Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spring Buzz on Some Household Pests

Carpenter bee activity is increasing with the warmer temperatures.   Although carpenter bees resemble bumble bees, the two can be readily distinguished from one another because carpenter bees lack the yellowish hairs on their abdomens (which are black and shiny).  The male bees are easy to identify because they have white spots in the center of their head (between their eyes) and they are typically seen hovering around prime real estate (from a carpenter bee's perspective) watching for the girl bee of their dreams and chasing off rival males at the same time. Males bees do not sting but their aggressive behavior can intimidate people sitting on park benches.

After mating, the female bee goes hunting for a new place to build a nesting gallery.  Choice locations will be wooden porch rails and balusters, wooden planks and solid wood siding (even "repellent" woods such as cedar). The females handle the workload and excavate a nearly perfectly round hole and gallery that typically follows the wood grain.  She then makes a ball of pollen, sticks it into the gallery and deposits an egg before constructing a partition of chewed wood debris and other materials. She then repeats this process until the gallery is furnished with each of her "children" having their own room (but no internet or cable TV).  At that point, the females die and so for most of the summer, no activity is seen. The offspring will emerge in the late summer/fall and hang around before finding a sheltered location (like an abandoned gallery) where they pass the winter.

We still do not have any pesticides that provide long-term protection of wood for the duration of the bees' activity.  It's also difficult economically and from a safety perspective to spray all of the exposed overhead wooden areas to protect them from the bees.  We still recommend the tried and true method of dusting individual holes with a pesticide dust (some wettable powder formulations are labeled for this use, too) and then seal the holes (to keep out moisture).

We have information online at:  http://insects.ncsu.edu/Urban/carpenterbees.htm


The next significant rainfall in your area will likely trigger termite swarming.  The point to remind concerned clients is that termite swarms outdoors are just nature's way of reminding you that termites are out there (and if you're the paranoid type, they're out to get you).  Do you need to rush and get your house treated?  No, but it is a good idea to get your house inspected if it's been several years since it was last inspected/treated.  On the other hand, if termites swarm inside your home, we technically call that "a bad thing" because you likely do have an infestation.  Hereto, you shouldn't rush to get your house treated because the more important thing to be a smart consumer and get your house inspected by 2-3 companies and compare what they found and how they recommend treating it.  I discourage the "do-it-yourself" approach to termite treatments primarily because most people have little understanding of what it takes to treat the house.  Most of the consumer products are intended to kill termites where you find them and not really for an entire home treatment which requires a lot of soil excavation (to the top of your foundation footer or 4-feet depending on which is less). and a lot of liquid (four gallons of diluted product per 10 linear feet per foot of depth to your footer) and that isn't taking into account and drilling of concrete or masonry.

We have information online about termites and protecting your home from  termites at:  http://insects.ncsu.edu/Urban/wood.htm

Mike Waldvogel

Michael Waldvogel, PhD
Extension Assoc. Professor & Specialist, Structural & Industrial Pests
North Carolina State University
Dept. of Entomology, Box 7613, 100 Derieux Place
Raleigh, NC USA 27695-7613
Ph: 919.515.8881    Fax: 919.515.7746     Cell: 919.780-8179
Email: mike_waldvogel@ncsu.edu

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