Have You Heard the Carpenters? No, Not the Singers…the Bees!

Back in the seventies one of my favorite singing groups was the Carpenters. They truly created some beautiful music. This post, however, is not about this singing group but some other creatures that create some good vibrations.

So, What’s the Buzz?

Every Spring at our home in Tennessee, we hear a lot of buzzing around our house. If you walk out on the porch you will see hovering bees about the size of the bumblebee, but these bees don’t “bumble”, they bore!

 This is an Eastern Carpenter Bee.

If you look under the railing you will find large piles of sawdust where they have drilled round holes on the bottom of the boards. These little creatures can cause a lot of damage if your porch is constructed of pine or cedar, their favorite nesting material. Interestingly, They don’t eat the wood! They just use it to create nests where they can raise their young.

When You See the Sawdust Piles You Know the Bees Are About!

 

Notice that the holes they bore are round and about a half-inch in diameter.

Though they make a lot of noise and will buzz at you if you move something through their space, they rarely cause any harm to people other than the destruction of their wood edifices. The males, which are the most aggressive, do not even have stingers, so they can’t sting. The females do have stingers but rarely sting unless someone is trying to get into their nest.

Below You Can See Them Hover.

Speeders Beware!

Scientists have conducted several studies and found that these bees can actually identify one another. They have also discovered that they rarely respond to an invasion of their territory unless the invader is moving quickly. They tied several bees to strings and slowly lowered them into the territory or just let them hang there, and the bees showed no aggression. If, however, the strings were moved quickly, there was an immediate response. I have noticed that when I wave my arm or a butterfly net through their space they aggressively buzz about. Since I know the males can’t hurt me, I pursue those doing damage to my house. I have also treated several of the existing holes with bug spray. We will eventually have to replace the wood railing with a plastic or metal substitute that the bees can’t destroy.

Not All Bad!

Though many don’t appreciate their burrowing tendencies they should recognize their beneficial characteristics. Each and every creature God created has a purpose! Carpenter bees actually do more good than harm. They are excellent pollinators and especially good at helping your garden production of tomatoes and eggplants and many other crops and ornamental flowers. They can pollinate flowers that others cannot. These bees were created with special mouth-parts for cutting through the outer membranes of flowers to access the nectar inside. As they perform  this operation, they become covered with pollen which then gets transferred to the next flower.

“Good Vibrations”

They also pollinate by vibration! Their buzzing near the flowers causes the anthers of the flowers to vibrate thus releasing pollen. This is similar to what some farmers do to increase their tomato production by using an electric toothbrush to shake the flowers. Others just shake the stalks holding the flowers to accomplish the same results. The bees get it done musically. I guess that is what is known as “Good Vibrations“!

Food for OthersCarpenter Bees also are a food source for other insect-eating animals like birds, lizards, spiders, praying mantises and fish. In the forest, they also help in recycling dead and downed wood. The holes they bore allow many other creatures an entrance to help in the breakdown and decomposition of the wood into soil.

As you venture outside this Spring Time, keep your ears open for buzzing. They may be around your house too!

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