Your Place: Buzzing with remedies for carpenter bees

Posted: April 02, 2010

Talk about the buzz on carpenter bees!

It appears that everyone has a thought about what to do about them, including a few folks who don't understand what the buzz is about.

Two weeks ago, I responded to a question asking how to handle carpenter bees. My response fell into the "live and let live" category, recognizing firsthand that sometimes the cure can be more troublesome than the problem.

The first reply to the column was from a woman who couldn't understand why the question was being asked in the first place. She said she'd read somewhere that bumblebees and honeybees were disappearing, and that carpenter bees are assuming their pollination duties.

Bottom line: By killing the bees, you do in the planet.

Hers was the best response that fell into the "why the buzz?" category.

Here's a small sample of the others:

"Here is a nontoxic way to get rid of carpenter bees. Buy a bag of diatomaceous earth, a turkey baster, and throwaway plastic gloves. Put on the gloves. Use the turkey baster to fill the holes made by the bees with the diatomaceous earth. Then seal the holes with putty. When the larvae are born, they will be torn to shreds by the diatomaceous soil. Use the turkey baster only for the diatomaceous earth. Keep the gloves for next time or throw them away. Wash your hands well with lots of soap and water."

"Just thought I'd note that in our neighborhood, if you do not take care of the carpenter bees, the problem escalates. For us, it escalated in three ways. First, as the previous owner did nothing to deter the carpenter bees, our eaves were turned into Swiss cheese and had to be replaced. Second, the one-quarter-inch bee holes became 21/4-inch holes when the woodpeckers went hunting for the bees' eggs. Finally, the woodpecker holes made great nesting areas for small birds. The birds can't be touched legally. Once eggs have been laid, you have to wait for the hatchlings to leave the nest before plugging the hole. Painting has helped us immensely. There may be some bee activity, but considerably less."

"I tried all the methods you mentioned; none were very effective for very long. I have solved the problem without pesticide. . . . Badminton rackets. I go out in the spring when they first show up and they are easy targets. If they are hit and fly away they still usually end up dying shortly. My personal best was 27 at one session. It became a game at my house. Now we get just a few each year, but my redwood benches don't have new holes. The only downside is some funny looks from passersby who don't see the bees from their distance."

"I used to have carpenter bees on a rake board, which was probably 10 feet to 12 feet above our outdoor deck. I never bothered with them as they stayed away from our guests. However, years later, after installing a new pressure-treated deck, they started to attack one of the side rails on the underneath side. I was discussing this with a friend and he suggested putting mothballs into each of the holes. I have found this to be almost 100 percent effective. It might take a second time if they return, but, again, that seems to rid an area of bees."

Ways to save water: Here are a couple of tips from the Home Builders Institute of the National Association of Builders:

Take shorter showers and replace shower heads that put out a lot of water with low-flow shower heads that use only 1.5 gallons to 2 gallons per minute. When you run water while waiting for your shower to heat up, put a bucket under the faucet and use that water to wash vegetables or water your plants.

Don't prerinse your dishes, and be sure to load your dishwasher properly to maximize efficiency. Make a point of running your dishwasher only when it is full. When buying a new dishwasher, consider purchasing an Energy Star-qualified, water-saving model that uses about four gallons per wash, a third of what less-efficient models use.

Old House Fair. The Old House Fair is Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Germantown Friends School, 31 W. Coulter St. Admission is $10; Preservation Alliance members, $5. Tickets are available at the door. Information: 215-546-1146, Ext. 7.


Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at aheavens@phillynews.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.

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