Carpenter Bees

For the first several years that we lived here at Oak Hill, I used an existing homebuilt carport as my goat barn. The wooden structure had a metal roof, and we enclosed the sides with sheets of tin that were here on the property. The previous owner was a bit of a hoarder, but some of the junk has turned out to be useful.

Several mornings each year, I'd sit at the milkstand in this "barn", being harassed by a large bee that resembled a bumblebee. Sometimes there were two. The more aggressive bee would buzz around me noisily, but never offered to sting or land on me; it was just noisy and annoying. The other bee would hover around the wooden beams above my head.

Then one day I noticed a small pile of fine sawdust, and happened to see a hole in the beam above the sawdust, about the diameter of my pinkie finger. I began referring to the bees as "wood bees". I assumed they were laying eggs or making a nest of some kind up in those holes, so I filled in the holes with spackle, the only thing I had handy. And then the roof blew off this building in a storm, I moved the goats to the new goat barn we built to replace it, and the bees were forgotten.

This week, when I fed the horses in their barn down the hill, I noticed a familiar little pile of sawdust on a board. I looked at the underside of the board above it, and yep, there was the hole. When I got back to the house I googled "bees that drill holes in wood" and found out that they are carpenter bees.

Looking upward at the bottom of the 2x6".
Carpenter bees mate in the spring, then the female drills a hole in the underside of a log or piece of wood while the male is close by, guarding her as she works. Although he seems aggressive, he doesn't have a stinger. When the female has drilled upwards for a distance, she will turn and drill a sideways tunnel, where she will lay her eggs, each separated by a mixture made of chewed sawdust and pollen. The larvae will feed on this material when they emerge from their eggs.

This was a perfectly conical pile of sawdust until a horse blew on it.
All the websites I read recommended spraying a pesticide or even WD-40 up into the hole to kill the bee, eggs or larvae, then seal up the hole with wood putty or something similar, to avoid attracting other carpenter bees. I prefer not to use harsh pesticides if possible, and in the past I've just sealed up the hole without using a pesticide. I've never had a bee re-drill the hole, or drill out from the inside. Painted wood seems to deter them.

This link will take you to a good illustration of a carpenter bee, from a pest control company in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Leaving the holes open will attract other carpenter bees, and eventually boards can become riddled with the tunnels, weakening the building. I took my container of spackle down the hill and filled up the new hole.

I was familiar with carpenter ants, but these were new to me. Have you ever seen carpenter bees?

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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