Monday, July 10, 2017
In yer nest, killin yer beez
Actually, these are not your friendly neighborhood bumblebees, lightly flitting from flower to flower, thereby keeping the world fed. Those black and yellow wonders of God's design are to be treasured and protected. These are carpenter bees: solitary, territorial, wood-drilling bastages that will eventually bring your barn or deck tumbling down. And I've finally found a way to kill 'em.
Carpenter bees love my back barn as there is plenty of unfinished wood into which they can drill lots of 6"-8" nesting holes. I suppose I could paint over all such wood surfaces as I find them, but there is a limit to how much of your barn you can actually paint, and for how long that's effective. And there always seems to be more bees than paint. I also don't want to use pesticides or sprays, because my chickens eat these bees as soon as they fall to the ground.
So for a while I took to carrying a tennis racket with me on the way to the chicken cage*. It was a strange game of tennis we played: no ball, one racket, lots of swinging. The bees would eventually tire of it and simply wait at the top of the barn for me to leave. I could serve a half-dozen bees on a good night, but there always seemed to be the same number the next night.
However, I finally discovered a simple little trap that lets their wood-drilling obsession lead to their downfall. As you can see above, it's a 4" cube of wood, with a tempting hole drilled in it and a canning jar attached to the bottom. What you can't see is that there are holes on each of the four sides, and a big (2") hole in the bottom that reaches those holes, allowing the bees that enter the cube easy access to the canning jar. Bees come in, but they don't come out. The above is about 2 months' worth of trapping -- I figured I'd get a pic before I empty it out for the hens and re-set it.
The hens? OMG what about all that white poison in the jar? It's not poison, it's actually food grade diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is ground up little fossils, perfectly inert and harmless to people and animals, but really hard on insects because it scratches their outer coating and causes them to dry out. Lots of folks use it on their dogs as a non-poisonous substitute for flea powder. Others make a drink of it, swearing that its scraping qualities promote colon health. People eat the strangest things.
In either case, I dump the bees on the ground outside the cage and pour a little water over them before I free the hens, just in case. While they might not appreciate having their food washed before they eat, they sure appreciate the meal.
* That chicken wire on the right of the picture is the cage's left edge. It is, alas, unpainted.