Saturday, June 4, 2011

Shoot, Carpenter Bees

I've had a few altercations with Carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica) in the past, but they were few and fleeting. A few friends have had serious issues with them to the point where it sounded like mice were chewing on wood during dinners in their gazebo, but no worries, it was our cute fuzzy little friend. They are said not to cause much structural damage in most cases, but I am afraid that a 1/2" hole in some of our old wooden windows would be difference between drafty and just plain open.

Carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) working on a stained wooden trellis.
I did learn a few interesting tidbits about Carpenter bees from different Extension web resources. The University of Missouri Extension Carpenter Bees and the University of Illinois Extension Carpenter Bees Factsheet (pdf) were very quick and helpful. They mention that these tunnels can be very long, "sometimes extending 2 or more feet," run with the grain of the wood after the initial tunneling, and lay their eggs in chambers inside the tunnels. They are relatively harmless, unagressive, and the male does not have a stinger. The shiny abdomen is a great way to tell the difference from the fuzzy abdomens of bumble bees (Bombus spp.), their sometimes confused look-a-likes.

A hole started by a Carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica).

On a more humorous note, the size of the tunnel is described to "look as if someone has shot a 45-caliber bullet into the wood," in the Illinois factsheet. If you have the this background, you know exactly what this may look like, if not, then you may have learned two things. What a Carpenter bee tunnel looks like and the size of hole a 45-caliber bullet would come out of.

I spotted this little critter digging away on a trellis that my mom made for me. Now, if my mom had seen this, there would be no question of the future of this bee, but I had my camera in-hand and was on a routine garden walk and shot it with a Nikon D90 instead.

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