Backyard Evolution

May 16, 2007 | By | 10 Replies More

The first years of living in a new home are filled with surprises. Our new home in the burbs (I had to go, the family went first!) has a large wooden deck in the backyard. Large wooden decks are fun for outdoor dining, entertaining, repairs, power washing, staining, sealing, AND carpenter bees. The bees are big and sound like low flying helicopters.

Carpenter bees bore into the wood, create tunnels where they make more carpenter bees and then more tunnels and more bees, you get my drift? Carpenter bees are the size of golf balls and very aggressive in posture (although none of us has been stung by one yet).  The bees buzz at you about a foot or less away and follow you as you flee until some as yet undetermined distance is traveled away from where they first confronted you.

Needless to say, the kids are afraid of the bees and won’t play in the backyard. I sprayed the bees with water from my high powered nozzle on my hose. Unlike honeybees which die from too much exposure to water, carpenter bees drink the stuff up and zip by the spray to let you know they are still around.

Next, I put out lots more birdseed to draw more birds to my deck area. I hoped birds were natural predators of the bees and would decimate their population. I looked up what might eat a carpenter bee and seeded the deck according to the directions on the back of the birdseed bags. Many bags of birdseed later, and after many choruses of “The bees are still there, daddy!” it was clear I had to be more proactive.

Let it bee noted that the cats enjoyed their videos of larger bird populations outside and still do, they’re inside cats and may only dream of avian carnage. I, however, took a more aggressive, outdoor stance against the bees. 

My stance was good as I used my badminton racquet to devastate the bee population. I swatted down droves of the bees and stomped them. After a while there were no bees remaining outside as we played in the yard. Alas, the bees were not gone! A newer, faster generation was breeding in my wood. A mild reprieve was all I had gained for all my swatting and stomping.

As I futilely swatted my badminton racquet at this new generation of bees, I envisioned a yard taken over by this population and upped the ante on the bees. I took out a whiffle ball bat (one of the big, red ones!) and again wreaked havoc among the bees with swatsing and stomping. The bat was so effective it was often unnecessary to stomp. The bees faded in numbers and we regained our backyard! Alas, the bees were not gone! A newer, faster generation was breeding in my wood. This newer, even faster generation of bees mocked my efforts to swat them, and from a short distance in front of my face. 

Raid! That’ll do the trick! The bees delighted in hovering in clouds of Raid Backyard Spray. I think the bees ate the stuff or it gave them a buzz.

I abandoned environmentally sound measures and went to Home Depot for a chemical spray which would wipe out these pests. The helpful people at Home Depot also suggested spraying the holes where the bees came out and caulking the holes shut, trapping the bees in a cloud of deadly chemicals. I got outside with a wry grin upon my face, knowing this was the last day of bee dominion in my yard! I sprayed, my wife caulked, and we didn’t see a bee for nearly a month. VICTORY! NOT!

Apparently, a month is the time it takes for another new, chemically resistant, caulk eating sub-species of carpenter bee to evolve in the wood of my backyard deck.

“It’s time for a professional!” said my smarter, better half. I culled the pages of the local business directory which shall remain un-named (they didn’t list my law practice last year!). I found a service which is “family friendly, insect deadly” and made the appointment. Eric the bug guy just left after using some 30 gallons of spray on my property.

Evolution is in progress in my backyard. If this doesn’t work, I beg your forgiveness in advance. The next dominant species on this planet may have evolved in the wood of my deck in suburban St. Louis    

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Category: Environment, Evolution

About the Author ()

imothy E. Hogan is a trial attorney, a husband, a father of two awesome children and a practicing Roman Catholic in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Hogan has done legal and political work in Jefferson City, Missouri for partisan and non-partisan social change, environmental and consumer protection groups. Mr. Hogan has also worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader in Washington, DC and the members of the trial bar in the State of New York. Mr. Hogan’s current interests involve remaining a full time solo practitioner pioneer on the frontiers of justice in America, a good husband and a good father to his awesome children.

Comments (10)

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  1. Ben says:

    Dan, have you heard that recently bees have been dissappearing. Theories suggest they are confused by the wireless telephones.

    http://gravityc-idealism.blogspot.com/2007/04/van

    Maybe you just need to get cell phones?

    http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/2007/04/cel

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    Fire will kill those bees. Just burn down your deck. 🙂

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    I've been dealing with carpenter bees for a decade. My initial step was to do entomological research!

    First, the males have no stinger, and the females are very reluctant to sting. You have to seriously molest them in close quarters to get them to sting. They are very non-aggressive.

    Secondly, they are very curious creatures. They investigate anything new, or that moves. Their "dive bombing" behavior is just a friendly, "Hello, who are you?"

    Third, they are homers. That is, one child will occupy the mother's old hole, and the others want to be close neighbors. Breed holes breed more breed holes.

    Finally, they are smart. If they dig a hole that then heels over, they look for an entirely different "tree". They only inhabit dead wood.

    My solution is to do weekly inspections during the spring. If I see a hole, I knock on wood to chase the lady-bee out, then plug it with Liquid Nails. That board and its near neighbors are then safe from that bee family for that season.

    I don't kill them because they are filling in the ecological niche now being left by the failing, exotic and imported, European honeybees. That is, they pollinate our plants. Our tomatoes, cherries, etc. need them.

    btw: Honey bees aren't big enough to do fertilize tomatoes, anyway.

  4. Tim Hogan says:

    That's why I went for the chemicals last. Maybe we'll take a more ecologically sound approach next time, thanks!

  5. gatomjp says:

    "Fire will kill those bees. Just burn down your deck."

    No! Don't do it! That's all we need is a fire resistant species of carpenter bee!!

  6. Ben says:

    Tim, have you heard that recently bees have been dissappearing. Theories suggest they are confused by the wireless telephones.

    http://gravityc-idealism.blogspot.com/2007/04/van

    Maybe you just need to get cell phones?

    http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/2007/04/cel

  7. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    In the South we call them Bumble bees.

    My grandfather would sit on the porch, whittling wooden pegs and wait for the bee to go into the hole, then plug the hole.

    While they very seldom sting, they will sometimes fly into you and it feels like getting hit by a rock.

    The only bird that I've seen that will run them off is a barn swallow, and the swallows are more of a nusance than the bees.

  8. Justsid says:

    There is a powder that you can buy called Timbor. It is safe for everything because it is technically a type of salt. You mix it with water and spray it on all your wood and in the holes the bees make. It doesn’t harm them but it makes the wood unbearably nasty tasting for Carpenter bee’s. Also fill the holes that they make with plastic wood resin or steel wool.

  9. Phil says:

    Carpenter bees will not bore through painted surfaces. I first noticed this when I saw hundreds of hole “starts” on plywood ceilings. As soon as they encountered the glue in the first layer they stopped. They also will only bore on the bottom or sides of exposed wood, never on the top. So when I built my 30×50 shop (pole barn type)I sprayed all the exposed wood with gym floor urethane. Unfortunately I ran out of time and sprayed only the back half of my shop. Thirteen years later I have zero bees boring into the back half of my shop but there are hundreds in the front half. I tried everything that seemed reasonable to get rid of them, including the badminton racket, to no avail. So I researched the chemical approach and found a site, Do Your Own Pest Control.com resulting in Timbor. Two years ago I paid my grandson to spray each hole with Timbor then caulk it. The year following, No bees. Two years following, 3 bees, literally. This year, half a dozen bees and growing. I will repeat the Timbor and plug approach. Woodpeckers, according to recent research on my part, are the only natural predators I could determine but who wants the damage they would do to your structure?

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