WE NEED NOT KILL CARPENTER BEES
received the following question about a fascinating insect more than
a decade ago. The answer bears repeating as I am asked the question
We have an unpainted back porch we like to sit on. About this time in
the spring, sawdust begins to fall from the underside of the roof where
black bumblebees actually burrow into the eaves and wood frame. Also,
one will occasionally threaten me by hovering in front of my face. How
can I get rid of them?
The short answer is don't. Instead of eradicating the shiny black wood-burrowing
bees on our own back porch, we watch them, listen to them and otherwise
enjoy them. They are carpenter bees, which get to be about an inch long
but do not have the fuzzy yellow appearance of bumblebees. Carpenter
bees can sometimes sport a two-tone look when carrying a supply of yellow
of carpenter bees is relatively straightforward. During spring, throughout
much of the country, carpenter bees emerge from holes in natural or
man-made wood and seek mates. Males sometimes appear aggressive; they
may even seem to threaten someone by buzzing loudly and flying in front
of the person's face. But it's just an act. Male carpenter bees are
completely harmless. Like other bees and wasps, only the females have
stingers. This in-your-face behavior of the males may just be curiosity
instead of aggression. Male carpenter bees have a distinctive light-colored
spot on the face.
carpenter bees literally chew a tunnel into wood. I know they work at
night as well as day because I recently watched a steady stream of sawdust
trickle from the ceiling an hour after dark. The females often choose
an already created hole, but additional excavation and reorganization
may be part of the process, much like someone moving into a new apartment
might paint the walls or rearrange the furniture.
a visitor sit in the chair beneath a carpenter bee reconstruction project
can be entertaining - at least to the host.
bees are valuable pollinators - females gather pollen, store it in the
burrows, and lay their eggs so that the pollen serves as a source of
nutrition for the larvae. The adult bees die during the summer and the
recently born ones spend the winter in the previously completed holes.
of some people to carpenter bees confirms that the control mentality
of humans is sometimes unnecessary and unreasonable. Many cooperative
extension units associated with universities provide information on
how to control carpenter bees with pesticides. Come on! Haven't we learned
by now that pesticides never kill just the target organism but many
other harmless creatures as well? Besides just how harmful is a carpenter
things might happen. A female carpenter bee could sting you. But a person
generally has to grab one to be stung. Of course, the possibility exists
that a female carpenter bee could fly up someone's shirt sleeve or get
under another piece of clothing and sting when it gets trapped. But
is that enough of a problem to take invasive action and destroy the
species in the area?
possible that enough burrowing over the years could cause structural
damage that might weaken a porch roof. But since carpenter bees tend
to make it simple on themselves by using holes that have already been
constructed instead of making new ones, demolishing an entire structure
would take a lot of burrowing.
porch will eventually fall down from the annual attack of the carpenter
bees, but we will have gotten considerable entertainment from these
fascinating creatures before that happens.
To me the
potential hazards of carpenter bees, and a lot of other animals that
some people are paranoid about, are not worth eliminating, especially
with pesticides. Why lose the opportunity to watch and hear a live-action
nature show produced by an industrious pollinator just because of a
you have an environmental question or comment, email