for many years without ever having been stung by one, although they can be startling and pesky. They are gentle and delightful creatures.
Enjoy the holiday weekend, and let the bees buzz!