With all the spring flowers in bloom, there are numerous insects around these blossoms. The most abundant are bees.
Some are bumblebees, but most are carpenter bees, miner bees and honey bees. These bees are very active now.
Carpenter bees are frequently seen in spring hovering around the eaves of a house or the underside of a deck or porch rail. They are often mistaken for bumble bees, but differ in that they have a black, shiny tail.
Carpenter bee excavate tunnels in wood with its strong jaws.
The first sign of these bees is the pile of sawdust laying on the ground, patio or porch. They leave a neat, half-inch hole that looks like it has been drilled into the wood. These bees will drill into any type of wood. They will even drill into painted wood.
Carpenter bees do little structural damage to buildings, but the holes and sawdust that they produce are unsightly. Woodpeckers have been known to attack the wood that has carpenter bee larva in it. Also, there are wood decay organisms that can gain entrance through the hole made by the carpenter bee.
Preventing carpenter bee damage is difficult for several reasons. Protective insecticide sprays applied to wood surfaces are effective for only a short period of time. Because the bees are not actually eating the wood and are active over several weeks, they are rarely exposed to lethal doses of the pesticide. Second, because virtually any exposed wood on the house could be attacked, it is difficult and usually impractical and unsafe to try applying a pesticide to all possible sites where the bees might tunnel.
It is not wise to try spraying the bees while they are flying, because this will expose the person doing the spraying to the pesticide. The best approach is to treat the holes with an insecticide. This will reduce the use of the hole by the female carpenter bee and possibly kill some of the bees. Products containing carbaryl (Sevin), cyfluthrin or resmethrin, among other chemicals, are suitable choices for controlling carpenter bees. Also, the holes should be filled in with wood putty and sealed.
Miner bees, Anthophora abrupt, are one of many familiar black and yellow bees often mistaken for bumble bees. These, however, are solitary bees that do not collect honey and do not sting, though they could bite if handled roughly. They are garden pollinators and serve an increasingly important role as honey bee populations decline. They normally nest in bare, hard soil, more often on steep slopes or vertical surfaces.
The miner bee nests in individual tunnels excavated into hard clay. These colonies can have hundreds of tunnels in an area.
There is no need to control these bees because they don’t sting.
Currently, honey bees are very active. When honey bees fill up their hive, or pests such as mites become too bad, the bees will split and part, or all of the hive will leave. When this happens, a large ball of bees can be seen flying and then they will land on a limb or other object. These bees will stay there a few hours or days until a new place to live is found. Bee keepers will collect these bees and put them in hives.
Please don’t kill these bees.
Honey bee numbers are still dropping, and we need all the honey bees we can keep. There are plenty of blooming plants right now, and honey bees and other bees are collecting pollen and nectar. When bees are away from their hive, they are not aggressive, so you should leave them alone.
If a swarm is seen, call the County Extension Office or Animal Services. They have a list of bee keepers who will come and collect the swarm. If all else fails, contact me and I can contact a member of the Clarks Hill Beekeepers.