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Owen County

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The Current Buzz

If you are like me, you have been hearing a lot of buzzing when you are outside. When I finally find the source of the buzzing, it almost always ends up being some sort of bee or a wasp. There are a number of different species of bees that we are all familiar with. Two of the more common ones that can be confused easily are carpenter bees and bumble bees.

In late spring and early summer you may notice large, black bees hovering around the outside of your home. Often times, these are carpenter bees looking for a mate and a place to construct their nests. Carpenter bees and bumble bees are roughly the same size. However, the upper surface of carpenter bees’ abdomens are bare, shiny, and black. Bumble bees have hairy abdomens with some yellow markings on them. 

Carpenter bees will actually lay their eggs in tunnels that they drill in bare, unpainted, or weathered softwoods. Sometimes they will attack painted or pressure-treated wood. Bumble bees on the other hand will develop nests in the ground.

Because of the impact carpenter bees have on homes and other wood products that homeowners cherish, Extension Educators are often asked how to control them. There are a few different ways that can be achieved. The first is to paint any exposed wood surfaces. When compared to paint, wood stains and preservatives are not as effective in preventing carpenter bees from attacking the wood. Additionally, to prevent some nesting from occurring, try to keep all garage and outbuildings closed when carpenter bees are actively searching for nesting sites.

If your wood is already being attacked by carpenter bees, then one possible control method is using a liquid spray. Typically you would use a spray that has carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, or a synthetic pyrethroid in it. The effectiveness of liquid sprays runs about one to two weeks.  So it might be important to retreat several times throughout the season. 

If you can already see tunnels, then you might treat using an insecticidal dust. You would do this by puffing the insecticidal dust into the nest opening. Do not plug the tunnel up as soon as you treat it. Instead, leave it open for a few days. This allows the bees to come into contact and distribute the insecticide throughout the nest galleries. After a few days have passed, plug the hole with a piece of wood coated with carpenter’s glue or use wood putty.

Similar approaches can be used when dealing with bumble bees. With bumble bees, apply the insecticidal dust in the evening or at night. You apply the dust to the entry of the nest once you locate it. While applying the dust, please wear a long sleeved shirt and long pants, tie your sleeves of your arms down against your wrists, and pull your socks over your pant legs. By doing so, you will help prevent a bumble bee from attaching you or getting stuck in your clothing.   

Please remember when using any insecticide, you need to read and follow all label instructions. As always, if you have any questions or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture, or natural resource topic, then please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay Co. or 829-5020 in Owen Co. or reach me directly at smith535@purdue.edu. Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:
June 5 - Clay County Extension Board Meeting, 7pm, Clay Co. Extension Office
June 6 – Owen County Extension Board Meeting, 6:30pm, Owen Co. Extension Office