Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Carpenter Bees and Woodpeckers

Last spring, in desperation over not being able to use our beautiful cedar deck and gazebo because of loudly buzzing, hovering carpenter bees, we hit on a novel and relatively successful way to get rid of them. For the last several years, we had been borrowing a kit from my brother, Kenny, designed to keep them from coming back each year. This involved spraying a poison with a special nozzle into each hole and then plugging it up with a specially-designed wooden plug. Every carpenter bee makes exactly the same size hole. We had been doing this for several years. Eventually, the plugs fall out and we noticed that the bees were multiplying despite our best efforts. Our deck was becoming swiss cheese.

Last year, we hit upon the idea of netting them in a butterfly net and then just stepping on them. When we went looking for a butterfly net, the closest thing we could find in a sporting goods store was a telescoping metal basket with a long handle for grabbing fish that had been line caught. The pole and loop were the right size, but the openings in the metal basket were way too large. We had just bought nylon mesh bags to hold our snorkel gear for Hawaii and they turned out to be just perfect. We removed the metal basket from the loop and attached the mesh bag. We were able to kill dozens of the bees in the space of one week.

The holes were especially annoying because we had just had the deck painted and little piles of sawdust were appearing under each hole. Did I mention that Saul and I designed and built the deck and gazebo by hand with help from various friends and relatives? We dug the holes for the footings and everything! Anyway, shortly after we had limited our bee invasion to an occasional visitor, Saul went out one morning last summer and found huge, gaping, ragged excavations where most of the holes had been. Also, there were little tiny holes around the excavated areas. Curious and upset about what was going on, we called in our exterminator, who was mystified and told us he had never seen anything like it. We eventually came to the conclusion that the gaping holes could only have been made by a bird because of their inaccessible location, and that the tiny holes were probably from its claws grasping the wood to get at the juicy bees inside. This was later confirmed by the exterminator who did some extensive research.

Now, it is spring. The landscapers did a beautiful job. We have not gotten around to repairing all those jagged holes with wood putty and paint. The bees are back. As of yesterday, we had netted a half dozen. It will probably be a daily activity for a while to get rid of them before they bore more holes and lay eggs for the woodpeckers to get at. Isn't nature wonderful!

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